Belly Bound

Reviving an Ancient Prenatal Art

In my personal research for options for supporting new mothers physically, I came across a few articles that mention prenatal belly binding, but these were scarce. I believe this ancient art has been lost and needs to be passed on to today’s modern women as well as future generations.

What is traditional Prenatal Belly Binding?

Belly binding is the practice of wrapping your belly while pregnant for the external support of pelvic muscles, hips and back. Binding may help with Diastasis recti, round ligament pain, and loosening ligaments around the pelvic joints. It may also assist in improving the mother’s posture and can help with optimal fetal position.

Wearing the bind over your shoulders as a sling can help keep baby in an upright, head-down position and can take some pressure off your hips. Belly binding can also provide support for mothers with older children by providing support while bending, lifting, reaching, and playing, especially as her belly grows bigger.

The practice of belly binding has been traditionally used and passed down through generations by cultures in West Africa, South America, and Asia, as well as many others. There have been few or no written records, as this practice has been passed down from mothers/grandmothers to daughters.

In the west African cultures belly binding celebrates the pregnant female form and is said to keep out evil eyes. In Japan belly binding is performed as a prayer for safe pregnancy and birth, in China to provide baby with familiarity by using the same cloth  for both belly binding and babywearing after the birth.

Who can benefit from belly binding?

It is thought that any mother can benefit from belly binding. A pregnant mother can begin binding around 20 weeks, or when she feels she needs more support in her pregnancy, and can continue binding until the end of pregnancy. Women of all sizes can bind their bellies for support.

On average, women gain around 30 pounds during their entire pregnancy, most of which is carried in their abdomen. Binding can help carry some of this weight.

The baby benefits from prenatal belly binding by providing them with a better sense of security, better position for birth and closeness to mother which will translate to better connection after birth.  Binding can be used in labor with the assistance of a trained professional.

As with anything in pregnancy, women know their bodies the best and should be listening for any sign of problems or discomfort. Check with your health care practitioner if you have any concerns anytime throughout pregnancy.

Also take special precautions when unsure of baby’s position, or if baby is in a position such as breech or transverse. Anyone can bind when following a few easy steps and safety precautions, it’s not difficult.

Material used to bind:

The most common material used to bind with is a hybrid baby-wearing wrap. The material is a stretch cotton, a cross between a woven wrap and a stretchy wrap. This material provides the perfect amount of stretch and support without being too hot or restrictive.

Other wraps and materials maybe used with wearer’s discretion. The material used for stretchy wraps is not recommend when belly binding as it can be hard to get the right fit, and can then make the warp unsafe for future baby-wearing.

Traditional binding vs modern support belts?

Modern support belts are usually made from a spandex or lycra material and come in small, medium and large sizes. The sizing needs may be different for each mother depending on factors such as the amount of time the belt is worn, the amount of support needed, and the mother’s  body type.

While traditional wraps can be suited to any body type, lycra support belts will only fit certain women and more sizes will need to be purchased as your body grows. Wraps are more versatile and can be changed and moved to support different areas on the body. Wraps are safer because they will shape to your body, and when properly wrapped, won’t restrict your circulation.

Postpartum Belly Binding:

Postpartum belly binding differs from prenatal binding because the body changes after giving birth. The material for postpartum wrapping does not have any stretch; instead, it provides support as your muscles and organs return to their pre-pregnancy positions.

This practice also provides good back support for nursing mothers. Caesarean section mothers should take caution when binding until their body is ready.

Pregnancy and birth is a time of great opening, carrying and welcoming a new being in to the world. The female body opens and gives its whole self. No matter how you give birth, your body and spirit must open for your baby to come out. Postpartum binding can help to close this part of your journey.

Personal consultations for pregnant mothers and select advanced Doula training sessions are now available on this topic, in person and online. For more information or to book an appointment please contact. (Written by  Tracy Nagy)

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