Wrapped in love

by Mirjam Heemskerk

When my grandmother gave birth to my mother and her twin brother, it was still routine to wrap a newborn mother’s abdomen and womb in warm woolen material to help her heal and recover from childbirth. This “sluitlaken” or “closing sheet” was used up until the 60’s, so my mother did not experience the benefits of being comfortably wrapped anymore. Today, in traditional cultures where the 40-days rest period is practiced, every new mother is warmly wrapped. The feeling of emptiness and openness is addressed as it will leave the mother whole and nurtured.

It’s my passion to bring back the art of wrapping a mother’s belly and hips through the special method of Bengkung Belly Binding.

Bengkung Belly Binding

Bengkung Belly Binding is a tradition in many eastern cultures. The practice involves using special knots to tie a long strip of cloth (10-17 meters) around the abdomen during the postpartum recovery period to support a woman’s uterus and other organs after childbirth. The Bengkung style of Belly Binding I talk about is specific to the Malaysian culture.

Belly Binding is an effective and important way to help in the first weeks after the birth of a baby. The mother’s body recovers in a shorter period of time because of the faster drainage of blood, air and moisture. A Bengkung abdominal wrap gives her 360˚ support that brings back her abdominal muscles, improves posture, stabilizes ligaments and supports the entire torso while all vital organs (including the uterus) find their way to pre-pregnancy size and place.

Wrapped in love

In addition to all the physical benefits of the Bengkung Belly Bind, women report feeling literally supported and centered in the often-overwhelming period after delivery. It also ensures that the entire abdominal area remains pleasantly warm to aid recovery. Furthermore, a newborn mother experiences less neck and upper back complaints triggered by (breast) feeding because her posture is corrected. It is almost impossible to slouch.

Being wrapped in a Bengkung Belly Bind is like being wrapped in love, comfort and warmth. It feels like a long and fantastic hug! See it as a ritual to close the open body and mind.

The use of moxa & massage

The ritual will involve warming the lower back and belly with moxa. Moxa is a dried herb called Mugwort, and is widely used in Chinese medicine. The smoke-free sticks are made of compressed and charred Mugwort. Moxa works on the energy of the body, it brings the energy in motion, nourishes both Qi and blood and has a positive healing effect on a mother’s recovery.

Abdominal massage to prepare the belly to be wrapped is essential as the organs are often still oppressed in the abdominal cavity. By gentle massage the organs are invited to come back to their original place and the lymphatic system is turned on. The ritual also includes a castor oil pack. A castor oil pack is a beautiful way for women who have recently given birth to heal their entire womb and pelvic area because castor oil penetrates deeply into the organs. Excess waste products are disposed of in a gentle way and the organs get a fresh energy boost. The beauty of castor oil packs is that is such an easy ally for women to turn to for themselves. This is the ultimate self-care at bedtime for every postpartum mother.

With a warm and glowing abdomen, the mama is wrapped in her Bengkung, often in the most amazing colors to celebrate her! The binding will support her in exactly the right places with the right pressure. Comfortably molding her back into shape.

Benefits of Postpartum Belly Binding

* It helps to close the ribcage, abdomen and hips.
• Pulls in the separated abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) back together.
• Encourages healing the pelvic area.
• Supports relaxed and stretched out muscles.
• Reduces fluid and air retention in bowels/abdomen.
• Gets rid of the “empty” feeling after childbirth.
• Nurtures the mother in a time of vulnerability and healing.
• Prevents back pain. While wearing it, you are reminded to sit and walk straight, a good antidote to the “nursing-slouch”.
• Decreases postpartum bleeding time by speeding up the process of getting rid of waste blood in a natural way.
• It’s an ancient traditional natural way of healing after birth.
• In the case of a miscarriage or still-birth, belly binding can improve emotional healing as it speeds physical healing.
• It feels good.

Bengkung Belly binding is about supporting your body in a time of vulnerability. It’s about honoring the space of motherhood, the transition to motherhood (whether it is your first child or a next). When you receive Bengkung Belly Binding, you receive warmth, understanding, and most of all love that will lift you up in a time of vulnerability and healing.

Traditionally, a Bengkung Bind is worn for 40 days, during the postpartum confinement period. For best results, you should continue to bind daily for a full 40 days. You will already experience benefits within 14 days. The first 10 days it’s recommended to wear the bind 12-24 hours especially when you are resting in bed during the day. After 10 days you can wear your bind for 6-12 hours preferably at night.

Picture made by: Elsbeth Tijssen