After giving birth, many new moms may wonder how to effectively and efficiently help their bodies heal and regain their shape. Your midsection undergoes a transformation during pregnancy. Most people don’t see their waists bounce back overnight.
For centuries, women around the world have used a band or girdle to aid in postpartum recovery. While it has fallen out of practice in recent decades, it is starting to make a comeback. Compression is beneficial to healing tissues in a variety of circumstances, and postpartum is no exception.
Naturally, there are some questions about how to practice postpartum belly binding. For example, how tight should you wear a girdle after giving birth? We’ll address this question in context to help you make the best decision for your own health.
Please note that this is not medical advice and that you should always consult with your physician first before trying something new.
BENEFITS OF A POSTPARTUM GIRDLE
First, let’s explore in more detail the benefits of wearing a postpartum girdle in the first place. The basic practice is easy to understand; simply wrap a garment around your waist following childbirth in order to provide light compression.
There are several benefits to postpartum belly binding:
Providing support: Just as a splint or a sling would support an injured limb, a compression garment can hold your abdominal muscles in place while they heal. They will naturally heal on their own, but you may find that it is more comfortable with the support in place. What’s more, better alignment of your spine and muscles helps your organs move back into their proper places following pregnancy.
Helps you be more conscious of your body: A garment that holds your torso in place will bring attention to how you naturally hold yourself. This can encourage better posture and overall body awareness that will contribute to proper healing.
Swelling relief: Compression is an effective way to ease some of the pain that comes with swelling and can stimulate blood flow to the region (which also encourages healing).
Confidence boost: Some people may find that they enjoy the confidence boost they get from having the appearance of a slimmer figure. Since it takes time for your body to heal and to tone up your abdominal muscles, a girdle can help you achieve a slimmer look sooner.
Everyone’s body is different, so everyone’s experience wearing a postpartum girdle will be different. The only way to know if it will help you is to try it.
HOW TIGHT TO WEAR A GIRDLE 0–6 WEEKS POSTPARTUM
When you first start out wearing a postpartum girdle, your healing and comfort should be your number one priority. Whatever compression you use should be very light and provide gentle support.
Under a physician’s guidance, start out as gently as possible in the first few days following childbirth. Be especially careful around any wounds you have if you had a c-section.
We recommend using an adjustable garment, starting on the loosest setting that still provides some amount of compression and support (meaning it shouldn’t be able to just slip off or slide around). Note that you don’t have to wear a girdle all the time to experience the benefits. You may just want it on for short periods, particularly when you’re sitting up or standing and need more support.
Listen to your body during this phase. If a garment is ever uncomfortable, take it off and try something looser. It should increase your comfort and make you feel good if it’s the right fit. As the weeks progress, you can try tightening your garment and wearing it for longer periods—again, listening to your body’s cues.
WEARING A GIRDLE 6–12 WEEKS POSTPARTUM
After the 6-week mark, most women have healed enough to resume normal activities, particularly exercise. It can take slightly longer if you’ve had a c-section. Either way, consult with your physician before changing anything in your routine.
While your muscles will have healed and your organs will have returned to their proper place, you will probably still be weak during this stage. Continuing to wear a waist-slimming garment will provide ongoing support and encourage body awareness.
You can experiment more with your girdle’s compression level at this stage. Try tightening it and see how it feels.
Now is also a great time to start working out with a workout band—a style of girdle or waist trainer designed for workouts. Firm compression in a workout band stimulates heat and perspiration in your core, which effectively boosts the level of intensity you feel. You can wear a workout band to amp up most types of workouts, from brisk walks to high-intensity cardio and strength training. Grab your little one and go for a walk in the stroller and work your way up from there!
Note that it can take some time to grow accustomed to higher compression around your midsection since you won’t be able to slouch and bend at the waist. It may work best to wear your garment tighter for an hour or two at a time and then gradually extend how much you wear it each day.
WEARING A GIRDLE 3 MONTHS POSTPARTUM AND BEYOND
After 3 months is when many women want to return to being fully active and looking more or less like their pre-pregnant selves. However, it’s not uncommon to still be carrying some baby weight and having weak core muscles.
Here is where the practice of waist training (wearing a waist-slimming garment for 8–12 hours a day) can be beneficial. You may have already started this to some extent will postpartum belly binding; now is the time to commit to it as a lifestyle.
Note that a waist training garment is not a magic bullet and works best as a complement to a healthy lifestyle. For the best results, stick to a nutritious diet and follow an exercise regimen that includes a healthy mix of cardio, strength, flexibility and balance exercises.
Try wearing your waist cincher as tightly as you comfortably can for longer and longer increments each day. It shouldn’t pinch or cause pain if it fits correctly, but it will feel quite snug and will encourage you to hold your posture very straight.
Depending on how much weight you lose during the postpartum period, you may find that it’s time to size down to a smaller garment. This is a fun way to reward yourself for sticking to your goals!