It's An Easy, If Messy, Process - And So Very Worth It!

A belly cast is an amazing way to memorialize your pregnant form! Photos and video just can't capture your shape in three dimensions the way an easy, fun-to-make belly cast can. All you need are the following supplies and a pair of helping hands!
by Nancy and Betsy

What you neeed:
1 plastic drop cloth
1 jar petroleum jelly
1 pair gloves
3-4 rolls plaster casting material (each 4" x 5 yards)
1 sanding screen

You will also need:
Basin of room-temperature water
A helper

You may also want:
1 paintbrush
1 bottle gesso finishing material
Other craft supplies for decorating your cast

How it works:
A belly cast is created by applying several layers of wet plaster strips to the front of your body. After the strips have set, they will hold your shape and the cast will come away from your body and you will have a permanent record of your pregnant shape!

Typically, women cast the belly or the belly and breasts. Some choose to have their hands/arms included as they hold or encircle the belly. This is entirely up to you -- we have included enough casting material (60 square feet!) to create a large cast with multiple layers for strength.

Most women make their casts late in pregnancy (36-39 weeks) to capture their bellies at maximum size, while some make a series of casts to track their growth. When you do your cast is up to you!

Belly casting it at least a two-person job and a three-person job if you want photographs! Some couples enjoy doing this together as a shared and intimate celebration of their baby, while some moms would like to share the fun with friends and other family members. If you have doulas or midwives, they might be another option. . . it is certainly guaranteed that they will have an appreciation and reverence for your pregnant form.

These instructions are written for the expectant mom s helper(s).

Before beginning:
Before starting, make sure the expectant mom is comfortable, and not hungry or thirsty -- and that she won't need to visit the bathroom for at least half an hour. (If that's possible!) If you want to take photographs of the process, have your camera ready. Also, prepare an area where the cast can rest undisturbed as it finishes curing. (Usually 24-48 hours.)

You might want to light some candles and turn on some relaxing music to set the mood.

Start by protecting your work area. You will probably want to lay down a few layers of newspaper on the floor, upon which you will set a chair. The chair should be at a comfortable height for the expectant mom. We suggest draping the plastic drop cloth (enclosed) over the chair.

You will need a shallow basin of room-temperature water. This is how you will wet the plaster strips. Place it in a sturdy spot, near the expectant mom. Away from the water, (and over a protected area because the strips will be powdery) open at least two of the rolls of plaster casting material. With sharp scissors, cut the plaster roll into strips 12 to 18 inches in length. Set the cut strips into two piles based on their length. Also, cut at least one square (three squares if you're doing a cast that will include your breasts) that is approximately 2-3 inches square. These squares will be used for accentuating the belly button and nipples so your cast will be finely detailed.

You need to decide what to cast, and then prepare the area that will be casted. Then you have to bare it! Bare skin makes the best belly cast, although you can wear a bra above and underwear below the casting area if you desire.

Since the casting material will go right against the skin and will set (much like glue), you want to ensure that small hairs are not trapped in the plaster of the cast. We have supplied petroleum jelly just for this so you can create a non-stick surface on your body. Simply spread a layer of petroleum jelly all over the areas to be cast. We suggest applying it all in one direction so the hairs have less of a chance of being caught. Don t worry the plaster will still adhere on top of the jelly. (Note: Latex gloves will fall apart if you use them to spread the jelly. Instead, you might want to spread it with bare hands or a paper towel.)

Next, you will need a piece of plastic wrap to protect the underwear or the pubic hair area. The expectant mom should position herself toward the front edge of the chair -- close enough so she doesn't have anything touching the cast zone, but far enough back so she can sit comfortably for 20-30 minutes. The expectant mom should sit up as straight as she can, and once you begin casting her chest, she shouldn't look down.

A note about non-seated positions: It is possible to cast the belly while standing, although this can become tedious for a full-term mom-to-be, especially with the added weight and heft of the cast. We've heard many stories of women fainting while standing still for such an extended period of time. Aside from the obvious safety issues, this can also damage the cast. If you have your heart set on standing, make sure to keep your knees soft and slightly bent to minimize the risk of passing out.

Some women do their casts lying down, which is certainly appropriate if the expectant mother is on bed rest. In general, however, a prone position will produce a cast that shows a smaller belly and breasts in a less-flattering position -- not to mention the pressure on the vena cava if mom is on her back.

Creating the cast:
Whoever will be handling the casting materials should put on the gloves. Next, thoroughly (but quickly) wet single plaster strips one at a time by running them through the water basin, and then place them across the area to be casted. As you approach the belly button and nipples, place one of the small squares over each of these areas and carefully conforming them to the shape. You will want to reinforce the cast with multiple layers, but take some care to avoid further layers around the belly button and nipples.

To give the cast maximum strength, create multiple overlapping layers, laying strips up and down, side to side and diagonally across. Try to cover every area of the cast with a minimum of two layers of casting material -- and more is better.

Don t rush, but work quickly, smoothing the strips as you go along. Make sure the sides are also reinforced with extra layers. The casting material will begin to dry in about eight minutes, but as you are applying additional layers, the cast will need to stay in place until it "tells" you it s ready by getting warm, quite heavy, and eventually separating from the body after 20-30 minutes.

When the cast is ready to be removed, handle it carefully. We suggest gently stuffing it full of crumpled newspapers and setting it belly-up on a surface so it can air-dry for at least 48 hours. It will be hard to the touch, but until it has cured, it can sag under its own weight if not adequately supported.

After the casting
As soon as the cast is complete, you will want to take a shower! We recommend first using a paper towel or napkin to wipe off as much of the petroleum jelly as possible. Then you can take a shower or bath to get rid of the remaining plaster.

Once the cast has cured, you can smooth off any rough areas with the sanding screen we have included. (Just rinse out the screen if it fills with plaster dust.) To seal and smooth the surface, apply a coat of gesso with a brush (both included in this kit) and then let dry.

Your belly cast is now complete, and ready for you to display, store, or paint and decorate as you wish! Be sure to write on the cast the date you made it and how pregnant you were at the time, and consider writing a letter to your baby to paste

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