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Non-Binary, Trans*

Things I Wish I Knew Before Wearing a Binder for the First Time

Jump straight to what you want (there’s a lot!):

Binder: a compression garment designed to minimize the appearance of breasts. Otherwise known as Boobies-be-Gone! 

There are tons of different binders out there, each offering its own chest-flattening technique. However, before you pick up any binder, there are some things you need to know.

Measure appropriately

I’m gonna be honest, I never measured my bra size before binding. I only wore sports bras so I was like…yeah I don’t need to measure these titties.

But I messed up measuring these and had to return my improperly sized binder. I got a size too small and it screwed me up (as you’ll see in a little bit).

(To find your right size, check out GC2B’s advice.) 

Getting my first (crappy) binder

I’m not going to tell you the brand of this binder, because it’s honestly not the best and I don’t want to give more support to this company. Plus it was way more expensive than the best binders on the market–it was $60! But it was the kind with a zipper on the front, so I thought putting it on and off would be a breeze.

Well, yeah, it was. Until I immediately couldn’t breathe.

I just thought that was normal. It’s a binder, after all, it constricts your chest. Duh. But this wasn’t normal, I soon realized. I had to lay down. I closed my eyes. I felt very tired all of a sudden, like I wanted to take… a quick nap…

But I bolted right up and took my binder off. My back hurt like hell. I imagined a hand crunching my spine like a water bottle. I had to lay down again. It was like the air had been let out of a balloon, and I had to wait for it to refill.

So yeah, I returned that binder and got my money back. I decided to go for the brand that most people recommend–GC2B

Getting my second (much better) binder

The day had come. I damn near ran to my mailbox to pull out a nondescript white package. As I ran back to my room, I quickly opened up the packaged and pulled out my black half-tunic from GC2B. It looked glorious as I held it up in front of me. The front looked almost like spandex but was made from a different material. The back was more mesh than the front, but not by much. The material felt smooth against my hands.

I stripped to my pants and raised the binder above my head. It was harder to stretch than I thought. Usually when I put on a sports bra I have to stretch out the band to put my arms through, but the binder almost felt like a thick elastic band. But, though stiff, I could thread my arms through the arm holes and lower it over my breasts.

My god, it felt amazing. A long lost giddiness rose up from some buried place in my brain. I smiled at my mirror, turning this way and that. I put on a dark gray men’s polo shirt.

“They’re gone,” I thought. “They’re really gone.”

I ran my hands over my chest. Rolling hills rather than mountains. I felt alert, positive, and refreshed for the rest of the day.

That’s my binding story. I’ve had my binder for about 6 months as of writing this article, and the euphoria I get is still as strong as the day I first put my binder on. I love it.

Moral of the story: get a binder from a reputable binder manufacturer.

But there are some things I learned along the way, and things I want to impart on you before you wear yours for the first time. 

Getting a binder on sucks

Especially the first time you do it. It’s a lot less stretchy than any sports bra you’ve had, so pulling it down over your body takes some practice. I haven’t had lots of issues getting on my binder, though, except sometimes it gets tangled up in the back.

If your binder gives you trouble, though, there’s another method to pull it on.

Alternative way to put on a binder:

    • Flip the binder inside out and upside down.
    • Step into it like a pantless pair of shorts.
    • Pull it up over your hips.
    • Put your arms through the armholes.
  • Adjust the boobs as needed.

While the last tip sounds easy, I’ve learned that boob placement is actually much more complicated than I thought–especially when it comes to the nipples. 

Consider the nips

Yeah, I never really thought of nipple placement when I read all the stuff on binding, and I haven’t come across many people talking about it. But I realized that nipple placement is crucial.

I have relatively large breasts (about a C-D cup, I can never remember) so there’s a lot of boob to move around. I found that there were roughly two positions you can place your breasts in the binder, each with dis/advantages.

    1. Nipples straight in front. So essentially the binder creates a wall that squishes your boobs back. Though this is the most comfortable (for me), it also makes my chest look bigger since more breast tissue is going up and to the sides. However, from my experience this is also the best way to slow down the boob sagging process.
  1. Nipples pointing down. My boobs feel like they were being tugged on, which exacerbated my sagging worries. However, this also made my chest look much flatter than nipples straight in front.

