Why Belly Wrapping Can Change Your Postpartum Recovery
If we’re looking at postpartum healing through an Ayurvedic lens, we say that giving birth is a major release of life force. With the baby no longer inside the mother, there’s excess space and air in the body. Organs have also shifted, skin is stretched and things inside have a lot more room than needed. Therefore, there’s an excess of Vata dosha.
Postpartum moms often experience problems with digestion, gas, constipation, anxiety, insecurity, dryness, and sleep/insomnia—all indications of Vata imbalance–and many of these issues have to do with the organs of the abdomen. When you stabilize the abdomen, you stabilize the body.
Belly wrapping is an Ayurvedic practice that supports a mother’s core/belly restabilization as a means to re-balancing the Vata dosha.
Just so you can keep track of where we are in the process, the six pillars of the Sacred Window care include:
1) Ritualizing the Routine
3) Core/belly restabilization
4) Massage & Circulatory Stimulation
5) Movement & Breath
Belly Wrapping to Restore Balance
For core and belly restabilization, and for balancing the Vata dosha as well as many other functions of the body, Ayurveda espouses a practice of belly wrapping, also referred to as belly binding.
Ready to get started? Watch the video demonstration on how to wrap your belly. But first, let’s talk about what it is, how it helps and share a few how-to tips!
This is a practice you will want to do daily starting today and for the rest of this week. Beyond this week, you can wrap as often as you see fit.
What is belly wrapping?
Belly wrapping consists of using a piece of material to wrap the abdomen. Since you are now familiar with the anatomy of the deep core muscles and know that they extend up the rib cage and down to the pelvis, you won’t be surprised to learn that the best kind of belly wrapping you can do includes a wrapping of the entire abdomen–from the bottom of the belly (at the pelvis) to the top of the belly (at the ribs).
You can find all sorts of belly wrapping materials and products if you search the web, but the best kind for the purpose of restoring the core, plus all the other benefits that occur when you wrap, is also the simplest: a very long cotton or muslin cloth. Long as in 10-12 yards of fabric that is about 10 inches wide. You need this length so you can sufficiently cover the entire abdomen.
You will see binding products that look like back braces or elastic bands for your belly, and we don’t recommend those as much as fabric binding. They usually are not tall enough and are not customizable enough to your own body height and comfort. They can also wear a lot hotter. And as your core shrinks, they stop fitting the same way–instead slipping up and not being as supportive as they could be.
How Does Belly Wrapping Help?
Benefits of Postpartum Belly Wrapping:
Wrapping your belly postpartum has so many important benefits, and once you realize them all, you’ll never want to go a day without wrapping.
1) Align Your Bones—the bones of your pelvis and rib cage widen slightly during pregnancy to make room for baby. Once baby is born, the ribs and pelvis do not need to stay wide. If you do nothing to provide guidance for the ribs and pelvis to return to their place, they will stay open. By binding your abdomen from pelvis to ribs, you’re providing necessary reinforcement and structure to the skeleton to bring things back into alignment in relationship to and around the spine.
Speaking of the spine, weakened abdominal muscles from pregnancy put undue pressure on the spine to keep your body upright. Poor posture is more likely when you are recovering from birth and holding your newborn a lot. When you wrap the abdomen from pelvis to ribs, you’re giving your spine essential support for keeping the vertebra healthy, aligned and functioning without excess stress.
2) Heal Your Muscles—when you bind the abdomen, you’re telling the muscles of the belly which direction to move in order to go back together. You’re telling ALL of the layers of belly muscles from the transverse abdominals (corset muscles) to the obliques to the rectus abdominus which way is “together”.
You also have fascia in your abdominal wall, which was intensely stretched during pregnancy and will not return easily without feedback and gentle manipulation. Your fascia will heal faster and with less scar tissue after being stretched if you bind.
It’s like putting an ankle brace on in the acute stage of a strain/sprain. Not only does it reduce swelling, it also helps the fascial tissues “lay back down” in a smooth pattern rather than a jagged pattern. We want our fascial tissue to lay in a smooth pattern to minimize scar tissue as your tissues are repairing.
If you have diastasis recti, belly wrapping is THE most important daily practice you can do, in addition to strengthening your corset muscles, to soothe, protect and support your abdominals back to ‘closed’.
3) Increase Efficiency of Your Organs—When you bind the abdomen, you are stimulating the organs of the belly. In particular, you are giving a nourishing hug to the digestive and reproductive organs.
After birth, the organs of digestion and elimination are slow moving and tend toward the quality of “dryness” and “stagnation” in Ayurvedic terms. By binding the belly, you are applying gentle compression to the digestive system organs—stomach, large and small intestine—which stimulates their function. You are also helping your digestive organs move back into their proper location in the abdominal cavity, which also plays a role in their efficiency.
