Did you use special postpartum girdles, binder, or other postpartum corsets in an effort to get back to your pre-pregnancy shape such as the Belly Bandit or Bellefit? Would you consider one? This is my story (and a Bellefit corset review, pictured). (Affiliate link)
In an open thread a few weeks ago, people were talking about weight loss after baby, and many women noted that their bodies never quite returned to their old shape, even if they got back to their pre-baby weight. Some women guessed it had to do with the way your ligaments stretch during pregnancy and then resettle. During the discussion, I mentioned my dirty little secret after pregnancy number 2: I’ve been wearing a postpartum corset 24-7 since H (my newborn) was about a week or two old. I’m a bit embarrassed about this — this sounds pretty desperate/extreme even to me, along with a bit of “if only it were that simple….” wishful thinking. I should note up front that I obviously don’t know one way or another if the corset worked to whittle my waistline because a) every pregnancy is different, b) I gained less weight with H than I did with my firstborn (J), c) I was more active during the pregnancy, d) I’m at a lower weight postpartum than I was at any time after J, and e), I’d never before been as heavy as I was after J, so any lack of a waistline back then could just have been, well, the way my body is at that weight. Still, I like my corsets and am happy I’ve purchased them and made the effort, so I thought I’d share my story.
Part I: Considering (and Dismissing) Belly Binding After Baby #1
When I was pregnant with my first son J (now 3), a lot of my fashionista friends told me that they wore postpartum girdles following the pregnancy to try to get their shapes back. I knew that postpartum belly-wrapping was an old tradition around the world, and obviously there’s been a lot in the news about Jessica Alba wearing double corsets post-pregnancy and Kourtney Kardashian using the Belly Bandit. Still, after having J, I took one look at the bands and the girdles and said, What am I, crazy? I just had a baby! I should be gentle with myself. The weight will come off when it comes off. Slow and steady wins the game!
Except the weight didn’t come off… and I never got back my hourglass figure. I came out of my pregnancy with J (who just turned 3) with about 10 extra pounds, putting me at my highest weight ever — and in the midst of sleep training and other stress I managed to put on ANOTHER 10 pounds. Awesome. All attempts to lose the weight failed, and the pounds settled around my middle. Combined with my breastfeeding bosom, I felt … well, horrible. I’ve been everywhere from a size 2 to a size 14 in my non-mom life, but the one thing I could always count on was that I had a fairly small waist in proportion to my hips and bust. But after J? Straight. Appled, even. No matter what kind of Spanx I wore — no matter what SIZE of Spanx I wore — I never got my waistline back.
Now, obviously, I don’t know if that’s just what my body looks like at that weight, and the baby and pregnancy had nothing to do with (what felt like) my new linebacker physique. Still, I regretted that “be gentle” mentality I’d had in those postpartum months. My uterus had grown, and my organs had shifted for the baby — and, as everyone knows is true with apartments and houses, stuff expands to fill the space allotted. I wondered: because I hadn’t used a binder or corset to force my uterus and other organs back into place post-baby, were they luxuriating in their new sprawling, spacious quarters? Had I missed my chance to use the relaxin and other postpartum hormones to squoosh things back into place?
Researching Postpartum Girdles While Pregnant With Baby #2
So: when I found out I was pregnant with H, I decided to commit this time — postpartum corsets for the win! Although a lot of people (including major magazines) dismissed Jessica Alba’s “corset diet” as bunk, they seemed to miss the fairly major fact that the postpartum body is different, both because the organs will be resettling after the baby vacates, and you have special hormones coursing through your body to help your body resettle. (I don’t know her, obviously, but I’m pretty sure Alba wasn’t wearing the steel corset mentioned in the Women’s Health article. This Daily Mail article at least ponders it as a postpartum issue.) I did a bit of research and settled on the Bellefit corset, ordering it around week 39 in pregnancy from Amazon, and figuring I could try it and still return it if I didn’t like it. From the FAQ section of the website:
Women’s bodies are built to bounce back from pregnancy and childbirth, but the reality is it can be difficult to “bounce back” and return to pre-pregnancy shape without help. During pregnancy hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and relaxin remain in the body after childbirth for approximately six months. These hormones are our body’s way of loosening the abdominal muscles and facilitate the stretching of the abdominal area by as much as 50%, while baby’s grow. They also act to loosen the pelvic structure and support joints and ligaments to prepare for childbirth.
