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The days immediately following the birth of each of my babies are some of the most intensely beautiful and intensely trying, all at once. One hour I'm snuggling my baby, happy as can be. Labor and birth are over and I'm treasuring my sweet prize. The little siblings are coming over and giving him sweet, gentle pats on the head.
A few hours later, it's "bedtime" and I'm overcome with exhaustion. The sleep deprivation catches up like a train without breaks and all I want to do is collapse on my bed and sleep forever. But I can't--both because my milk just came in, making side-lying uncomfortable, and the baby won't settle down so I'm stuck helping my husband figure out how to get him to calm down.
It's intense, isn't it? You know. You remember... or maybe you're in the middle of it right now.
So today I'm going to share one of the items that helped me prioritize my recovery, comfort, and sense of femininity the most during the first weeks post baby: my postpartum waist cincher.
6 days postpartum with my third baby (2018). Left: No shapewear Right: Using the "Squeem" Waist cincher
The Waist Cincher I Use
In this post I'm telling you the reasons why using a waist cincher postpartum is a must for every mama postpartum. I'm also going into all the reasons I chose the one I did. But in case you want to get shopping right away, here is the one I use and recommend.
You can use it immediately after delivery to hide and shrink your postpartum belly. But you can also use it for the years afterward as shapewear to smooth out any bulges under your clothes.
The Squeem Perfect Waist Contouring Cincher
Jump down to my sizing tips to get yours in the mail!
Benefits of Using a Waist Cincher/Shaper (aka Belly Wrapping)
I've become a huge believer in using waist cinchers after both vaginal and c-section deliveries. This practice has actually been around for a long time in many cultures besides our own and is more traditionally called "belly wrapping" or "belly binding."
I truly believe every mama should have a waist cincher in her hospital bag to put on before going home.
Here are the reasons why.
Note: The first three reasons are health-related, which might seem off-topic for this blog. The reason I cover these is they are ALL reasons why I both promote using a waist cincher postpartum but also specifically why I recommend the waist cincher that I do. (we'll get to that!)
#1 Use a Waist Cincher To Protect The Abdominal Core in the Presence of Diastasis Recti
As much as 2/3 of women develop diastasis recti during their pregnancies (source). I'll let Mayo Clinic explain what exactly it is:
"During pregnancy, the growing uterus stretches the muscles in the abdomen. This can cause the two large parallel bands of muscles that meet in the middle of the abdomen (rectus muscles) to become separated by an abnormal distance — a condition called diastasis recti or diastasis recti abdominis." (emphasis mine) - Mayo Clinic
Here's another great article by Wellness Mama that explains it really well.
The severity of diastasis recti is measured by how many fingers you can fit in the gap between your abdominal muscles.
When you have a diastasis, your core is weak and unprotected, potentially putting your organs at risk and putting strain on your back. Your tummy bulge also won't go away as long as this muscle separation exists.
"How do I know if I have diastasis recti?"
Basically, if you feel like you look pregnant (baby bump appearance, not just belly fat) months after giving birth it's likely due at least in part to a diastasis.
Lay down on a flat surface. Pick up just your head to look down towards your abdomen. This should engage your core just enough to tighten the two sides ab muscles and make them easy to locate. Then use your fingers to feel for a gap around your belly button area. Slide up and down to find the largest gap. How many fingers fit?
A waist cincher helps with the healing process for diastasis by protecting your ab muscles from developing a worse gap during daily activities that engage your core (standing up, sitting up, lifting things including your kids).
#2 Use a Waist Cincher To Help Heal Diastasis (Bring Your Ab Muscles Back Together)
Not only does the waist cincher protect your core in the presence of a diastasis (muscle gap post pregnancy), it also helps heal your diastasis by closing your gap and keeping it closed!
THIS was the main reason I invested in a good quality waist cincher that would keep its tightness after months of use. While you are encouraged to supplement your recovery with core-healing exercises,
- a waist cincher does the initial heavy lifting of closing the gap (exercises and proper core engagement further support the permanence of healing)
- a waist cincher supports progress made to keep the gap closed while the healing becomes more permanent (due to left over "relaxin" hormone in your body and a weakened core, early on in the healing it's easy to slip back into a larger gap after you've worked to close it)
#3 Use a Waist Cincher To Provide Core and Lower Back Support (Preventing The Common Postpartum Lower Back Pain )
The weight of carrying a baby for nine months often causes lower back pain to persist postpartum. If you aren't careful with your posture, the pain can worsen. Also if you do have a diastasis, lower back pain is common due to a weakened core.
