I've Cot You (Sayang, Sarong Baby) is a heritage cum photo documentary project tracing personal Singaporean stories and memories revolving around the cloth cradle, also known as ‘yao lan’. This was a practice that was commonly adopted by Singaporean families to coax their babies to sleep in the 80s and 90s, but have since became obsolete as lifestyle trends and consumption patterns evolve.
Since 2 years ago, we spoke to the young and the elders about this project idea, and simply about how and why they use the cloth cradle in the many permutations.
Here are the Top 10 stories to know about the sarong cloth cradle tradition.
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The setup is said to
be affordable and space-saving as compared to modern cribs, and the functionality makes it just ideal for the HDB homes in Singapore.
One granddad shared, "It is common that some babies might have 'popped' out of the sarong baby cot at least once before, but don't worry, that is why we have the 'teelim' (floor mattress) just ready for those times!
Some gynaecologists advise against using the cloth baby cot, as it might hurt the spine or neck of the baby.
This is one of the reasons parents share that this trend is phasing out, and will a nostalgic thing of the past in the next few years.
The 'buai' is said to imulate the sensation of the womb, and allows the little one to instinctively curl up into a foetal tuck in the soothing motion.
Back in the 'kampung' days, a grandfather
also shared that he recalls bicycle tyres being re-purposed
into the spring mechanism too.
Some caregivers place amulet and lucky 'angbaos', or 'xiah liu huey' along the 'yao lan' structure, which can bless or tame the child.
Modern version with consists of a metral frame that supports the spring set-up, and is mobile due to the wheels mounted at the bottom, making it bulkier, but also portable.
Some also opt to use an automated rocker.
Brothers sharing the same cot in their Grandparents' home.
This family made their own sturdy 'S-hook' to secure the hanger collar. They shared that most families also used a rope to secure the top and bottom components of the setup, just in case the hooks loosen up on the latch.
In the past, buff-building 'Chest Expander' spring could also be used as the rocking spring mechanism!
Here's a sketch by Uncle Yeo! The bicycle tyre replaces the spring mechanism for some kampung homes in the past.
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Instead of the metal collar hanger, in the past, the hanger was made from wooden planks. It could be suspended from wooden columns in the house.
Another awesome sketch by Uncle Chua, to detail what the wooden collar looked like in the past.
This is how the cloth cradle could be kept while not in use, freeing up space for walking at home as it only uses up the 'head-room'.
One can buy the spring set-up from some departmental stores and shops specialising in mothercare products.
Typically, they come in a single- to-seven-spring mount, and that is designed to be modular.
Did you know that you can vary the number of springs attached to the metal plates according to the weight of the little one, and the momentum of the rocking cradle in which is desired?
Some households use a two-tier spring mount, for that extra momentum!
From newborn to Primary School! This is the age range of children who slept in the sarong cloth cradle, out of the families that we spoke to. Sweet!
Some call the parts that make up the structure a 'traditional family hand-me-down' of sorts, with fond memories about the household.
This is because for a handful of families, at least one of the items that make up the 'yao lan' structure has been re-used from ages ago.
These could be one or all of the items consisting of: the ceiling hook, rope to secure the mount, spring, metal collar and cloth cradle.
Most families would sew their own cloth used for the set-up, allowing for customisation easily. Nowadays, the style is rather standard: Muslin cloth in blue, pink, and green colors. This makes the fabric more breathable, says care-givers.
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