Native American baby swing: greatest tradition ever!



Native American baby swing: greatest tradition ever!

Hello everyone!

How is everyone!

For those of you who follow my Facebook page, you probably came across a recent picture of a Indian swingNative American baby swing. Many posted their experience using one or being in one as a kid themselves. Some even sent me their own personal pictures, some posted below. And for that I am very grateful! Sharing their personal memories with me and then you. That touches me. So today, we will be focusing on the baby swing. Information on it, its origins and intended purpose is scarce. Very scarce but here is what I have put together from what I have found and the stories of those who shared with me. Here we go, the Native American baby swing: the greatest tradition ever!

 

What is a Native American baby swing and who uses one?

For the Westerners out there, think of a tiny hammock. That is what a baby swing is. A suspended bed in which the baby sleeps. It has been used for centuries by the Indigenous people of the land. Not only Native Americans but also East Indians or Asians for example. And it is still used by many nations all around the globe today. The use of the baby swing and the cradle board for that matter, is still in full force in numerous Native communities in North America.

In some tribes, the baby swing was used to keep the baby off the floor. For example, the Seminoles lived in regions where floods were common. Therefore, their houses were often platform houses off the ground. They had rafters from which they suspended a variety of objects, including baby swings.

Seminole baby in swing

Seminole baby in swing, Brighton Reservation

Even today, numerous communities, including the Plains Indians of Canada still use a baby swing in their home. Oftentimes, numerous generations have used the swing (not the same one…) and grandparents use it with their grandchildren, passing along the traditions. I think the Native American baby swing was probably used first out of simplicity and practicality. You can make one pretty much anywhere, inside and outside and just like the cradle board, it leaves the mom free to use her hands to go about her day. While keeping the baby safe and calm. A baby swing is basically a combination of a crib and a swing that parents often place their children in. You know the ones that go up and down with the child’s legs dangling? They can also be called a jumper or bouncer. The baby swing described here can be hung over the bed of the parents for easy access if the baby is crying at night (they could then just push or rock the swing a bit to soothe the child).

baby in swing

a baby swing in nature

So how is it made?

So think about this for a sec. The modern day jumper, bouncer, whatever you want to call it will set you back at least $100. And I can guarantee you that your baby will get tired of it. Or outgrow it. Guarantee.

Now think about this for a sec. The Native American baby swing, will cost you the price of 2 ropes, a blanket and possibly a little piece of wood. Voila! Done 🙂 And! The baby can grow in it and mom’s hands will still be free. And baby will be safe.

Baby swing suspended between trees

Baby swing suspended between trees

If you look at the pictures above, you will see how easy and simple the swings are. Numerous people on this site’s Facebook page have given me their instructions on how to make the baby swing. Oftentimes, they had learned how to make it from their parents or grandparents. I also learned that the baby in the swing would face north, as south is the direction the dead is placed facing. To learn about more the directions and their meaning, see here.

Basically, one can hang the baby hammock on hooks on the walls. One can even use latches attached to the rope to be able to quickly take down the hammock if needed. For example, some will set it up in the living room to keep an eye out on baby and take it down when visitors are over to have the full use of the living room.

woman and baby in swing

Instructions

So basically one needs a rope or 2, depending on how you are doing it. So let’s go with 2 ropes for now. So 2 ropes attached to 2 walls (one end on each wall). Then one takes a long blanket and puts it over one side of the rope (the one closest to you). The inside needs to hang a bit. Then pull up the blanket over the other rope from the outside toward you. Basically the ends of the blanket need to overlap on the inside of the swing. One then pushes it down a bit to form a bed.

As for the next step, there are a few ways of going about it. One problem with the swing so far is that, like a cocoon, it could close over the baby. Therefore, some will place a piece of wood to widen the opening near the baby’s head (or a branch if in nature) while others will place a bigger pillow in the swing to make sure it stays open. Baby is then placed inside all wrapped in another blanket.

swing in Goose Bay Labrador

A baby swing in Goose Bay, Labrador

I would recommend testing it out first to make sure it can hold the weight of your baby. But if done the right way, it is perfectly safe for babies. And as previously mentioned, oftentimes, they were placed over the parents’ bed so that, if by any chance, the baby were to fall, he would fall on the parents’ bed. A string could also be attached to the foot part of the swing (could tie it to one of the ropes) so that parents could pull on it to rock the baby. Some will also use another blanket to tie the baby to the swing (by wrapping a blanket around the swing and the baby, see below) were the baby to try to sit down in the swing. Or one could even attach the blanket to the ropes or close the blanket with safety pins as an extra precaution (see picture below).

