Reusable nursing pads come in such a variety of materials and shapes that it can be as confusing as choosing a cloth nappy. But let me give you some practical guidance.
Materials used in nursing pads include bamboo, cotton, hemp, silk, wool, suede cloth, microfibre and PUL. If you already use cloth nappies, it is quite similar. Before we move onto which nursing pad to use, lets understand the construction of a nursing pad. I have tried several while nursing my kids .
Construction of a nursing pad
Against the nipple
A common material is suede cloth for a stay dry layer. But be aware this material can cause rubbing if wet and not changed often. Cotton is the most common material for its gentleness and great absorption. Silk is used for sensitive or cracked nipples, as it is soft against the skin.
Against the nursing bra
Depending upon which group you may belong to for leakage protection (see below) will determine which material will be against the bra. The most common material against the bra is usually cotton or lace. PUL or leak-proofing material is used for heavy letdowns or leakage. Ensure the material used is breathable. The downside of disposable nursing pads is the outer layer is not breathable and if not changed often enough, can lead to medical problems.
Shape and Size
There are several different shapes of nursing pads. Round is most popular. The shape is personal preference, I have not found a clear winner for myself, or in listening/talking to other nursing mothers. Experiment and find what is best for you.
The choice of size of nursing pad willl depend upon several factors;
- your level of leakage protection required,
- night nursing or not,
- breast size when nursing (dont base it upon your pre-nursing breasts, I can promise they will change significantly. In my case several sizes different, so my first lot of reusable nursing pads were like buttons.)
Bamboo, hemp, cotton and microfibre are used to absorb leakage. Choosing the right material based upon how your breast produce milk and the let-down process, is vital. So take a moment to place yourself into one of these groups of nursing women:
- Little to no leakage, I only need protection … use cotton or microfibre. It is your prefernece for material against skin or bra.
- Moderate leakage at random times or when the letdown comes … use cotton, bamboo, hemp or a combination of materials for better holding of the let down. Try a stay dry layer, but if you find it rubs, stick to cotton. A PUL layer against the bra is a personal choice at this stage, maybe keep a few pads for when going out for peace of mind.
- Constant leakage … in this case you need larger sized nursing pads to allow for the volume. Bamboo or quality cotton nursing pads are best. Also consider wool in the nursing pads for absorbency, as it holds alot of liquid. And against the bra, try PUL or wool.
- Huge letdowns with large leakage volume … try larger reusable nursing pads, bamboo and PUL against the bra. In some cases have a lining of microfibre under the nipple layer for faster absorption. Ensure the microfibre is not against the skin.
The other tips I can share when using reusable nuring pads:
- a great fitting nursing bra is your best friend. Buy the best for your budget.
- A little wetbag for outings or beside your nursing chair can help keep it tidy
- a travel wetbag with two pockets for fresh and wet nursing pads is helpful instead of stashing them in your handbag.
- if you run out, while away from home, the bamboo or cotton inserts to your cloth nappies can provide emergency relief. Please note, please dont use microfibre inserts they will cause irritation of the nipples.
- start buying some washable nursing pads while pregnant. I would buy a pair with each pay pack or monthly of the regular size. A nice stash then develops when birth is approaching and then I would buy the specific pads once I know about my milk production. In my case, the super letdown with super protection nursing pads.
Tell me your experience from using reusable nursing pads? What is your number one tip for new mums?
The Cloth Nappy Doctor