Blood, sweat and belly binding: Why choose Bengkung belly binding for your belly wrap?

Belly binding after birth is becoming more and more popular, and although the this practice has been around for thousands of years, we in the United States are just hearing about it - mainly thanks to the advertising and marketing of company’s such as Belly Bandit®.   Hospitals are handing out various types of binds, and word is getting around about the benefits and wonderful support that belly binding can provide.  

Since there are so many methods and binds out there, I thought I’d show a comparison between Bengkung belly binding and the more modern binds sold online and in stores.  I’ll save a post about the benefits of belly binding for another day (or you can read the cliff notes here).  Let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t be here if you weren’t curious, or weren’t considering using a wrap of some kind.   You’re just trying to figure out what kind is best!  So without further ado, let’s get into the differences between Bengkung Belly Binding vs other belly binding wraps.

Even, 360 degree support:
Bengkung belly binding provides even support from your pelvic bone to your breasts.  It can provide the same even amount of support from top to bottom and from back to front .  Alternatively, it can be adjusted to be looser at some points and tighter on other spots.  Can you get that with the store kind?  No, it just isn’t going to be possible.  Even if it did compare in this department, there is still so much more to consider!

No Velcro issues:
Sometimes Velcro breaks down after multiple uses.  You may find the tight fit that you felt at the beginning is starting to wane.  Next thing you know, you’re looking for the duct tape to hold it all together.  The material that I use for Bengkung belly binding is strong and durable.  It holds up wash after wash, and never loses it’s ability to do it’s job.  Each wrap is hemmed and surged on all edges to prevent frays.  Most importantly, the surged edges DO NOT bunch up or dig into your skin.  Comfort is a pretty big deal when you have liquids poring out of every orifice of your body.

Here in Texas, in the summer it’s HOT and HUMID.  As I look at the various binds out there on the market, most have a few things in common.  Elastic, and Velcro.  No matter how soft and breathable they claim for their bind to be, there certainly is a lot of materials needed to keep the wrap fastened and taught.  (Velcro, spandex, elastic, whatever).  None of these materials allow the skin to breathe nearly as well as a giant piece of cotton, muslin or batik fabric.  Postpartum moms are already sweating after they give birth, no need to turn the faucet on any higher!  

More work:
Speaking of materials, sweat and heat - what about washing that thing?  The ones that you can purchase at the store are almost always going to instruct to hand wash.  Yes, HAND WASH, not even use your washer on the ‘hand wash’ setting!  It can take 12 hours or so to dry.  They encourage purchasing two of them so you can wear one, while the other one is out of commission.  You can purchase two Bengkung belly wraps if you’d like, but the one that I provide, is machine washable and most can be washed and dried over night when you aren’t using it anyway.  You are already sleep deprived, are you sure you want to add hand washing to your postpartum schedule?  (I know you are thinking this could be a job for your mother-in-law, but even she deserves the luxury of using a washing machine)!  

A little TLC:  
When you get your belly bind, it’s not going to ask you how you are doing.  It can’t wipe away a tear, while you vomit out how crazy your mother-in-law is making you.  It can’t provide you with local resources on breastfeeding, support groups, baby wearing, or whatever you might need. Some women just need to get it all out, and some women just want to do the wrap!  Either way,  you are getting support.  (Slight pun intended).  When I come to your home you may just want to get down to business, learn how to wrap and be done.  I can do that!  I’ll do it as quick as possible, and chat as little as possible. I can be out the door in less than an hour.  Some moms would like me to spend more time while they chat and ask lots of questions.  They want to talk about their new baby, maybe even ask a question or two about breastfeeding or ask how to use their new pump.  As a childbirth educator, a doula, a mom to six, and a breastfeeding counselor, I just might have some answers!  I’ll be happy to help you with a breastfeeding session while I’m there.   The store bought wraps just don’t compare to a walking birth, postpartum and breastfeeding encyclopedia.

 P.S, if your wrap *is* talking to you, you either haven’t slept for a week or you need to contact your health care provider.

