The practice of belly binding is an old-world tradition tried and tested for several centuries, and common in societies across the globe. Belly binding involves wrapping a postpartum woman’s belly with fabric to help your abdominal muscles move back towards each other.
Belly binding can help your postpartum body heal quickly and correctly, and also decrease your chances of lingering physical issues resulting from your pregnancy. However, the most important aspect of this skill may be the emotional support given to a brand new mother—whether this is her first baby or fourth, she still needs to care for herself.
The practice of belly binding may vary slightly across cultures, but it appears the biggest difference among groups of people is when the ritual takes place—right after delivery or days later. As an anthropologist, I am always most interested in the number of cultures that perform a certain ritual, as opposed to why they do it. If cultures all over the world, with differing religious beliefs and languages, practice a similar ritual, then you can deduce that it has been helpful. This explains why it persisted and was able to spread across groups of people.
One common complication of pregnancy that may benefit from belly binding is Diastasis Recti, or separation of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy. Although a muscular issue in your abdomen, it can cause chronic postpartum back pain and other issues.
In addition, if the abdominal wall does not heal properly, then each pregnancy can lead to further complications within the musculature putting more pressure on the bones, ligaments, and joints of your core. The most serious and painful consequence can be an abdominal hernia, which may require surgery to be corrected.
Unfortunately, some practitioners do not check thoroughly for this complication, and a woman can be put at further risk if she resumes activities that use the abdominal muscles before they are healed.
Your plank can actually cause you more damage! If you have been told you have Diastasis Recti or separation of your abdominal muscles, or if you can feel abnormal separation between your muscles during your pregnancy, it is important to find a practitioner who specializes in postpartum healing.
When you hire a postpartum expert to perform belly binding, they come to your home to wrap your belly, usually with a soft muslin cloth. However, you are also hiring an emotional support person. You are allowing yourself the space to discuss all the changes you are going through, ask questions, and begin a relationship with someone you trust.
Surrounded by her peers and family in a safe and familiar place, the belly binding practice gives a woman the opportunity to discuss her birth experience, her transition to motherhood, and difficulties she is facing. She is able to ask questions about breastfeeding, newborn care, changes to her body, and anything else on her mind.
In return, she receives comfort, a space for herself, and reassurance she is not the first woman to experience these emotional changes. She may also be given advice and oral traditions that have been passed down for generations in her culture. Although you may live in a different society, you have that same opportunity!
The belly binding expert is a trusted member of your team who can expand your resources through referrals and references. In a perfect environment, this person will be a touchstone for you through your first year of motherhood that can decrease feelings of isolation so common in new mothers in our society.
MCC is thrilled to now be offering belly binding to our postpartum clients!