During my pregnancy, I planned ahead for postpartum support that would benefit my mind, body and spirit. Along with healing and rejuvenation, avoiding postpartum depression and promoting my breastmilk supply were two biggies for me. My son was born in early December, which is a winter month for us here in Colorado. It was just before the winter solstice, so the days were short, and the nights were long. Our climate is also dry and tends to be windy, so I took all of these factors into consideration when preparing. Drawing on my long-time studies in Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy, I designed a plan to support and nurture myself after my labor and birth, which included the traditional technique of postpartum belly wrapping.
In Ayurveda, we are taught that the first 42 days after a woman's birth is pivotal time that will mirror how a women will then move into her menopause. Therapeutic belly wrapping is one for the most supportive and beneficial points of care that can be offered to a new mother, therefore supporting and benefiting a woman as she moves into her third phase of life as well. Excellent postpartum care is an incredible investment for a woman and her family.
While belly wrapping may be uncommon in the modern medical system, it serves as a powerful tool for new mothers in most traditional systems---as essential as good rest, healing herbs and beneficial foods. Different traditions will highlight a variety of benefits and techniques, but here are some common benefits among the many traditions.
Benefits of Postpartum Belly Wrapping:
- Compression Offers Gentle Support to Back and Abdomen
- Helps Restores Organs and Muscles to Their Appropriate Positions
- Aides the Body In Filling Empty Spaces
- Allows for the Application of Therapeutic Oils
- Lessens Likelihood of Postpartum Depression and Accompanying Colic
- Gentle Compression Supports Post-birth Digestion and Elimination
- Offers a Deep Feeling of Comfort and Support
- Helps to Stabilize Mood and Ease Transition of Becoming Un-pregnant
- Reduces Appearance of Abdomen More Quickly -- Loose Belly Weight
- Supports Return of Sexual Pleasure and Interest
There are wraps and binders on the market today--simply Googling "postpartaum belly wrap" will pull up page after page. I cannot speak to these products, but I would like to share what I did during the first weeks after my son's birth. In Ayurveda, the use of therapeutic oils is considered highly valuable, so I knew I would be utilizing oil in my own care as well. Taking in the factors of our climate, the time of year and my own personal constitution, I chose to use (untoasted, organic) sesame oil during the first few days at least. Sesame oil is highly valued oil within Ayurveda and is used in many applications. It also has a warming quality that benefited me with a December birth.
Next I purchased a flannel pad at my local health foods store that is designed to help apply oils to the body. The dimensions of the pad were 18" x 12" and it was three layers of high-quality flannel sewn together with finished ends. With the flannel and oil readied, I searched our home first-aide kit for a few rounds of Ace bandage (stretchy, reusable athletic wrap) and then I went to the kitchen to find plastic wrap. I gathered all of these items and added them to the birth kit that our home-birth midwife
had us prepare in advance for the birth.
Within hours of my labor and my son's birth; I applied the oil liberally across my belly and sides, then I layered the flannel pad over the oil, and then added a sheet of wrap just over the pad (not wrapped around your middle). On top of the oil, pad and wrap, my husband then wrapped my middle with Ace bandage. It took a length and a half of wrap for the first few weeks, but that may vary for your size and shape. As you begin to apply the wrap, remember that it is not a tight wrap or aggressive support. It is a gentle compression that feels really good. Your breath should be full and easy, the pressure should be comforting and supportive, not restrictive in any way.
After the first few days, I stopped adding oil to my abdomen as the flannel had absorbed enough from the initial wrappings. I also stopped using a sheet of plastic wrap because the oil was contained in the first two layers of flannel that were next to my skin. You will adjust your wrap and technique to fit your needs once you get underway.
Wrapping my belling and the use of oils in my early postpartum care were a tremendous comfort and benefit for me. There is such huge shift from having your baby, the placenta and fluid within your body, and then an emptiness that was unlike anything I had experienced before. Wrapping my belly stabilized my walking, helped me sleep more comfortably and supported me when I was carrying my son. I could feel the support of the wrap deep within my body. Along with the placental medicine that I had encapsulated, it is the wrapping that I feel helped steady my mind during the shifting of hormones that we all share after birth. It is a powerful postpartum tool.
If you would like to know more about Ayurveda Postpartum Care, search out wise women like my teacher, Ysha Oaks
, and her graduate, Sonja Bastow
. Susan Weed and her Wise Women Tradition
is another excellent resource for prenatal, pregnancy and postpartum care.