So there you have it.  You’re a smart consumer!  Which one provides you with the best physical and emotional support - while also supporting your local business? 

The Serenity Difference: What Sets My Childirth Classes Apart?

Photos by Amanda Gipson Photography

Photos by Amanda Gipson Photography

Childbirth classes are not all alike, but much of the information is the same.  We all discuss stages of labor, most all will discuss some comfort measures, and provide the rest of the basic topics in various formats.  What goes into them beyond that varies widely.  I took the basics, combined it with some information that I learned from my doula training, sprinkled in information from all of my other training's,  and made the most direct,  informative - “I didn’t’ know I needed to know that” childbirth class series I could.  I have had many clients come to me for their 2nd or even 3rd births, who have tried various childbirth classes previously, tell me they learned more from me in one class then they ever did in the other classes combined.  My classes aren’t any longer than other classes, it’s just that I have the freedom to cut out cheesy games that introduce people to each other, and get things rolling.   

Let me tell you what sets my childbirth class series apart from the rest. 

It’s not Lamaze
See my post here

There is something for everyone.  I have tons of additional information to supplement your classes.  Tons of handouts, in the form of a 145+ page binder, colorful booklets if you just want the highlights, and video access for those who just can’t stand to read at all. 

The labor tool kit. 
As far as I know, I am the only person in this area that provides my clients with a labor tool kit to take home and use before, during, and after labor.  Clients will be shown how to use the tools in "class two" of the series, and practice again in the final review.

Time and Information:
Large classes means less information.  The more people in the room, the more time we have to allow for breaks, for questions and answers, and overall instructor content.  Because I keep my group classes to a maximum of 4 couples, I can provide more information in the same amount of time.  I still have time to answer the various questions, and because the class is more intimate, most everyone feels less shy about asking them as well.  

Learning comfort measures is paramount to childbirth education!   Even if a mother is planning on an epidural it helps to learn how to cope until she gets it.  She also needs a backup plan, in case she can’t have one come labor day.  I can’t tell you how many people I have taught my comfort measures class to that did not learn how to do certain things from other childbirth classes.  Some of them learned about the techniques but didn’t get to practice them, and everyone says they didn’t learn as many coping techniques over all.  I like to show a technique, then let the partner practice so that each mother has an idea of how it is supposed to feel.  You just can’t do that in a large class, because you don’t have enough time to do that one-on-one. 

OH, and if you are a single mom?  I have plenty of tricks to show you how you can do many comfort techniques by yourself!!! 

Photo credit:  Amanda Gipson Photography

Photo credit:  Amanda Gipson Photography

I get calls every day asking when my next childbirth class series starts.  Most childbirth classes series have a structured time frame.  Most educators teach a group series one day a month, sometimes two days a month.  For example they teach every Tuesday on an ongoing basis.  
Not everyone can make a Tuesday night class.  They call around, classes are either full, have started already, or they simply can’t make the night of the week so they forgo classes all together and ‘wing it’.  

I teach a childbirth classes every day, excluding Sundays.  That's 6 days a week.  I teach group classes, and private classes.  If you can’t make the next series, or it doesn’t fit your crazy schedule, then take the classes alone, and you will learn a ton in a very relaxed setting!  The best part?  You pick the time of day we start.  I teach classes as early as 8am and starting as late as 8:30pm.  Want to know what else?  You don’t have to take your classes on the same day every week!  You don’t even have to take the class once a week for 5 or 6 weeks.  Schedule your classes bi-weekly, once a month, whatever you want, - whatever helps you learn the best.  I will always offer to teach your final review closer to your due date if you start early.  Speaking of ‘early’.  You can start whenever you want.  I don’t care if you are 10 weeks pregnant, you can start with my “Early Pregnancy class” and schedule the childbirth class series a couple of weeks after that.  Couples often opt to take the first four classes in my childbirth series, and then take the newborn and final review around their 35th and 36th week.  

