This blog post about belly wrapping during pregnancy was originally posted in 2015 on WrapsodyBaby.com, a website and babywearing business formerly owned by the author.
Belly wrapping during pregnancy can provide support for your changing body. There is very little modern peer-reviewed research about its clinically significant usefulness, but women have used belly wrapping for millennia as a way to support, decorate, or celebrate the body during pregnancy. Midwives from around the world continue to promote belly wrapping techniques to help support the mother’s body and to promote optimal fetal positioning, especially for women who have borne many children.
One thing is very clear: restricting the growth of the pregnant body during pregnancy is dangerous. Restricting the movement of the fetus during pregnancy is dangerous. Any wrapping technique you employ during pregnancy should not be used to make your body smaller or wrapped tightly enough to constrict fetal movement! Check with your medical professional if you have any concerns or doubts about using these techniques.
Belly Wrapping During Pregnancy: Benefits
As I mentioned earlier, belly wrapping during pregnancy has not been studied extensively within the medical literature, at least not in English-speaking countries. However, it is suggested that belly wrapping can support the mother’s hips, help baby find its optimal positioning, reduce diastasis recti, and provide comfort and relief to the mother’s body.
For the first-time mother, the physical effects of pregnancy may be less than for those of a woman who has borne several children.
However, belly wrapping during pregnancy offers the opportunity to get comfortable with a baby wrap or sling prior to the baby’s birth. This can help ease the transition of the first-time family by making baby carrying a bit more intuitive.
Also? Belly wrapping can be quite beautiful. It can accentuate your baby bump, dress up a plain maternity dress or shirt, and leave you feeling particularly confident, which is a real bonus during the holiday season. It’s nice, too, that you can easily bring a spare wrap so that if you drop food on your growing bump (not that I’ve ever done this, of course!) you can easily change out the stained wrap for a clean one.
Belly wrapping during pregnancy: Necessary materials
Here, I’m going to disappoint you. There are endless materials you can use to wrap your belly during pregnancy. There are special support binders available at maternity stores. Many commercially available baby carriers can be used, such as those featured in the following videos. Some cultures have particular styles of cloth or sashes that are traditionally used for this type of binding support. And many women simply use a length of cloth that is comfortable and convenient.
What is most important is to be mindful that whatever you have chosen for belly wrapping during pregnancy will NEVER RESTRICT FETAL GROWTH OR MOVEMENT. It is wise to alert your medical provider to any belly wrapping techniques you use during pregnancy, as they may have specific advice or feedback particular to your pregnancy.
Belly wrapping with commercially available baby wraps and ring slings
Sam Reddy is a mother of two and a babywearing educator. She owns and writes at the blog VeganBabyMama.com and she has a great many tutorials for babywearing and belly wrapping on her YouTube channel.
Here are four techniques she has tried and shared for belly wrapping during pregnancy.
Belly Wrapping: Full support
The first video features full upper-body support during pregnancy. You can use any long baby wrap for this technique, not just the stretchy wrap featured in the video.
Belly Wrapping: Belly support only
The second video of Sam’s series features a woven wrap. Here, she shows how to wrap only the belly without adding support across the shoulders and upper torso.
Belly Wrapping: Hip support
In the third video of her series, Sam shows how to use a shorter woven wrap to provide support for only the hips, below the baby bump.
Belly Support: Ring sling
Many women enjoy using ring slings for pregnancy support. You may use a ring sling to support only the hips, as in the previous video. Sam has shown us how she used her ring sling to provide support for her growing belly in this next YouTube video.
A note about language and appropriation
Belly wrapping during pregnancy and belly binding during the postpartum period are experiencing a surge of new interest in the US and, probably, throughout the world.
Many American women whose ancestral heritage holds a tradition of wrapping or binding have spoken up to remind us of the importance of honoring their heritage. (I speak of “American women” because as an American I don’t feel qualified to speak about the international mothering community.)
It’s important to do what you can to honor those who have taught you about binding and wrapping and whose traditions you are building on whenever possible, and also important to notice the language you choose when discussing your own journey of learning. For instance, “I discovered belly wrapping during my fifth labor” is my own path to pregnancy wrapping. The truth of the matter is, though, that I didn’t “discover” it. My midwife taught me about one technique, and another midwife friend talked with me about another technique, and I adapted those techniques using my babywearing knowledge and wraps. I am not the only one to adapt those techniques; they are not my creation.
Whenever possible, avoid negating the wisdom of those who have brought the information about belly wrapping to you, and when you have it, share the path of that wisdom. I have much to learn in this arena, but I am trying to be mindful of my own language and approach. There are many people who have written and spoken on this topic. One such author is Aaminah Shakur, and I’ll link you to her 2014 article in “The Toast.”