Most of us have probably heard of bigkis from our parents or grandparents as one of those hand-me-down age old beliefs in infant care. What we probably do not know is that this practice is not entirely unique to us Filipinos. In fact, it was considered an infant corset way back in the 19th century that helped obtain proper posture. In England, it was used to flatten the belly button and protect this sensitive area during the baby’s first days.
In the Philippines, there are several beliefs on the use of the bigkis, or the infant belly binder.
- To reduce colic
It was believed that the binder keeps the baby’s belly warm and therefore reduces colic. While applying warmth to the baby’s belly may actually aid in soothing colic, there are also risks to a baby’s breathing when the bigkis is placed too tightly. Mayo Clinic suggests these other soothing strategies for colicky babies:
- Using a pacifier;
- Taking your baby for a ride in the car or in a stroller;
- Walking around rocking your baby;
- Giving your baby a warm bath;
- Rubbing your baby’s tummy;
- Doing “tummy time” and giving your baby a back run; and
- Dimming the lights and limiting visual simulation.
Of course, it also helps to find out the underlying causes for the colic such as the baby’s diet.
2. To protect the umbilical stump and avoid umbilical hernia
Bigkis has been used to keep the stump dry and protect it from bacteria that might come from the baby’s urine or from irritation due to friction from the baby’s diaper. Some also use the bigkis to keep a coin in place to prevent umbilical hernia from sticking out. Many pediatricians today do not encourage the use of bigkis for these purposes. According to them, umbilical stump will heal better when it is allowed to dry out with air. As for umbilical hernia, it will heal on its own when the child is 2 to 4 years old, according to Dr. Richard Mata.
3. To flatten the belly for good figure
As much as I’d like to hope this is true, there is no scientific evidence that shows that using a belly binder will give children (especially girls) a flat tummy and a good figure when they grow up. It would’ve been so much easier for us ladies, right? But we all know that our body shape has a lot to do with our genes, diet, and exercise.
Dealing with our elders
It might be challenging to tell off our parents (and other people who mean well) who continue to insist that we use the binder. According to Dr. Mata, if we really want to use a belly binder, he recommends keeping it loose and only for a short period of time. And if uncertain, always contact your pediatrician.
Colic Treatment & Diagnosis, Mayo Clinic
Kailangan ba ang Bigkis o Hindi, Dr. Richard Mata
19th Century Infant Belly Binder, UK