The Anishinaabe used cradleboards as part of the basic care for their infants. In constructing them, a general pattern was followed:
A board of cedar wood (or basswood) was cut to about 28 inches or so, a bit wider at the top than at the foot. About 5½ inches from the head end, a bow-shaped frame was inserted, the ends of which protruded beyond the reverse side of the board. The frame was held in position by a small peg of wood which had been inserted through it at right angles to the protruding end and parallel to the board. If desired, the frame was double bent with a dip at the center, creating a U-shape, but this was not always the case.
Historically, the cradle bag for the baby was made out of soft, tanned deer hides on the board. Under this, from baby's waistline up, rabbit (or other) skins were placed. From waistline down, a thick layer of dried swamp moss or rabbit skins was spread. The baby was placed on this. The ends of the deer hide would be tucked tightly around the baby. After this, strips of tanned buckskin were laced over the middle of the baby, beginning at the foot end. During more modern times the leather and hides were replaced by black velvet that could be intricately beaded upon.
It is said that a cradleboard will train a baby's back to be straight. They also help the mother to easily carry the baby on her back when traveling, and helped to keep the baby safe. A cradleboard can set flat on the ground or can be propped up against a tree or wall. If the board somehow falls, the frame keeps the baby from being injured. The cradleboard can also be hung up to keep the baby safe from dangers on the ground.
If a baby was premature and too small to be tied to the cradleboard itself, they might be placed in a birch bark container, and then tied to the board. This would last until the baby was finally big enough to be tied to the board itself.
Most babies who are cradle boarded like the firm feeling of being swaddled, and will cry to be put into it.
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