A woman’s belly goes through an immense transformation to grow a baby. After giving birth the belly can feel quite soft and vulnerable. Women have described this feeling as ‘your insides being on the outside’ or feeling as though everything might fall out.
Sometimes there is even separation in the abdominal muscles called ‘diastasis recti’. The internal organs move during pregnancy to make space for the expanding womb and afterwards they can be supported to return to their pre-pregnancy position. A technique to assist this process is ‘belly binding’. Belly binds are also known as wraps, bands, belly belts, girdles etc. The practice of belly binding after birth is common across many cultures.
Belly binding after birth is an effective and important part of a mama’s recovery. The belly wrap helps provide back support, improve posture, stabilise loose ligaments and assist the organs to return to their original position. This helps reduce strain when lifting your newborn and provide postural support when breastfeeding.
One of the main reasons women enjoy belly binding after birth is because it can feel really good as the binding is supportive and grounding for the nervous system. For the more complicated binds like the Bengkung Bind (pictured) there is a sense of reverence and ceremony around applying it too. This is especially so if warm oils, herbs and spices are used as well. The act of taking a few minutes to put it on can be a very nurturing and poignant process.
In our contemporary world, with less time on our hands, the more simple binds can be very handy. Women can use a simple tubular bandage that they can slip into and use under clothing. ‘Tubigrip’ bandages can be bought from pharmacies or ordered online, size K tends to be a good fit for most. ‘Spanx’ shaping underwear can feel good to help provide support. Look for the high waisted extra supportive sort.
I’ve recently come across ‘belly bands’ which are stretchy and use velcro to fasten. They can be great, particularly for women recovering from a Cesarean. They are comfortable and can be quite customisable.
One of the traditional binds is my favourite, the ‘Bengkung Belly Bind’. This bind is made from cotton and is about 10-12 metres long. It looks like a cotton corset and with a little practice is quite easy to put on. The bind starts at the hips and provides support all the way up the torso to just under the breasts. It can be used within a few days after a vaginal birth but if the women has had surgery she should wait around six weeks before using this bind. It’s very supportive and differs from other bands because it covers the full torso and can be tightened more as your belly starts to flatten.
How often you wear your bind will probably be dependent on your comfort and how much time you have. For some women, they like to wear their bind a few hours a day, others love it so much they wear it constantly for weeks, only taking it off to shower. Traditionally the first forty days is when particular attention is paid to massage, binding and warming the mother. I think this is a nice time frame but you need to find what works for you.
You may find you like to put your bind on when you’re going to be on your feet a bit or carrying your baby lots and need the extra abdominal and back support. Belly binding after birth can aid the body to recover in a shorter period of time, normally six to eight weeks.
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