Kourtney Kardashian did it. So did Jessica Alba. Brooke Burke hailed the benefits of doing it for 40 days and 40 nights after she had her kids. No, we’re not talking about another juice cleanse. We’re talking about belly binding, a postnatal trend that might seem invented on Instagram, but it’s actually hundreds of years old.
To sum it up, belly binding is when you wrap a large piece of cloth (or a girdle, corset, muslin) around your abdomen. Generally you wrap the material quite tightly so that it supports and keeps your abs in place, which can be especially helpful after you give birth. Some celebrities claim it helped get their bodies “back” following pregnancy. Particularly if you’ve had a c-section, belly binding can help ensure your incision heals properly, as it requires cutting through numerous layers of tissue and muscle. According to Healthline, one study found that women who delivered by c-section and practiced belly binding during recovery experienced less pain, bleeding, and discomfort as compared to those who had a c-section and didn’t use belly binding.
How does belly binding work? When you’re pregnant, your body stretches out to make room for babe. Organs move out of their normal position, and even your abdominal muscles separate to make space. After you give birth, your body moves those muscles and organs back to their original position. When done properly, belly binding applied to the abdomen and around the hips can support your pelvic floor. It also offers gentle compression that holds muscle and ligaments safely in place as your body heals.
Please note, belly binding is not “waist training” or an even instant weight loss theory. If your goal is to get your body back, medical experts caution against using waist trainers, especially for postpartum recovery, because of the potential negative side effects. If you wear one too tightly, you can run the risk of impaired breathing and organ damage. There’s also unintended side effects like acid reflux and heartburn. “They do not help you lose weight after delivery, nor do they have any effect on body shape,” Dr. Joseph Chappelle, an assistant professor of OB-GYN at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, told Care.com.
If you do decide to try belly binding, know that if you give birth vaginally, you can use it right away. If you delivered via C-section, you should wait until your incision is healed and dry before applying it. And lastly, always talk to your doctor or midwife before you begin belly binding. As for which type of binding to use, the most popular version is the Bengkung variety, which wraps around the abdomen with a long strip of cloth. It’s rooted in Malaysian culture and claims to provide postural support for the torso and organs as they return to pre-pregnancy position.