You might have heard that belly binders are a postpartum must-have. These belts worn around the stomach area are said to help give you extra support, after the baby you’ve been carrying for about 9 months has really stretched those muscles to the max. They’re also said to help shrink the excess skin and firm up core muscles.
That’s a tall order, and a lot of hope and expectation resting on one piece of cloth (essentially). So, what are the real benefits of these postpartum belly binders? Do they really work? We break it down here.
What is a belly binder?
“When choosing a binder, you should be able to breathe normally and not feel restricted. But the most important thing when it comes to choosing and wearing a binder is that there must not be any pressure felt in the pelvis/perineum area while wearing it,” says Leah Kieffer, Pelvic Health Physiotherapist at Physio Down Under. “This means that the binder is too tight, causing increased pressure on the pelvic organs which is unsafe for a postpartum woman.”
There are generally three types of postpartum belly wraps: a thinner belt, wider wraps, or entire pieces of shapewear. You will know you’ve got the right belly binder when you feel supported enough to move around freely without that jelly-like and empty-bellied unbalanced postpartum feeling in your tummy, and when you’re sitting or standing upright in good and improved posture.
It is very crucial that you do not mistake postpartum belly binders for weight-loss waist trainers or waist-defining dressing corsets. They are vastly different, and are often constructed differently whether in cutting, material, or function.
How can a belly binder help?
Some postpartum women find wearing binders helpful after childbirth, in particular for those who have had caesarean sections. Some doctors even have their patients wear them immediately after giving birth. They can help promote wound healing and reduce swelling and help new mums be mobile and get around so soon after giving birth. “An abdominal binder may help support the abdominal fascia during healing from delivery,” says Leah, adding that more evidence to support the use of a binder in the early postpartum period is coming in the near future.
“Postpartum binders are generally helpful for support of the mother’s back and abdominals post delivery. Those that can adjust to the changes over the first 6 weeks postpartum are ideal as the uterus will shrink as does the size of the abdomen. Most women should be able to stop wearing a binder by 6 weeks postpartum and if they don’t feel ready to do so, that would be an indication to see a women’s health physio to see what is limiting them from stopping the binder use.”
But will it help you lose weight and get back into shape?
Putting aside how contentious asking mums to “bounce back” from having a baby already is, most mothers would agree a belly binder is not going to help tighten loose skin or with weight loss.
“A belly binder or waist trainer may help postpartum ladies who have a weaker core to feel more support so they may feel less pain in the lower back,” says Filza Dorah, owner of Bold Fitness and a postpartum women’s trainer. “But otherwise, postpartum or not, wearing a binder mainly helps make you more aware of your core engagement and over time, helps tighten up the muscles you have inside.” But she adds that this can be tricky and relies on the individual to know how to properly engage their core muscles, even when wearing a binder.
“All women who go through pregnancy will experience weakness in their core and abdominal muscles,” adds Leah. “Recovering strength and function is important in order to return to exercise and care for a baby. A physiotherapy assessment to look for diastasis recti and to guide a patient through her abdominal exercises is best. The binder may complement her abdominal recovery but is not a substitute for targeted exercise.”
For postnatal mums looking for that extra support, we’ve rounded up five of the most popular binders that can help with healing and movement.