Did you know that an effective way to support your healing midsection during the period after birth is to use compression? In fact, this technique, often called belly binding, has been used for centuries in cultures around the globe.
But how long should you bind your belly after birth? For the most effective and comfortable results, here’s what to know about postpartum belly binding.
How Belly Binding Works
Your body obviously undergoes tremendous changes all throughout pregnancy. Hormones like progesterone and estrogen are released in large amounts, making your ligaments and muscles stretchy to make room for a growing baby in your abdomen. You may feel the effects in joints throughout your body. You also retain a significant amount of fluid to support your body’s changing needs as well as your child’s (which is why some women get significant swelling everywhere—including their hands and feet).
With all of these changes, the postpartum period is a stage of gradual recovery as your hormones balance out, your body releases excess fluids, and your muscles and organs around your midsection return to their normal places.
During the postpartum period, belly binding can be helpful by providing gentle compression. It stimulates heat and perspiration in your core, while keeping your muscles in alignment. While it doesn’t strengthen those muscles (you’ll need to strength exercises to accomplish that), it can provide support for your back and loose joints, making the postpartum stage more comfortable and complementing the body’s natural processes.
There’s no set amount of time that you “should” bind your belly; it really depends on how much support you want as you regain your pre-pregnancy body. Here are a few stages you can consider when deciding to use a belly-binding garment.
Be sure to speak to your healthcare provider before you proceed with any stages of this process.
Belly Binding During the Early Stages of Postpartum (0–6 weeks)
In the first few weeks following childbirth, your body will be working hard to flush excess fluids while the uterus shrinks back to its normal size. The objective of belly binding during this stage is to provide support for your abdomen and back while they heal and stimulate heat and perspiration in your core.
As your midsection will be in a delicate state, you’ll want to use gentle, comfortable compression at this stage. Choose a compression garment that uses gentle compression in its construction, or use a waist trainer on a looser setting or larger size than you normally would. You can wear your belly binding garment as long as it is comfortable throughout the day (although you probably won’t want to sleep in it). This gentle bodysuit is ideal at this stage.
You can use gentle belly binding for the first six weeks and then assess your next steps.
Starting a Waist Training Routine (6–12 weeks)
Following the first 6 weeks, you may be ready to move on from gentle compression, since most people have flushed out excess fluid and have healed from childbirth. (Talk to your healthcare provider and confirm that you’re ready for exercise and normal activity—if you have had a C-section, you may have to wait a bit longer). Now is the time to try firmer compression if you want continued support from a waist-slimming garment, like this second stage compression garment.
Wearing a waist-slimming garment as part of a regimen to slim down your waist, whether in the postpartum period or not, is a practice called waist training. You can do it in conjunction with an exercise routine and a healthy diet to help you stay motivated on track with your health and fitness.
After the initial 6 weeks following birth, you may want to introduce waist training. This will continue to stimulate heat and perspiration in your core while providing support for your back and abdomen. Benefits include giving you confidence with a slimmer figure, motivation with your health and fitness goals and support good posture (your ligaments and muscles will still be loose on their own). The Best Waist Trainer by Hourglass Angel HA102 is an ideal garment to get started with.
Start with just an hour or two a day wearing a high compression waist-slimming compression garment. It will feel snug but shouldn’t cause any pain or pinching. Gradually add more time each day as you feel comfortable. Sometimes you will want to wear your waist trainer in two sessions with a break in between as you adjust to the way it feels.
You’ll also want to start exercising during this time so you can rebuild your core muscle strength. Gradually introduce a variety of cardio exercise and full-body strength training, which will improve your endurance and muscle tone. Be sure you’re eating lots of nutritious, whole food during this time, which will help your body rebuild muscle as it burns fat. Also stay hydrated, as waist training can cause you to sweat.
Even taking brisk walks can be beneficial and help you burn calories while strengthening your core. So grab the stroller and get in the habit of regular exercise with your little one—it will make you feel great.
By the end of 12 weeks, you’ll be feeling more and more like yourself. If you’ve been consistent with waist training, you should feel comfortable wearing your garment 8–12 hours a day. You can use a workout band for workouts and an everyday waist trainer for the rest of the day.
Waist Training 12 Weeks and Beyond
You can waist train indefinitely once you’re beyond the postpartum period. Over time you may move down to a smaller size. Feel free to experiment with different brands and styles if you enjoy waist training, and simply make it a part of your everyday routine!
Regaining your body after pregnancy takes time and patience. (It took 9 months to grow a baby; is can take several months for your body to return to its normal size.) Wearing belly binding garments can support you on that journey and help you feel more confident to stick with a healthy lifestyle as a mom.