Either method is acceptable. No matter what my chest is flattened. If I wear the right shirt, my breasts just look like pecs and I’m good to go. Just, compared to the rest of me, I’ve only been doing chest exercises since the day I was born.

Expect feeling woozy 

I’m a sensitive person to bodily changes in general, prone to hypochondria, and have low blood pressure. Changes in circulation freak me out, but I still bought a binder to relieve my chest dysphoria. You better believe I’m going to tough it out.

I’d say the first 4-5 times wearing the binder will be the worst. This is how long it took me to stretch it out to the width of my body.

Things I noticed initially:

    • Minor sleepiness. I felt slightly drowsy when I first put on my binder. I’m normally not a tired person (the beat of my circadian rhythm plays strong), so when I wanted to take a nap at 7pm I knew it resulted from my binder.
    • You need to stand up straight. I was very aware of my spine between my shoulder blades. I’m a natural sloucher, but I had to cut that shit out whenever I wore my binder.
    • You may need to adjust your boobs.
  • Expect finding subtle ways to scratch your nipples. They’re not used to binding and neither are you.

That’s pretty normal. Once I broke my binder in it was the most comfortable thing I can wear. I don’t even get back pain after wearing it for 6-8 hours like I did before, so that’s good. I still wear mine for the proper amount of time though! 

Signs of danger/when to get a bigger binder

    • If you feel the need to lie down or take a nap immediately after putting on the binder. That means it’s too tight and you’re slowly passing out.
    • If you feel cutting in your armpits, clavicle, or sides. The binder is too tight or probably poorly made (stitching-wise).
    • If you can’t breathe/can only take shallow breaths.
    • Pain/aches in your ribs
    • Back pain. Note, there’s a difference between back discomfort and actual pain, but you’re the judge of that.
  • If you feel an immediate drop in blood-pressure standing up.

When to know to get a smaller binder (according to GC2B)

    • You have to readjust your binder often
    • Your binder doesn’t lay flush to the bottom of your chest
    • There are large gaps around your armpits/shoulders
  • Your binder fits like a regular tank top/doesn’t bind 

Things to expect in the long-term 

You’ve broken in your binder and things are sailing smoothly. What will the future hold?

Your boobs will sag

Why? Because breasts are composed of skin, mammary glands, adipose tissue, and Cooper’s ligaments (ligaments structurally supporting a breast). Binding compresses the breast, augmenting the skin’s natural elasticity or the supporting ligaments. I and many other people who bind noticed breast sagging over time. Binding has not been shown to affect the results of top surgery per-se, but sagging skin caused by binding can cause cosmetic issues, according to gender confirmation surgeon Dr. Mosser’s website.

Potential spine misalignment

Such compression against your rib cage can reshape the spine. Remember that waterbottle-crushey feeling I had when I first wore my binder? That was direct pain caused by spine misalignment. Luckily when you take off the binder the body corrects itself and pain subsides, but long-term use can lead to permanent spine damage. This is why proper posture when wearing a binder not only alleviates discomfort while you’re wearing the binder but minimized future spine damage.

Cuts, rashes, and sores, oh nore! (If you’re Australian)

If your binder isn’t made of the proper material (eg, it isn’t breathable, it’s too tight), you risk the binder cutting your skin or stopping airflow to your skin. Both of these will be irritating and prevent further binding until your skin heals (because, say it with me, you should let your skin heal and not continue binding). If you have a well-fitted, breathable binder then such cuts, rashes, and sores will be minimized. However, many people report increased back acne (bacne, as they say) when they wear binders, so wash it often!

Being lazy washing your binder

Most binders are hand-wash only as machine washing can stretch out the compression material. Coupled with the fact that binders are made of sensitive material in general, you’ll have to spend quite a bit of time washing your delicate binder by hand. I have definitely put off washing a binder much longer than I had to, and I know my trans friends put off washing theirs too. It’s kinda a thing, unfortunately, but don’t follow our slovenly trend! Wash your binder frequently, every two weeks if you’re not sweating a lot and every few days if you’re a sweaty individual. If you don’t wash your binder, you risk smelling bad, acquiring bacne, and getting rashes.

