When my friends began to have their babies, I used to get strangely similar calls from their mothers.

Had I bound my waist with a towel soon after delivery?

Had I removed it only during meal times?

Could I tell the daughter (my friend) how useful it was in regaining one’s waistline?

I would listen, mumble something and quickly put the phone down because towel binding had caused discomfort and pain when I had given it a shot.

In many traditional houses, a towel is bound tightly around the waist a day or so after delivery. It is removed only during bath or meal times as it is believed to help contract the uterus (and obviously your appetite).

I had a go at it and found that when worn over brief spells, a cloth or belt wound firmly around one’s waist offered support in an area flanked by loosened muscles, skin and uterus.

However, it posed other problems. I developed a constant cramp, which affected my posture while sitting. This, in turn, prevented me from establishing a comfortable nursing position crucial for my baby to latch on to the areola (the darkened area surrounding the nipple). Incorrect latching and positioning send wrong signals to the brain and affect milk supply eventually.

It is important for a new mother to be comfortable and confident to be able to breastfeed successfully. For, the benefits are not just for the baby. Every time a baby's mouth touches the areola, the hormone oxytocin is released. This, in turn, helps the uterus contract to its original size over a period of time (usually six to eight weeks). Unaware of the conscientious work of the uterus, people in the past credited a length of cloth for the shrinking of a mother's waist.

Most women, however, find that even after the uterus has fully contracted, weight gain, a paunch, loosened muscles and stretched skin are as much their companions as their newborn is. Getting back into shape the natural way is an uphill task for most women postpartum. It involves a combination of abdominal and Kegel exercises, stomach crunches, low-fat and high-protein diets, support at home to focus on oneself and lots and lots of persistence!

Next issue: Mommy tummy or diastasis recti?