I do not know about you but the Native American baby swing looks soooo comfortable and soothing for a baby. Just like being placed in a rocking cocoon. It must almost feel like being back in the mother’s womb, all warm. Add the music of a drum to replicate the mother’s heartbeat and it is the best place to be. 🙂

Some modern day versions of the baby swing

Sofia, mom is Car Lee

Sofia

And for you, some examples of baby swings still in use today. You can see how easy it is to make and use. And how it continues to soothe babies and help parents still today. Thank you so much for those who shared their own personal family pictures with us. Let’s look at some cute babies and swings!

Sofia, baby of Car Lee, Edmonton, Canada

Sofia, baby of Car Lee, Edmonton, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sofia, mom is Car Lee, Edmonton

Could Sofia be any cuter!! OMG she is a cutie!
Mom: Car Lee

Swing over bed, Cricket Herrera, White Swan, WA

Swing over bed by Cricket Herrera, White Swan, WA

William, son of Mikuan Sharl, Waswanipi, Quebec.

William, son of Mikuan Sharl, Waswanipi, Quebec.

Theland, 2003 son of Elaine Kicknosway

Theland, in 2003 son of Elaine Kicknosway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there we have it, a very simple but so useful and soothing Native American baby swing. Why did we have to complicate things and invent a million products that are in fact not needed? I know that when I have a child, there will be a swing over my bed 🙂



And for those interested, the swing can be made and used with adults. Darlene from http://wiwipson.com/ uses the swing with adults in a therapeutic manner. To reconnect all 4 sides of an individual. The swing is then used in a healing way. Pretty cool I have to say!

Anyone uses a swing? Had you heard of it? Share your stories and thoughts below 🙂

All my Relations

49 thoughts on “Native American baby swing: greatest tradition ever!

  1. meherbani

    I love anything Native American! In fact, my son n’ law is NA and I’m living with him and my daughter in NM!
    When my kids were little I used these type of hammocks for them. I highly recommend them for all parents, kids love them!!

    Reply
  2. Peter

    Thank you once again for educating me in the Native ways. These are an absolute joy to see. I wish I had one for when my 2 girls were born. So much better than a jolly jumper etc.
    It’s a hammock for babies, sure why not? What a great idea and I’m so glad to hear they are still in use today.
    Really enjoyed this post and feel the so much richer having read it. The babies are friggin adorable too:)

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Peter
      yes it is such a simple concept! and we have complicated it with all the other things that came out on the market! Just need a blanket and some ropes and we are done! And yes the babies are so cute!

      Reply
  3. PJ

    Hi Emily,

    These baby swings have probably been used for thousands of years to rock baby to sleep. When there is no other technology a baby swing is just a natural way to solve the problem of keeping baby safe and sound while he/she sleeps.

    If you’ve ever been in a hammock, though, it’s quite easy to get dumped on the ground by leaning over to one side too much. So besides hanging the swing over the parents bed, was there another way to keep baby from sliding off the swing and onto the ground?

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi PJ
      It was a very natural way to put the baby to sleep for sure. So easy and practical. It can be put up anywhere! Tying the baby with another blanket is a good way to keep them safe. And you also have to think that most babies in the swings were very young. Hence, they did not have the ability to move around and tip over. Plus the swing can be pretty deep.

      Reply
    2. Irene

      When the baby gets too big, they don’t swing in them. Mainly for tiny babies. And usually the would be swaddled before placing them in the swing

      Reply
  4. Irene

    I used one when I was a baby and when I had my own child, she used one. Then I had a grandchild and he used one. Still have the posts on my wall ready and waiting for when I have another grandbaby. Babies sleep good when they are in them but I was told that they shouldn’t sleep in one at night so I always took down the swing soon as the sun would go down.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Irene
      thanks so much for stopping by! I love when traditions are passed down from generation to generation. Do you have any idea as to when babies should not spend the night in one?

