The “Skinny” on Postpartum Swimwear – 10 Tips To Hide the Pooch


Here on The Mom Edit, there is much talk about ways to cover our postpartum stomach while clothed. Personally, I’ve flattened mine with shaper camis, distracted from it with deep v-necks and fun swingy tops…but baring it all in a swimsuit requires actual…baring.  

Obviously we should all wear whatever the heck we want, whatever makes us feel good, but if you, like me, are feeling some kinda way about swimsuit season during this tender phase…here are a few tips I’ve found that make me feel more comfortable (based on endless rounds of trial and error).

1. Tankinis Are Not Necessarily Your Friend

General stomach softness? Hello, Tankini. Want to cover stretch marks? Tankini, I’m talking to you. But a serious postpartum stomach? Tankinis don’t seem to help. These things are cute, but not nearly supportive enough to reign in my belly (which is still a little hard). I end up looking pregnant. Observe:

best tankini post-partum

wearing: J.Crew Seersucker striped tankini (an old one – the link is to the current version) and J.Crew ruched swing tank top

high waisted shaper bikini bottom

Thanks to reader Audrey, I’m totally intrigued by Hapari’s Tummy Tuk Bikini bottoms. While I wouldn’t wear these alone, wearing one under a tankini might be the way to avoid those awkward “Pregnant? No.”discussions…

Has anyone tried them? They may be worth a shot for $39.

2. Even Shaper Swimwear Lets You Down

Screen shot 2011-05-23 at 2.46.18 PM

I love the look of this one-piece from Lands’ End….but when worn, the smooth, solid color belly highlighted my stomach. I looked very pregnant, tummy control panel or no. Again, for general softness, this suit would be great, but it couldn’t stand up to my postpartum tummy.

Update: Thankfully, for 2015, Lands’ End added ruching to this suit. You can see all of my 2015 Lands’ End postpartum swimwear picks here.

3. High-Waisted Bikini Bottoms?  For Some….

You know those retro bikinis with the super high waist? I had high hopes for this silhouette. Sadly, I might be too short-waisted, although I’m getting used to this silhouette. It does a decent job of…well, not hiding the postpartum belly, but distracting from it. I think there’s potential here for some mamas.

Update: Check out my friend Jess in J.Crew’s high-waisted bikini bottom. She totally pulled it off at 14 months postpartum.

Highwaist bikini bottom post-partum

(wearing: J.Crew underwire top and highwaisted bottoms – with ruching!)


4. Color-Blocking Works! 

So in the same vein as a high-waisted bikini but with more coverage…is a color-blocked swimsuit. A color blocked swimsuit spoofs the waist and does a decent job of hiding a postpartum tummy. Voila….

post-partum swimsuit

(wearing: kushcush nautical one-piece – restocking soon!)


5. Distract With Prints

Overall, I found that printed pieces did a much better job of hiding a postpartum tummy than solids. Even horizontal stripes were surprisingly effective at distracting the eye from the pooch. But that darn side view — still not great. Per usual.

best swimsuit for after baby

wearing: Pez D’Or’s Color Pop Maillot – no longer available, but SeaFolly makes very similar suits. I especially like the blue floral  — also in boy leg

6. Your Best Bet? Ruche It All In

best swimsuit for post-partum

There is no doubt that the clear winner for me was a tummy-control, ruched one-piece. The ruching simultaneously hides and reigns in the tum — even a postpartum one. I’m wearing an old, retro version from Lands’ End (long gone now – longtime readers may remember this from our swimsuit confidence article where you can see more of my postpartum pooch in action)…but J.Crew has a red, ruched bandeau with some extra length for retro appeal, as well as this bright red Magicsuit that manages to be a sexy swimdress AND a serious womb-hider.