The compression garment works by drawing in stretched muscles providing a 360° support structure around the torso, thus, reducing strain on ligaments and joints in the lower back, pelvis, and buttocks. Reducing stress in these areas enhances your body’s ability to return to its pre-pregnancy alignment, shape and lose the post baby tummy. As shifted and constrained organs return to their pre-pregnancy locations during the first few weeks after c-section or natural birth, Bellefit® girdles hold you in place allowing movement with complete confidence.
At $105, it wasn’t a totally frivolous purchase, but I reasoned that not having the regret a second time (and wondering if I couldn’t have forced my waistline smaller) was worth $105 to me in and of itself. (They have a few different kinds of corsets — some zip, some pull up. I took the quiz on the Bellefit site and decided to buy the corset with the hooks, pictured above.)
My doctor and I talked about my intention to wear the corset for vanity purposes — I’ve never had a blood clot, but I do have a gene that increases my risk of blood clots, discovered through 23andMe and verified through a blood test with a hematologist. Your general risk of clotting is fairly large in the first 6-8 weeks postpartum, so I wanted to make sure wearing a corset wouldn’t somehow exacerbate that situation. (My husband got to give me daily shots of a special anti-clotting drug called Lovenox for my first 8 weeks postpartum, but that’s another story entirely.) Regarding the corset, while my doctor was careful not to comment, encourage, or judge, she did suggest that I ask the nurse for a C-section belly wrap to wear at the hospital. (The Bellefit corset instructs you to first put it on when you’re leaving the hospital, so I liked the idea of getting the process started even sooner than that. I also liked the fact that the C-section binder was something given to me at the hospital — in my own mind it made the whole endeavor seem less vain and desperate, and more like wearing a support garment to help my healing process.)
The C-Section Belly Wrap (The OG Belly Bandit)
SO: A few hours after delivery (I was serious about this ish), I asked the nurse for a C-section binder, confiding in her that I was willing to try anything to get my waistline back. (I had a vaginal delivery, not a C-section.) She also didn’t comment, encourage, or judge, but quickly brought me a bright white velcro wrap (similar to this). She left, and I put it on, half expecting myself to IMMEDIATELY abandon all plans for my postpartum girdle wearing — I was grouchy and experiencing those normal postpartum aches and pains already; was I crazy to add more discomfort to my life?
Now here’s the weird part: I didn’t hate the belly binder. I kind of liked it — it felt supportive and made my middle feel less… empty, I suppose. I decided to keep wearing it. When we left the hospital I tried the Bellefit corset on, but neglected to read the instructions (you’re supposed to lie down to wiggle into it) — I could only fasten a few of the hooks. I kept it on for about 30 minutes while packing up the hospital room, and then abandoned it in favor of the C-section binder. The nurses nicely gave me a second binder in my “goody bag” when I left the hospital, and I alternated between the two for about a week or two postpartum before I tried the corset again.
Fun With the Bellefit: My Bellefit Corset Review
Here’s a bit of backstory on me: I’ve worn a lot of girdles over my life. A lot of Spanx, a lot of control-top pantyhose… even those longline corset-type bras were in my regular rotation back in high school (we had totally gaudy dresses that we had to wear for a capella choir that dipped too low in the back for a regular bra). So I can say with some authority that the Bellefit corset is different than a lot of these. (And SO MUCH more comfortable than the C-section binder with its itchy velcro.) It’s tighter, for sure, which I attribute to the “medical grade compression”… but also weirdly comfortable? I really have been wearing it around the clock with very little complaint for months now; I can’t imagine having done the same with a regular girdle. I undo the bottom hooks for sleep, and I take it off to shower and for the rare aerobics workout, but as of now, I’ve been wearing it pretty much 24×7. In the beginning I tried alternating regular Spanx when my Bellefit was being washed, and there is no comparison between the two — the Spanx felt totally loosey goosey. I now have two Bellefit corsets — I wear the size L on the tightest hooks and the size M on the loosest hooks. I’ve totally ignored directions to handwash them and have been throwing them in a lingerie bag with our regular wash, and hanging them to dry.
