These days, few women in Hong Kong would go through childbirth without first securing her pui yuet, or confinement nanny, and book in a few sessions of belly-binding. But turn the clock back a decade and you’ll find that postpartum health wasn’t anything like it is today. Mums back then were expected to bounce right back and care for her baby – any changes, physical or mental, were to be accepted as part of the motherhood journey, no questions asked.
Karen Loke, a mum of three, remembers the challenges of being a first-time mother well. “I was affected by how my figure changed after my first child,” she says. “Being a first-time mum, I devoted a lot of time and attention to my baby’s well-being. I wouldn’t say I neglected my own, but I didn’t think much about how being a size or two bigger could lower my self-image and how I felt about myself.”
Family and friends told her that her body will never be the same again and that she should be happy with her new body, but this all changed when Loke discovered belly-binding, and successfully got her body back again after her third pregnancy.
Ecstatic, Loke thought that if she could help herself regain her figure and confidence, then she could also help others. That one thought set her off on the journey to start Restoring Mums, offering wellness treatments and belly-binding to new mothers to help them restore and recover during their postpartum weeks.
Name: Karen Loke
Profession: Director, Chief Restoration & Women Wellness Engineer, Wellness Product Formulator
Industry: Women Wellness
Company size: 12
Startup since: 2011
Do you think women prioritise postpartum care more so now than when you first started Restoring Mums?
Yes and no, actually. Postpartum care service definitely broadened than a decade ago, but I feel the focus is more on beauty and appearance than wellbeing. We serve a lot of executive mums, and we often see how work expectations and chores have taken over the priority of caring for their postpartum healing. To me, postpartum wellness goes beyond having good soups and nutrition; we as mums need to carve the time out for rest and recuperation for our bodies and mind. We can’t fully recover if our minds are too busy and not switched off. That is also a reason why we bring our services to the homes of mums, so they don’t need to travel out of their homes. We hope that giving that hour of highly relaxing massage could put them at ease with their body and have them switch off an hour from their hectic day to have their body pampered and mind restored.
Do you see a lot of mothers who find it difficult to have me-time after childbirth or to lose confidence in their own body changes? Is Restoring Mums able to help them restore their well-being and sense of confidence?
That is the exact mission of Restoring Mums – to restore body confidence after their childbirth journey through restoring body and wellness. Hundreds of mums have given testimony of the efficacy of the service, and we have restored thousands of them. The daily slimum Treatment aims to optimise healing during this period, supporting the recovery of the body shape within the 2-4 weeks of treatment vs months of recovery for some mums.
Are there different kinds of belly binding? Has the wrapping style and treatments by Restoring Mums evolved from the traditional method in any way?
Yes definitely. Belly binding is an old art, and my inspiration came from the traditional Malay abdominal binding used during postpartum to reshape a woman’s body after childbirth. The Malays believe that a woman’s beauty should be preserved after childbirth and she should be “more beautiful than a virgin” – this is a Malay saying. However, the belly-binding tradition is passed down from generation to generation through apprentices and not much was documented or researched. Being an engineer by training and a perfectionist by nature, I went on a journey of learning and research to piece together the effects of belly binding and the anatomy of a woman’s body, perfecting the skills safely to optimise the reshaping results.
Belly binding is currently very famous in Hong Kong since I introduced it in Hong Kong 11 years ago in 2011. The original purpose of this culture, however, has been deviated to focus solely on reshaping but neglecting the safety of incorrect binding could affect the integrity of a woman’s pelvis, causing prolapse of the pelvic organs and incontinence. I’ve heard how doctors and physiotherapists have advised against belly binding due to the adverse effects and harm it may cause. A word of advice to mums is if you feel some heaviness in your perineum or a bulge coming down your vagina, do remove the binder immediately.
How can pregnant women and new mothers prolong their sense of well-being and continue to take care of themselves post-treatment with Restoring Mums?
We have a new repertoire of restorative Wellness Treatment that is able to give all Women and Mums the needed me-time to support the wellness of the entire physique, including focusing on two often neglected, important female organs the breast and the womb.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
Yes, after being a mum, I wanted more flexibility in terms of managing my career and home, and I thought I could achieve that by having my own business but 10 years down the journey, I was totally wrong! Being an entrepreneur definitely has demanded more time and dedication than I expected.
What are some do’s and don’ts of starting your own company? What have you learned along the way?
Take every small win and accomplishment to propel you; there will be tonnes of challenges and difficulties along the way that will drag you down. Don’t put weight on the negatives; blow up the positives that happen along the way. Always find something to be grateful for.
As a working mom, what are the biggest challenges you face while growing your company?
The biggest challenge has been managing time between work and being a mum to support each of my children’s individual needs, growth, and well-being. Mum’s guilt and comparison have often crept in. The real challenge for me really is having to constantly stay focused amidst the pressure, understand my own limitations, and stay on course.
What’s in the works currently?
We’re working to introduce our quality and effective range of products used for our treatment in the retail sector to make it available to more women. We’re also expanding our programme with a new treatment to target specific women’s issues such as period pain, breast hyperplasia, deflated and sagging breasts, insomnia, migraine, brick back and facial contouring as well. Lastly, we’re hoping to collaborate with 5-star hotels in offering our range of products in their spas.