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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Make your Own Pregnant Belly Cast

 Casts of all of my pregnant bellies, from left to right.  00, 02, 04, 07, 09

I have had a few people ask me how to do these so I figured since I have done like 7 of them I'd put up a tutorial.  Well OK, so I have only really done 1 (for a friend).  Charlie (my hubby) technically did the other 6 (2 with my first pregnancy and one with each of the other 4).
I am so, so glad we had the forethought and took the time to make these with each pregnancy.  I think they are just beautiful and what a wonderful memento of your pregnant form!  Mine are still raw and unfinished as you can see in the pictures, but some day I will trim the edges and paint them.  I don't have any pictures of the casting process, because there was never anyone around to take them (and we usually have very messy hands).

My first cast, done in 2000.  I have applied a layer of plaster to the outside of this one
My last cast, done it 2009 is in the back

What is a belly cast
For those of you who have never heard of belly casting before . . . as you can see in the pictures, a belly cast is a cast of your pregnant form.  It is usually done with plaster gauze strips.  You can buy them in craft stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby or online.  One name brand is Rigid Wrap (the brand I have always used).  I have heard of some people who used actual cast (like the medical stuff you use if you break your arm). and you can make your own apparently by using fabric and plaster of paris (never done it so I won't give directions how) but it is just easier to buy the plaster strips premade for casting.  There are also commercial kits available online (google search for them) but they tend to be expensive and you can gather the supplies yourself and save some money.  You can do it yourself for usually under $20.  Some people even offer the service of belly casting (I actually considered it before starting Kozy) and will come to your home and do it for you.

Why do a belly cast

I think a belly cast is an amazing work of art!  You are only pregnant with each individual child once.  When you are pregnant your body takes on that unique shape, the shape of creating and growing life.  It is a precious time and many people want to remember what they looked like in a 3D form.  It can also be a memorable keepsake.  I take pictures of my babies in their cast after they are born, and I put their footprints inside where they used to kick me the most.  It is something I will cherish forever.
You can paint them, and mount them as a work of art, or you can keep them raw and keep them tucked away for only yourself and your kids to enjoy.  Either way, everyone I have ever talked to has always been really glad that they made one.

How to make your own belly cast

Things to consider

When do you want to do your cast?  I like the biggest belly possible, so with all of mine I wait as long as possible.  With Xian I did it at 38 and 40 wks.  With the others I as either in early labor (I even woke Charlie up at 3am to do the cast since I was in labor) or after my EDD.  However, I usually have very long labors and they slowly build, so I can wait.  If you have fast labors (or haven't been in labor before) or have ANY concern about going into labor before you are able to do your cast, you may want to play it safe and shoot for 38 wks. (or earlier if you have early labors) You can always buy more material and do one around 40 if you make it that far (there can be a pretty good belly difference in 38 and 40 wks).  If you don't mind not having the biggest belly possible then anytime after 36 wks would probably work great!

How do you want your cast to look?  You can do just the belly or the breasts and belly.  Some will stop just above the breasts and under the belly, but others will go all the way up to the neck and down to include part of the thighs.  Remember that you can trim and shape your cast afterwords (so far I have only done that with 1 of mine. . . Pipers in the picture at top, 2nd to the left)  But I plan to do it with them all eventually.  You can also include your arms/hands in the cast..  If you want to have your hand on your belly you would include your arm in the cast.  If you have someone else helping you (besides your husband, who has always done mine) then maybe your husband would want to include his hand while someone else casts your belly.   I did one when pg with Xian with Charlies hand on my belly . . . which was difficult since it was just the 2 of us there The variations are endless!  You can see pictures of various ideas for casts HERE.

What position do you want to be in?  Standing produces, IMO, the best looking cast, but standing for that length of time (20 minutes minimum) unable to move is often very hard when you are very pregnant (believe me, I know, I did it in early labor with like 3 of them, LOL!!).  Lying down would be most comfy but it really distorts the belly and breasts.  Sitting would work but realize that will distort it too and may make casting the lower belly hard.  I think ideally, if you can find a tall stool that you can prop yourself on that would work best.  I usually just lean up against the wall.  You will want to make sure you feel good, have eaten, are not tired etc so you will have energy to stand there.  With Piper I thought I was going to pass out, but with the other 4, I did fine.

