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Postpartum Belly Binders: Help or Hype?

Aug03

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Belly Bandit

Advice Smackdown ArchivesHi Amy,

I’ve got another one for you. You’d mentioned you were considering belly binding this time around. I have a scheduled c-section in three weeks and am considering doing it, too. I’ve heard about the benefits not only for waist reduction, but for healing and incision support in the days following the procedure. There are several products out on the market for this and any experience you can share would be helpful.

Where I live abroad only the Belly Bandit has been easy to find, so I’m considering buying one or more comparable products from the US and having them shipped here. Sizing seems rather complicated as I’m already very pregnant and although I haven’t put on a lot of weight, have no idea what my size will be once the kiddo is out.

Tips? Suggestions? Any would be great!

Thanks!
Megan

Yes, after some brief consideration, I did indeed do the whole postpartum belly binding thing. And honestly, I am kicking myself for not doing it before.

I recovered from my first c-section (emergency) pretty easily — or else I’ve simply blocked out any specific memories of being in pain. My recovery from my second (which was scheduled) was much, much harder. Like, seared into my brain harder. I couldn’t get in and out of bed without crazy intense pain, or up and off the couch. I caught a cold and later a sinus infection and would literally sob after every cough and sneeze while ineffectively trying to split my incision and ab muscles with a pillow. (That was my hospital’s suggestion. Blah.)

And on a completely vain, superficial note, I struggled mightily BOTH times with how very pregnant I looked for several weeks after giving birth. I couldn’t fit into my regular clothes and my now-empty belly had the look and feel of a mound of uncooked bread dough. I know, I know — we’ve all gone bonkers with the HOW I LOST THE BABY WEIGHT AND THEN SOME HERE I AM IN A BIKINI ON THE COVER OF US WEEKLY THREE DAYS LATER celebrity mom culture, but the fact is that I really did feel quite unhappy with how I looked, as completely unrealistic as I was being. But when you’re so newly postpartum and emotional and weepy already — I think you get a pass. And the right to do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel a little better.

And for me, wrapping my midsection up in a fancy combo of elastic and velcro helped. A lot, actually.

I bought two binders (oh fine, GIRDLES): One expensive one — the Belly Bandit BFF for $79 online, and a cheaper one — a basic Medela Postpartum Support band for $19.99 at the local Big Box Baby Store. (I got two mostly for compare/contrast purposes as I JUST KNEW I would get asked to talk about them online, JUST A HUNCH, but also so I could have a back-up while washing and air-drying the other.) I measured my belly circumference in the eighth month as recommended for the Bandit and was at the very, very top of the range for the small size, but went with that rather than the next size up. I bought the Medela in the Small/Medium size, guessing at that one kind of blindly. (Pre-pregnancy, for reference, I buy clothes in small or size 4/6. So if you are still confused after measuring your belly, you may want to use your pre-pregnancy size for extra guidance.)

I did not, as the product instructions suggested, put one on the very day of giving birth. Mostly because the nurses at the hospital came by routinely to check my belly and I felt…kinda silly at the thought of having to take off mah girdle in order for them to do so. I put on the Belly Bandit the day I was released, once I got dressed in my own clothes to go home. I just BARELY was able to get it on, but I could, by laying on top of it in bed and sucking in and pulling it closed.

And honestly, I was SHOCKED at what a difference in made for my poor traumatized ab muscles. Rather than feeling like I was wearing some kind of medieval torture garment, I felt actually comfortable for the first time, with my skin and muscles pulled back in to something sort of resembling their original position. I could sit down and stand up! I could cough! Move around! Oh, glory be.

I wore the Bandit 24 hours a day from then on. Here I am the day after being discharged, at five days postpartum. You can see the outline of the band since my shirt is kinda flimsy, but I am wearing (slightly generously roomy) non-maternity clothing.

I tried out the Medela when the Bandit needed to be washed, and…yeah. Not so much luck with this one. After the Bandit, the Medela didn’t feel nearly as tight and binding, and there wasn’t enough velcro for me to be able to bind tightly and not have a lot of extra inches of the band just sort of…hanging there, with no more velcro to fasten the end to. So it was super extra visible and lumpy under my clothes and tended to slip and slide and move out of place a lot. (It’s made from a weirdly slippery material.) I wore it at night a couple times, but after having the Bandit as a point of reference, there just wasn’t any comparison.

