You’ve just done something amazing and brought a new life into this world! Before you start stressing about getting your pre-baby body back — or even just returning to your previous routine — be kind to yourself.

Spend a little time breathing in that newborn smell, pampering yourself when you can, and letting others help you out. The more you can let yourself truly rest and recuperate in the first two to three weeks after birth, the better you’ll feel and heal in the long run.

Once you’re ready to get back on your feet (slowly, please), you might consider belly binding, a process that’s designed to make postpartum recovery a little easier and might help your body heal faster, too.

With so many celebrities and mommy influencers touting it as a way to regain their pre-baby bodies, we decided to take a deeper dive and look into the benefits of belly binding.

Be realistic — and patient — with yourself

It takes 9 months for pregnant bodies to change — and the process involves not only weight gain to grow a human, but also the rearrangement of organs!

So it’s not healthy or realistic to expect your body to go right back to normal after giving birth. It’s not worth making unhealthy choices and treating your body unkindly in the name of postpartum weight loss, so have patience with yourself.

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Social media might have you believing that belly binding is a new therapeutic option, but it’s been around for centuries.

In short, belly binding includes wrapping a material (usually cloth) around your abdomen. The material is usually wrapped tightly and helps to provide support and keep your abdomen in place.

This can be helpful as your body will continue to experience changes after giving birth, and that support can help your body heal properly.

While previous generations relied on simple pieces of muslin cloth, today belly binding can range from traditional fabric lengths to postpartum girdles made from a variety of materials.

Related: See our picks for the 10 best postpartum girdles

Belly binding and C-sections

Especially if you had a cesarean delivery, belly binding can be a useful tool during the postpartum recovery period. In contrast to a vaginal delivery, a C-section requires cutting through numerous layers of tissue and muscle. Belly binding can help to ensure that your incision heals properly.

The recovery period can be slower and more uncomfortable for women who’ve had a C-section versus those who delivered vaginally. Here’s the good news: One study found that women who delivered by C-section and practiced belly binding during their postpartum recovery experienced less pain, bleeding, and discomfort as compared to those who had a c-section and didn’t use belly binding.

When you’re pregnant, your body grows and stretches to accommodate your baby. Organs move out of their normal position, and even your abdominal muscles separate to make space.

But after giving birth, your body needs to move those muscles and organs back to their original position. When done properly, belly binding applied to the abdomen and around the hips can provide support to your pelvic floor. It also offers gentle compression that holds muscle and ligaments safely in place as your body heals.

Diastasis recti

For many women, while their organs return to their original positions, their abdominal muscles may not close naturally within the standard 2-month time frame after delivering. This is known as diastasis recti. Belly binding can help to hold the muscles together and speed up that closure.

But while belly binding can be a useful tool, the best way to recover from severe diastasis recti is to see a physical therapist who specializes in postpartum recovery.

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While belly binding does have therapeutic benefits that can help to speed up postpartum recovery — or at least make that transitional period more comfortable — it’s not a magic pill.

Often, people assume that postpartum belly binding is the same as waist training, or an effective part of a weight loss routine. However, belly binding is neither of these things because it’s only designated as a supportive device.

Belly binding is not waist training

If whittling your waist into a classic hourglass shape is your primary goal, postpartum belly binding isn’t what will get you there. Instagram influencers and celebs have made waist training seem like a viable way to lose weight and improve their physical profile. But under medical scrutiny, these claims don’t hold up.

Waist trainers tend to be made of latex, a material that encourages temporary loss of water weight — especially if you wear them while exercising. But once you begin rehydrating — as you should! — that shed weight will return.

But medical experts caution against using waist trainers, especially for postpartum recovery, because of the potential negative side effects. When worn too tightly or too often, there’s a risk of impaired breathing and even organ damage. And unintended side effects such as acid reflux and heartburn are possible when you wear a waist trainer too tightly.

There are a wide range of belly wraps that can be used for belly binding — what you choose is all a matter of personal preference.

Traditional wraps feature a length of cloth that you manually wrap and knot around your abdomen and hips all the way up to just below your bust. The most well known is bengkung belly binding, which traces its origins in Malaysia.

With bengkung belly binding, you usually use a length of fabric that’s 9 inches wide and 16 yards long. The goal is to wear the wrap for at least 12 hours a day, for a minimum of 30 days or more.

But if you prefer something that’s quick and easy to use, you can consider “pre-constructed” postpartum girdles. These options:

  • come in a range of lengths from long line to abdominal
  • often rely on either Velcro or hook-and-eye style closures to keep them securely shut
  • come in a range of price points to fit any budget

When you begin belly binding depends on how you gave birth and the binding method you plan on using.

If you’re planning on using the bengkung belly binding method and gave birth vaginally, you can use it right away. If you delivered via C-section, you should wait until your incision is healed and dry before applying it.

If you opt for more modern style binders or postpartum girdles, you can often use them right away. However, always talk to your doctor or midwife before you begin belly binding.

Whichever option you choose, you can wear the wrap for as long as you need to each day to feel comfortable. However, experts recommend that you only wear them for 2 to 12 weeks, since extended wear can have adverse effects.

Tips for traditional belly binding

Pre-shaped belly binders are fairly goof-proof. More traditional methods such as bengkung can be harder to get right — especially if you’re putting it on by yourself. So keep these tips in mind:

  • Bengkung wraps are best tied directly on your bare skin to make going to the bathroom easier.
  • In the early days, it’s a good idea to have help to properly make the numerous ties.
  • Decide whether you want to try the traditional or modified process — the modified process is easier to do by yourself.
  • A bengkung wrap should be comfortable and shouldn’t impede your ability to breathe or perform simple tasks like sitting or walking.

There are plenty of therapeutic benefits to belly binding, whether you use a traditional or modern method. But there are risks associated with it when done improperly.

Wearing it too tightly

Belly binding is meant to gently hold your abdomen in place and provide support for your core and pelvic floor to help your body heal.

But wearing a binder of any kind too tightly can lead to excessive pressure on your pelvic floor. You don’t want this — it has the potential to lead to prolapse and hernias.

Difficulty breathing

Hopefully it goes without saying that you should avoid this! A telltale sign that you’re wearing your belly binding too tightly is if you’re struggling to breathe normally. If you have to take shallow breaths when wearing a binder of any kind, take it off and readjust.

Remember, it’s normal to experience compression with a binder, but it shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t move or function like you normally would.

Recovering from childbirth is a process, but there are ways to help give your body the support you need.

While certain guidelines should be followed to stay safe, postpartum belly binding is a great option to help your body heal. And it can be easily incorporated into your daily routine even while you recover either at the hospital or at home.