      Reply
      1. Sherrie

        Hi Emily, I was told too that baby’s shouldn’t sleep all night in the wewepison. There are a few teachings that we’re told not to write on things like this. I would suggest following protocol if you’d like to learn more. At least from a Nehiyaw (Cree) perspective.

        Thanks,

        Reply
        1. Emily Post author

          hi Sherrie
          Some of my teachings are Cree, a Nation I am quite familiar with. But some are also from the West Coast and Sioux. My partner is Dakota and very traditional. I know about the oral tradition and I share what I have been taught I could share. In this case, I have also asked the mothers of the babies I picture for their permission to use the pictures as well.

          Reply
  5. Johnathan Tarter

    Another interesting and beautiful piece of Native American culture! These hammocks look so beautiful and perfect for babies to sleep in. I will definitely consider getting these hammocks the next time a baby has entered my life and needs a nice and comfy place to rest in! Keep up the great work! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Yay Johnathan!
      The swings are very comfortable and safe when used properly. I know I will have one in my house when I have a baby 🙂

      Reply
  6. Eloah

    Hi Emily,

    How adorable those swings are. I am originally from Brazil. We love Hammocks! And there are beautiful ones to choose from. But I never saw a baby sized one. That is so interesting! Thank you for sharing! So cute and simple, and so much cheaper!

    Eloah

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      thanks for visiting Eloah!
      Those baby hammocks are just awesome! So much simpler than everything there is out there in terms of cribs, jolly jumpers, etc. Keep it simple 🙂

      Reply
  7. Darlene Auger

    Hello Emily, My Cree Spirit name is Piitaapan (means: the light is coming, in reference to the sunrise). I want to share my website with you, it is all about the Traditional Native baby swing (wiwip’son) and the adult therapeutic swing (which was brought to me in a vision in 2001). Please go to http://www.wiwipson.com. A friend of mine has been sharing your posts with me about the swing because she is very familiar with the work I do with the “swing” and I am currently developing a children’s kit, which will hold a native baby doll in a moss bag (Waspison) in a swing in a child size tipi, with a CD of Cree Lullabies, and a little storybook on the teachings of the baby swing.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Darlene!
      yay so nice to meet you! I will be checking out your site for sure and use it as a reference. I love the Cree culture. Would love to hear the lullabies. I have heard some from Art Napoleon and I love them. I have taught myself the Cree Sunrise song 🙂

      Reply
  8. Yvette

    What a beautiful concept. So obvious when you think about it, and so much simpler and beautiful than the modern designs. You could make this in any colour or texture you like, and it’s so practical.
    Baby Sofia looks like she absolutely loves it! Great share, thank you

    Reply
  9. Den

    A baby swing is so practical, and it’s nice you can make one with things you have around the house. Simple, practical and nice looking.

    Can big babies have one too?!

    And the babies are so CUUTE!

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Den
      Those swings are sooo practical. And much simpler than all that is sold in stores. I would say that it can hold up to 20-25 pounds.

      Reply
  10. Hindy Pearson

    Hi Emily, thanks for another interesting post and insight into Native American culture and traditions. I think the baby swing is brilliant, and I love how you mention hanging it over the parents’ bed. No more dragging yourself out of bed to check on the baby, just raise your arm. I bet lots of parents can get excited about that one! My husband was on one of his travel adventures, don’t remember where but it was before I came into the picture. Anyway, he slept in a hammock for a few nights, and he said it was the most amazing sleep ever. I spent an afternoon reading in a hammock and I would say I spent more time sleeping. It was too cosy I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Makes sense that a baby would love that cocoon experience too!

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Oh yes Hindy, it is so relaxing and soothing! Even for adults, I also think it is a super great way to get some rest. And yes so practical to have it over the parents bed!

      Reply
  11. Lee Zhi Wei

    When I was a baby, I slept in that thing & though we might not have much recollections, the feeling is kinda the same when you’re in somebody’s arm. I would use it for my kids next time when they are slightly above 3months old as I heard that the rocky sensation isn’t that good for newborn.

    Really enjoyed this post and & could feel the memories coming back in me.

    Cheers!
    Zhi Wei

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Zhi
      I am sure it must feel like being in one’s arms for sure. I did not know that the rocking sensation was not good for newborn. Maybe because of a lack of balance in their part? Hmmm I will have to look into it.

