Looking for flattering postpartum clothes and swimwear is not easy at all. This is the hardest try-on I’ve ever done. Even after almost 10 years of being a mom, I still have the image of my pre-kid body in my head. It’s not a surprise that I get discouraged when I try a swimsuit on, and I want to take it off right away — especially if said swimsuit is a bikini.
I do need to say that I LOVE MY BODY AND MY KIDS. Even if someone had told me my skin would stretch to a point where I’d think it would tear any second, that I wouldn’t be able to count my stretch marks, that my bellybutton would be deformed, and that getting dressed would change forever, I’d do it again. Yet, that doesn’t take away how traumatic it can be.
A more recent play on Shana’s 2011 postpartum swimwear post, this post has been refreshed for 2023. While some of the swimsuits I tried on are sold out, you can find even better picks specific to each category.
The Postpartum Swimsuit Struggle: 10 Swimwear Styles That Flatter The Tummy
I’ve been giving sneak peeks of my postpartum stomach here and there on my Instagram, but have never actually shown the whole thing. So I think I’ll just bare it all here for you and start with that. Postpartum bellies come in all sizes and shapes. This is mine: (I wasn’t brave enough to show the side view.)
A super-soft stomach, extra skin, a hernia, diastasis recti of many fingers, and a not so pretty bellybutton. Things that make it hard for me to wear just any bathing suit. I haven’t worn a bikini since I had my first, except during my second pregnancy — I love big bellies in a bikini.
Now that my belly is finally out, let’s dive into all the swimsuits I tried following Shana’s very subjective tips, plus some I discovered along the way.
1. Tankinis Are Not Your Friend
Nope, they are not. Tankinis are great to cover stretch marks if you want to cover them, but if I didn’t have all that extra skin and a saggy belly button, I’d wear a bikini despite the stretch marks. I didn’t even want to try this one on — I knew it wouldn’t have any control over my tummy, and there are better options.
Try this instead: Sea Level Cross-Front Top. GORGEOUS! With these bottoms that have a nice shirred band that you can play with for more coverage.
Shop More Tankinis
I accept I didn’t choose the best tankini to try. This is what I would look for in others:
- Tummy control if possible.
- Ruching: I especially love it because it makes the transition from top to bottom less obvious and gives the illusion of a one-piece swimsuit.
- Higher-rise bottoms: I know most tankinis are shown with regular bikini bottoms. However, I’d be more comfortable with a higher rise, so I wouldn’t show my tummy when lifting my arms.
2. Look For Tummy-Control Swimwear
Tummy-control swimsuits are definitely some of the best postpartum swimwear out there when it includes some ruching. Ruching helps to camouflage all that’s going on in your belly.
The original suit I tried was a retro one (this one’s similar). Hard to get in it, but it molded my pooch perfectly. You’ll get some “you don’t look like you have kids” comments. It’s tight, but once you have it on, it feels great. J.Crew has the best quality and color options, but anything by Miraclesuit does miracles, so check them out too!
Try A Swimsuit With An Interesting Ruching
swimsuit (size 6)
Stock is running low, but you can still find this swimsuit in more colors here. This one is so pretty! It has soft cups (hides your nipples’ weird nursing shape), and the crisscross ruche gives the illusion of a smaller waist. Great bum coverage too. Comes in more colors.
Tempt Me high-neck monokini (under $30) — TTS. The last time I ordered a few suits from Amazon, this was the only one that fit. It’s a lottery. While I wouldn’t say I liked this one because I prefer a higher leg, it’s a good one if you like it. It comes in many colors, and I loved the top part (front and back). Give it a try for sure.
Shop Tummy-Control & Ruched Swimsuits
What to look for: Crisscross or diagonal ruching is more flattering as you create up-and-down visual lines that slim you. Some tummy-control swimsuits are tough to get into but are fine once you can put them on.
3. Blouson-Type One-Pieces May Be Your Best Friend
This blouson style is new (to me), but I found it very flattering. Boobs are controlled, and the blouson helps conceal the tummy. If you ask me what the best swimsuit for postpartum bodies is, I say this one. However, I’m not sure about it when wet.
Gottex lattice blouson one-piece swimsuit (size 6) – Stocked in more beautiful colors. I seriously loved this one, and if it weren’t for the full coverage in the bum, I would’ve kept it. I like it a little cheeky.
4. High-Waisted Bikini Bottoms?
Finding a good pair of high-waisted bikini bottoms is the hardest, especially when the extra skin goes above the belly button. I’ve tried on more than 10 bottoms and returned them all. I had all my hopes on this Hapari tummy-tuck bottom.
