Postpartum Binding: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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Hospital binder vs. the Belly Bandit


Bethany:
My vanity wanted to put this post off till twelve weeks postpartum or at the very least six weeks, when hopefully I would have stunning results to showcase, but since I have so many friends due in the next month or two, I guess a post now would probably be more useful.

I’m one of those people who went into pregnancy having no idea whatsoever what “postpartum” entailed. Hormone swings? Stretch marks? After pains? Constant bleeding? Incisions or degrees of tearing? You name it, I’d never or only vaguely heard of it. Like many pregnant women, I happily dove into research once such topics were more relevant to me, but it was not until my husband and I attended birth classes that I first heard about abdominal binding.

(What do you mean, I'll have the baby and still look pregnant??)


The name is somewhat self-explanatory, but basically what I’m talking about here is less Spanx and more medical grade.

This is mainly a comparison review of different binders for anyone who has wondered about Belly Bandit vs. Squeem, etc, so I’m not going to delve deeply into all the reasons for this practice, but I’ll make a simple list of the basic top reasons for postpartum belly binding.
  1. Healing
  2. Support
  3. Comfort
  4. Vanity

History:

Our birth class instructor considered it a must-have, and her descriptions of how much it helped with postpartum healing made us bump it up to the top of our list of essentials. Since we were nearing both forty weeks and the outer limits of our interest in researching more products, we just went with the brand she mentioned so as to not have to go on a full fledged search for something that met all the criteria she listed.

That’s how we ended up with the Belly Bandit for after Jack’s birth.

Preparing for Dominic’s birth, I wanted to try something new, so I bought a Le Leche League binder. Then of course I had a prolapsed cord and emergency c-section, so I ended up being given and using a hospital binder.

After comparing the various problems of all of the above, I decided I wanted to try the generally very highly rated Squeem compression vest and lucked into a flash sale on one.

For kicks and giggles, I also tried out the authentic corset I have for costumes. Isn't that supposed to squash everything in?

Authentic corset vs. Squeem


The Good
Just having a binder in general, any kind, helps in terms of comfort and support so, so much. I personally would wear one all the time if it were possible, because it makes that much of a difference in terms of how I feel. And I’m not talking about it making me feel skinnier, because at least in my experience they definitely are bulky under clothing. Just having a loose belly jiggling around in the wind tends to make me feel tentative, like every movement is going to mean that I’m going one direction, my deflated belly is going another direction, and my poor innards have to choose which to side with. That’s even more painful after a c-section when every extra waggle tugs at the incision. There were times in the first few weeks I could barely sit up without the supportive compression of my binder. It pulls everything in so that I feel functional much faster than without it. That being said, each binder had different pros.

Belly Bandit - This thing does whip the belly into shape. It is a thick, very solid one piece contraption that puts constant pressure particularly on the belly. The support is amazing. I would probably (in my uneducated opinion) choose this one as best for healing. Putting it on makes me go instantly from feeling very postpartum to feeling almost normal.


Le Leche League binder - I did not end up even trying this on, but I bought it because it was longer (12”) and contoured to fit closer over various widths of the body. It is made of a thin soft fabric, which probably wouldn’t show as much under clothing and would probably be very comfortable.


Hospital binder - Much stretchier and softer than the Belly Bandit but far sturdier than the LLL binder, this is a dream to wear. It is soft, super comfy, super adjustable (it's impossible to shrink out of it, as the velcro will attach anywhere onto it), and super affordable (even if you didn’t get it for free; it's only about $20 from a medical supply store). The support is great, and it trims the waist like a miracle. At two weeks postpartum, my natural waist measured the same as it did pre-pregnancy. I’d definitely choose this one for comfort.


Squeem compression vest - This definitely is a tight squeeze all over. Its heavy material and contoured fit mean that it gets both the belly and the waist. The vest style means that there won’t be a problem of back fat bulge over the top, and the shaping makes for far less bulk under clothing. I’d probably choose this one for overall support and vanity.


Authentic corset - Super heavy duty and full of metal boning, this is practically a suit of armor, and it definitely won’t buckle or roll or bend in any sort of way. It sucks the waist in to tiny proportions and enforces mega support whether you like it or not. And it’s much prettier than the rest of them, haha.


The Bad:
Not all binders are created equal though. Although perhaps something is better than nothing, it's kind of hard to know where to throw your money, especially when shopping online.

Belly Bandit - Since this is made of a solid piece, it holds the belly in beautifully, but if you have any sorts of curves, it’s only going to really compress your widest part. For me, that meant my natural waist was not supported, and there was no way to prevent the thick material from buckling and rolling, which was not exactly smooth under clothes or comfortable at the end of the day.



Le Leche League binder - Again, I didn’t wear this, and one of the main reasons was because it felt so thin that I couldn’t imagine it actually doing any binding. No wonder the price seemed too good to be true.

Hospital binder - Although this is pretty much my favorite of all the things I tried, its biggest downside comes from how incredibly comfy it is. The material is just not quite as heavy duty as the Belly Bandit or Squeem, so after a few weeks I noticed that my belly wasn’t quite going down in size like it had the first time. Of course, there could be many other reasons for that, but I think the fact that the binder is stretchier and more accommodating accounts for at least some of that. Even with a little contouring, this binder does roll on shortwaisted people like me, which is annoying but not as constricting as with the others.



Squeem compression vest - The biggest downside to this one is how limited the adjustment is and how difficult it is to get on and off. Maybe velcro has spoiled me, but two rows of hook and eye just seems like not enough of a range for postpartum initial massive size and subsequent rapid shrinkage.... and hook and eye is just a pain to deal with on a compression garment anyway. I’m reduced to chanting “I think I can I think I can I think I can” as I desperately try to stretch the two sides of the vest to meet, hoping the first few hooks don’t snap in half while I connect enough to give a secure hold. Once it’s on my short waist, it does buckle and roll and ride up, alas.



Authentic corset - Ha ha ha. Besides being incredibly uncomfortable, I’m not sure that my particular era of corset was designed to compress the belly. It aims to make the waist as small as possible, and part of that is pushing everything under the waist down down down. So in a sense my belly ends up bigger and rounder, while my waist is all delicate and tiny. Not helpful. And laces may be a notch above hook and eye in terms of ease and adjustability but they still leave much to be desired.


The Ugly:
My conclusion is that there really is no perfectly fitting binder that won’t crease or ride up at all on a curvy, shortwaisted person like me. It’s just.... gravity or something.

My ideal binder would be the material of the Belly Bandit with the fit of the Squeem with the soft adjustable velcro of the hospital binder and the aesthetics of the corset.... at the cost of the Le Leche League binder. Hey, a girl can dream, right?

In Conclusion:
Apparently there is a new Belly Bandit option called the BFF that incorporates some of the elements of my ideal binder, and I am looking forward to hearing more about it and maybe trying it next go round. In the meantime, I’m generally compensating by wearing two at a time when I can and enjoying the comfort of being postpartum and having a sweet little baby but still feeling semi normal and functional.

8 sprinkles of fairy dust:

Sooo excited about using my BFF...especially after your conclusion comment. :)

BTW, you look AMAZING!!! :)


I never had heard of these "belly bandings" before. I wish I knew all this when my son was born! :) Now I know for next time. Thanks for the great post!


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