      Reply
      1. Lee Zhi Wei

        Hi Emily,

        It isn’t a lack of balance which isn’t good for newborn. Imagine you’re on a boat & you get dizzy due to seasick, thats the same thing which will happen to newborn if they are being swing that way.

        Cheers!
        Zhi Wei

        Reply
  12. Marc

    Hey Emily

    Great post! I really love the idea of a baby swing. And I am a fan of DIY as well, so this is definitely on the cards for my little one.

    She is already 2, but I just know she is going to love it!

    Really wish I had stumbled across the idea a year or two ago though. I am pretty sure it would have saved me quite a few restless nights.

    Looking for to more Native American DIY traditions 😉

    Cheers,
    Marc Parsons

    Reply
  13. Anastasia

    I love anything about Native American Indians. Very useful information. I have read a lot about Native American but nothing about baby swings. I will consider to have one for my second baby. Thank you Emily

    Reply
  14. Shaz

    This post reminded me of my childhood! It was spent in India where I am originally from and to this day, many middle-class families use these home made swings for their babies successfully! In many cases, the child will ONLY sleep if they are in this swing!

    Thanks again for the great post and I will be following your blog closely going forward 🙂

    Reply
  15. Jan K

    Hi Emily,

    The Asian baby swing looks much different as it cover up the baby for protection purpose (I think) instead of 2 strings and a blanket.

    I like the Native American baby swing and all your nice posted pictures here reminded me the baby swing made by my grandpa. It looks alike but without any blanket. He handmade the entire swing with ropes, very traditional but too bad I have no photo to share.

    Reply
  16. pJ

    Hi, I just love this website. It is so full of rich traditional native elements and so informational. This is a great site. Thank you for sharing the information on the baby swing. My only worry is that an active baby may fall out or somehow roll over or suffocate?
    Thank you for sharing this. I will be watching for more!

    Reply
  17. Vivia

    Hi Emily,

    This is such a great idea. I had so much trouble getting my kids to sleep well as babies, because they always wanted to be held, or sleep beside me. This baby swing would have been so great to have for them. I can see where the baby must feel so warm and protected. I have definitely stored this idea for when I have the next one.

    Thanks so much,
    Vivia

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Vivia!
      so happy you liked the concept! It offers such a unique yet practical way to soothe the baby, while not constantly holding the baby. It allows mom to go about her day and get ready while keeping the baby safe and “held”.

      Reply
  18. Debra

    I really enjoyed the read on the native american baby swing and can see why it is still a traditional part of baby care these days. So simple to make.If I understand it right, the weight of the baby is what keeps the baby in place right? It seem that one could make an adult swing just as easily. So my question is did the adult of these tribes make their own beds in this fashion too?

    A great post

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Debra
      you got it right. The weight of the baby keeps everything in place. You can actually make an adult one. I do not think it is as widely used but it certainly can be done.

      Reply
  19. Dara

    This is awesome! What an excellent idea, I might make one to use the next time we’re camping. Little guy will be 15 months old by then, but it would still be useful since it can grow with him. Baby in view for nap time? Great idea!

    Reply
    1. admin

      yes exactly! I twas made to keep the baby safe while allowing for mom or anyone watching baby to go about their activities. Super practical!

      Reply
  20. Paul

    My other half is from a mountain province in Asia, they actually use a very similar “swing”. They normally wrap babies around their bodies with a long fabric like a big towel, when needed they un-tie and set the baby down in the “swing”. Then simply when ready to hold the baby again simply pick up the baby which is already in the fabric and wrap and tie baby around again. Amazing how all these numerous places around the world years ago without ever meeting each other all have very similar ways of living.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      oh absolutely Paul! I think that all Indigenous people of the land have similar practices. They all seem to be innate and pass down from generation to generation. Thanks for sharing this one with us 🙂

      Reply
  21. Sarah Lertzman

    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been looking online for this kind of instruction after seeing these used with our Cree family in Northern Alberta. Next month our little one will arrive and I’m sure she will love this hammock. We will be placing it everywhere we are in the house during the day and then just sleeping with babe at night. Very excited; thank you so much!!!

    Reply

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