Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bengkung: Malaysian Postpartum Girdle



 About belly-binding, my experience with the Malaysian Bengkung wrap, and my belly-binding tips.



 





   I had to try out postpartum belly-wraps after Tunisian friends told me that their slim postbaby waists were due to their mothers binding them as tight as they could. These ladies couldn't imagine why the Germans didn't tie their abdomens after giving birth.
   Looking at my belly after my first baby, I decided to try out belly-binding the second time round. Contrary to my optimistic expectations, my abdomen hadn't show any talent for automatically shrinking (no thanks for the genes, mom). I had wanted hoped and willed my postpartum abs to look like Demi Moore's. Actually they looked like Demi Moore's when she was 3 month pregnant.

   I found out that most cultures have some form of postpartum belly binding. What I tried out after my second baby was a traditional Malaysian belly corset, called Bengkung.

Why belly-binding ?

It's a practice of tying a strip(s) of clothe around the abdomen during the postpartum recovery period.
  • It helps to slim the ribcage, belly and hips.
  • Pulls the separated abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) get back together.
  • Prevents back pain: while wearing it, you are forced to sit and walk straight, a good antidote to the "nursing-slouch".
  • You know that feeling of your guts falling out in the postpartum weeks ? I don't but a lot of women have described it to me. A Bengkung gives you a nice, supported feeling.
  • I read somewhere that using a tight corset makes the bust grow bigger, since apparently the fat has nowhere else to go. Just after pregnancy you won't be wanting a bigger bust, but it will get smaller very soon, so you might be interested in this tip !
  • Belly binding speeds up getting rid of waste blood. I experienced this myself, since I was having issues (no bleeding), until I started using the Bengkung.
  • More info from Natural Health After Birth.

Does belly binding stop the abdominal muscles from working ?

   I don't see how tying a postpartum girdle would prevent any muscle from working. I mean, you still obviously use those muscles when you get up, walk, whatever. If these were somehow "prevented" from working, you wouldn't be able to do move at all. SO yes, all the muscles work, they are just prevented from bulging out.

What's a Bengkung ?

   It's a traditional Malaysian belly binding method. Actually they look like long mummy-wraps, but the Mia Bengkung is an "instant" version that is easy to put on, even without anyone else helping you.

Traditional Benkung: skip to 1:40



What makes a Bengkung different from western postpartum girdles like Belly Bandit ?


  It's the length: a Bengkung starts right under the breasts and goes over the hips. This way, it doesn't just work on the waist, but also helps the ribcage and the hips go back to their former dimensions. Also, it stays put when you move, and so it doesn't press on the abdomen.


 
Note the cute green towel Karen added !






REVIEW OF BENGKUNG MIA



I bought Bengkung Mia from here. and have been using it throughout my postpartum recovery period, day and night. Here is my experience:

Quality:
  • Nice cotton, comfortable and breathable, yet sturdy.
  • Beige outside, doesn't show much through clothes.
  • Navy blue inside front: absorbs stains from oils & creams
  • Strongly made. After a lot of using, the only sign of fraying was on the straps
Comfort of putting on & wear:
  • The material is nonslip, that makes it easy to tighten and tie.
  • The Bengkung goes till below your hips, so going to the toilet is a bit tricky.
  • Since the hooks & band are nonslip, you can tie it tighter in some places and looser in others. It stays that way for quite a while.
  • I hate tight things, but i was pleasantly surprised to find that the Bengkung was painless. The tightness was supportive and comfortable.
  • I had issues with the lower edge: if I tied it tight it would cut into the skin. If it was loose it would bunch up. I solved this by putting a folded cloth as padding under the edge and tying it tight. I'm wondering whether this was caused by the fact that I have a really low raise, and that's why the Bengkung reached only till the widest part of my hips, and that made it bunch up (I imagine it would stay put if it went below my hips).
  • I could tie it myself pretty well, though it is easier if someone else does it. And you get to hear their jokes about moulding you to suit their tastes.
  • I wore it out of the house under clothes. In fact it was the only thing that saved my pride by flattening my postpartum melon into some kind of nonpregnant shape. The clothes worn over it can't be too tight, though.
Effects:
  • The Bengkung helped with healing my abdominal muscles split (diastasis recti). My midwife was surprised how quickly they were closing, and asked me if I have been "using" anything.
  • The flattening down of my belly was really quick during the first 2-3 postpartum weeks.
  • The Bengkung did help me to stand and sit straighter, as if I'd swallowed a stick. It worked at preventing back & shoulder pain much better than the constant admonishing of the Mr to stop slouching.
  • Karen has been very helpful answering a whole bunch of questions about the Bengkung, helping me to choose my size and telling me about traditional Malaysian confinement eating rules.
  • I paid a bit over 10€ for the Bengkung + extra for shipping. I must say this is very affordable ! Plus, a malaysian friend of mine commented that that's a good price. Karen also offers discounts on combined orders.

