Why do Rebozo sifting?
Muscle relaxants and narcotics are common pharmaceuticals offered at the hospital when a birthing person is tense, in pain, or in a prolonged labor. Such drugs may have unwanted side effects on the baby and the birth giver.
The Rebozo technique helps relax mothers without any drugs at all. Try Rebozo sifting for comfort in pregnancy. 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.
This way of using 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
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 Side-lying Release. These three techniques complement one another and cover a lot of area. In addition, the Fantastic Four adds a standing release.
How to do Rebozo Sifting in pregnancy or early labor
- Kneel in front of a chair, couch, or birth ball. Use pillows as needed under your knees and chest for comfort. Drape your arms over the ball, chair, or couch rather than resting your weight on your hands. Relax your upper body without collapsing the back. Now the mother is in a good position to start.
- The partner (helper) stands on either side of the mother’s hips, and holds the traditional cloth in their hands.
Helpful tip: The helper’s slightly bent (soft) knees and shoe-less feet help them perceive the connection between the Rebozo and the mother’s body more sensitively than if the helper’s knees are straight.
- The helper helps you wrap the Rebozo around your abdomen like a hammock around the baby. Keeping the wrists straight helps avoid wrist strain (see above). The thighs should engage as well to help lift the belly. It will look a bit like holding the reins of a horse (pardon the crude comparison).
- The helper lifts the belly enough to take the weight of the womb off the mother’s back. Short movements are made slowly at first, and then with increasing speed. Not larger or wilder movements, just faster.
- With a gradual increase in speed (but not vigor), your belly is now being vibrated. Breathe freely and let your belly hang into it. If it’s not enjoyable, tell the helper to adjust the speed or pressure of the Rebozo. This should be absolute relaxation!
- Give your partner some feedback so they are not too broad or mild with their movements. Don’t lift too high or too little. The cloth shouldn’t just rub the tummy, but take the tummy with it.
- After 2-5 minutes, your helper’s arms may be tired. They can now slow down gradually for several seconds before stopping. The weight of the belly is now released.
How to do Rebozo Sifting in active labor
In active labor, the Rebozo is used to release the pelvic diaphragm (pelvic floor and fascia).
- The mother should be on her hands and knees, sitting, or if in a serious case of obstructed labor, in Forward-leaning Inversion. (Know the limits of positioning a birthing person this way before trying!)
- Wrap the Rebozo over the buttocks and gather the ends tightly on each side of the hips.
- The helper then shakes the hips so the entire buttocks vibrates and shakes. “Shaking the Apple Tree” can be somewhat vigorous but should give an overall relaxing feeling. (They should not be shaken off their knees!)
Please note: 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 the baby back up out of the pelvis 1 cm is enough to allow the regular contractions to rotate the baby while keeping the 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.
Learn how to do the Rebozo Manteada by watching Gail Tully teach it to pregnant parents in our Spinning Babies® Parent Class video. Parents across the globe are using these techniques for comfort in pregnancy and easier birth—and they’re working! Available on DVD or digital download.
Here is another short clip of women practicing the sifting technique with Rebozo scarves at a doula workshop. Notice how they each have a different rhythm!
When should you do it?
- Daily or weekly
- During each prenatal or pregnancy appointment with your partner or another helper
- In early labor, between contractions
- With fetal malposition (begin any series of techniques with Rebozo sifting for 2-5 minutes, or until your arms are tired)
Why so often? Modern pregnant parents experience stress on a scale that affects 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. That’s a great hormonal environment to grow a baby in!
When should you not do it?
When there is a threat of miscarriage, such as signs of bleeding or low cramping in early pregnancy, or a history of multiple mid-to-late pregnancy miscarriages or losses in the past. 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. In this case, do only a lift and some very slight, gentle rocking. Otherwise you might set off a round ligament spasm (which hurts).
- Do not perform vigorous or even moderate sifting with the Rebozo against an anterior placenta. I believe Rebozo use would be okay if done gently without jerking the cloth, but I want to be extra careful and mindful with an anterior placenta.
Please note: 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 the baby to go. Typically this isn’t harmful, but occasionally the baby’s head and body are at a 180 degree difference and this jerking motion may tug the baby in the wrong direction.
Before using the Rebozo
The helper breaths deeply to slow themselves down. Get calm and “tune into” the mother. This helps 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 on either side (right where the midwife or doctor reaches to check for a head in a head-down baby). If she hasn’t had any pain there in the last two weeks, she is not currently having round ligament pain.
After using the Rebozo
A pregnant or birthing person can do a series of balancing exercises or simply rest, depending on what they need at the time.
Would you like additional ways of balancing (relaxing) the broad ligament? Try the following:
- Forward-leaning Inversion
- Diaphragmatic release
- Standing release
- Side-lying 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
Spinning Babies® and 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 and in our workshop. I was able to follow up by discussing our use with midwife and Rebozo teacher, Naoli Vinaver.
The Mexican Midwives Association sent word through Ximena Rojas Garcia that they are in support of Spinning Babies®, and have allowed me to teach some simple uses as long as we promote respect for the origins, history, and greater understanding of this valuable tradition. I received the news with great honor and humble gratitude. We look forward to more opportunities of cooperation and 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. 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 as the Rebozo itself. Please purchase an authentic Mexican Rebozo in order to support the keepers of this wisdom.
Ximena Rojas García from Vera Cruz, MX writes:
Thank you Gail Tully for bringing the Rebozo all around the world with Spinning Babies®. We are all guardians of the ancestral medicines, we are remembering. The Rebozo is an extension of our bodies and the company to our hearts. The traditional Midwives from Mexico are happy to have their work all around the globe.
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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.
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Paul, Julie A., et al. “Use of an early labor lounge to promote admission in active labor.” Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health 62.2 (2017): 204-209.
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Trueba, G. (2001). Comfort Measures for Childbirth: The Rebozo Way (DVD). Available from: Guadelupe Trueba (email: gtrueba@ prodigy. net. mx).