One of the most intriguing things I learned about between pregnancies was postpartum belly binding. In fact, I was pretty pissed when I first read about it, because it seemed possible that a nice, tight belly band could've saved me from a lot of the back pain I experienced in the months (and years) following Westley's birth. And of course I was totally intrigued by the promise that a specialty girdle might get me back in my pre-pregnancy jeans sooner.
My belly recovered pretty well the first time around. Which is to say I was lucky enough to skip over the "still looking pregnant" postpartum phase. I graduated directly to the "just looking fat" phase, which was depressing in its own way. I was a little taken aback by just how much my belly resembled a giant blob of bread dough—and I was frustrated by how long it seemed to stay that way.
This time I went into my pregnancy knowing about and fully expecting to encounter the postpartum dough-ball. I was also terrified of once again facing the chronic, searing pain of a weak, junked-out low back.
Binding my midsection with a specialty girdle seemed like a good solution to both of these problems. If nothing else, wearing a binder would make me feel like I was doing something proactive about my recovery. I ended up buying two Belly Bandits while I was still pregnant with Ivy. I measured my belly at eight months pregnant, per the recommendations on the Belly Bandit site. I was at the very bottom of the range for the Medium. Since I didn't look eight months pregnant following Westley's birth, I thought the Small size might be a better choice. After consulting the good people of the Internet, I decided that it wouldn't be crazy to have both a Small and a Medium available. (I bought both of my Belly Bandits "gently used" on Ebay. The word from on high is that you're not supposed to buy a used Bandit for hygienic and effectiveness reasons. I like to walk on the wild side—but I do wonder if maybe my previously owned binders had lost some elasticity.)
I was prepared to put the binder on immediately after birth. I was looking forward to it, actually, because I remembered those first empty-bellied hours feeling kind of spooky—like all of my organs were going to fall out. But since my floppy organs and I ended up in the hospital for a few days, I didn't put the Bandit on until two days postpartum, when I was getting dressed to go home.
It was awesome. I had expected it to be kind of uncomfortable, and I was willing to suck it up and deal—but it honestly felt really, really good to have something snug around my midsection. I didn't feel like my stomach was going to escape through my bellybutton! My back felt strong and supported! I wore the Belly Bandit 24/7 from then on. It was a little uncomfortable at night, especially when combined with the postpartum hormonal night-sweats. But overall, awesome.
Sadly, the awesomeness stopped after about four weeks. Just like the online reviews had warned, I shrank out of the Medium-size Bandit after about two weeks. But when I went to wrap myself up in the small, it was too small. The thing is supposed to be tight—it's a binder, its job is to bind—but this was painful. It left mean-looking red marks on my skin along the edges, and it bunched up uncomfortably, especially at night. Least comfortable of all were the creases that started to form across the middle of the band.
The Belly Bandit FAQ suggests that this is normal, and that it doesn't change the effectiveness of the garment. But it sure felt less effective once it had developed the creases. Once the creases were there to stay, the Bandit was even more prone to bunching, and squeezing my back into a weird bra-line muffin-top. (I wonder if this might not be an issue for more petite ladies. I'm 5'8-1/2", and most of that is torso.)
Overall, I'm really glad I decided to try the postpartum belly binding thing. In fact, I'd like to still be binding right now. I might whip out the iron and see if I can smooth the Bandit out a little and undo some of the creases. If I were going to make the decision over again, I might choose the bamboo model, which is supposed to be softer and more comfortable than the original Belly Bandit. If you're on the fence about postpartum belly binding, I say give it a try. The abdominal and back support and in those earliest weeks made me feel like my body was almost "back to normal."
Did belly binding make me skinnier and get me back in my pre-pregnancy jeans faster? Not at all. Ivy will be seven weeks old tomorrow, and I still have a good 15 lbs. to lose. I'm pretty sure my midsection looks exactly how it looked the last time I was at this weight in terms of shape, size, and stretch marks. However, wearing the Belly Bandit definitely made me look skinnier—which was enough to bolster my mood and help me not fall into a state of despair about my appearance. And that alone, when you're already riding the postpartum mood roller-coaster and crying because the sky is blue, is TOTALLY worth whatever you might spend on a specialty girdle.