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How To Use A Chest Binder

How To Use A Chest Binder

Boobs are great - on other people.

I always found button up shirts, t-shirts, and dresses really hard to wear with my (really very large) chest. Not to mention jumpers, sweaters, swim togs, gym clothes....

Couple this with a sexual and gender identity journey, add adolescence, and I was one unhappy wee bunny. I wore so many bras and crop tops together (before I even knew what binding was) that I was often struggling to breathe, experiencing intense back pain, and have deviated the natural development of my rib cage. My ribs now flare out at the bottom of my sternum like a ski jump at the winter olympics. 

Fast forward a few decades and I'm still uncomfortable with my chest. I identify as non-binary or genderfluid, and have been experiencing ongoing bouts of dysphoria in regards to my chest. To combat this throughout the years I had been binding with sports bras and compression tops, and trying a couple of techniques I would not recommend for long term use.
This recollection of events is glaringly similar to so many in the community, including those who choose not to, or are unable to get top surgery. A quality binder will give you enough flattening to minimise the 'uni-boob effect', and let you feel comfortable wearing clothes that make you feel good! If you're going to bind - make sure you fit yourself, or better yet - get fitted, for a decent binder or hefty sports bra. Sports bras aren't great, but they're a darn site better than injuring yourself through using non-specific bandages or tape.
The #1 question we get at Agnes & Edie is "how do I find the right size?"
Sizing a binder is essential to the long term health and wellbeing of your ribcage, muscles, and emotional state. Pain and irritability is a number one sign that your binder is too tight, or that you've been wearing it too long. Successful binding allows flattening of the chest without compromising your comfort and long term health. 
Different brands use varied sizing - so it's essential to measure your body to make sure it's not too big (and useless) or too tight (and dangerous). 

How to measure 

  1. Stand barefoot with arms by your side. If you have someone to help you, bring your arms away from your sides so they can place the tape around you. If you don't have a helper, follow the below but make sure you're doing this in a mirror so you can ensure correct placement of the measuring tape. 

  2. Breathe normally, and have them measure the width under your chest. The best place to measure is right under where the chest tissue starts. This is your under chest measurement.

  3. Next have your helper measure the width of your chest across your nipples. Make sure the tape is straight across the back so you are getting an accurate reading. This is your chest measurement. You can wear a sports bra or bra, however for the best measurement you want to be bare chested. If this is uncomfortable for you, then a light crop top will be more than sufficient. 

  4. If you're looking at our New York Toy Collective binders, they use an upper chest measurement. Take the measuring tape and measure the width under your armpits and above your chest. Take your chest measurement, add your upper chest measurement, and divide by 2. This is your approximate size for NYTC binders. 

Troubleshooting 

Your binder is too small if:

  • You experience chafing under your arms
  • You feel a pinching sensation
  • If standing and sitting is uncomfortable
  • You are irritated and feel stiff or annoyed
  • Any amount of pain

 Your binder is too big if:

  • The material is gathering
  • You feel your chest moving around in the binder
  • The binder is riding up and moving over the skin with ease


Remember

Your binder should be worn for a maximum of 8-10 hours per day. Never sleep in your binder, and if you're able to - give yourself a binder free day once or twice a week. 

When you take your binder off, take five to ten deep breaths in, hold, and release. It's also helpful to do three to four heavy coughs to help move any fluid. Stretch from side to side and roll your shoulders back to release any tension in your body. 

Washing your binder is super easy (and essential). The best way is a hand wash in the shower, or a super duper gentle cycle in the washing machine. Binders don't love the spin cycle, so it's best if you can do this bit by hand. Putting your binder in the dryer is not something we recommend, as this can warp the material. You don't want a shrunk or wonky binder!

 

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