More options!  
Sometimes people procrastinate.  Maybe you didn’t know if you could even give birth vaginally due to a low-lying placenta, or maybe you just had other things to tackle before you could think about giving birth.  Suddenly you realize you are 36 weeks and need something quick!  I can handle that.  I can’t guarantee you’ll get completely finished before you give birth, but I do my best and offer many options.  I can sometimes offer to do three classes in a week, or two 5 hour sessions, or one 8 hour session.  This especially works if you can accommodate a class during the day.  Whatever we can do that works with both of our schedules, and provides you with just the amount of information you need to be prepared.   

I keep it current and non-judgmental!
I stay up to date on the latest research and evidenced based birth practices.  Some childbirth instructors are not allowed to provide any information other than what is ‘in the script’, and even though they know it’s outdated information, they are stuck.  I stay current, so you can too!

Hospital based educators have struggles too. (I know I’ve been there).  Certain information is ‘not allowed’, and information can be presented in a very different light.  For example, some instructors may not tell you that you have more than one option for cervical ripening, because the majority of providers only use one or two methods.  You may not learn what a cervical ripening is or for!  Information can sometimes be one sided.  For example, your instructor might tell you - this is what an epidural is, and this is when to get one.  There may not be any discussions about the risks, or benefits to going without one.  I once heard of a nurse who told a class that there were no side effects to an epidural and that women were crazy if they considered going without one!   You will never hear me tell you that you are crazy - no matter which way you choose to birth.  This is your choice!  I would like my classes to be a judgement free zone.

Photo credits:  Amanda Gipson Photography and Valerie Lopez

Photo credits:  Amanda Gipson Photography and Valerie Lopez

My classes are relevant and personal:
I have the pleasure of getting to know each and every one of my students.  I want to know where they are birthing, who they are birthing with, and what their goals are.  I know what their fears are surrounding their upcoming birth .  Each person has a unique situation, and in a large group setting you can’t always keep the topics relevant for each person.  If I have a group class, I try to group those who are birthing in a hospital setting together, those who are birthing in a birth center together, those who are going for a VBAC together, etc.  This way the information is relevant to their situation.  There are times when I have a mixed group, but I still remember who is doing what, so that I can tell them when I am talking “this doesn’t apply to you” or “you will have this option, but not this one”.  Each person that comes through my door will get information relevant to them.  Not everyone wants to go natural, not everyone wants an epidural.  Births don’t always go as planned.  I provide all the information for both situations, and provide clients with the information to best achieve their birth goals.  What they do from there, is up to them!

I know many of the providers in the area.  I am familiar with most all the hospital policies.  I know if your hospital has a squat bar, or birthing balls, wireless monitoring etc.  Many times women who can’t take a childbirth class at the hospital they are birthing at, call around to other hospitals and take a class there.  Taking a class ata different hospital can be confusing.  It’s cheap, but not relevant.  Hospital policies are not the same - even if they are under the same system. It’s important that you understand what is available to you.  Since I have worked at most hospitals, I have the inside scoop. 

I will provide you with all the tools you need to make your birth the best you can under your specific circumstances.  Who doesn't want a well-rounded class relevant to you, non-judgemental, and packed full of the information that you need?!

Learn your options, go from there.  As Diane Korte says, “If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any”.  I look forward to meeting you!

Book Recomendations


I give all the following books a 5 star recommendation! 

Books on Pregnancy

The Healthy Pregnancy Book by Dr. William (and Martha) Sears is full of great information! 

This book has a little bit of everything.  It covers all the topics from finding the right health care provider to how to sleep better, eat better, manage stress, and ultimately - how to have a healthier baby and birth! 

You may recognize the chapter on "appreciating the hormonal symphony of pregnancy and birth" if you have taken my 2nd class in my childbirth series. Dr. Sears can say it so much better than I can :-)  

I have this book in my lending library, but let me tell you now -- you need your own copy! You can always give it to a pregnant friend later, (if you can stand to part with it)!