#1 thing to never do in a binder

Sleep in it. Never sleep in a binder. Nope. Don’t.

When you fall asleep, you take shallow breaths. Your binder, as you know, constricts your chest, so your unconscious body might not inhale enough oxygen if you wear your binder to sleep.

Not only this, but your body unconsciously shifts in your sleep. You can lie for hours in a position that harms your spine, ribs, neck, etc.

All this can lead to permanent bodily damage. Brain or muscle damage from asphyxia, skeletal damage from laying in a terrible position while your chest is compressed. So yeah, don’t bind in bed.

However, if you have such bad dysphoria that you require some compression while you sleep, the safest option is a sports bra. It’s designed to let your chest expand and not affect your spine as much.

If possible, though, it’s best to not wear any chest-compression garment to bed and let your chest musculature and skeleton expand naturally. 

Other binding tips:

    • Start slow. Don’t expect you’ll be able to wear 8 hours a day on your first day.
  • It’s okay if the binder’s comfortable. A binder doesn’t have to hurt to be effective.
    • Do not wear your binder when you’re moist. After the shower, after exercise, try to put on your binder when your skin is dry.
    • Again, do not machine wash your binder. That will stretch it out and make binding less effective, which defeats the purpose of buying a binder in the first place. Wash all binders by hand.
    • Try not to bind when doing strenuous physical activity. Your ribs need to expand to get the proper amount of oxygen. If you bind, you risk passing out. Get a binder one size up if you want to exercise.
    • Cough after you take off your binder. I’ve heard that helps expand your chest back to normal.
    • If you have asthma, take off your binder as soon as you feel uncomfortable chest constriction.
    • It might be best to keep a sports bra on you at all time, because you’ll randomly get hit with serious back pain or your schedule will get crazy and you’ll have to take off your binder. Don’t risk over-binding, as it can cause serious permanent damage.
  • For me, personally, binder’s keep me warm. This is great when it’s cold outside because I can wear less layers and show off my kickass flat chest. It’s the worst when it’s hot outside, though, so plan your wardrobe accordingly.

Cool videos to check out: 

Kovu

An informative video on how to measure your chest for the binder, how to put on the video, and more. Best of all, Kovu time-stamped the video to make it easier to get to what you want. Check them out!

Sam Collins

 Sam Collins is one of the most famous transguys on YouTube. He’s fully transitioned and shares his general tips on how to bind.

Christy Mathers

Tips to bind if you have a larger chest. Lots of videos are aimed for people with naturally small breasts (if only we were that lucky). But Christy offers great advice for people with large chest.

Makayla Love

Makayla opens up about how they improperly binded when they were younger (about 14-16), using the extremely dangerous and damaging method of ace bandages and duct tape. If you use a proper compression garment to bind you shouldn’t have the issues Makayla describes, but I’m putting this here to remind you that, yes, there are risks to binding and, yes, you really can hurt yourself.

Makayla does a great job describing their experience and reminding their viewers how stupid they were for doing what they did. They cracked a rib from just coughing due to poor binding practices. So yeah, bind properly folks.

Summary:

  • Measure appropriately.
  • Get a binder from a reputable company (like GC2B or Underworks).
  • Consider nipple placement when you wear your binder.
  • Expect circulation and breathing changes, as well as initial back pain.
  • Your boobs will sag when you bind. Sorry about it.
  • Your spine will misalign if you bind for too long/improperly.
  • Cuts, rashes, and sores can happen if your binder is too small, you don’t wash your binder, bind while your skin is moist, etc.
  • Never sleeps in a binder. Never. Don’t do it. Ever.
  • Check out the above binding tips ’cause there’s a lot.

Thanks for reading. Check out the other articles on this site if you’d like.

I appreciate you!

-MK

2 Comments

  1. Very good information can be found on web site. “Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.” by Donald Robert Perry Marquis.

  2. cj

    thank you. I’m about to get my first binder and. I’m super scared. I’m afraid about a lot of things but. even if its just for now, you put me at ease. and that bit that said say it with me. yeah I said it. I’m Australian like you said and its gonna get so hot in it I can tell already. but anyway, thank you. for doing this. for putting my mind at ease.

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