Not that the Belly Bandit BFF is perfect. I actually wish I’d seen these particular reviews at Amazon before purchasing the so-called improved (and more expensive) version of the original Bandit, because I can echo most of those complaints. After a month of heavy wearing, the Bandit BFF developed a slew of very deep creases that could not be undone, even after washing and ironing. Their website claims this is normal and doesn’t affect the product’s compression, but the creases definitely affect the fit. It’s already on the narrow side, and once it “bunched up” permanently from the creases, it became a LOT less comfortable to wear. It now (two months postpartum) hits me in weird places on my torso, creating a slight muffin-top effect under my rib cage and then is too short to adequately cover the full…uh…target poochy area below. The last time I wore it to bed, I woke up with vicious red marks where the edges and seams had bunched up and rubbed me the wrong way. It’s a shame, because I can still get a good binding effect from it, even though I’m at the faaaar end of the velcro, but it just no longer stays put or is possible to wear inconspicuously under most summery clothing.

I don’t regret the purchase — it helped immeasurably with my pain and discomfort from the surgery, and got me back into regular clothing almost immediately. I don’t know if it necessarily helped me get “skinnier” than I would have been without it (I still most definitely have my little perma-pouch), but it at least provided a very much appreciated ILLUSION of being skinnier. (Not gonna lie, taking it off for the first time reminded me waaaay too much of an image of an exploding can of biscuit dough, if you know what I am saying.) But then after a couple days of wear, my stomach really did look better after I took it off — my skin held its shape, my jacked-up belly button was more or less where it was supposed to be, and my stretch marks looked much less noticeable. I felt GREAT in that thing, in more ways than one.

I just wish I could have kept wearing it longer, especially considering the hefty price tag. Hell, I’d love to still be wearing it, even though I’m more than recovered from the surgery. But it’s pretty much back to Spanx for slimming/smoothing purposes at this point. So I guess my experience says: big YES to postpartum girdles after c-sections, no to completely cheaping out on them, but also no to just buying the most expensive option out there too, since these things do have a fairly limited window of use.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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24 Responses to “Postpartum Belly Binders: Help or Hype?”

  1. Vicky Aug 03 at 11:31 am Reply Reply

    I WOKE UP from my c-section already wearing a girdle. I did take painkillers for the first week or so, but I definitely felt that the binding/girdle helped when I laughed, moved, coughed etc. Given my experience of being given a postoperative girdle by the hospital I would check with your Dr or hospital if at all possible to see if that’s likely. I’m in Singapore & gave birth in a fancy pants private hospital (& yes they charged for the girdle), so I concede being given one might not be common.

  2. Angela Aug 03 at 12:08 pm Reply Reply

    I bought a Belly Bandit (standard) in 2008 for after my third baby was born. I got the medium, being in-between the small and medium sizes. I found that after about 2 weeks it was too big…I ended up sewing a couple of 2″ strips of fuzzy velcro onto it to extend the tightening power. I also didn’t have a C-section, so I can’t offer any insight on the incision support value.
    From a vaginal birth perspective:
    It offered good support and overall just made me feel better. It seemed to help with the “my insides are sloshing all over” feeling and reminded my worn out abs what they were supposed to be doing. The back support was great, especially with the tendency to hunch when nursing. I still sometimes wear it to bed if my back is sore, just to improve my sleeping posture.
    A few cons: definitely visible under most clothing…I found that if I tightened it in the front and then spun the velcro portion around to the back it was less noticeable and also increased back support somewhat. My other issue was that it was a bit too tall, I have a short torso and found that if I sat to nurse it would often be right under my boobs. Personally a couple of inches shorter would have worked great. I’ll use it again when baby #4 comes in the spring, but if I were buying one for the first time I might compare the height of several and take my short torso into account.
    Oh, and I was able to use my (very restrictive) FLEX spending money to purchase it, as it fell into the maternity support category.

  3. Amy Aug 03 at 12:51 pm Reply Reply

    I used the Belly Bandit immediately after giving birth until it suddenly became HUGE two weeks later. I then switched to a cheapo Hanes girdle. I LOVED wearing them and really made me feel more supported. My tummy went down quickly, but because I have no point of comparison, I don’t know if it would have done that naturally. 

    With the BB, I say buy a size smaller than the Web site says. I think they fudge the sizing a bit so that you have to buy a smaller one two weeks later. Sneaky bastards. 

  4. Amy Aug 03 at 12:52 pm Reply Reply

    I used the Belly Bandit immediately after giving birth until it suddenly became HUGE two weeks later. I then switched to a cheapo Hanes girdle. I LOVED wearing them and really made me feel more supported. My tummy went down quickly, but because I have no point of comparison, I don’t know if it would have done that naturally. 