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn (4th Edition): The Complete Guide by Penny Simkin, April Bolding, Ann Keppler, and Janell Durham

Although I have the older version of this book in my lending library, this revised edition has an easier to read format, and is more up to date in the research department.  Forget that book everyone tells you they have read (hmm- something about what to expect....:-) -- this is the one book with evidenced-based research, and should be your go-to pregnancy and birth resource!  It covers information from pregnancy to newborn care and will compliment any other books you might want to read. Be empowered, be informed, and enjoy this book!

Books on Birth

The Birth Partner -Revised 4th Edition: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin

This is great for moms, but dads seem to really enjoy this 'birth manual'. I've had many dads refuse to pick up a pregnancy or birth related book, and when I ask them to look through this book, they read it cover to cover!  (Even if you can't read a book from cover to cover, this book has tab sections, so you can look up information quickly and easily). This is a must for any birth partner to help them understand birth and how to help a laboring mother cope. This book is required reading for many doula organizations for doula certification. Sheila Kitziner sums it nicely; “Penny Simkin shows how giving support in childbirth is not only a matter of helping a woman through labor and delivery—important though that is—but also of enabling her to cherish a meaningful memory of birth.” – Sheila Kitzinger, author of Rediscovering Birth and The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Before I give a summary of the book, I have to tell you a little about Ina May Gaskin. Ina May Gaskin is one the nations' leading midwives, in fact, the obstetric world uses "The Gaskin Maneuver" to help resolve shoulder dystocia (stuck shoulders) in labor - the first obstetrical procedure to be named after midwife. Gaskin has traveled around the world lecturing to both physicians and other midwives. Her midwifery practice on "The Farm" in Tennessee was the first birth center to be founded in the United States -- and has the lowest birth interventions and cesarean rates, and most importantly, mortatility rates in the nation! This was was compared to 14,000 physician attended hospital births (including those typically labelled as high risk) by the published study “The Safety of Home Birth: The Farm Study,” authored by A. Mark Durand, American Journal of Public Health , March, 1992, Vol. 82, 450-452

All that being said, Ina May has a lot of good information to say, and she has many books to say them in. This book is one of the easiest to read, and enjoyed by most everyone! The book starts out with birth stories and continues on about birth, birth practices and safety. Ina May has a way of taking the fear out of childbirth and portraying it as it should be -- a happy, and healthy, normal event. 

Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation
by Pam England CNM MA and Rob Horowitz Ph.D.

Okay, I will admit, there are some parts of this book I can't swallow hook, line and sinker, but there is still some great information in a very easy-to-read-format. If you aren't into the art projects that are supposed to help you overcome birth fears, and if the new-age, hippy parts of the book leave a bad taste in your mouth, you can skip to chapter 16 and get some great information on how to cope with labor and birth.   There's something for everyone in this book!

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer

Henci Goer wrote her first book, Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities, in 1995 and it has become a staple for childbirth professionals since. Its successor, Optimal Care in Childbirth: The Case for a Physiologic Approach, written in 2013 -- won the American College of Nurse-Midwives “Best Book of the Year” award. The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth is loved by birth professionals and parents alike. It explains all the common birth procedures along with their risks and benefits, so it will definitely provide you with all the information you need to build an informed and educated birth plan! Some of the information is slightly outdated, and that is why I cannot stress enough that you should always take a well rounded childbirth class. That being said, this is still probably my most recommended and borrowed book in my library. 
You are always welcome to borrow it if you don't want to purchase your own. Actually, I have two copies, but be warned:  Neither sit on my book shelf very long :-)

Creating Your Birth Plan: The Definitive Guide to a Safe and Empowering Birth by Marsden Wagner, MD