roll of plaster gauze

Materials needed
  • Plaster gauze strips.  You can buy these at craft stores like Michaels or Hobby Lobby, one name is Rigid wrap but there are other brand names as well.  If you do a google search for "plaster gauze strips" you will find many places online that sell them.  Most come in rolls of 4" x 5 yds.  In that size, you will want 3-4 rolls.  If you are average size and want to do neck down to bottom of your belly then 3 rolls should work (that is what I use).  If you are larger and want to also do arms, or start higher and end lower then go with 4 rolls (or more).  If you are just doing the belly and no breasts, then 2 rolls would probably work. If you can find 8" rolls then buy at least 1 of those, it makes things go really fast and replaces 2 4" rolls.  You will cut the strips into 12" and 18" sections.  I usually cut a few smaller ones around 6" too, for around the breasts.  It is pretty easy to rip the longer pieces in 1/2 if needed while casting.
  • Lubricant.  You need to completely coat your skin so that the plaster won't stick to you.  It  will stick to any hair and hurts when it is pulled off so grease up as much as possible!! Most people recommend Petroleum Jelly, but, no thank you . . . I won't put that stuff on my skin!!  I like to use Olive Oil, I use it very generously and it is good for my skin.  I have heard of people using crisco too.
  • Drop cloth.  Or a shower curtain, newspapers, tablecloth etc.  You need something to cover the floor, chair etc. where you will be casting, because it can get messy.
  • Shallow Pan of Warm Water.  This is for wetting your gauze strips.  We use some type of baking dish usually.  Something that is wider makes dunking easier.
  • Plastic wrap or something similar.  Like I said above, the plaster sticks to hair terribly.  You can grease up enough to keep it from pulling hair on your body, but if you are doing a full belly you will be getting low enough to cover some of the hair . . . ummm . . . 'down there' if you know what I mean, LOL!!  So I cover it with some plastic wrap before putting the plaster over it just in that area.

Thrace's footprints inside his cast

 Making the cast

Casting can get pretty messy so you will want to choose a spot in the house that is easy to clean.  I usually use the kitchen or at least do it on a hard floor.  The kitchen is ideal because the counter and sink are right there and that makes for easy clean up and access to your stuff.  
Keep in mind again, that this is messy so whoever is doing the casting may want to wear old clothes (though the plaster washes out nicely) and since it drips, we are usually barefoot.
I usually strip down to my undies.
Generously coat your body in olive oil.  Do not be afraid to use a lot, the plaster WILL stick to the hairs on your body so grease up well!!  If you need to use syran wrap over your privates it should stick to the oil.  While you are doing this your helper can fill a wide, shallow bowl/dish with warm water (as per the instructions on your plaster strips).  Make sure you have your strips cut to the proper lengths mentioned above.  I lie them in stacks according to length so that Charlie can grab what he needs easily.  All of the materials should be located as close to you as possible, to cut down on the mess and make the process quicker.
Find a comfy spot and position (as mentioned above).  
Pregnant breasts are usually saggy so to make casting them easier make sure to hold your shoulders back to give them as much lift as posible.  If needed you can tape them up (I have never felt the need to do that).  I would not try to lift them to cast under them though, it won't look as good and will probably make the cast harder to remove . . . just have your helper do the best they can and stop where they meet your body.

Take a minute to plan out how you want to proceed.  Make ALL your decisions (position, how much of the body to cover) before hand.  Charlie usually takes a minute to plan out how he wants to arrange the strips and where he wants to start.  
Start casting.  Once you place the first strip on the body you will need to work very quickly as it dries very fast.  The strips can get folded when dipped, which is why a wide dish is easier to use.  Charlie dips, removes the excess water by lightly running 2 fingers down the strip, then places it on.  He usually starts around the breasts, since it is a bit more time consuming, then works on the belly.  Don't forget to work all the way around the belly to the sides of your body (which show just how large the belly is).  He covers the whole body with 1 layer, then does a 2nd layer going in the opposite direction.  Ideally you want to smoothe the plaster in after you put the strips on.  I will help him out by rubbing it in and smoothing the strips together while he places more strips on (he is not a super fast mover, he is more detailed oriented, LOL, so this saves time).  Of course there comes a point where I can no longer move to do this.  You will need to though, for the most part, stay very still during the casting process.  
After a few minutes you will start to feel the cast separate from your body, just hold still though till your helper is finished with the entire thing.  If for some reason some areas don't get a good couple layers of plaster on them, that is OK, you can go back later and reinforce it.  
Once the cast is finished you don't want to remove it until it has all hardened enough to start separating from your body.  For me, that usually happens pretty quickly.  I don't pull the cast off of me, I simply hold it and contract my skin and it pulls away from the cast.  Be prepared for the possibility that it may be uncomfortable, especially if you didn't grease up enough or missed some spots.  It is OK though, it just lasts a second.

After removing the cast I usually leave it to dry for a day or 2.  I like to ball up a couple of towels and fill the belly area with them and kind of prop it on it's side to dry.  The towels help it to keep it's shape so that it doesn't get distorted looking as it dries.  The edges are usually pretty delecate so I don't want to put too much pressure on them. 

Ever in his cast

  Now that your cast is finished

Put baby's name, birthdate, footprints inside - I like to put baby's foot prints inside the cast in the place where I typically got kicked the most, and if you can get them to cooperate, you can do handprints as well.