I love this great metaphor I read online:
It is good to think for a moment about weight lifters and construction workers who perform their tasks with the aid of support belts to stabilise their back, core, and legs. Yet women, who have just given birth and are at their physically weakest point are expected to carry and lift car seats, strollers, and children with no extra support at all. --DueSoon.com.au, History of Belly Wrapping
A waist cincher helps with both of these back-pain-causing issues by encouraging good posture and supporting your core.
And a bonus perk... when you have good posture, you will breastfeed correctly by bringing the baby to the breast, instead of the breast to the baby.
#4 Use a Waist Cincher As Shapewear (Fit into your regular tops & dresses faster and feel slim immediately after delivery)
And now I finally come to the reason you probably expected me to start with!
Wearing a waist cincher not only protects your core and promotes healing, it also makes you look FANTABULOUS in your clothes right after birth!
I can't tell you how helpful this is to the morale in the initial weeks following your delivery. When I put my waist cincher on, it's a comforting feeling of strength and healing and it also makes me feel slim and pretty again in my clothes.
You'll have people constantly commenting on "look how amazing you look just after having a baby!!" Funny enough I can't help but reveal my secret every time... especially to other mamas: "thank you, but it's all due to my wonderful waist shaper!"
- Belly wrapping/binding may be most effective in the first month postpartum because of the lingering relaxin in your body. Relaxin is a hormone produced during pregnancy that relaxes your intrauterine ligaments, allowing your body to flex and accommodate your growing baby. The idea is that binding early takes advantage of this hormone to close your diastasis easier.
- Belly wrapping should never be painful. Pay attention to how you feel. If you have any pain, dizziness, headaches, more bleeding or other side effects that appear only when wearing your binder, consult your doctor. This may be due to other underlying issues such as a pelvic organ prolapse. If this is the case, you may need to wait until a few weeks postpartum to begin belly binding.
- Belly wrapping will not help you lose weight. It helps 1) bring your abdominal muscles back together (healing diastasis recti) 2) support your back by tucking the extra weight in and 3) smooth the waist to make it easier to dress in your regular tops/dresses postpartum. If you supplement using your waist cincher with healthy eating and proper exercise you will enjoy the combined benefits of a strong core and loss of body fat.
- You still need to know how to engage your core properly even when belly wrapping. You might feel you can lift anything and not worsen your diastasis, but that's not the case. Still practice breathing out and engaging your core before lifting anything. Use your knees, not your back, to lift. Etc. This free course by Fit2B teaches you how to protect and heal your diastasis from the inside out. I highly recommend taking it along with the use of your waist cincher!
Top 4 Reasons "the Squeem" Is The Best Postpartum Shapewear and Belly Binder
It was my struggle with healing my diastasis while starting this mom fashion blog that initially prompted me to research the best waist cinchers out there that I could also wear under clothes without showing through.
I had a four-finger diastasis gap (!) after my second and third pregnancies so it was literally a health hazard to NOT bind my belly.
So the research began. Many hours later, I had sorted through all the best brands, read all the before and after reviews, and asked my experienced doula friends.
The best postpartum shapewear for BOTH healing AND wearing inconspicuously under clothes was clearly "The Squeem."
While the Squeem was cheaper than some brands, it still wasn't cheap. So I did a lot of reading and product comparison before actually ordering it. I was super tempted to go for one of the $20 options on Amazon instead.
But ultimately I was convinced by the Amazon reviews (from lots of postpartum users) and backed up by the Amazon free returns policy. I decided it was the best option to try, so I ordered the Squeem right before delivering my second baby two years ago.
I feel like I struck gold! It continues to serve me today after delivering my third baby.
Here is the criteria I was looking for in a postpartum abdominal binder/shapewear and that the Squeem checks off.
#1 Quality Waist Cincher That Doesn't Stretch Out
Other binders that I read about all stretched out after a month or two of use. After researching how to heal diastasis, I knew I needed something that would stay taut 3-4 months postpartum. I also wanted to use it for my next pregnancy if possible.
After wearing the Squeem almost every day for nearly three months, it stayed tight! I'm now using it after my third pregnancy and it's still doing a great job.
