You have overcome the ordeal of childbirth, and a healthy new baby is your reward; all seems right with the world. Some new mothers appear to arrive at the end of this physical trauma with minimal alteration to their original canvas, while others may feel as though their body is a stranger to them.
Pregnancy and childbirth do alter the female internal structure, and you might feel you’re a “different you”. While it’s absolutely magical, it’s important to note that your body will be going through changes.
Bengkung belly binding is a Malaysian style of tummy wrapping that has been designed to support your body in a healthy way while it recovers. It also supports your organs and keeps your muscles intact.
Postpartum “sinking gut”
After giving birth, the abdominal muscles are stressed. The internal organs that have been repositioned to allow room for the miracle growing inside of you are now starting to settle back into their pre-pregnancy position. As a result, mums are often left with the sensation that their gut is sinking or collapsing.
“It felt as if my liver was moving from side to side, and my stomach was jumping up and down. It’s as if everything is out of place like you have a bubble inside of you,” is how one mom explained the physical sensations she experienced postpartum.
The solution to a “sinking gut”? A belly bind
You may have heard the women in your culture, or those with your religious affiliations, talking about wrapping their stomachs (bopha isisu) or “belly binding”. Wrapping the stomach after giving birth has been integral to the lifestyle of many traditional women across the globe for centuries.
What is belly binding?
A postpartum belly wrap can last from a few weeks to a couple of months; this varies on the comfort and beliefs of the individual.
The Bengkung belly wrap is a physical act of massaging and then firmly wrapping the torso. It begins within hours or days after vaginal birth. Bengkung belly binding after a C-section will only take place after a couple of weeks – C-sections are no walk in the park. If you opt for modern belly binding wraps and girdles, these can often be used straight away.
In some cultures, stomach binding includes wrapping the hips tightly so that all the muscles involved in the birthing process can heal. As well as wrapping from just below the breasts to the top of the thighs.
If you don’t have older women in the family to guide you in this process. Chat with a doula who is trained in the art of belly binding and can give you the best advice based on your type of birth.
Birth and Perinatal Bereavement Doula, Vicky Scheepers, is a professional belly binder trained in the Bengkung binding method, which is specifically for vaginal births. (But as mentioned earlier, it can be used a couple of weeks after a c-section).
The Bengkung method uses a long belly binding cloth belt that is wrapped around the abdomen from the hips to the ribcage.
According to Vicky, it is not recommended immediately after a C-section as it will not have as great an effect as with a vaginal delivery.
She says, “The recommended time is 40 days during the confinement period, but that is not always realistic. A minimum of six hours where you remain still and don’t move around a lot, so binding at night before bed is recommended. You can still do it during the day if you don’t move too much.”
“I go and bind moms. I apply a healing balm/belly paste and add a massage with each binding session too. I can go wrap moms or teach them how to wrap themselves. The Bengkung method is different from the brands you get from retail shops as it is tailor-made and wraps the curves of your body in a warm hug. I want every postpartum mom to feel a bit more healed and secured, and postpartum belly binding does that.”
Vicky adds, “I would recommend the retail ones for C-section mommies, rather.”
BELLY BINDING IS BELIEVED TO HELP RETURN THE MUSCLES AND UTERUS TO THEIR ORIGINAL FORM, PROVIDING COMFORT AND SUPPORT
Belly binding Bengkung benefits
Postpartum binding has many therapeutic benefits, as well as physical ones. With a simple system of twists, you can gain a number of these benefits:
- An abdominal binder after pregnancy is believed to help return the muscles and uterus to their original form, providing comfort and support.
- Firm wrapping may even speed up the knitting of the stomach muscles and allow you to regain your figure quicker than you might have without the abdominal binding.
- Posture is improved, and you will “feel firmer”, which can help with maintaining or regaining a positive self-image after birth.
- Various cultural and spiritual beliefs around this practice hold that this process is essential for the birth canal. Additionally, it keeps the heat in the body, allowing for the “earth element” that was lost during childbirth to return to the body.
Belly binding after birth: What kinds of wrapping can you use?
Belly binding postpartum comes down to personal preference and what works best for mummy. As a new mum, you can test out these styles to determine what brings you back to feeling like your old self:
- Traditional garments such as an Indian Sari, the Colombian Faja, Japanese Sarashi, and Malaysian Bengkung cloth.
- Any non-stretch fabric, ranging from towels and sheets with gauze strips to scarves.
- Consumer maternity wear, including various support belts, corsetry, and girdle-like garments that you can buy from maternity-wear shops.
Does Bengkung belly binding work?
Waist binding and the Bengkung belly wrap have been used by women for centuries. When your body goes through major changes like giving birth, it needs extra support and attention to help it recover.
Organs move out of place and abdominal muscles separate, which causes all kinds of complicated physical experiences. Waist binding after pregnancy, when done correctly, supports your pelvic floor and gently gets your muscles and organs back in their natural position.
These moms shared their thoughts and experiences of the Bengkung before and after the process.
Zaahida Natasha Nathoo-Joel: “I’ve heard of older ladies in my culture (Muslim/Indian) talking about it, but none of my Malay family mentioned it. But I’ve never seen anyone in my family do it and no one did it for me – I didn’t do it for myself. I wish someone had actually told me because my belly is so flabby right now!”
Zintle Zynchle Adje: “I did belly binding after pregnancy with both my kids. It helped a lot because I saw a huge difference with my tummy. It’s something that a lot of women did where we grew up (in Umtata in the Eastern Cape) and they still do. Normally, they use a long piece of cloth cut from a dress or top. The cloth has to be long enough to wrap around your tummy two to three times.”
Simone Laing: “I made a Bengkung binder for after my second and third births and enjoyed using it until life got too busy and I didn’t get round to it anymore. It takes time to wrap up, but it was comfortable and supportive and I enjoyed the process each morning while baby slept, making time to get myself ready for each day. It wasn’t a cultural thing, just something I came across and wanted to try – especially with my third as I developed very mild diastasis recti (separating of the abdominal muscles) so I wanted to take extra care postpartum.”
Lamya A Harthy: “Belly binding is cultural for us, and a woman in our community puts herbs and prayers in the binding process for healing. I missed that with both my births. If I had known that there were professional belly binders I would have totally done it!”
Gina-May McMenamin: “I used a Carriwell belly binder for four months after my first pregnancy, and going on eight weeks now after the second one too. It helps my insides feel like they’ll stay in place when I poop!”
Bonisiwe Rodah: “I gained a lot of weight during and after pregnancy, so I tried belly binding because it looked as if I was still pregnant. However, it didn’t work for me so I’ve made peace with my big tummy.”
Postpartum belly binding tips
Be discerning in your choice of support garment! Some will make you itch, sweat, and feel very uncomfortable. The decision to wear some support is a very personal one, and there are various alternatives available should you choose to wrap your tummy, whatever your motivation.
You may feel that these are not the most flattering of garments, but maternity lingerie suppliers do stock attractive, feminine supportive garments. Your partner will also want you to wear what is best for your health and comfort, and there is only one word to consider… comfort!
Bengkung belly wrap
Bringing a child into the world is something beyond magical. In the first few days and weeks with your baby, you’ll spend plenty of time getting to know your new little person. But it’s also important to remember that you still need to be nurturing your own body.
Belly wrapping your waist allows your body to heal in a safe and gentle way. It boosts your confidence and can help you get back on your feet with a little more ease. Used for centuries, this trusted method is the perfect way to get your body back into shape.