Husbands's review in one sentence: 
"It's not every day that you get the chance to mold your wife."




 



Temperature and padding concerns:

Karen offers a padded and a non-padded version of the Bengkung corset. I choose the padded since it's supposed to be more comfortable, and I wore it at 25 degrees without feeling too hot (I do overheat fast !).

Bengkung vs tying a cloth/scarf:

   Before my Bengkung arrived, I used my Diddymos baby sling (long & non-stretchy & nonslip fabric) to tie myself up. It was doable, but I couldn't get it on as tight as the Bengkung, and you can't really cover the bust-to-hips area with it. It all gets bunched up in the end.


Eternal*Voyageur's tips for Mia Bengkung

  • I actually preferred to wear mine back-to-front most of the time. I didn't like the feeling of my belly protruding between the band when it was in the front. I didn't tie it myself, of course.
  • It works best when you put it on last thing at night. Since you won't be getting up any more, you can have it as tight as you want it and it won't bunch. Lie in the bed, and get your partner to lace you in. Warning: he might develop a corset fetish.
  • Karen says to ties it moderately tight, while my Tunisian friends advised me to tighten it till I think I'll split in two. Either way, remember that it does loosen up while wearing, so tie it a bit tighter than you want it.
  • If you live in a hot climate, you might need two Bengkungs, since you'll be washing them frequently.
  • Wear your panties over the Bengkung. Yes, that looks ridiculous, but trust me, much easier in the toilet.
  • The Bengkung should start immediately under the bra. Otherwise you get a roll of fat there.
  • If unsure about the size, get the smaller one. Or send Karen your measurements, she'll help you make the right choice.
  • Order in advance. Paypal takes time to process foreign transactions, and the post from Malaysia isn't lightning quick either. You need to start wearing the Benkung a few days after giving birth.
  • Don't forget to choose your Bengkung type and size
Urut, creams and oils
I did order 3 bottles of Biotrim Herbal Lotion, but I can't review it's effectiveness as I alternated it with several other products.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I have paid for the item myself. I would use it myself again, and would recommend it to my friends.




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8 comments:

  1. My mother always said that her friends that forced themselves into their skinny jeans before they left the hospital always had the nicest hips for years after giving birth. I think I like your idea better!

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  2. Most Malay women I know also stay put at home and trained therapists will come over to help them bathe and put on the bengkung and various other rituals meant to help get the new mothers back on their feet. They normally don't leave the house for a couple of weeks due to some superstitions. My mother went through the same thing after having my brother and me and it did help initially though if greater weight loss is desired, exercise would be better but that can come much later since new mothers would still be in the healing process.

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  3. L I absolutely agree that exercise in necessary for post-partum weightloss ! But for the first few weeks when you can't and shouldn't exercise anyway, and the Bengkung really helps to pull things together.
    I think it's amazing how much attention is given to the mother in the Malay culture. In the West all the fuss is around the baby, the mothers often neglect themselves. I was lucky to get some massages from my midwife and husband !

    Jennifer that sound like a good idea, but I wouldn't have fit into my jeans, no matter what I did. BTW my post-partum Pilates instructor makes us pull our sitzbones together in each exercise, that helps too !

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  4. Hi E*V,

    I'm glad that the bengkung works for you. :D

    Cheers,

    Karen

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  5. Thanks for all the info! I've been looking for a way to buy a bengkung in the US. Surprisingly hard to find...

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  6. If you know a good bengkung lady in the kelang valley area pls email aillen_thl@hotmail.com. Thx

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  7. Where can I buy it?

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  8. Hi! Love the article; I've been wanting something that binds my ribs, waist, and hips. Especially since I'm expecting my fourth soon and could really use some shrinkage in those areas. However, the links to purchase a bengkung don't work. I realize this post was quite a while ago, but do you know of anywhere to purchase one? Thanks!

    ~Bethany

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