7. A Word of Caution on Retro-Inspired Swimwear

Retro cuts are nice because they offer a bit more thigh and bum coverage. However, because they hit at the widest part of your thigh, they can often draw the eye right to the problem area. The good news is that these suits are often ruched, and have a ton of fabric to play with.  So try pulling the suit down a bit lower (like a dress) or up higher (to elongate the thigh).

Reader Daisy* and I were discussing this phenomenon via email. She graciously offered up a few pics illustrating the various levels of thigh coverage….as long as I kept her identity top-secret.

*not her real name. But I think you knew that already.

do retro swimsuits flatter

(wearing: Carmen Marc Valvo retro one piece)

8. Take the Plunge

nursing-friendly swimsuit

wearing: an old version Lenny’s Plunging Halter Maillot – newer one here

This tip shocked me. But totally works. I got this idea from my dear friend M. She managed to take American Apparel’s Deep V-Maillot to Mexico at only 6 MONTHS POSTPARTUM. Seriously — go look at this thing. It’s a genius tip. And I have to imagine that the suit is also easy to nurse in. (smirk)  According to M, the band below the bust was just enough support…and this suit was her husband’s favorite. No wonder.

For fun, I thought I’d put M’s tip to the test, and try out another plunge-to-there suit (with slightly more coverage).

Mike and I both loved it. Yikes.

M’s right — the plunging neckline distracts from whatever poochiness is going on…and these suits would be even better in black.

We found a ton of amazing plunge suits (from hello-is-that-my-bellybutton to just-enough-plunge-to-bring-the-eye-up) in The Swim Shop.

9. Get a Gorgeous Cover-Up

No matter what suit you choose, there’s probably going to be a time when you could use a little coverage. Personally, I burn easily, so I love grabbing one of Mike’s shirts. Lots of coverage, always a little sexy.

swimsuit coverup ideas

10. Let it All Hang Out (+ Wear What You Love)

Part of me feels…sad in a one-piece. Even a fabulous one (at least right now). To be honest, I’m starting to get over the whole MUST COVER THE POOCH thing. I mean…yeah, I’d rather not have one…but it’s not like I’m dieting or working out like crazy or even doing that postpartum stomach binding stuff to get rid of it. So how committed am I to a flat tummy?

Evidently not very.

The truth is, in a bikini, I still look a little pregnant. Even worse, in certain light it looks a bit like elephant skin. And wearing one out sometimes elicits annoying “When are you due?” comments. Regardless of how I look, I feel younger in a bikini. This may change eventually. But for now I feel more like myself. And what’s wrong with that? 

As Raines would say, “Nuffin.”

wearing a bikini after baby

(wearing: a striped bikini from Target – the newer one doesn’t have those thick side-ties, but this one from ASOS does)




  1. Love this blog and love #10. Seriously. I was a bit scared to go to the beach this year (all my friends seem to have their pre-baby figures… sigh…), but your positive attitude is contagious. Thanks a lot! xoxo

  2. For me, the most important part thing in a swimsuit is to fit my bust. I am petite but also have DDs, and need suits that accomodate and support the girls, so I love Lands End suits that have such a range of sizes so I can buy a suit for a short torso and DD cup. I would love find more brands that size this way.

  3. I don’t comment often enough, but this post is but one example why I love this blog. You all are so real, realistic, helpful, funny, etc. I also think this blog is totally one of a kind in terms of attitude if nothing else. Please keep doing what you are doing and know that you really are helping us moms out there.

