pregnant women Postpartum belly wraps have been around for ages – or at least since the 1800s. A belly wrap works almost exactly like the name suggests: you are, essentially, wrapping your belly with an elasticized or boned fabric; the fabric tightens around your waist and sucks everything in. Whether it’s called an abdominal binder, a belly binder, a belly wrap, or a belly band, all these devices essentially do the same thing: bring you relief from your post-pregnancy flab while helping you lose more weight and straighten your posture.

Obviously, during pregnancy, your stomach expands and you gain weight. But once baby is safe and sound in your arms, and out of your belly, that extra skin and weight can be a real eyesore, not to mention being uncomfortable to walk around in. A belly wrap will help “suck in” that flab and extra weight so you can look slimmer and feel more comfortable.

But that’s not all a belly wrap is good for. After nine months of carrying a child, your spine is probably in need of some good TLC. A postpartum belly wrap can help straighten and strengthen your spine, improving your posture and helping you recover from the damage pregnancy can do to your back. Plus, belly wraps can actually be helpful in kick-starting your weight loss process.

Here’s the science behind how the belly wrap helps you recover your pre-pregnancy body quicker: pregnancy leaves you with a bloated tummy full of water and excess air. Both water and air are important cushioning and nutritional elements that keep your baby healthy and safe while it’s in the womb; your cells expand during pregnancy to accommodate all these extra resources. After you give birth, your cells slowly start to shrink and compress again. A belly wrap will allow you to constantly compress those cells, helping them to contract to their normal shape and make you slimmer and leaner. Postpartum belly wraps can also improve circulation and reduce swelling, as well as helping you sweat out excess water weight and fluids.

Belly wraps or binders can also help if you’re recovering from a C-section or experiencing Diastasis Recti, also known as separated ab muscles. Your abs are what give your tummy its shape, and while Diastasis Recti isn’t irreversible by any means, it can definitely make your road to a pre-pregnancy body much longer and tougher. A belly binder can help your ab muscles return to their previous positions, making it much easier for you to get the slim, toned look you had before pregnancy. A belly wrap acts like a splint to support your muscles and help them heal.

Women who are recovering from a C-section often use belly wraps to help speed up recovery time at the incision as well as reducing pain from using your abs. And, as you may know, you use your abs for a lot more than just sit ups: laughter, sneezing, bending over, and many more common activities you do on an everyday basis utilize your ab muscles. Belly wraps can remove much of the post-C section discomfort, as well as providing needed compression at the surgery site so the wound can heal properly, and quickly.

A postpartum belly wrap can also help take a lot of pressure off your hips and help your hips narrow to their original width. You might find that your hip joints also feel loose during pregnancy (after all, baby’s head had to come out somehow!), and a belly wrap can help strengthen those muscles.

So do they really work? That’s a subject up for some debate: unfortunately, there are very few scientific studies done on the efficacy of postpartum belly wraps. Some doctors will swear by them, others don’t think they make much difference. Perhaps more importantly, women who have used belly wraps have different opinions about their usefulness, as well. But the testimonials of women who have used belly wraps are full of women who tried one and didn’t like it, or bought the wrong size, or didn’t use it correctly, so it’s hard to tell if those are truly trustworthy. Some women have seen results in as few as two weeks, while others find that it’s a waste of money.

At the end of the day, your success with a belly wrap may be entirely subjective. But, in order to get the most out of it, you need to make sure that you’re buying a high-quality wrap that fits you properly. An ill-fitting belly wrap will not only work as well as a properly sized wrap, it will also be uncomfortable, and you probably won’t enjoy wearing it enough to stick to the regime of having it on every day. When used properly, a belly wrap is a great addition to your post-pregnancy diet and workout routine.