- The Squeem is made of RUBBER and COTTON-- rubber doesn't stretch out! The Belly Bandit on the other hand (and most other shapewear/waist cinchers) is made with SPANDEX and NYLON--spandex stretches out!
- The Squeem is cheaper than the Belly Bandit
- The Squeem has better average reviews than the Belly Bandit
#2 Waist Cincher with Sleek Design That Doesn't Show Under Clothes
Through my research about healing diastasis, I learned I needed to wear whatever abdominal binder I bought DAILY for a few months. It wouldn't work to only wear it when I was home in gym clothes.
That meant I needed a waist cincher that didn't show through clothes.
The Squeem is actually not advertized as a pospartum waist cincher, its advertized to anyone who wants to lose inches from their waist and have beautiful, smooth curves.
It just happens to be perfect for health-related issues too!
I wouldn't say The Squeem is 100% seamless because the hook-and-eye enclosure will show through on a tight, light-colored clothing. But it doesn't show through on most of my clothes.
When I wear something tighter, I sometimes rotate it so that the closure is in the back. Because I own the version designed to close in the front, it's not as comfortable facing the back. But you can choose to purchase the kind that closes in the back. (That's probably what I would buy the next time if I have to replace this one eventually.)
#3 Waist Cincher That Is Comfortable
If I was going to wear this thing daily, I needed something that didn't bother me all day! I was pleased to find that this thing is incredibly comfortable. It does get sweaty on summer days, so I wear a cami or other layer underneath. Honestly, it actually feels good to sweat knowing it's actually helping me lose weight and toxins at that point.
#4 Waist Cincher That Doesn't Roll Up or Scrunch Up
The Squeem also doesn't roll up or scrunch up... a common complaint about other popular waist cinchers. It has a boning structure that combines with the sturdy rubber to keep its shape whether you're sitting, bending over, or standing.
This is super important because early on we are sitting and nursing or bottle feeding SO. OFTEN.
How To Get the Best Waist Cincher For You
Here are my tips for choosing among the different Squeem options and sizes.
#1 Choose which model among these three:
Squeem 'Perfect Waist' Contouring Cincher
Closes in the front (easiest for putting on postpartum). This is the one I own.
Squeem Women's Celebrity Style Back Closure Waist Cincher
Closes in the back. Get this one if you're more than three months postpartum.
Squeem Seductive' Open Bust Vest
Has shoulder straps and closes in the front. Great for smoothing out back fat around the bra.
#2 Measure your natural waist and choose a size
- Measure your natural waist (if still pregnant, wait until two weeks before your due date and order the two most likely sizes. That way you can return the one that doesn't work before the return window closes.)
Here is the size chart on Amazon:
- I recommend sizing up, especially if your waist measurement borders two sizes. I had a 30'' waist before pre-pregnancy and went with the Large, which is for 32-34''. This allows room for the extra skin and width you experience post pregnancy. If you aren't wearing this just after delivery, you can probably go with your actual size on the chart.
Because I wear my Squeem every day, I like to wear something between the cincher and my skin to absorb sweat.
I highly recommend these nursing camis on Amazon. They are very comfy and stretchy and will work both during pregnancy and post pregnancy.
The nursing-friendly feature allow you to wear it under the Squeem while still giving easy nursing access (regular camis would require removing the Squeem).
I also love that they have removable breast pads which are awesome to wear with your unpadded nursing bras.
How to Wear Your Waist Cincher
With the need to allow nursing access, layering everything in the right order can get a little tricky. Here's the order you can use to get dressed (I own each of these items except the tank top and highly recommend them!):
I'm so thankful for products like these that help make those first weeks postpartum just a little bit smoother (no pun intended, lol!).
Not only can I wear my regular tops right away, I am also healing my diastasis. Confession: I was never very consistent about doing my core-healing exercises.
But just by wearing my cincher, I was able to get my abdominal gap from four fingers to one finger wide! I'm not sure if this would have been possible without wearing my waist cincher daily for the first three months.
I can't wait for you to get yours and discover what it difference it makes for dressing your body postpartum!
Your Questions Answered
I'm still writing this section! Leave any questions you have about the Squeem in the comments below and I will reply to your comment as well as add it to this section :) Thanks!
I want to hear from YOU! Are you getting a waist shaper for postpartum healing/shaping or just looking for excellent quality shapewear? Drop a comment below!