    With the BB, I say buy a size smaller than the Web site says. I think they fudge the sizing a bit so that you have to buy a smaller one two weeks later. Sneaky bastards. 

  5. Ginger Aug 03 at 12:53 pm Reply Reply

    I’ll also add that for my c-section, the binder also helped relieve a lot of the lower back pain I had from overcompensating for the missing abs. It bothered my incision a fair amount (but my incision was VERY sensitive for about 6 months–to the point that cotton brushing hurt), but instant back pain relief.

    I hated wearing it, because it was hot, but I felt so much better when I did.

  6. Rachael Aug 03 at 12:59 pm Reply Reply

    That Shape of a Mother website made me really sad. :( Even clicking through and only looking at the C-section photos, it seemed to be mostly moms who want to toot their own horns about their 6 pack abs. Which, hey, good for them! Awesome job! And they’re “real” women too. However, ugh, despair! I’m 17 months post C-section and despite being almost ready to run a half marathon and in better physical condition than I have ever been in my whole life, my body doesn’t LOOK anything close to that. I still look pregnant. Ugh. I must be PMSing like crazy today.

  7. Sarah Aug 03 at 1:01 pm Reply Reply

    I wore one for a while – no C-section, but my abs were really stretched out. It helped. It helped wear clothes that I couldn’t wear otherwise. But yes, it is visible under clothing. I wore mine with the velcro to the side. I’m hoping I can just wear the same one again this time… they are kind of expensive!

  8. Hannah Aug 03 at 3:30 pm Reply Reply

    @Rachael – me too, me too. I’m 16 months post partum and it’s depressing. But, as my mom would say, keep your chins up and keep running. Someday, we won’t be pregnant anymore!

    With respect to the binder, I had a vaginal birth, but still wore the binder for a couple of weeks. It really helped my poor abs support the weight of my HUMONGOUS boobs. Mine was free from the hospital, so I’d see what kind of swag you can score, and then if you want, order one from Amazon (next day shipping – woot!) when you’re in the hospital.

  9. Megan Aug 03 at 5:20 pm Reply Reply

    Wowza, that was a quick response! Thanks, really-truly. I think I’ll go for an original Belly Bandit, especially at the beginning as the velcro seems to make putting it on easier when you’re still dealing with post-surgical pain. I’m pretty sold on the Squeem or Vedette rubber-girdle-corset things as a back-up or follow-up when the BB gets too big or bent out of shape. I don’t have any unrealistic expectations about getting everything back the way it was (hope springs, however, eternal), but I want as much support as possible and to avoid unnecessary pain/discomfort. I appreciate knowing your (and your readers’) experience, it helps me make a more informed decision for myself. Big thanks!

  10. Meghan Aug 03 at 8:25 pm Reply Reply

    If I can add my $.02, I am 8 weeks post-c-section and never used one. Maybe because it was my first, I haven’t had any major problems with recovery; they made me get up and walk 24 hours after the delivery, once they were done pumping me full of magnesium (hazy fun with a catheter!).

    Maybe because of the crazy delivery I had, or maybe just because it hadn’t been covered on here yet (thanks Amalah for being so thorough on everything else!), the thought of a girdle hadn’t occurred to me until a nurse mentioned in passing that “some ladies like to use the corset things, but you have to make sure your incision can breathe.” In other words, just make sure you get some airflow to your incision so it can heal properly. Best of luck!

  11. Ashley Aug 03 at 9:06 pm Reply Reply

    Like Vicky, I got a girdle from the hospital after my C section (US hospital, mid-range on the fancy scale). It was basically just a big piece of stretchy velcro, but it was the miracle of my life. I mean, you know, other than the baby. Right. That. I didn’t have a ton of pain from the incision, but just the weird feeling that my abdominal cavity was slipping into all of that suddenly loose skin (which went away! quickly! don’t let me scare you). Binding it made me feel like I was in my own body again.

  12. Cheken Aug 03 at 11:51 pm Reply Reply

    If you say the words “abdominal binder” in the direction of a nurse post c-section, they’ll probably bring you one. It’s a giant elastic roll of Velcro, nothing fancy and branded. They are used all the time on the surgical floors. I had it after both the baby and the worlds most complex recovery, and after the surgery I had nine months later to fix the aftermath. It made a huge difference. To me.

  13. Karen Aug 04 at 8:16 pm Reply Reply

    I just finished using the Belly Bandit a few days ago and totally agree with your article. It was amazing – granted I needed 2 sizes but I’m worth the extra money and it works so you can’t beat that. If anything I totally feel like my self confidence and body image is worth $65.00. Treat yourself – my opinion.

