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Cradle Boards for Baby

How to Make a Cradle Board

Cradle boards or Papoose board


Cradle or Papoose boards are something that the Native Americans used to keep their babies safe and out of harm's way while mothers tended to the daily needs of her Wikkiup, Tipi, or hut. Cradle boards have been used for centuries across the American continent by various tribes long before it was settled by Europeans and other people.

When my daughter was born, I was gifted with this cradle board by Native American friend Marcella from the Yakima tribe located in Washington State.

My daughter used it until she was 6 months old then went into a larger size one for another 3 months. We had a blanket with ropes fashioned across our bed and another in the living room to lay the cradle board in and would lace her in the board for sleep after she was fed, changed, and dry and she would sleep peaceful for 2-3 hours until hungry or wet or dirty again.

Take a solid piece of wood and smooth it out. You can use strong sturdy plywood. Punch holes along the outer edge on each side and some holes at the top. Two where the neck of the child would lie and two under the babe’s knees. Then you use thick strong heavy thread to sew whatever pretty strong material to the board.

You then sew heavy leather pieces on the outer edges of the material and punch holes in it to lace the infant into the board. At the top is a another piece sewn to protect the baby’s eyes from glare and wind and a good strong limber rose bush vine is cut and that is limber and green and bowed tied and put in hot water for a few hours. From there you take lace and tie the ends to the board.

Infants often get to where they have a special cry meaning they want to be put in their board; they are happy, fed, dry and clean, tired of being held, and want to sleep or rest. Cradle or Papoose boards are something that the Native Americans used to keep their babies safe and out of harms way while mothers tended to the daily needs of her Wikkiup, Tipi, or hut.

At the top of the board is a stout piece of strong leather lacing that holds the infant's weight if you want to hang the cradle board up on a tree limb or nail in. A peeled rose vine is able to move up or down to make a bowed shelter where a cover of soft flannel can be place over the sleeping child and to keep wind and rain out. Some boards have heavy duty straps to carry the infant on your back and/or some tribes made a heavy head band the mother would wear on her head and over her forehead.

When there was war among  native tribes and later as white settlers and soldiers attacked, women would make sure the bow which was very sturdy and flexible and covered with stout leather and cloth was set forward and if the tribe was on the run the women at times tossed the cradle board and infant inside the cradle board into thickets and brush.

They knew if they escaped or anyone escaped they could go back in a few hours and recover the babies that slept long hours tightly bound in the boards. Infants were also taught from birth to remain quiet while in the boards.

There is a soft cloth placed and tied behind the infant's neck and knees. The bowed vine has strips of leather lacing tied to the bottom and comes up over and across the bow and down to the laces that tie in the infant. This part is made pretty with shiny objects and pretty glass beading and bright ribbons that entertain the baby when awake.

Before lacing the infant into the cradle board you take soft flannel blankets or one depending on the weather and swaddle them tightly into the board it is much like the baby being in the womb. Not so tight they cannot move feet and legs a little and pull arms out if they want to but tight enough the infant cannot fall out or come unlaced. They are then laid on their back and laced into the board. The board is then placed on the back of mom or dad or in a tree, or nail or leaned against something safe or carried on the back so the women could work.

These were what might be the advent of today’s car seats for infants. Actually I think the cradle boards are safer and healthier. Today Cradle boards can cost from $100 up to $175 each depending how fancy they are and materials used.

Photo taken by me is of the cradle board we finished for granddaughter “Tory” who is laced into her board.

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