Having experienced some problems with binding recently, I figured it might be worth sharing some thoughts, resources etc. on binding safely and some things we can do to reduce risks and help with any issues we may bump into... For anyone who isn't aware of the term, binding is basically when afab (assigned female at birth) people use what they can to make their chest appear flat.
So a couple of things which are commonly known to be unsafe for binding are duct tape and ace bandages (or any bandages for that matter). Another one I learned is not a good method is using one of those physio back braces to bind... Your ribs need to be able to comfortably expand obviously along with your lungs, so that'd be another potentially dangerous example. The reasons being that these methods can restrict movement and breathing, which in some cases can cause inflamed/deformed/broken ribs (can lead to punctured/collapsed lungs) and fluid build-up in the lungs (all of which can be lethal), as well as other long term health issues such as chronic pain due to changes in spine alignment. It's also worth noting that unsafe binding may cause complications later on with top surgery (if that is something you wish to undergo). There have been a few rather horrific images floating around the internet of the results of unsafe binding, pleeease don't do it.
Some examples of safer methods for binding would be using a proper binder, layering clothing (not so safe in hot weather of course), wearing a sports bra (or two, one on backwards). I've noticed quite a few people with very small chests now use KT tape which I believe is safe as long as it's not being wrapped right around as you may with ace bandages or duct tape. There is a fair bit online showing how different clothing can give the illusion of a flatter chest even without binding. I hope it goes without saying, but binding over another binder or other compression is not safe.
Binders can be expensive and difficult to get hold of particularly if you're younger. There are however several free binder schemes (I'll list a few below - if you're struggling to find a scheme which would deliver to your country let me know and I'll have a poke around) and now and again you can find giveaways online too.
Risks - What To Look Out For
Pain (back, shoulders, ribs, spine, or chest)
Increased pain or pressure with deep breaths
Shortness/Loss of breath
Skin problems - Rashes, chafing, sores
(Over a long time, binding can cause skin to lose elasticity which can impact surgery results)
Lowering Risk Whilst Binding
Make sure your binder is the correct size. It may be tempting to get a size smaller but doing so will likely cause problems - if you're able to get it on that is - remember they're designed to compress so your size will be the right size.
Try not to wear your binder for more than 8 hours at a time (I know this can be unavoidable with work or school... If there are any days/weekend where you're able to stay at home and give your body a break that's great - any chance you get really)
Be aware with physical activity that you dont overexert yourself - It's not uncommon for us to want to disconnect from our bodies and ignore what's there, but try to pay attention to how your upper body is feeling and whether you're experiencing any increased difficulty breathing (particularly those who already suffer from asthma or other breathing conditions)
Do not sleep in your binder (again I realise there can be times where it seems unavoidable, but if you think there's any chance of being in that position, try to carry around an oversized hoodie or something which you could feel comfortably sleeping in instead)
Keep well hydrated (I know this also can be one of those things we avoid when going out because many won't want to risk having to use a public toilet... There is an app available called RefugeRestrooms where you can find gender neutral toilets)
You may want to wear a tshirt underneath to avoid any skin irritation, talcum powder or cornstarch can also help with this. Any irritation you do experience should be kept thoroughly cleaned to aid healing. Note that redness/bleeding is a sign that the binder is too tight.
If using a proper binder is something you're new to, there are tutorials on YouTube on how to get into one as it can be a challenge for some people to begin with, finding that they get stuck which of course could lead to panic attacks and pulled muscles.
Do Not Ignore PainThe 'no pain, no gain' thing doesn't apply here. Binding shouldn't hurt - it may not be comfortable but it shouldn't be painful. If you're experiencing pain from binding, get somewhere you can take it of and use layering for a while instead as quickly as possible. Of course if the pain doesn't subside or if you're experiencing breathing problems, it's important to go and see a doctor.
If you're interested in Yoga then doing that before putting on your binder and again after you've taken it off (may also help with spine alignment)