But no, I felt no control whatsoever, and with my belly button exposed like this, I’m surprised I left it on enough for a pic. They are definitely not as high-rise as I need, and run big too. I’m wearing a small. But I found some I loved…keep reading!
similar set | similar top | similar bottoms
This gingham bikini has since sold out, so try this beautiful top instead. (Matching bottoms here.) Or this set looks great too.
My favorite! PRINTS, PRINTS AND PRINTS. That’s the key! Especially for those of us with bumps and lumps in that belly. Solid colors show everything.
Shop High-Rise Bikinis
5. Camouflage With Prints & Patterns
See that last high-waisted bikini? Well, I love it because of the print. Prints make everything more fun and colorful. Sometimes we use solid colors, especially black, to cover our bodies, but I think a print camouflages even more. Maybe add a very sexy, interesting back?
This suit is long gone, but I found this one that has a beautiful print and sexy back while still covering/camouflaging everything you need.
Shop Printed Swimsuits
What to look for: You must keep the scale of your body and features in mind to choose the print and create harmony. I’m petite with small features, so I usually go for smaller prints.
6. Take The Plunge: Go For A Deep V-Neck
Bringing attention to another part of your body is genius, and it was a tip a longtime reader shared with us. But it has to be the right plunge (not like the one below). Tell me if I’m wrong, but after nursing my first for two and a half years, and the baby is going strong at 6 months, my boobs are great when full, but not so nice when not. I feel like this time my skin is more stretched, and my breasts need something to keep them in place.
Not Taking The Plunge? Try A Lace-Up Suit
A lace-up swimsuit makes things less plungy but still sexy — one of my favorites to wear. You can adjust it to your preference and breast size. It’s perfect for playing with the kids and easy to wear as a bodysuit. I’ve worn it with cutoffs and also wide-leg pants.
similar lace-up one-piece | plus-size version
7. The Monokini: A Swimsuit With A Bikini-Looking Back
The bikini-looking back, or monokini, is the style I’ve relied on since my first baby, and I still love it. I get my pooch covered without a full-body-coverage swimsuit.
This monokini on Amazon is very similar to my sold-out suit. I immediately took this one to the beach and loved it until I nursed my baby on one side; then, I looked so lopsided. But you know, that’s #momlife, and let’s remember all women have one boob bigger than the other.
Shop More Monokinis
8. Try A Suit You Think Won’t Work…
(It might not, but what if it does?) When I mentioned I saw a bathing suit great for my pre-kid body earlier, but that I got discouraged when I tried it on, I was talking about this one.
I had high hopes for this one. I loved the print and wanted to see if the high-waisted/cutout feature would help me. I almost cried…and it was one of the first ones I tried, so from this one on, I noticed all the wrong things about my body and all the swimsuits. I know I’m, like, laughing in most pics, but that was my “what the heck am I doing?” laugh.
…But This Suit Did!
So, I didn’t think this style would work, but it does. It doesn’t have tummy control, but the mix of fabric/mesh and the seams’ locations do a great job camouflaging my tummy and accentuating a waist. It might be strapless, but it has cups. It’s not tight on my butt, and even though it’s not full-bum coverage, it covers what I need. I felt it was meant for me and my lovely pooch. Find a few more options after tip 9!
9. Try Panels, Inserts & Seams In The Pooch Area
Even though I didn’t like it for me, this swimsuit brought me to the conclusion of looking for distracting features in the tummy area beyond prints and ruching. That one had the mix of mesh fabric with the seams at the perfect angles to visually slim my pooch, and it actually controlled it more with the various seams.
Swimsuits With Panels & Special Details
10. Just Be True To Yourself & Wear What You Like
I recently wore this one at the beach, and I felt good. Still conscious and mourning what my body once was, but good. Small bikinis are not on my radar right now, not because I feel I cannot show my tummy, but because I don’t myself. That’s what’s important, feeling true to yourself. If you feel that way wearing a bikini and flaunting the precious marks of bringing life into this world, rock it! You deserve it.
You can find even more of our swimwear picks in the 2023 Swim Shop!
P.S. I wrote this post in 2017 after having my youngest. In late 2018, I decided to have a tummy tuck to repair my abdominal muscles, but even post-surgery, I still follow a lot of these tips. I still have my lower belly full of stretch marks and now a very big scar. You can find a raw and real take on motherhood and style on my IG (@julietatorresd)