For many of us, a flat chest affirms our identities or helps us to be read correctly in public. If you choose to bind your chest, it’s important you do it in a way that is as safe and comfortable as possible, and that means you’ll need to listen to your body’s unique needs.
We’ve already covered the basics of binding in our Binding 101 guide, so before you read below, be sure you’re familiar with the general best practices to bind safely!
Everybody is different, and every body is different. Because those who bind are so diverse – every shape, every gender, every age – this is not a comprehensive guide: please tailor it to meet your needs, and feel free to share your story and thoughts in the comments below!
Binding for Big Chests
Getting your binder on:
For many of us (but especially for us folks with larger chests) getting that binder on the first time is a challenge! You will probably have to step into it, pull your binder up around your waist, and then fit your arms through the holes and adjust. Many folks can’t pull the binder on overhead unless it is stretched out or looser.
Try a different technique:
Some larger-chested folks recommend pushing their tissue towards their armpits, instead of letting the binder push your chest flat down in place. Some recommend pushing down-and-out, others up-and-out. You may have to adjust periodically throughout the day. Experiment to see what position works best with your body, both for looks and for comfort.
You’re your own worst critic:
Don’t judge your appearance by looking down. Look at yourself in the mirror (after all, that’s how everyone else will see you!) to get the best idea of how you look. Your chest will be more apparent when you look down at it than you realize!
Never wear two binders at once:
Some larger-chested folks have shared that they wear a binder over another binder or sports bra. Don’t do it — you can really damage your ribs and lungs! Remember that cis men who are bigger don’t have perfectly flat chests. Moobs and pecs, people! 🙂
Give yourself extra breaks:
Those of us with larger chests in general need to give our bodies more breaks — that means trying your best to only bind 6-8 hours at a time, and to never bind overnight or while exercising. Really, you should just wear a binder as little as possible. We know what you’re thinking:
- “I am in school/work for X hours, plus a commute, plus everything else I have going on. How do I limit myself to that?”
We get it. Busy schedules make it difficult, so you could hide away somewhere private on your lunch break to remove your binder, or make a pledge that weekends you give your body a rest. Or, you can get creative: if it’s winter time and you’re commuting in a heavy jacket, put your binder on in the bathroom/locker room when you arrive to class or work.
- “It is impossible for me to get through the day without binding 24/7.”
Binding is an awesome way to minimize dysphoria and help with passing, but you still have to be safe about it. Some folks recommend relying on other social cues to help pass and help alleviate dysphoria by affirming your identity in other ways: clothing/appearance and self-care go a long way.
- Wilson Freeman on YouTube: Binding technique for large chests (video)
- goldengray.tumblr.com: HELP! Binding 101 for Big Chests
- Susan’s Place: Binding for Large Chests
- FTM Forum Livejournal: Binding for Bigger Guys
Binding for Small Chests
The same rules apply:
Many of the tips aimed at folks with larger chests apply for everyone: listen to your body, give your body breaks, try to bind as little as you possibly can, never wear two binders at once, etc.
Oftentimes, those of us with smaller chests are so determined to get flat-as-a-board-flat that we round our binder size down. If you’re a size Medium and you opt for that size Small, you’ll only be putting extra pressure on your back and ribs, and chances are you won’t get any flatter. Each kind of binder has its own sizing (even from the same company, in some cases), so check the instructions for measurements when shopping around.
Consider a sports bra:
A sports bra is designed to offer a decent level of compression without causing harm. For some of us, a great sports bra can be just as effective as a binder, plus it’s often cheaper and easier to buy.
- Buzzfeed: All The Questions You Had About Chest Binding, But Were Afraid To Ask
- Minus 18: Healthier And Safer Ways To Bind Your Chest
Binding when Differently-Bodied or with Medical Considerations
If you are differently bodied or have special needs concerning your health, always consult a trusted medical expert before you bind your chest. Because binding garments put pressure on your chest, ribs, and internal organs, and can often restrict your movement, you should be extra cautious before you start using a chest compression shirt: give yourself extra breaks if you can and start with a looser garment at first.
Skin health: We’ve heard from folks who are prone to acne, eczema, or other skin conditions that they have seen worse symptoms, so when you take your binder off each night, check your skin and make sure it’s breathing and healthy. You should not see redness or bleeding around where the edges of your binder touches; if you do, it’s too tight on your skin. Plus, binding can be sweaty business: try to keep your binder and your skin as dry as possible to prevent problems, especially in the summer heat.
Breathing: Some folks with asthma or other breathing conditions have noticed worsening symptoms: if you have difficulty breathing, take it off. You can try to use a undershirt or sports bra to give you some security and light compression without restricting your lungs.
Mobility: For those of us with mobility issues, there are styles of binders with zippers, velcro, or clasps on the front that may be easier to maneuver over single-piece options you have to step into or pull over.
Binder style makes a difference: Tri-top binders, for example, end midway on your torso, so some folks report back pain, slouching, or aches as a result. On the other hand, full-length binders often have compression on your whole core and stomach, which can be uncomfortable for other folks. With so many styles and designs to choose from, the right binder for you is out there — even if it may take a few tries to find. 🙂
Sometimes, binding simply may not be an option – and that sucks. Take it from Jeff, COO of Point 5cc: “I was diagnosed with GERD (a digestive disease) eight months before my top surgery. My symptoms were terrible, and tight fitting clothing was making my health suffer. I would take these mini-breaks at work to go to the bathroom, pull my binder down to my waist like a belt, and just stand there trying to get relief. My doctor flat-out told me I couldn’t bind anymore. It was a very long eight months, but I found ways around it by dressing differently or wearing layers. Eventually I was able to re-frame my situation: my body couldn’t handle binding, and I needed to love my body enough to give it the break it needed.”
- Binding 101: Tips to Bind Your Chest Safely
- The 6 Best Tips for Binding in the Summer
- Dressing Well Without Binding
Need a binder but can’t get one? Learn more about Point 5cc’s free binder donation program