  4. “My body will never be the same, but I won’t care…much.”
    I like how you ended this. I think I was more aware last summer/year. This year I wear what I like, my confidence is higher, and my husband thinks I’m cute.
    It’s amazing what a little confidence will do for you.
    Way to rock the bikini! I wear one, too! 🙂

  5. Fantastic post, S.! You are a trooper, and I love how straightforward and real you are with all of us readers. It’s so refreshing.
    I feel like I spent waaaaaaaaaaay too much time swimsuit searching after my little one was born, but I will share my happy find which isn’t included in this amazing post: Esther Williams swimsuits. They’ve got the fully ruched torso and tummy control panel nailed, and they come in about a billion different patterns (or solids, if that’s your thing), but I am totally a “distract with pattern” kind of gal. 🙂
    Like another commenter above, I am also working with DDs these days (thanks Miles), and the Esther suits are available in a halter style that you tie to fit with a built in bra. It is sans underwire, and therefore doesn’t offer a TON of support, but I’ve been swimming in these babies in various shrinking sizes since my first post-baby summer, and they’ve held (the girls) up quite nicely.
    Final tip: Beware of patterns with black as an accent–when wet, they tend to stretch and gray out a bit on sad areas like the butt (ala my first pick, the zebra pattern.) Other than that, they are retro, pin-uppy, and altogether perfect!
    Happy summer (post-baby-body) loving, mamas.
    PS. Thanks for giving the 2-pc high-waist retro inspired suit a whirl on my behalf. I was considering it, but as a short-torso afflicted lady myself, I can now see exactly why it will not work on me. Thanks for saving me the shipping! xo

  6. LOVE it!! Good post S 🙂 I did wind up getting a tankini at Down East Basics that fits more like a tanktop (rather than the swingier versions pictured here) and has nicely cut halter straps to cover boob flab. I’m thinking I might invest in the Hapari and give them a try as a matching piece. I’ll let you know how they work out, if I do!
    You’ve got a rockin’ body mama – and thank you for displaying it for all of us – WE ARE NOT ALONE!! 😀
    Hugs 😉

  7. I SO agree – just friggin’ GO FOR IT in the 2 pieces girl, you look AMAZING! I agree that there are times you need a “Mommy Suit” for whatever reason, and I think the Anthropologie suit and the red suit from your “swimsuit confidence” post are so adorbs on you.
    Thanks for the inspiration – I have to join my childless friends on the beach this Memorial Day weekend 16 weeks prego (you know, you’re not really sporting that cute bump yet – you just look fat). Torn between my old “maternity” suit from previous pregnancy, or just letting it all hang out in a really supportive bikini. 🙂

  8. Shirring is the best thing. EVER. I too bought the “cut down to there” suit….love it except that my kids manage to pull it off of me in the pool. You’re right that it isn’t a kiddy pool suit–but fun when you want to feel sexy!
    You look gorgeous in the two piece! Work it Mama!

  9. OMG…This was the best post! I just bought that Jcrew swing tankini (the one you have in navy above) and was horrified when I put it on. My baby is now 10 months old and I felt 4-5 months pregnant in that thing! I also feel old in a one piece, but found a tankini that might work and also decided to just embrace my pooch and wear the bikini. We shall see! Thanks for being so honest, humble, and funny!

  10. Best, best, best. From the humor to the honesty to the super-hot options. Honestly, that plunging-v is absolutely gorgeous on you–why NOT be the hot mom at the kiddie pool? Thanks for realistic and sage advice, lovely lady.

  11. I loved you post on swimwear. I thought all the suits were still adorable on you. The red suit that you posted on not long ago was great too. I have to say that I too have fretted about this very thing since we agreed to go with 75 plus friends on a party barge the first weekend in June. I am 2 months postpartum (from baby #2)as of tomorrow and although I only have about 15 lbs. more to go; it is that deflated balloon that I still need to cover up while the “elephant skin” shrinks back. I did go on a huge search for pooch friendly tankini’s and this is what I found:
    1.) Hapari Tankini -Sport Tankini. I noticed it is significantly longer than your average tankini which was what I needed. I got this one in Island Fever and the pattern did a great job hiding the pooch. I also ordered the brown Tummy Tuck Bottoms that you posted above and they really did help. The downfall is that I’m a bit hippy, so it gave me a little bulge on my outer thighs/hips where the suit bottoms ended. So I got a brown swim skirt that smooths all that out and walla, I am ready to swim and look great. In my opinion, Hapari was the best. I tried the V-Neck tank, but didn’t find the boob part to be very flattering on my body, but other body types maybe.
    2.) Lands End has some cute Tankini’s that are good for postpartum women.
    3.) Athleta has a couple longer tankini’s that can double up as swim dresses. This were really cute, but more on the pricey side.
    4.) Ann Taylor LOFT had a cute Dotted Twisted Tankini Top that I ordered that was great. It was long enough to even wear my maternity black bottoms with it. Cute and comfortable. Only downfall is that it needed a lot of adjusting to get it to not have the armpit boob that I am rather prone to.
    Hope this helps. You hit the nail on the head though, after about a year after having my first kiddo, I started wearing a bikini and stopped worrying about it.

