Belly Binding Explained: Part Two

I left off my last post with a promise to show you what binding entails and explain the actual process of belly binding. I brought my buddy Cassie Ringl of New Light Birth Photography to capture the process, and by the end of it, she said, "It makes so much sense that binding would help you to feel better and lose weight after delivering!" A huge thanks to her for capturing such beautiful images.

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About a year ago, I began a deep love and appreciation for essential oils especially in their use before, during, and after delivery. For moms who love essential oils as much as I do, I use essential oils in their firming oil, for others, I use a Malaysian firming paste recipe that uses ground spices such as ginger, cardamom, and turmeric. In preparation for a binding session, I gather supplies for either the oil or paste and cut and sew the binder which is made up of a 13 yard long piece of fabric and tied under panel.

The first step in the process is a warm oil rub down intended to relax sore muscles, encourage circulation, and begin the process of removing excess weight in the abdomen. I then apply the firming oil or paste to the abdomen. While I attach the underpanel, I instruct on simple exercises to help moms recover their abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. I use a panel because immediately after your delivery, you have a good bit of extra skin that can get caught up or slip through the cracks of the bind. A little gross, but true. The panel isn't necessary, but for those first few times, it keeps that straggling skin from going too rogue.

I begin the actual binding process with an initial loop around the bottom that starts below the hip line to help with the post-delivery achy hips and the recovery of pre-pregnancy hip-width. I do several passes around the hip area because the more support in that area the better--a baby did just squeeze through there! 

Bengkung belly binding involves a series of knots in a long, narrow piece of fabric. An initial double knot establishes a short "tail" and a long piece for wrapping. Over and over, the long piece is wound around the abdomen with the tail knotting around it in the center, creating a corseting effect.

As the series of knots are formed, the postpartum abdomen begins to be supported, warmed, and tightened. Linear knots are the trademark of the Bengkung belly bind. When I first began binding, I weaved and looped the fabric leaving my "knots" all over the place. With time and practice on many a postpartum mom including myself, my knots finally assumed an organized and effective pattern.

Constant tension has to be maintained during a bind. My arms are always a little sore from holding the cloth so precisely and so taut. I really should have arms of steel from all the baby carrying, double hip squeezing, and binding. 

The bind goes from below the hip line to the bottom of the rib cage. Before you know it, a waste begins to appear where swollen abdomen and loose skin was. To finish, I weave remaining material through the knots and check the tightness of each overlapping wrap.

Courageous mothers are provided with care instructions and access to videos I recorded for subsequent binding. 

There you have it: the wonderful art of Bengkung Belly Binding! All in all, the process takes about one hour. I teach mothers and their support how to bind so that each day, they are able to do so easily. For the first three to five days, mothers stay bound for 12 hours each day. The following week or so, the time goes down to 8 hours, and after that, only 3-5 hours each day is all that is required until 40 days postpartum. 

In the comments, I'd love to hear your experiences with postpartum bands or binds. If you didn't use one, would you use one for subsequent postpartum recovery?