Ahhhh...Marsden Wagner. What can I say? I love him. Not in a "I-want-to-marry-you" kinda way, but I just love to hear him talk. I love his passion. Some people cannot stand his somewhat, crass, opinionated manor, and his undoubted bias for natural birth, but maybe that is why I love him! Dr. Marsden was a perinatologist and perinatal epidemiologist and was also the Regional Officer for Maternal and Child Health in the European Regional office of the World Health Organization for 15 years. He knows medical birth and he knows natural birth. He knows how births take place in the hospital and how women give birth at home and in birth centers -- and he makes no bones about which he prefers for low-risk women. This book isn't for everyone, especially if you aren't already aware of birth politics and practices we have here in the US. However, if you tend to be a wee bit cynical, or even have an open mind to the birth crisis we have in America -- and want to make a truly informed birth plan -- read this book! This is one of my personal favorites, but it's not for everyone :-) This is another book I have available in my lending library. Here was the last interview Dr. Wagner did back in 2008 May his soul rest in peace.

Books on Breastfeeding

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers: The Most Comprehensive Problem-Solving Guide to Breastfeeding from the Foremost Expert in North America by Dr. Jack Newman and Teresa Pitman

I read this book during my breastfeeding counselor training, and it was super informative. Dr. Jack Newman is probably the number one expert in the breastfeeding business. Don't ask me how a guy got to know so much about breastfeeding! It's not because he is a pediatrician, because unfortunately most do NOT know much about breastfeeding at all. Maybe it's because he was a father of four breastfed children, but I think it most likely has to do with the fact he has been helping mothers breastfeed for 30-some years. 
Women, especially here in the US, are afraid they can't breastfeed. There are so many misconceptions, and Dr. Newman gets right down to business dispelling myth after misconception. Dr. Newman will be the first to tell you that breastfeeding is not always easy, but he will also be the first to say most women can breastfeed with the right help and the right information. This book will have answers to all of your questions from how to breastfeed to how to get through common breastfeeding troubles. You will see that I print out many of his handouts and put them in your binder, and are also given in my breastfeeding classes as well. His website is an invaluable resource: 

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
by LA LECHE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL, Diane Wiessinger, Diana West Teresa Pitman

This book is a classic!   Published first in the 1950's this book is now on it's 8th revision, and going strong. It continues to be a number one seller, and has been read by thousands (if not millions) of women! This book is huge (about a hundred more pages than Dr. Jack Newmans book) -- but you don't have to read it cover to cover. Read what you need!
Some people are put off by this book claiming it is too judgmental. (It does talk about the benefits of getting the best start by having an unmedicated birth, and it also talks about how going back to work is hard on brestfeeding moms) -- but this book is too good to throw out the baby with the bathwater in my opinion.

So That's What They're For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide by Janet Tamaro

When I had to read what seemed like a hundred books about breastfeeding, during my breastfeeding counselor training, I can tell you I was not looking forward to yet another book!  I had read everything from clinical to breastfeeding politics, and I was pretty sure I was going to have trouble staying awake reading the same information yet again. I was pleasantly surprised and instantly captivated by this book! Janet Tamaro was funny, and she was up-to-date!  I recommend starting with this book and then adding one of the two other books listed above for more in depth trouble shooting and information.  Sometimes it helps to get the same information in a different way, but this book will not be as detailed on the how-to's. Get one of each, take a good breastfeeding class, and get ready to breastfeed!  

Books on Baby Care

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by William Sears, Martha Sears, Robert Sears, and James Sears

This is a huge book, and if you only buy one book on babies, this should cover it all for ya!  My sister likes to call it the 'baby bible', and she loves to give this book out as a gift to pregnant friends and family. You'll see's huge!  It has information on everything! You obviously don't have to read this book from start to finish -- just read up on the information that you need in the moment. Not everything in this book is going to work on your parenting journey, and you may readthings you do not agree with. Some of the advice might even offend some people (attachment parenting, co-sleeping etc). Personally, I have no problem reading through and taking various pieces of advice and adapting it to my own needs, and you can too :-)  Even Dr. Sears and his wife talk about how you have to do what is right for your family. This book is still a treasure! There is so much information that is helpful and dare I say necessary to have as a reference -- like how to take a temperature, or ways to get the medicine down that makes it worth every penny.  Trust me, you'll wear the cover off this one if you give it half a chance! 