  12. i love number ten. i’ve enjoyed reading all your tips on dressing this “changed” body, but that final tip is one of the best reminders i’ve ever seen here. thanks!

  13. oh! and! i recently ordered old navy’s ruched halter one piece and it is perfect. shockingly, since i expected very little from ordering a suit online from old navy but it is one of the best suits i have ever worn. and cheap.

  14. Gang, I’m overwhelmed. These comments are amazing. Thank you so very much for taking the time to leave them. You made my year. 🙂

  15. Seriously, you are the best. As a previous commenter said: your attitude is contagious. Thanks for rocking the options and giving such great tips.

  16. Great Post! I just got back from a cruise with all of my friends and my 7 month post partum pouch (from #2), (I am the only one with kids, “just wait” I warn them). I totally needed this swim wear week last month while I was despairingly shopping.

  17. Thank you for this awesome post. Informative, funny, and empowering- I love it. I just found this blog, and as a mom of a baby and a toddler who’s still trying to figure out my postpartum style, I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a goldmine. Thank you!!

  18. Thanks for the tip! I took your advice and bought a tankini with ruching from LansEnd. After many traumatic bathing suit attempts, I was SO happy with this one. I added some of the tummy control bottoms and it truly is a miracle. You saved my summer! Now I can confidently go to swim classes with my 5 month old and not worry about people seeing my post-partum belly rolling all over the place!!

  19. Thanks, Amanda! It’s fun looking back and laughing at myself. Although…not a whole lot has changed, actually. Ha, ha….ha. 🙂

  20. I felt so bad about my post baby figure (I gained 75lbs and only lost 30 giving birth), that this summer in North Carolina for a week long family reunion I didn’t get in the water at all. I was so unhappy with any swimsuit I even saw and my shape that I just sat on the side of the pool and watched my baby and husband float around in the pool. I had to be very stern with my husband’s family that I was NOT getting in the water. No one would just realize why. I had to act like some idiot who couldn’t swim to be given some slack.

  21. I think you look great in a bikini! Why hide the post partum pooch? It’s adorable. I’m 43 now and pp and I feel like I can’t pull it off anymore, but I so wish I’d had the confidence when I was younger. No hiding!

  22. Can I just say this was a great article? Also, I will say I love the last pic the best. You look best in what you’re happiest in (seriously though, gorgeous)

  23. Swim dresses probably would have been a good option to hide a belly. I don’t have kids yet, but I’m plus size and have a belly. Swim dresses look best on me. I know some women think they are for old ladies, but I’m in my early 30s and I like them.

  24. This post was so much more real and honest than the current offerings by Miss Shana. Shana, I love your voice here! You are so accessible and helpful and do not assume everyone has a perfect little figure. Please go back and read your old posts and remember what made you so popular to begin with.

    It’s nice to aspire to a leisurely lifestyle in which $500 boots are attainable, but we mamas need options and ideas that we can fit to our realities, and this post NAILED IT!

  25. Helpful post those ladies who have just gave birth to beautiful baby.. They will have a great idea how to hide their belly pooch after reading this blog. Salute to the writer. Loved it!

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