Chest “binding” refers to various methods used to flatten chest tissue to create a flatter looking chest. For some, binding is an effective alternative to invasive surgery. For others, binding is only a moderately successful, short-term alternative to FTM/N chest surgery.
There are many methods that can be used to minimize the appearance of chest tissue. The type of materials used and the level of success associated with binding usually depend on the size of your chest and your overall body type and build. Some of the most popular binding methods include:
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Trans Clothing Exchanges are another place where you can often find inexpensive binders. You can also try asking around for a hand-me-down binder on one of the mailing lists for trans folks or check out LiveJournal’s FTM Garage Sale and the FtM Sales, Swap, and Support group on Facebook
If you still remember your old bra size, you can find out your binder size by using the ‘Bra to Chest Size Converter Tool’. If you don’t know your old bra size, you can measure yourself the old-fashioned way:
Essentially, there are two types of binders: short ones and long ones. The short ones end right at your waist. The downside of these is that if you carry some extra weight, short binders tend to roll up and act more like a bra. The long ones can be pulled down past your waist by several inches, however it’s inevitable that it will still roll up. To reduce the chances of this, wear a belt. Choosing between a short and long binder has more to do with your body type, specifically your abdomen, and not your chest size.
Lastly, consider the location of the company you’re buying from. Buying from a company that’s closer to you can save you a significant amount of money on shipping costs.
There are 2 methods, over the head (like putting on a tank top) or stepping into the binder and pulling it over your hips and through your arms. When a binder is new it can be very tight and hard to put on, for this reason some folks (especially those with limited upper body strength or mobility challenges) suggest to step into the binder the first few times.
Others say to not step into it and use the overhead method instead as the stepping in method can stretch the binder out (since it goes over the hips) and the integrity of the elasticity can be lost hence making the binder less effective. Below are instructions on how to step into a binder and we also encourage you to explore YouTube videos from community members that also explain the over the head method. How one choses to put on a binder is that of personal preference and sometimes physical ability, always measure your chest and pick the binder size a company suggests based off of your measurements.
How to step into a binder
It might seem silly, but you’re probably going to need some help figuring out how to put on your new binder, particularly if you purchased one of the longer styles.
You’re basically pushing your nipple toward your armpit to achieve the flattest looking chest possible. Youtube is also a great resource if you’re more of a visual person.
Because most binding methods involve tight compression of chest tissue, binding can sometimes result in pain, discomfort and physical restrictions. If the binding material you are using doesn’t breathe well, it can also create sores, rashes or other skin irritation.
When binding, you should always use common sense. If binding hurts, causes difficulty breathing or cuts into your skin, it’s too tight or you’re using the wrong material. It’s also important to keep in mind that strong pressure around the chest and back can cause changes to normal spine alignment, which may result in chronic pain. Constricting the chest tissue can also cause permanent damage, which will alter their final shape.
If you choose to bind, remember to give your chest a break here and there to breathe and relieve some of the aches and pains commonly associated with regular binding.
There is no evidence to suggest that chest binding increases the risk of breast cancer. Whether you choose to bind or not, you should always be concerned about the health of your chest tissue. Unless you initiate testosterone therapy or undergo FTM/N chest reconstruction surgery, you maintain the same risk for breast cancer. Even after FTM/N top surgery, you still have a small risk of developing breast cancer. Performing monthly self-chest exams and undergoing recommended mammograms with your physician are the two best ways to detect cancer early. If you have concerns regarding chest tissue health or chest binding, discuss them with your primary care physician.
Generally speaking, binding will not cause problems with your surgical plan. Binding over a long period of time can alter your skin’s natural elasticity, which may have some minor effects on your final cosmetic results. Dr. Mosser will be able to help you formulate realistic surgical expectations following a consultation. If your current method of chest binding has caused skin breakdown (sores), you will need to wait until these sores have healed properly before undergoing FTM/N chest reconstruction surgery.
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