Your reproductive organs—namely your uterus, will be contracting back into pre-pregnancy size if you are still within 6-8 weeks postpartum. By binding your belly, you are giving your body the feedback it needs to keep going with its internal organization and shrinking. At times the contracting of the uterus can feel uncomfortable, but when you are bound, the discomfort can be lessened.
If you’ve ever had a stomach ache and placed a warm water bottle over the ache, you’ll understand the effect. The warmth and pressure calms the muscles and lessens our experience of pain or discomfort.
4) Reduce Excess Space/Vata in Your Body—by now this should be obvious, but in Ayurveda, this is the most important reason to bind. An imbalance of Vata or air in the body can lead to imbalances in body, mind and spirit that keep you from feeling entirely happy. And because the mantra is “keeping mama happy,” bringing this element into balance is of utmost importance. When you bind, there’s simply less room in the belly for things to float around and get lost—physical things like bones, muscles and organs. But also energy. By binding, you will not have an energy-sucking pit in the center of your being. Who wants that?! Are you into binding yet?
5) Nourish Your Skin—Wrapping with cotton or muslin—a breathable material that also can retain warmth–is wonderful for your skin! Your belly skin has been stretched, and now it’s time to invite everything, including your skin, back into place.
Also, next week, you’re going to learn about body oiling (a method of applying oil to your body with a plethora of benefits), and by wrapping your belly after body oiling, you’ll be prolonging those benefits, while also keeping the skin hydrated, soft and healing.
Especially if you are healing from a c-section, belly wrapping is immensely important for your skin and organ healing.
6) Stabilize Body Temperature— Your body’s temperature can vary a lot during the postpartum year due to fluctuations in hormones (not to mention fluctuations in the environment with the seasons). Keeping your core at a constant temperature helps your body overall feel nurtured. You already know that the qualities of warmth, moist and oiliness are ideal for balancing excess Vata. By binding the abdomen, you are helping the body keep warm at the core. When your core is warm, the organs can work more efficiently as your body’s systems are not in “defense” mode. When your body is wrapped and warm, you feel cared for; you feel whole.
7) Maintain Moisture—Vata is characterized by dryness. So building on the Temperature/warmth benefit, belly wrapping also increases your body’s ability to retain moisture. Warmth and moisture go hand in hand. As moisture levels in your abdomen are restored, your body’s systems revert to the “relax and restore” mode vs. fight or flight.
8) Balance Your Energy—Coming to terms and making peace with so many new things after a baby is born can send you into a “tizzy”. You may feel tired, forgetful, frazzled, overwhelmed, emotional, nervous, worried, depressed and more. There is a potent energetic grounding that happens when you wrap the belly. In particular, very healing transformations can take place in the chakras—energy centers—of the reproductive area (sacral chakra) and digestive area (solar plexus chakra).
- Sacral Chakra—this chakra is located in the pelvic basin and is associated with the element of water. Postpartum, this chakra needs containment. By binding the hips, you are creating an energetic container for the water element to fill up. If this chakra is not fully radiant and supported, access to your qualities of creativity and resourcefulness, flow and sexuality may be limited. By binding the belly, you are restoring your feminine power to meet the challenges of life with a new baby with confidence, grace and ease.
- Solar Plexus Chakra—this chakra is located in the navel center and is associated with the element of fire. It governs wisdom, clarity and action. This is the proverbial “fire in the belly.” Postpartum, it’s common for mothers to experience nervousness, constant self-doubt or low self-esteem, which is also symptomatic of a dampened solar plexus. The approach for igniting the fire in the belly is to warm it up! Hence, the warmth generated by wrapping postpartum serves to gently stoke the fires of the belly to re-ignite your energy from the inside out.
9) Reduce Chances of Postpartum Depression—with all of the above benefits from this ONE thing, it’s probably not a surprise by now that women who wrap their bellies consistently during the Sacred Window period report feeling happy and supported. This is not a scientific statement, but in new mother support circles, it’s considered a must-do by anyone who has tried it. Remember “keep mama happy” is the pathway to stabilize your mood and help you ease into your transition to the gorgeous mother that you now are.
10) Look and Feel Trim Sooner– Few of us love the feeling of extra space in the belly, and by wrapping you will instantly enjoy the feeling of everything going back into place. And your clothing will feel better on too. Who can argue with that!?
11) Support Your Libido—With your sacral chakra finally contained, your interest in and awareness of sensory pleasure gets the support it needs to return more quickly and with greater satisfaction.
Ready to wrap?