  14. Courtney Aug 05 at 11:52 am Reply Reply

    I can echo Amalah’s sentiments almost entirely. I was also at the high end, but got the small. Put it on three days postpartum, and immediately felt better. I could get out of bed without having to heave/propel myself with my arms! I couldn’t feel all my organs swooshing around in all the extra space in my torso.

    I think it helped me feel and look better immediately. My waist was still a little wider than usual, but much flatter than without. And I could easily fit into some of my (fat) pre-pregnancy pants. This was awesome for my self esteem.

    I did have the issues with creasing, which does look weird under any tighter-fitting clothes (although honestly, are you really wearing anything that tight in those first few weeks?).

    BUT: I had latch issues with my son, so he was using a nipple shield and I don’t think he was draining my milk efficiently enough, and I got BAD plugged ducts. This thing made them worse – I swear, even after the ducts were cleared, putting this on would make them ache. It was weird. But this was when we were at the 6-8 week mark and my stomach was pretty much back to normal (don’t hate me! I have stretch marks!) so I just stopped wearing it.

  15. Courtney Aug 05 at 11:53 am Reply Reply

    I can echo Amalah’s sentiments almost entirely. I was also at the high end, but got the small. Put it on three days postpartum, and immediately felt better. I could get out of bed without having to heave/propel myself with my arms! I couldn’t feel all my organs swooshing around in all the extra space in my torso.

    I think it helped me feel and look better immediately. My waist was still a little wider than usual, but much flatter than without. And I could easily fit into some of my (fat) pre-pregnancy pants. This was awesome for my self esteem.

    I did have the issues with creasing, which does look weird under any tighter-fitting clothes (although honestly, are you really wearing anything that tight in those first few weeks?).

    BUT: I had latch issues with my son, so he was using a nipple shield and I don’t think he was draining my milk efficiently enough, and I got BAD plugged ducts. This thing made them worse – I swear, even after the ducts were cleared, putting this on would make them ache. It was weird. But this was when we were at the 6-8 week mark and my stomach was pretty much back to normal (don’t hate me! I have stretch marks!) so I just stopped wearing it.

  16. Courtney Aug 05 at 12:04 pm Reply Reply

    Ooof, sorry for the double post. Just to clarify, I was a vaginal birth and got the original Belly Bandit. And I think my ducts issue is related to what pp mentioned, in that I have the shortest torso on the planet.

  17. Brigid Keely Aug 05 at 2:34 pm Reply Reply

    My hospital gave me a binder, just strapped me into one, after my C-Section. It was amazing and gave me a lot of support. I am Very Fat and it helped my hanging stomach bits not pull against the incision, and also supported my ab muscles. It itched/chafed a little bit and I didn’t wear it too much at home, but if I weren’t such a big weenie about support garments it would have been helpful.

    For whatever reason, though, I didn’t feel weird without it. Like, most women I know who’ve gone through C-Sections felt like their guts were going to open up and fall out, held pillows against their midsections, etc. I felt mostly fine.

  18. Nerwal Aug 05 at 3:24 pm Reply Reply

    I got one from the hospital I gave birth in. I had twins and a c-section and didn’t even know about it beforehand, but I am SO GLAD they gave me one. Honestly, I just felt better in it; more secure (physically and emotionally) and more like ‘my body will not look pregnant for forever’. 

  19. Charm Aug 07 at 10:41 am Reply Reply

    I didn’t wear mine and I have huge regrets about it.  Post partum, but abdominal muscles didn’t come back together and now I have diastasis recti.  From what I’ve been told, if I assisted the muscles contracting back by holding them in the place they SHOULD heal, I would potentially have less separation (3 fingers or so right now).  I’ve tried exercises to have it fixed, but I’ve been told probably the only way to fix it is surgery.  I DO have some little hope that after the next baby, when it’s time to heal again, perhaps I can wear the binder and I’ll have better results.  Fingers crossed.

  20. Cindy Hopper Aug 11 at 10:07 am Reply Reply

    I wore a binder after my c-section. I can’t say enough good about it. I didn’t have any help and I could care for my baby and get around pain free. It was amazing!

  21. Katie Aug 16 at 8:34 pm Reply Reply

    This was such a helpful read.  Thank you!  I really appreciate the time and information you put into it.  :)

  22. Jo Aug 19 at 12:00 am Reply Reply

    I was given a binder at the hospital after my c-section. It was so painful I could use it. Now, 9 months post c-s, i am still struggling with a saggy belly. Recovery from the emergency c-section and 9 months of hyperemesis was the hardest thing I have ever done.

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