Most likely, you’ve heard the term belly binding. However, did you know the reasons why women have been using this technique for hundreds of years? It’s not the western version of waist training. 

Many cultures worldwide recognize the benefits of belly binding after childbirth. Although these cultures may use different fabrics or techniques in their binding, they all agree that postpartum belly binding helps the mother heal. 

A woman’s womb expands during pregnancy to make room for her baby’s growth, and this expansion moves her internal organs, presses on her abdominal muscles, and relaxes her pelvic floor. After birth, it takes time for a woman’s organs, muscles, and pelvic floor to return to their pre-pregnancy state, and belly binding is an excellent way to support this gentle movement within her body. 

One of the most well-known belly binding techniques is Bengkung, which has been practiced in Malaysia for thousands of years. This technique uses a long, thin piece of cloth in a wrapping and knotting technique that encircles a woman’s abdomen from under her breasts to the middle of her hips. Bengkung may treat a woman’s belly with herbal paste or oils before the cloth is wrapped. Traditionally, this binding begins five days after birth and will be worn 10 to 12 hours daily for the whole 40-day postpartum recovery period. 

Although western awareness of waist training sometimes conflates it with belly binding, the two are not the same. While waist training seeks to slim or alter a waistline, belly binding is a therapeutic treatment designed to relieve diastasis recti, guide internal organ and muscle movement, and support spinal and pelvic floor health throughout postpartum. 

As pregnancy hormones recede, binding the belly and hips allows the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles to return to their pre-pregnancy position while receiving gentle pressure and guiding support. Traditional methods of belly binding support the ribs and hips as well as the abdomen, allowing a woman’s body to feel held and assisting with posture during breastfeeding. Mothers who have delivered via C-section can also benefit from belly binding after checking with their healthcare provider. 

Although they may need to wait longer after birth to bind, the support they receive from belly binding can help heal their incision. Some women report spiritual benefits from belly binding; as they say, it helps them feel spiritually supported and provides a physical sensation of closure after birth. Postpartum belly binding can give an easier mental transition from the feeling of a baby in the womb to the empty feeling of the womb after birth. 

There are multiple options for women drawn to belly binding during postpartum. Traditional belly binding is done with cloth spun from natural fibers, like cotton gauze or silk, but modern options like postpartum girdles or splints also exist. Cultural options like the Mexican rebozo exist for women who want to explore their postpartum heritage. Stretchy modern fabrics like rayon or a cotton jersey may allow more flexibility for women who want to prioritize comfort. Belly binding is highly customizable and can easily be personalized depending on preferences. As a therapeutic postpartum practice, belly binding remains one of the most widespread and persistent. 

As always, do your research to see if belly binding is something you want to pursue.