Thursday, June 07, 2012

Babywearing in Ecuador

In much of Asia and Africa, people carry heavy things on their heads. In Latin America women use a rebozo instead. It's a rectangle of cloth that can serve as a garment, sunshade, or carrier:

And of course, it's the classic method for carrying kids. You see a lot of kids with their parents in Quito. A lot of people can't afford daycare or stay-at-home parents, so they take their kids to work with them. You see people, especially indigenous women, selling things in the street with kids tied on their backs.

While the rebozo is traditionally hand-woven wool, modern Ecuadorian mothers favor other materials. The one above has Strawberry Shortcake characters printed on it. A lot of women just use polarfleece blankets.

Unlike US parents, who have heard about SIDS a million times and are always checking that their child is still breathing, Ecuadorian parents often cover their children entirely with a polarfleece blanket. You'll see a woman walking along with a large bundle in her rebozo, with perhaps a little foot dangling out the bottom. Ultraviolet radiation is very strong at this altitude, so the blanket is probably keeping the kid from getting burnt.

I'm pretty sure there's a kid in there

While Americans tend to buy special baby carriers, even if they're going with a simple rectangle, Ecuadoran women seem to use any convenient piece of cloth. The babies are all very chill about it.

One does see the occasional child in a stroller or a storebought baby carrier. Most young children are carried in arms, which seems inconvenient but maybe doesn't have the negative connotation of being an "indio". And while I see plenty of men carrying children, I've never seen one use a rebozo.


Celeste said...

The woman who taught our childbirth education class did some work with Latin American midwives who apparently use the rebozo to help women in labor.

Julia Wise said...

Interesting! Might come in handy. :)

Anonymous said...

I miss this! I worked in a pre-school in Ibarra (it's 3 hours north of Quito) and the kids mom's would usually have a sibling carried on their back like that. It's so sensible and is a great way to still be close to your kid while doing your work/errands.