Is this the end of the post-baby body? (Photos: Us Weekly, People)
In Hollywood, having a baby isn’t just a lifestyle choice — it’s practically a brand extension. And somewhere in between the outrageous baby name and the organic kid’s clothing line, comes the post-baby bikini photo.
The classic image, shot for magazines (such as People and Us Weekly) and popularized by A-listers and reality stars, usually features a toned, chiseled new mother weeks or months postpartum, wearing a bikini (hands on hips), touting her newfound diet and exercise methods. Not only are these images terribly misleading — anyone who’s given birth is familiar with the jiggly, wrinkled, stretchy parts that take months or years to firm up — they also do a disservice to the women who perpetuate them.
Case-in-point: Zooey Deschanel recently shared her thoughts on the pressure for new moms to slim down, telling Cosmopolitan, “Haven’t we all seen those pictures of a sexy new mom in a bikini after one month? I will not be that person.“ Actress Olivia Wilde also penned an essay for Shape magazine breaking down the realities of her postpartum body. “I am not in perfect shape. In fact, I’m softer than I’ve ever been, including that unfortunate semester in high school when I simultaneously discovered Krispy Kreme and pot,” she wrote. “The photos of me in this magazine have been generously constructed to show my best angles, and I assure you, good lighting has been warmly embraced. The truth is, I’m a mother, and I look like one."
Carrie Underwood, who gave birth in March, also poked fun at the now iconic images, recently tweeting a “bikini” selfie shot from the neck up, with the hashtag #IKnowImLame.” And in February, mom-of-three and actress Kate Winslet shared her “Hell no” attitude with Harper’s Bazaar U.K., saying "I so didn’t want to be one of those ‘Oh, wow, she’s back in shape after 12 weeks’ women. When I read things like that, I just think, 'Oh, for f—’s sake, that’s actually impossible.’”
Carrie Underwood’s post-baby bikini photo. (Photo: Instagram/Carrie Underwood)
Sure, one could argue that the post-baby bikini shoot has been replaced by carefully crafted DIY methods (think Kim Kardashian’s Instagram “butt” selfie four months after giving birth), but there’s also been an effort to reinvent mothers’ bodies in a way that celebrates, not shames women. After giving birth to her third baby in December, Kourtney Kardashian began documenting her weight-loss efforts on Instagram, posting photos of her workout clothing and even her weight, inadvertently triggering an empowering online confessional from mothers.
In March, mom-of-three Rachel Hollis posted a bikini photo on Facebook (that quickly went viral), captioning it, “I have stretch marks and I wear a bikini. I have a belly that’s permanently flabby from carrying three giant babies and I wear a bikini. My belly button is saggy… (which is something I didn’t even know was possible before!!) and I wear a bikini. I wear a bikini because I’m proud of this body and every mark on it. Those marks prove that I was blessed enough to carry my babies and that flabby tummy means I worked hard to lose what weight I could.” And Instagram campaigns such as Take Back Postpartum featuring raw, unfiltered postpartum selfies have gained momentum.
It’s a good time for such a body-love movement. After all, with the “dadbod” having a soft, squishy moment, women deserve the opportunity, too.