What is Bengkung Belly Binding?
This is a traditional Malaysian method of promoting healing after an event of disconnection within the mid-torso, part of a sealing ceremony known as ‘closing the bones.’ A long piece of fabric (cotton, muslin, etc) is wrapped tightly around the torso from the pubic bone to just under the breasts. The custom typically also involves abdominal massage with nourishing oils and herbs, a special diet, and a particular bathing routine. The wrap is hand-knotted along the linea alba (central connective tissue), which gathers the muscles closer together as it shrinks back to its usual state.
How does it work?
Basically, Bengkung Belly Binding offers a 360-degree tautening effect.
Post-birth, it can help:
- bring abdominal muscles back together
- knit rib cage back together
- support the core by holding in organs
- support lower back & thereby reduce strain on the spine
- strengthen core through realignment
- squeeze hips together, shifting them to pre-pregnancy position
- reduce hip aches & pains
- promote unity of torso with rest of body
- improve skin condition by reducing swelling
- move excess liquids built up as energy & hydration stores for pregnancy
- hasten clearance of lochia (postpartum bleeding)
- remove excess air accumulated in pregnancy by applying compression
- protect against hernias (intestinal/uterine protrusions)
- prevent belly exposure during breastfeeding (a common worry)
There are less-tangible benefits, too. Bengkung can also:
- ensure a daily commitment to self-care
- ritualize proactive healing & recovery
- allow a symbolic ‘closure’ of pregnancy
- improve mood, sense of security (the weighted ‘belly hug’ sensation can reduce anxiety)
It is not intended to:
- cause fat loss
- cause weight loss
- substitute for healthy diet & fitness habits
Who uses belly binding?
The body undergoes amazing, surprising changes through pregnancy, birth, and settling into a new normal afterward. The growing uterus puts a great deal of pressure on the musculature running vertically down the linea alba, causing it to continuously stretch over 9 months and separate. The body maximally opens to birth a baby, then remains in a state of physical, energetic, and emotional openness for some time afterward. All these changes can leave you feeling shapeless, emptied, weak, unstable, ‘unfastened,’ and perhaps even detached from ‘you.’
Alas, virtually all postpartum individuals can benefit from the reassuring influence of Bengkung Belly Binding.
It can be especially helpful for those who:
- are at risk of / have been diagnosed with diastasis recti
- are at risk of / have been diagnosed with weakened lower back
- gained ample pregnancy weight on a petite frame
- recently birthed multiples
- need extra support for expanding prenatal belly
- have difficulty mentally & physically connecting to their abdominal muscles
- lack tone in core muscles
- default to slouching & unengaged body posturing
- wish to breastfeed (discourages hunching over while holding baby)
Stop binding if:
- it becomes painful
- you are at high risk of blood clots, circulation issues, pelvic organ prolapse or related conditions & haven’t first consulted your medical provider about belly binding
What’s the difference between Bengkung & postpartum girdles / boned corsets / belly bands / other commercial binders?
Typical qualities of commercial binders:
- Standard sizing
- Limited adjustability – may need to purchase several over time
- Covers waist area only
- Made of non-breathable, often toxic materials
- Bulky & uncomfortable
- Purchased without personal fitting
- Primary focus: waist/shape training, not fortifying the core
- May include closed bottom that interrupts bathroom needs
- Only worn under clothes
The Bengkung Belly Binding difference:
- Tailor fit to YOUR body, not your letter size
- Endlessly adjustable to your transforming shape – only need to buy one
- Supports hips & ribs, not just waist
- Made of beautiful, breathable, non-synthetic fabric
- Lightweight & comfortable
- Personal fitting session included
- Primary focus: healing the core before shape training is effective or safe
- Open bottom means there’s no need to remove to use bathroom
- Can be worn under or over clothes
What is diastasis recti (DR)?
Even after losing pregnancy weight and finally wearing your pre-pregnancy size again, you may find your pants no longer button up properly. You’ll notice an abdominal “pooch,” vertical ridge, or bulge especially when your muscles are flexed. You may feel frustrated that the more classic crunches you do, the worse the condition seems to get. You may feel embarrassed when strangers ask “When are you due?” as you hold your three-month-old baby.
DR is likely the cause of these issues, as well as being associated with digestion problems, abdominal pain, chronic bloating, urinary incontinence, and more. Because it’s so common, it’s often regarded as a superficial concern that “comes with the territory” of body after baby. The truth is, DR is an abdominal injury and should be treated like any muscle injury sustained in an athletic performance, traumatic accident, and so on. In fact, men, babies, and never-pregnant women can suffer from DR too.
Some degree of diastasis recti affects almost all postpartum women. Many will heal without accompaniments and many others wish they had treated the condition before suffering from pain, poor self-image, and other issues that could be prevented or minimized.
Is belly binding alone sufficient to repair a severe diastasis recti?
It depends on the obstinacy of separation and several other factors. With a significant diastasis, a more intense rehabilitation protocol is often needed but binding is almost always incorporated. It can be used in conjunction with specialized exercises and lifestyle changes. Some situations require surgery, so always check with your care provider if you think your case is advanced.
Locally, I can personally vouch for the Abdominal Connections program, which helped heal a diastasis after my first pregnancy (fun fact: I was featured in the DVD too!). Run by retired professional ballerina, pilates instructor and holistic health counselor Raintree Sumazin, the 6-step program emphasizes muscle awareness and treating diastasis as an injury. Also I’ve heard great feedback about the Momma Strong program which is run by Houston-based Courtney Wyckoff.
What are the usage guidelines for effective & safe wrapping?
During pregnancy and in childbirth, you produce the hormone relaxin to loosen joints for easier delivery. Early postpartum is an ideal time to take advantage of relaxin’s influence as binding can more easily mobilize loose tissues, muscles, and bones into the desired position.
After a vaginal delivery, it’s recommended to schedule a wrapping session between 4-7 days after birth.
After a cesarean delivery, you can start wrapping 4-6 weeks after birth with medical clearance. You must ensure your surgical wound has sufficiently healed.
It’s recommended to wear the bind for about 10-12 hours per day in the beginning, then 8 hours per day for the remainder of the first 40 days. Thereafter you can wear it as needed for up to two months post-birth or even longer.
A great time to wear the bind is while sleeping (in these guidelines a ‘day’ is counted as each 24-hour period). Though, some women find tolerating a bind at night to be perturbing. Alternatively you can wear the bind during the light hours while taking care of everyday tasks. There is greater chance that the bind will ride up or need adjusting if you repeatedly bend over at the waist or sit in lounging positions — good motivation for getting in the habit of bending at the knees to pick up items and sitting with proper posture.
If you’re past the recommended start time for binding, don’t worry. You can start wrapping at any time — even months after birth. Results won’t be as dramatic initially and several benefits will be lost, but in the case of this proactive treatment, it’s still better late than never.
How difficult is it to wrap myself?
It’s fairly simple and with practice, it will quickly become second nature. It’s best to have help the first time you are wrapped to verify proper usage and safety. During our binding session, I’ll wrap you once to demonstrate how it’s done. Then you will bind yourself with guidance until you feel confident in self-binding. Your partner can also observe and participate if you prefer continued binding assistance during your postpartum. Once proficient in self-binding, it should only take about ten minutes.