The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp
I loved this book so much that I became a Happiest Baby on the Block educator :-)  If you want to understand why babies cry, and how to get them to stop crying in seconds, you might want to pick this one up. Dr. Karp has found there IS a remedy for colic and it works for every baby unless there is a medical condition for their crying. Some books will provide information that works for one baby, while a completely different book only works for a different baby.  That's why we have so many parents saying "well this worked for me," while another mom is frowning in frustration because that didn't work for her baby! The Happiest Baby will work for everyone, and the solutions are so simple that they are really just techniques done for centuries but sometimes suppressed or forgotten by our modern day society. 
If you don't want to read the whole thing, that's okay, my Happiest Baby Class will give you the "cliff notes" -- and also receive a parent kit that includes a DVD and Soothing Sounds CD. You'll be ready to proclaim that you are the proud parents of the "Happiest Baby on the Block!" 

Other Books:

Pushed:  The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Careby Jennifer Block

Shameful confession here: I've never read this book! So I guess in all fairness I can't give it five stars just yet. I have read bits and pieces while sitting in the library, and what I did read, was awesome! Pushed is more of a political birth book, so it's not going to cover things like stages of labor and things of that nature. This book is about the sorry state of birth in the United States and her research will show the reader how the over-use of technology isn't always best, and tries to shine light on the question "do women have the right to normal birth?"  Is the obstetric community letting mothers who are low risk have a normal birth? Do we even know what normal is anymore? I digress. Read this book, and you might understand that birth isn't what you think it is in the land of the free.  

Born Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First
by Marsden Wagner (sigh... :-)
Okay, if you don't think you can take Dr. Wagner's book on birth planning, then definitely don't pick up this book. He takes cynical to a whole new level :-)  This quote really says it best: "*Starred Review* The outspoken former director of Women's and Children's Health at the World Health Organization believes maternity and perinatal care in the U.S. are seriously flawed. To make the point, he cites recent Centers for Disease Control findings that 28 countries have lower maternity-mortality rates; 41, lower infant-mortality rates. This despite the fact that the U.S. spends twice as much or more per capita on health care than any other industrialized nation. Wagner places responsibility squarely on the shoulders of obstetricians and the lobbying power of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Interested in one thing above all else--maintaining control of a lucrative market--that group, he avers, foists unnecessary, expensive, and invasive medical interventions upon women when none are needed. Obstetricians are only necessary, he says, in a minority of cases in which serious medical problems threaten the life of mother or child. For the most part, childbirth isn't a medical condition, and infant and maternal mortality rates are lowest in countries in which midwives attend to it. Speaking from his experience as a clinical perinatologist and a perinatal epidemiologist and supplemented by the hoard of credible sources cited in the copious endnotes, Wagner pulls no punches in advocating a woman's right to control the entire reproductive process, from conception through birth."  Donna Chavez Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child by Robert W. Sears

This book really breaks down the tough decisions about vaccinations. This book is fairly easy to read and Dr. Robert Sears does agreat job of telling you about a particular disease, how common it is, how dangerous (or harmless) it is, and then goes on to cover the vaccination ... from the ingredients of the vaccine, to any possible side effects from the vaccine.  The information is presented in an unbiased manner, so you can decide what vaccinations you want for your child and when to get them. 

Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America by Theresa Morris

Another book I'll admit I have not read, but when I saw these videos, I knew I wanted to read the book.  It's definitely on my wishlist! 


The Business of Being Born - DVD produced by Ricki Lake and directed by Abby Epstein

This documentary has changed so many peoples lives!  I cannot tell you how many of my clients would not have considered a natural childbirth ever ... and then they watched this movie. This movie has commentary from some of the most respected birth professionals in the world (including Dr. Marsden Wagner). It covers the medical and political politics of birth and why the maternity care in the United States is in crisis. Just watch the trailer, and if you like what you see, buy the DVD and show it to all of your friends who are pregnant :-)