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Beyond the Aesthetics of Postpartum Belly Binding

If you think that belly binding after birth is only about your waistline, think again! There is more to this seemingly innocuous piece of material than is currently extolled.

Belly Binding provides support for the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor as they heal, allowing you to work toward rebuilding optimal muscle function, health, and fitness. 

There is emerging evidence that shows promising results for using postpartum belly binders. A 2019 systematic review of previous research found evidence that belly binders may help reduce pain. Another 2019 study found that those who use belly binders experienced less pain when recovering from a cesarean delivery.  

In many traditions, the new mother’s body is considered ‘open.’ In binding, a long piece of cloth is wrapped around the belly and is used to provide support as the body begins to “close”. The Malay and Indonesian Jamu traditions are well-known for binding (‘bengkung’) after a massage to ‘relieve the body of tension, support uterus healing, aid digestion, and expel wind from the body. In Latin America, binding is referred to as ‘la faja.’ 

Over time, however, the opinion has been that the new mom should be bound as tightly as possible for as much time as she can endure to recover a slender shape. 

What follows, unfortunately for many, is breathing dysfunction that prevents the mother from building proper intra-abdominal pressure and use of abdominal muscles. This can cause many other conditions later in life, such as back pain, core weakness, pelvic floor dysfunction, stiffness, and more. And if the mother is active in sports or exercises, muscle compensation may lead to other injuries. This has led to many doctors and therapists saying no to belly binding. 

If you have difficulty breathing, eating, and moving around normally, you are wearing the binder way too tight.  

The binder should feel snug and provide gentle support from your pelvis and to the bottom of the ribs. Wearing it too tightly may create excessive pressure on the organs and pelvic floor. 

It is also essential to choose a binder made of breathable natural fabric and one that is adjustable as your body changes throughout the course of your recovery. 

We wear a knee brace to support recovery after knee injury or surgery; this is what a binder does for you post-delivery. 

It is important to understand that belly binding is not ‘waistline training’; it is to support tissue healing, not forcing your body into a classic hourglass shape.Want to know what we think of other traditional postpartum care practices? Check out our e-book Tea for Two: Postnatal Confinement Tea Collection

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