“Manteado” is a gentle sifting, like a rhythmic jiggle. This way of using of The Rebozo aims to:
- 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
The Rebozo is a very long, woven scarf created by women for women. The beautiful traditions of using the Rebozo are handed down from mother to daughter and midwife to midwife. The many uses of the Rebozo include carrying a baby, relaxing and repositioning mothers in childbirth, carrying groceries, and most especially, ceremonies for important passages of women’s lives.
“Manteada” is the Spanish name of the technique used by Mexican Midwives with the Rebozo. Manteada is done for pregnancy, birth, postpartum… even for fertility by Mexican Midwives. This description was shared with Spinning Babies by Midwife Ximena Rojas García.
Muscle relaxants and narcotics are common pharmaceuticals offered at the hospital when a birthing person is tense or in pain or in a prolonged labor. Such drugs may have unwanted side effects on baby and birth giver.
The Rebozo technique from Mexico helps relax mothers with no drugs at all. Try Rebozo sifting in pregnancy for comfort. Use the two techniques below during early or active labor for comfort, and to enhance techniques that may then be used to “make space for the baby” to get into their best position for labor.
Watch this video of a couple using the Rebozo in a labor induced with Pitocin (labor made to begin by an artificial hormone in an intravenous drip or IV). This is a couple for whom I was their doula. We see her in early labor at 42 weeks and 2 days. Choosing no pain-reducing drugs, she coped well by releasing tension with Rebozo sifting, freedom of movement, the use of light massage on her arms, soft talk and dim lighting for comfort. Her baby was born healthy and bright. All nine pounds of her!
Before using the Rebozo
The helper breaths deeply to slow themselves down. Get calm and “tune into” the mother. Be in the calm mood desired to help the mother take in the calm given by this rhythmic technique.
Ask the mother if she is having frequent round ligament pain, in the abdomen above the pubic bone off to the sides, either side. Right where the midwife or doctor reaches to check for a head in a head-down baby. If she hasn’t had pain or “zinging” there in the last two weeks, she is not currently having round ligament pain.
Keeping the wrists straight helps the helper avoid wrist strain. Its a variation. The thighs engage to help lift the belly. Tanya Villano Photography
How to do Rebozo sifting in pregnancy or early labor
- The helper helps you wrap the Rebozo around your abdomen like a hammock around the baby.
- Kneel in front of a chair, couch, or birth ball. Use pillows as needed under knees and chest for comfort. Drape your arms over the ball, chair or couch rather than resting your weight on your hands. Relax the upper body without collapsing the back. Now the mother is in position to start. Here’s what the helper does:
- Have a trusted friend stand behind you and hold the ends of the material like reigns of a horse (sorry, just trying to help you picture this). They lift the weight of your belly off your back, snug but not uncomfortable. Mothers sigh in relief at this point.
- The helper lifts the belly enough to lift the weight of the womb from the mother’s back. Short movements are made slowly at first, and then with increasing speed. Not larger or wilder movements, just faster.
- Helpful tip: The helper’s slightly bent (soft) knees and shoe-less feet help the helper perceive the connection between the Rebozo and the mother’s body more sensitively than if the helper’s knees are straight, (Soft knees help proprio-perception. -Carol Phillips, Liz Koch, from class trainings)
- With a gradual increase in speed (but not vigor), your belly is being vibrated. Breathe freely, slowly and let your belly hang into it. It’s enjoyable. If it’s not enjoyable, tell the helper to adjust the speed or pressure of the Rebozo. This is absolute relaxation!
- Give your friend feedback so that they are not too broad with their movements or too mild, don’t lift too high or too little. The cloth doesn’t rub the tummy, it takes the tummy with it.
- After 2-5 minutes your friend’s arms may be tired and they should slow down gradually for several seconds before stopping. Then the weight of the belly is released.
In Active labor, the Rebozo is used to release the pelvic diaphragm (pelvic floor and fascia).
- The Mother is on hands and knees, sitting, or if in a serious case of obstructed labor, in Forward-leaning Inversion (know the limits of this way of positioning a birthing person before trying this!).
- The Rebozo is wrapped over the buttocks and the ends are gathered tightly on each side of the hips.
- The helper shakes the hips so the entire buttocks vibrates and shakes. “Shaking the Apple Tree” can be somewhat vigorous but should give a relaxing feeling. They are not shaken off their knees! We always tune in and be respectful and mindful when using our techniques.
Midwife and Spinning Babies Approved Trainer, Nicole Morales shakes Gail’s hips with her in a Forward-leaning Inversion. We use Forward-leaning Inversion ONLY when the baby’s head is mis-engaged and can’t rotate or descend, as proven by the labor stall and an exam by the nurse, midwife or doctor. Bringing baby back up out of the pelvis only 1 cm is enough to allow the regular contractions to rotate the baby while keeping baby head down by the downward action of the contraction. This combo of techniques is a nuance best done with the supervision of an experienced birth care provider.
When to do the Rebozo Sifting:
- Daily? -Yes!
- During each prenatal or pregnancy appointment with your helper, doula, bodyworker, friend, or midwife.
