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)