By Taylor Carter, a New Beginnings Student
Traditionally rebozos are passed down from mother to daughter or midwife to midwife (Tully, 2018). They are central and beneficial throughout the stages of life, especially in the countryside. The first time a young girl would come in contact with one is as it holds her tightly to her mother when she is a baby. As the daughter grows and reaches an age suitable for courtship and marriage, her parents will gift her a rebozo of her own as a rite of passage to indicate to others that she is available. Her husband may also give her a rebozo in place of a wedding ring; however, after their marriage it will be tied differently to signify that she is now a married woman. In many parts, the rebozo worn this way is a sign of honor and respect (Damon, 2018).
Our focus is how the rebozo is used during a woman’s child bearing years – the uses are extensive and impressive. During pregnancy the rebozo can be used to lift the weight of the belly; this is especially useful for women who have had multiple pregnancies, as sometimes their belly almost seems to fall out onto their lap with no support whatsoever. As the pregnancy progresses, the rebozo can be used to reposition a baby, especially during labor, where it can also be used to apply counter-pressure and give the mother something to pull against while she pushes among many other things. Finally, after the baby has joined the family, the rebozo will then be used as a sling to keep the baby close to mother, right where he/she belongs!
This piece of fabric, one that is with the mother in her greatest hours of need, i.e. labor and delivery, will also serve her later in life, a time when she is burying a loved one, sometimes even serving as a shroud for the deceased.
Rebozo Uses for Doulas during Pregnancy
The rebozo begins its usefulness to doulas during the pregnancy of the mother. The extended length and width of the rebozo allows is to be tied around the mother’s abdomen throughout the day so that she doesn’t feel so “heavy with child” (Cook, 2013). The rebozo should always be loose up around the top of the tummy and snug down towards the pelvis, this creates a cradling effect for the belly, as shown to the left.
Lisa-Marie Cook, RNC-OB, created a theory based on her experience known as the Cook Cascade Theory; the theory is as follows:
- You use the rebozo to lift your baby, helping relieve your back discomfort;
- The abdominal lifting of the rebozo helps your baby’s head become better positioned in your pelvis;
- The baby’s head (now better applied in your pelvis) rubs against your cervix which causes a release of endogenous prostaglandins. (Same thing that membrane stripping and intercourse does… but without having something enter your vagina, which may be a positive vote at this point in your pregnancy.)
- The release of endogenous prostaglandins causes some Braxton-Hicks contractions which can cause cervical softening, dilation. (Cook, 2013)
Rebozo Uses for Doulas during Labor and Delivery
According to Gail Tully at Spinning Babies, the rebozo has three main uses:
- Relax tight uterine ligaments and abdominal muscles
- Help a baby rotate in pregnancy or labor more easily
- Help a birthing woman relax into her labor (Tully, 2018)
One of the primary ways women going through labor deal with pain is counter pressure. This can be a lot of work for the person applying it as well! However, you can use the rebozo to apply counter pressure by doing a double hip squeeze – gathering the rebozo under the belly and around the hips, pulling the ends in opposite directions. (May, 2016)
The rebozo can also be used for shaking or jiggling, commonly referred to in the birth community as “shaking the apples,” by placing the rebozo at the woman’s hips with the mother on her hands and knees and gently, rhythmically moving the belly; this may also encourage the mother to shake or move her way through contractions, coping with the pain and moving the baby.
Squatting is another method of using the rebozo. This is a good position for laboring in as well as delivering baby. Often you can encourage the mother to squat down into her contractions, letting her knees become soft and allowing her body to give into the labor pains as they come. One way to do this is to have a doula on both sides of the mother as the cradle her belly in the rebozo. Then the mother can wrap her arms around her partner’s neck and squat down into her contractions while the doulas lift the weight of her belly. Another variation is wrapping the rebozo around her hips and buttocks and supporting her bodyweight as she squats down into the rebozo.
The mother can also use the rebozo as something to pull against during the second stage of labor (the pushing stage). This encourages the mother’s body to use the “right” muscles instead of wasting energy in places that won’t help expel baby, such as the shoulder, calves, and behind the eyes (May, 2016).
Rebozo Uses for Doulas during Post-Partum
There are two main uses for the rebozo after delivery. One unique and efficient way to use the rebozo is as a girdle. You can tie the rebozo in such a way that it supports your abdomen while the muscles heal. This will help relieve the pain and provide some of the same benefits a girdle promotes, such as making it easier to move around and reducing the risks of developing a hernia, as the rebozo helps your abdominal muscles pull your uterus back into your torso. (May, 2016)
Finally, the rebozo can be used as a baby carrier. Carrying your baby has an extensive amount of benefits, including the following:
- Wearing your baby helps baby’s physical development – such as hip development. (Thomas, 2012)
- Babies who are held get more interaction. People are more apt to interact with your child if they are at eye level. A baby in a stroller or on the floor doesn’t get much conversation. (Thomas, 2012)
- Babies that are held cry less (some research shows up to 40-50% less!). (Thomas, 2012)
- Baby wearing is great for babies who are fussy, have colic, or reflux. Since baby is in an upright position, close to you, and moving, they are happier and spit up less. (Thomas, 2012)
The rebozo is a piece of culture, a time-honored tradition that holds infinite wisdom of midwives and doulas of generations passed. A beautiful piece of fabric that is useful all throughout one’s child bearing years, the rebozo is a wonderful investment for any doula and mother!
Cook, L.-M. (2013, September 4). REBOZOS IN PREGNANCY & BIRTH. Retrieved from Birthing Basics: https://www.birthingbasics.net/2013/09/04/birthing-basics-about-rebozos/
Damon, A. (2018, March 13). Mexican Textiles 101: What is a Mexican Rebozo? . Retrieved from Zinnia Folk Arts: https://zinniafolkarts.com/blogs/news/what-is-a-mexican-rebozo
May, J. (2016, March 4). 5 Ways to Use a Rebozo During Labor. Retrieved from Modern Alternative Pregnancy: http://modernalternativepregnancy.com/2016/03/04/5-ways-to-use-a-rebozo-during-labor/
Thomas, B. (2012, Feburary 12). 15 Reasons to Wear Your Baby. Retrieved from The Pistachio Project: https://pistachioproject.com/2012/02/15-reasons-to-wear-your-baby.html#_a5y_p=4986455
Tully, G. (2018, March 13). Rebozo Manteado. Retrieved from Spinning Babies: https://spinningbabies.com/learn-more/techniques/the-fantastic-four/rebozo-sifting/