- In early labor, between contractions
Why so often? Modern pregnant parents experience stress on a scale that effects society as a whole. The gentle sifting of the Rebozo helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system where calm and trust abide. The overall effect of a successful Rebozo session is more peace and love. Hey! That’s a great hormonal environment to grow a baby in!
- Begin any series of Spinning Babies recommended techniques with Rebozo sifting for 2-5 minutes (til your arms are tired, longer is fine).
When NOT to do the Rebozo
- Avoid sifting with the Rebozo when there is a threat of miscarriage, such as signs of bleeding or low cramping in early pregnancy, history of multiple mid to late pregnancy miscarriages or losses in past pregnancies. Use a myofascial diaphragmatic release instead.
- When the round ligaments are tight or cramping in mid or late pregnancy, the Rebozo wouldn’t be dangerous to the baby, but could make the mother’s round ligament spasm. So, do only a lift and very gentle and slight rocking. Otherwise you might “set off” a round ligament spasm which hurts. If the mother isn’t getting these spasms, you are not likely to set them off with the Rebozo.
- Do not perform vigorous or even moderate sifting with the Rebozo or a Rebozo substitute (bed sheet, etc.) against an anterior placenta. I believe Rebozo use would be ok if done gently without jerking the cloth. I want to be careful and mindful with an anterior placenta.
A sensible caution for new users:
My preference is not to use the Rebozo for repositioning the baby through force, jerking one end or flipping the abdomen in the direction you want baby to go. Typically this may not be harmful, but occasionally baby’s head and body are at 180 degree difference and this jerking of the Rebozo may jerk the baby the wrong direction. I trust the traditional Yucatan midwives who do this final jerk of the cloth because their skilled hands have felt literally hundreds or even thousands of fetuses and know well how the fetal back and head are lining up. Mexican midwives with traditional knowledge do Maya Abdominal Massage first before Rebozo sifting. This ability is far beyond the modern birth professional’s training in assessing fetal position. As a midwife and fetus-whisperer, I respectfully note my limitations next to the skills of my midwife sister-neighbors in Mexico.
Done with these considerations, there is no danger in gently sifting with the Rebozo
Just for fun, here is a short clip of women practicing the sifting technique with Rebozo scarves at a birth doula workshop. They each have a different rhythm.
After the Rebozo
A pregnant or birthing person can do a series of balancing exercises or simply rest, depending on their goal.
Spinning Babies and the Rebozo
In The Three Sisters of Balance, the Rebozo Sifting on all fours position begins the trio. Forward-leaning Inversion comes next and is followed by Sidelying Release. These three techniques complement one another and cover a lot of area. The Fantastic Four adds Standing Release.
For active labor, we recommend “Shaking the Apples” with the birthing person in any of a variety of positions. See above. This is a particularly good technique for a stall at -2 Station when the birthing person is in Forward-leaning Inversion. See reasons why or why not to invert and shake the hips before trying it.
The Rebozo is not simply a scarf. It is a cultural emblem of women’s ceremony and daily life. We wrap the mother in birth, and then the baby to the mother. The symbol of the Rebozo is as encompassing as the many ways to wrap the Rebozo.
Gail Tully was taught to use the Rebozo for comfort in pregnancy and birth by Mexican birth experts, Elena Carillo, Guadalupe Trueba, and Angelina Martinez Miranda. A valuable discussion with midwife and Rebozo ceremony facilitator, Bianca Tema Quinonez directed me to examine how Spinning Babies uses the Rebozo on the website here, and in our Spinning Babies Workshop. I was able to follow up by discussing our use with Midwife and Rebozo teacher, Naoli Vinaver. These topics were: Isolating the Rebozo techniques outside of the full cultural context of Rebozo history; frequency; choosing a particular hand position; circular movement for sifting; and the hands and knees position for one of the two techniques Gail has chosen to share in the workshop.
The Mexican Midwives Association sent word through Ximena Rojas Garcia that they are in support of Spinning Babies and our teaching some simple uses while we promote respect for the origins, history, and greater teaching of this valuable tradition. I receive the news with great honor and humble gratitude. We look forward with hope for more opportunities of cooperation to preserve Mexican midwifery culture and wisdom.
Gail and her trainers uphold the value in sharing our respect for the Rebozo through the Spinning Babies Workshop and website. We particularly hope to direct attention to communities who weave the Rebozo and uphold the wisdom of the Rebozo. It is very important to note that we are not teaching a Rebozo workshop. Rather, this wisdom comes from the Mexican Midwives whose lives are woven with the same cultural and historical context of the Rebozo itself. See where you can respectfully purchase this World Treasure, the Rebozo, to support the keepers of this wisdom.
Would you like additional ways of balancing the relaxation of the broad ligament? Some options may be:
- Forward-leaning Inversion
- Diaphragmatic Release
- Standing Release
- Sidelying Release
- Maya Abdominal Massage
- More myofascial releases in general – I prefer gentle versions of myofascial release
- Craniosacral therapy
- Therapeutic Massage of the abdomen and broad ligament
Iversen, Mette Langeland, et al. “Danish women’s experiences of the rebozo technique during labour: A qualitative explorative study.” Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare 11 (2017): 79-85.