The old writers agree that the baby was placed in a moss bag, in which the moss served as a diaper. It is known that sphagnum moss is sterile. It was used instead of absorbent cotton when surgical supplies ran out in army hospitals in World War One. Some mothers changed the moss several times a day. Sikanni mothers were reported by Father Morice to bathe their babies daily in a birch bark trough during the summer. The mothers of some tribes powdered the babies at birth with the dried interiors of ripe puffballs. This was also used to stop bleeding of wounds and may have had something to do with stopping hemorrhage of the umbilical cord.
In cold weather the child was wrapped in a “blanket” of soft ground hog, rabbit, or squirrel skin before being laced into the moose hide sack which in turn was fastened to a board. Different tribes had different patterns for the cradleboards, which often had a protection for the head, made of bent willow and leather. The cradleboard was hung on the mother’s back, but when she was carrying a heavy load, a grandmother or aunt would carry the child. The board could also be hung from or leaned against a tree.
Mothers commonly nursed their children until another child was born, and after that for another three or four years. White men commented often in their journals on the ease with which Indian women usually gave birth, often without assistance of any kind.
Large families were the exception rather that the rule until the Indians began to live near the posts all year instead of pursuing a nomadic life. Certain plants were said to have been used to produce an abortion, in times of acute starvation when another child had little chance to survive.
There are reports of infanticide among some northern Athapaskans in extreme situations, and in some cases twins were considered to be unlucky. There are no such reports among the Beavers. Father Morice (The History of the Northern Interior of British Columbia) reports that among the Sekani, twins were kept alive. Since the Beavers and Sikanni were much alike, we may suppose that Beavers also cherished their babies. Certainly in museums one can still see cradle-boards beautifully made, and adorned with beadwork, porcupine-quill embroidery and fringes that required hours of patient work and symbolized the pride and joy of having a child.