My Results with Postpartum Belly Binding
Now, another few caveats here: the pregnancy with H was different than with J — I only gained 20 lbs. total (whereas with J it had been more like 35 lbs.), and I lost about 12 lbs in the first trimester, due to catching two stomach bugs and numerous colds (yay daycare germs!). About a week after my 10-lb baby was born, I weighed pretty much the exact same weight I’d been coming out of my pregnancy with J. I’ve continued to lose a few more pounds, putting me at my lowest weight since J was born, and back into territory that, while not friendly, is at least familiar to my body during my heaviest pre-mom years (yay law school).
So the big question I’m sure you’re wondering: did it work? It’s a bit too early to say. When I take the corset off my waist is crazy small. Like, I haven’t seen it that small in a THOUSAND years, and it makes me so happy to see it small(ish) again. But: if I leave the corset off for a few hours, my waist seems to expand again. Does it expand as far as it would have if I hadn’t worn the corset? I don’t know. Is the perceived smaller waistline just what my body looks like at this weight (about 18 pounds lighter than my heaviest weight post-J)? Or maybe, am I giving myself back my squooshability — that ability to command a smaller, defined waistline if I squoosh it with Spanx or another girdle? Or: maybe it’s all in my mind, and there is no difference? I fully admit that maybe I’m completely bonkers. I also partly wonder if wearing the postpartum girdles merely helped speed me along to wherever my body was going to settle anyway.
In terms of stretchmarks and that lovely deflated balloon look to a postpartum belly — the situation is very similar to what it was after J was born, so I don’t think the corset has had any effect on that at all. (For me the situation is that my upper belly is about as flat and smooth as it ever was, and not too marred by stretch marks, but below the belly-button it’s, well, deflated balloon. With the stretch marks — as with my first pregnancy I’ve been applying Vitamin E (Palmer’s Oil) after showers to my belly, which may or may not be helping. (I started doing it after J because the few stretch marks I had were fairly itchy. While I was pregnant with H I started applying it after showers because my skin was so dry that I could feel stretch marks forming (I’d feel a random itchy/burning sensation one day and look down later that day to see a new stretch mark), and I kept up the habit after he was born.)
Can you see it through clothes? Yes… but if the corset is the only thing stopping you from wearing skin-tight shirts and dresses, then you’re in better shape than I am. I feel fine wearing slightly loose (but still fitted) tops around town.
Isn’t it sweaty and gross? Fortunately we’ve had a really mild summer here in NYC, with temperatures barely above 85 degrees, so it hasn’t felt too gross at all. (The Bellefit website notes that it’s microporous and designed to be breathable. Some of the other products on the market do seem to encourage sweating.) H somehow manages to get breastmilk all over the corset a lot of the time, but if I’m proactive and put a burp cloth beneath his head and up my belly it prevents it.
Are your hips smaller? I haven’t focused on that as a goal. They feel normal now, but they felt normal after my first pregnancy also. Bellefit notes that its focus is on abdominal compression, and some women like to combine it with other products in the market to get direct hip compression.
When are you going to stop wearing it? Hmmn. I don’t know, to be honest. Bellefit suggests women wear it anywhere from one week to six months postpartum. As I write this H is almost 12 weeks old, and it feels like it may be time to stop wearing it soon (or at least transition to more commercial products like the slimming nursing tanks from Bellefit, Yummie Tummie, Belly Bandit, or Undercover Mama (affiliate links). My memory after J is that it took about nine months total for my body to really feel like it had pre-pregnancy (minus the waistline), so I may try to stick it out until the six month mark. At this point, I think I’ll stop when it bugs me — but we haven’t hit that point yet.
TL;DR / Executive Summary
I don’t regret wearing my Bellefit corset 24×7 in the 12 weeks following H’s birth — it was comfortable, supportive, and I feel like it did help me get some of my waistline back. I don’t have any hard evidence, though, and I suspect that genetics may play a role here, so, as with everything: your mileage may vary.
Readers, share your stories — did you use postpartum girdles of any sort, and did you feel like they worked? Does anyone have any family secrets to share for how you got your body back to pre-pregnancy shape?
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