Shafia Monroe Birthing Change

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African American Postpartum Belly Binding

Not too long ago, in rural Virginia it was customary for the mother to have a belly band made for the new baby and a belly band aka belly binder made for her, for her postpartum time.  Once the baby was born the midwife and female family members put the belly binder on the postpartum mother (Fraser, G.J., (1998) P.244).

African American postpartum belly binding is an ancient tradition in the African American community.  Staying warm with heat, water, hot oils, covers and wraps are some of the older postpartum traditions that link to the African Diaspora.

Wrapping the mother’s belly or womb area after birth was traditional for the 40 days postpartum.  The belly binder would be checked and adjusted as the uterus shrunk.

Postpartum belly binding is a healing methodology for healthy postpartum recuperation.

Some benefits of postpartum belly binding are:

  • Strengthens the back
  • Grounds the new mother
  • Help with posture
  • Heals abdominal muscles
  • Reshape the woman’s waist

Here is what my friend in Portland, Oregon shared about her postpartum experience.

“After I had birthed my first born 40 years ago my grandmother took a sheet and wrapped my stomach with that sheet and pinned the sheet with safety pins. I asked my mother why I had to have this done. She said, it helps to flatten your stomach. I said, I have never seen that happen before to anyone. My grandmother says, “that’s what wrong with you new mothers, think you all know everything.” My grandmother is still talking and wrapping, and then she says to me; I wrapped your momma stomach after her births, and my momma wrapped my stomach after my births, and her momma wrapped her stomach after she birthed me. I didn’t say one word after that. I just let her continue doing her thing, wrapping that sheet so tight that I couldn’t hardly breathe. She was there the whole time while I was in labor. She started calling me “Little Momma.” She said keep up the good work “Little Momma,” you can do this natural. You don’t need nothing for pain. That labor pain hurt so bad and I hung in there to almost the end, and then I had an epidural. I said I would never ever have that done again. I couldn’t take the pain at the end. I had my second child 6 yrs. Later. She had natural.”

It’s so beautiful to hear about four generations of women in the same family practicing the tradition of African American belly wrapping,. The last mother just being wrapped 40 years ago.


7 responses to “African American Postpartum Belly Binding”

  1. Melissa Danielle Avatar

    Do you have any photos?

    1. Shafia Monroe Avatar
      Shafia Monroe

      Hi Melissa, I do have photos of belly binding at Shafia Monroe Consulting Facebook Page, and on Shafia Monroe Youtube. Are you looking for a particular type of photo?

  2. Rudolph Buttrum Avatar

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  3. Charity Avatar

    What type of fabrics can be used for belly binding? Would traditional kente cloth work or would one need muslin or 100% cotton fabrics?

  4. Kareem Avatar

    Can men use this to remove stretch marks

  5. ANNA DIBBA Avatar

    I am gambian and the first thing women especially the ones at the village say when they see a woman with a protruding stomach after birth is “she didnt tie her stomach after birth”. ive seen online now where some people resort to surgery to regain their pre-birth stomachs because they didnt tie their stomachs. we think modern ways are everything.

  6. Sha Avatar

    Is it too late to bind your stomach 2 years postpartum?

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