The saying “Necessity is the mother of Invention” was true for Nthenya Haynes. She shares how she came up with the Tumbo-Wrap while planning for her second birth and recovery.
“During my second pregnancy, I started looking for a comfortable corset to wear after giving birth to help me regain my body shape. It was both for health and vanity reasons.
The idea of a corset really appealed to me because I wanted something that would really hold me in firmly. I was not too keen on a conventional one with bones in it as I needed to avoid anything that might cause injuries to my tender post-pregnancy tummy. I did not wrap my tummy or wear a corset after my first pregnancy and my tummy was left looking quite flabby. I decided it was not too late this time around, perhaps if I wrapped my tummy and maintained a healthy diet, I could avoid having an even flabbier tummy.
I had heard about the traditional Kenyan method of wrapping a ‘leso’ tightly around the tummy to help support the abdominal muscles but wasn’t sure how it would work for me. As it so happens, I usually have a hard time keeping a ‘leso’ firmly wrapped around my hips unless I tie a knot and it is not comfortable especially when sitting or lying down. I wanted a cloth corset, much like the ‘leso’ concept of wrapping the tummy but one that I could easily put on and feel comfortable all day. I looked online but all I could find were elastic ones that I knew would not have much hold or stiff ones that would be uncomfortable to wear. So I started to read up on the subject of new mother corsets and ended up finding a lot of information about other cultures that have similar post-natal practises.
I was inspired to make my own cloth corset when I read about Asian and Oriental post-pregnancy practises. Women in countries such as India, Malaysia, Thailand and China observe a strict ‘confinement’ period after giving birth. This ‘confinement’ is meant to keep the new mother from the outside world and it can last up to 40 days. The new mother is advised not to do any strenuous work or house chores. She is meant to rest and to achieve this, she is to get domestic help to do the chores including cooking or looking after her other children, avoid going out of the family home and have only immediate family around her and the new baby. She is meant to wear warm clothing, rest in bed for at least the first seven days after giving birth and eat foods that promote rapid healing such as cooked vegetable soups taken warm to keep her body warm. Herbal teas such as fenugreek seeds are also consumed as well as some ‘warming’ spices such as ginger. Most importantly, the new mother is also advised to wrap her tummy firmly to help support the weakened abdominal and back muscles. Of course, not all women in these countries observe the ‘confinement’ period what with the trend of giving birth in hospital and so on. The idea behind ‘confinement’ is to give the new mother a chance to heal properly and regain her post-pregnancy health, shape and fitness.
These cultures consider pregnancy as a weakening period and therefore right after birth much care has to be taken to regain full health failure to which, the mother may be unable to care for her baby. Some of these cultures also believe that a new mother is not completely healed internally until 100 days have lapsed since birth.
I found the diet part most fascinating. These cultures all use the idea of keeping the mother warm by giving her warm broths and soups. Cold drinks, heavy meals, cold showers, swimming, going out in a cold or windy day were all to be avoided. It was suggested that these things can introduce ‘cold’ into the new mother’s weakened body and impede the process of healing and regaining fitness. The wrapping of the tummy combined with the warm food and environment are meant to help the new mother get back into shape.
I was not surprised by the realisation that this is what we do in Kenya too. When a good idea is successfully used in one part of the human community, it is easily communicated to others too. There is a well known tradition called ‘warming-up’ the new mother that is practised by some communities in Kenya. The new mother is asked to rest in bed with her baby and she is fed warm ‘uji’ (millet porridge) and all kinds of vegetable and meat soups. Women from her family stay with her to prepare her soups and porridge. She is encouraged to wrap her tummy with a ‘leso’ and rest in bed for as long as it takes until she is healed.
After giving birth last October, I wore my cloth corset from five days after giving birth and for 30 days thereafter. The corset which I call a ‘Tumbo-Wrap’ was comfortable to wear because I made it following my body measurements. I did not need to take it off to go to the toilet or breast-feed and because I made it from a pretty ‘leso’ fabric I could wear it on top of my clothes. I used pure cotton ‘leso’ fabric which is not too heavy for warm days but is firm enough to provide a good hold. It is easy to launder, maintains shape and because ‘leso’ colours are really bright, it still looks vibrant after several washes. I also observed a ‘confinement’ of 30 days where I rested in bed for most of the day (even when I thought I would go insane from boredom) and did very little in terms of house chores (I was glad I had someone come in everyday to help clean, cook and look after my toddler). I lost most of the pregnancy weight within ten days of giving birth and regained my pre-pregnancy waist size within four weeks.
A lot has to be said for wrapping the tummy after giving birth. Some women swear by it and some women believe it depends on how toned the abdominal muscles were before pregnancy. I believe that wrapping worked for me because I custom-made my corset to suit my taste and body. I also combined the wrapping with a diet that helped to improve my impoverished nutrient stores, drank a lot of herbal teas and of course had lots and lots of bed rest. ”
To order your custom- made ‘Tumbo-Wrap’ contact Nthenya on 0706512884.