"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ladies and Gentle-women: Bind Yer Bellies!

I became interested in postpartum belly-binding during my third pregnancy.  Like many mamas, my abs were pretty well split by the time I got pregnant the third time, and I was more than a little concerned when they split even worse due to swimming and yoga in my third trimester.

My midwife suggested binding my belly after birth to assist with healing the muscles, so I read ravenously every word I could find about the practice.  There isn't a lot out there, though. 

Belly binding is a common practice in non-western cultures.  I'm not aware of any longitudinal studies such as we westerners set such great store by, but here's what info I have been able to scrape together from online sources and real-life midwives who  encourage it:

To begin with, let's get vanity out of the way!  Yes, you look better with a bound belly in the first weeks after giving birth.  After my third child was born, I went in for a thyroid xray when he was 4 weeks old, and the nurse nervously asked me if he was adopted.  Yes, he had blonde hair and blue eyes, but she said, "You just look too good to have such a new baby!"

You look good because that extra... stuff is getting squished back into place.  And it feels good, too, to not have a swinging tummy.  I don't know why, exactly, but the skin and, um, droopiness? just melt away much more quickly.

C-section moms, of course, have long been known to be more comfortable with at least their incision area bound.  It's certainly easier than hugging a pillow every time you cough or laugh!

Bleeding is decreased with belly binding, according to my current midwife.  She was pleased to learn that I was planning on binding my belly, because she was a bit worried about further bleeding after the initial hemmorhage I experienced.  She was, I don't know, relieved? when I came in at 48 hours and she palpated my uterus through my knock-off Spanx.  (I was her first outside-of-hospital hemorrhage, and I think she was a trifle traumetized.  Ed is worried she'll never agree to catch a baby for us again, but I hope he is wrong!)

Also, the back and abdomen are TIRED after 9 months of lugging a watermelon around supported by 2 measly ligaments, and a bound belly gives good support to those tired muscles and supports the spine.  It encourages good posture- and wait, did I mention it looks good?

There are many folkloric reasons for belly binding, but for me, decreased bleeding, muscle healing, skeletal support, and looking less postpartum-ish are MORE than enough reason to bind the 'ole middle. 

Is it necessary to spend a small fortune on a fancy binder?  No.  My sister-in-law, after 5 c-sections, swears by the shapewear sold at Wal-Mart for about$10- $15 a pop.  I like "Assets" which is a Spanx under-brand sold at JC Penney.  I also recommend the ones that go from your thigh (like shorts) up to your ribcage.  These prevent riding up in the underwear area and the edges don't roll or bunch up.  I think some moms have problems with the tube-shape ones sold specifically for postpartum because the upper or lower edge can roll up or down.  I used a "real" Spanx after John Paul and definitely had that issue with the waistband.  You may need 2, though, say a size medium for the first week, followed by a small after you've shrunk some.

Definitely note that to gain the full benefits of belly binding, you will want to bind in the morning and not unbind till bed for at least 10 days, but more like 30-40 days. 

"The great advantage of living in a large family is that early lesson of life's essential unfairness. "
~Nancy Mitford


  1. After J's emergent C-section, when I felt I didn't need the stiff medical binder (so several days to a week) I used my Bella Band as a binder. The edges did roll and it wasn't horribly supportive, but I folded it in half and that helped a lot. If I have another, I might invest in a firmer binder. I really do think it helped.

  2. awesome. thanks for writing this out -- I am totally going to do this with my next pregnancy. I've heard it really works wonders!!

  3. so do you think that even though I am four months pp it would still make a difference?

    1. MICHELLE!!! SO glad to 'see' you... miss you so much. Yes, even several months pp I think it can help. If I recall, I read something to that effect after JP was born. I'd probably combine it with some good walking or yoga belly toning, plus a big ole sugar fast, but it never hurts to squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze the belly and support the back and tummy muscles . I find it naturalyy engages the abs and forces good posture, too. HTH!

      And omgosh, call me!

  4. I thought I'd better alert you that some of your photos of your beautiful baby have been used on a fake facebook account!! http://www.facebook.com/jessica.doherty.108?fref=ts