In the Middle Ages it was felt that the tight swaddling would protect the baby, preventing injury and ensuring the delicate limbs didn't fall off! Often wrapped onto a be' – a cushion-like pad – the baby would be warm, immobile and settled, and could be left safe and peaceful beside the fire: ideal for a busy mother doing her chores or toiling in one of the many home workshops of the cottage industry. The wrapped baby might even be hung from hook to allow full vantage point and it is reputed that Robert Louis Stevenson's nursemaid was caught one night drinking in an Edinburgh pub, her charge wrapped up like a parcel and stowed on a shelf behind the bar! In the frozen climes of Canada, for thousands of years the Inuit women have worn Amautik to keep themselves and their babies warm. Traditionally made of seal or caribou skin, the amautik would encase the mother like a jacket with shaped tails down to her knees front and back. Decorated with beads and fringes, it had an edging of fur around a capacious amaut. This is a carrying pouch to place baby against her upper back, beneath a huge hood that can be drawn up to cover both. The Khanga is one of the most universal and versatile garments. For centuries it has been a mainstay of the Kenyan woman's wardrobe, called upon to work as a scarf or a dress. This brightly printed rectangle of cotton can be refolded and knotted to become a baby hammock, sling or wrap, a light blanket, a cushion or rolled into a circle to cushion the head when balancing a basket. Traditionally made as a pair, best friends would share the brightly coloured Khangas and the proverbs and words of love that are printed along one edge. The shawl became widely regarded as an essential part of Welsh national dress during the 19th century partly through the prevailing fashion for shawls to be worn with the bell skirts of the 1840s-1870s, along with Lady Llanover's determination to re-establish the Welsh identity. The truly Welsh aspect was a long standing tradition of carrying or wrapping a baby onto the mother's hip with a simple length of cloth wound around the body, then tucked into the waistband of the skirt to offer some support and allow the mother a free arm. The Guobei baby carriers of the Bai from the Yunnan province of China are a similar bag shape, but are richly embroidered with flowers, butterflies and phoenixes, symbols of happiness. Dyak baby carriers from Kalimantan share a similar shape but are made of rigid woven rattan, covered with a net which is densely embroidered with beads in a pattern of faces; the hard surface will deflect evil and the faces will watch over the child from behind. For more ways to carry your babe read the rest of Sarah Jane Downing's article in the Celebrate issue of Selvedge. Don't forget US Mother's Day on 8 May Say thank you to your mother with a gift subscription to, or something special from Selvedge. N.B. shipping from the UK may take a while.