Take Pictures - After baby is born, it is really cool to take a picture of them inside the cast.  You look at baby and then look at the cast and think . . . there is no way they will fit inside there . . . but they always do!!  It is VERY cool.  I like to put a white blanket inside (so it blends in with the white cast) and then strip them down and ball them up and place them head down like they would have been in the womb.  Fortunately, newborns sleep so much that they usually cooperate for the pictures.

Reinforce and trim - You may choose to keep your cast raw, which is fine, but if you do you may want to at least 'tidy' it up a bit.  If it is thinning in some areas you can add more plaster gauze strips to the INSIDE to make it stronger.  You may also want to trim the rough edges.  You can just trim them to make them smoother or you can trim and angle the edges to make it more artistic looking.

Sand and Smooth - You can sand the cast to make it smoother.  After sanding if you apply a few coats of Gesso (which is like art primer) and sand again and you should get it pretty smooth look.  If you want it even smoother you can apply a thin layer of joint compound over the whole thing (you can also use it to cover any imperfections, like folded strips etc.) and sand it after it dries.  I have used plaster of paris but that will chip off if the cast moves at all.  When I get around to finishing mine, I will do a layer of joint compound, then I will sand it, and when it is as smooth as I want it,  I will then apply the primer (gesso) and then paint.

Display your cast - You can hang it on the wall by punching holes in the top corners and threading a ribbon through.  If you don't want the ribbon showing then you can drill holes lower and use wire or ribbon (kind of like a wire picture frame hanger).  You can also mount it inside a frame.  Many people like to hang them in their baby's room (if they have one) or do what I have done so far . . . just prop it up on a table, or shelf.

Thrace in his cast

Decorate Your Cast - there are ENDLESS ways you can decorate your belly cast. 
  • Paint your cast - You can paint over a smooth cast or keep it rough to add to the 'texture' (but make sure you prime it first)  You can paint your cast to match your nursery, your baby's birthdate month or astrological sign.  You can wait till your baby grows and pick a theme that matches their personality.  You can let them help you paint it.  I have even heard of people dehydratig the placenta and mixing it with paints.  You can paint a picture, a design, their name, or you can do a solid color to look like metal or stone.   After painting you can do a clear coat over top to protect it.  You can choose to make it matte or glossy.
  • Decoupage - if you want to decorate the cast but don't want to go to the trouble of smoothing everything out first, then just grab some Modge Podge and do a decoupage (you may need to prime it first though).  You can decoupage it with xeroxed pictures of your baby (I did that for my sisters cast).  You can cut out pictures, designs, words or anything.  You can glue on beads, or any type of bling or even fabric.  OR you could paint it and then decoupage pictures or words or add bling.
  • Here is a site with lots of pictures and ideas of ways to decorate your cast (they also sell belly casting kits) Proud Body Pregnancy Art (pan down a bit for pictures)

 Thrace (and Ever) trying to nurse on his cast

 I really encourage everyone to make a belly cast if possible.  There is nothing more beautiful than a pregnant belly full of life!  If you are shy you can do it with your husband in the privacy of your home and it can be a private memento just for you.  Or you can proudly display it as the beautiful, miraculous work of art that it is!! 

 The kids with their casts, Xian, Piper, Arah, Ever and Thrace


  1. MMartinJan 21, 2010 05:51 AM
    those are neat. I like the photo of Ever in his cast. :)
  2. mrskoningFeb 3, 2010 10:10 AM
    Thank you SO much for posting such a detailed explanation and giving all your tips and variations on how to do this! I'm so excited to try and do my own in 2 weeks! :)
  3. heyfrecklesFeb 12, 2010 10:03 PM
    These are beautiful! I love the last pic of the kids with their casts and the newborn pics! I can't wait to do this with my next child! Wish I would've seen this for my first! Thanks for sharing!
  4. Lisa ChinneryMay 29, 2010 04:21 PM
    Thank you for sharing. It was tremendously helpful. At the last minute decided I would just get a kit but then couldn't find it so was thrilled to find that I had bought the right (and enough) supplies so I could cast my friend's belly.
  5. JennyAug 4, 2010 07:53 AM
    If I've done a cast, let it dry, applied gesso, sanded it, applied another coat of gesso....can I still put joint compound over that?
  6. KelleyAug 4, 2010 09:07 AM
    Jenny, I don't see why not, I would sand it again before doing the joint compound though.
    Another option is that you may be able to do joint compound on the inside and strengthen it from there instead of the outside since you already have the outside primed. Though if you are looking to smooth it out more and not just strengthen it you would definitely need it on the outside. I like mine really smooth.
  7. LeslieApr 10, 2011 05:33 PM
    Toooo Toooo Adorable!! :)