Monday, November 17, 2008

Essential breastfeeding product: Save your shirt & your dignity!

Welcome to the November Carnival of Breastfeeding: Product Reviews

This month we're bringing you posts on the topic of nursing products. Be sure to check out the links at the end for other great shopping and gift ideas.


I thought about what products I use in breastfeeding, and it hasn't been much. For one, you need a nice pair of breasts. Just a joke -- one will do.

But seriously, as far as things you can buy, the few things I've gotten I've mostly written about before: supportive and well-fitting nursing bras, helpful clothing, a nursing necklace for twiddling, and a simple pump (a nice manual like an Avent Isis works if pumping is only occasional). For the early days, I also used a little lanolin -- generic worked fine, and now I use the leftover to lanolize my wool diaper covers -- and pillows to bolster my newborn up to the right height (such as a Boppy, My Brest Friend, or, you know, a bed pillow or two!).

So, the only other thing my mind went to, as far as breastfeeding products I still use at 17 months, nursing pads.

They were absolutely necessary in the first months, when otherwise my shirts ended up soaked within minutes, but I still wear them now, and I can tell that they continue to prevent the odd embarrassing leak. There's nothing like sporting two big wet circles like targets painting your chest!

I tried out disposable nursing pads first, but they were crinkly, wrinkly, and obvious even through my bra and shirt. I didn't usually leak through them, but they often felt uncomfortably soaked before I had a chance to change them. Plus, they were difficult to readjust when I was nursing in public, and I would often find one flapping its way out as I was trying to fasten things up.

I thought I'd look for something better. I saw that the major brands had reusable cloth pads available, but I was already looking on eBay for diaper supplies, and I discovered that several sew-from-home moms create their own versions of cloth nursing pads, from wool, cotton jersey, flannel, fleece, or some combination.

I tried a few kinds, and the best for me are made from what seems like one layer of thick flannel and one layer of soft microfleece, serged together at the edges and contoured in two places so that it has a nice curved shape to it. I can put either side next to my skin, and they've been comfortable, discreet, and leak-proofing. Unfortunately, I checked and the person selling them hasn't had any listed in awhile, though other sellers have similar and affordable kinds available.

Another option is to make your own, adapting the pattern and materials to suit your needs. I liked these instructions from Exploring Womanhood:

Craft Projects -- Cloth Nursing Pads

It looks simple enough but thorough, and it allows you to make flat or contoured pads. If you want to contour even further, to give more of a rounded than a pointed top, just repeat the contouring instructions on the opposite side of the circle.

The suggested materials are cotton, terry, or flannel, which provide absorbency. You might try adding or substituting a wicking material as well -- something that's popular in cloth diapering or elimination communication would work, such as microfleece or wool. That will help keep the moisture from making its way onto your clothing or keeping the wetness against your skin.

You can start off with any fabrics you have at home. For ultimate discretion, follow the article's instructions about matching your skin tone. But if you have an opaque bra, you can use even kicky patterns without fear, so try cutting up old receiving blankets, diapers, or towels.

You can find other patterns online, and some will have you start out with a larger diameter circle (5" or 6"), acknowledging that the sewing will cut in on the diameter a little. You can see what works best for your shape and size. Some suggest that the pads should fill the cup of your bra, so there are no telltale lines around the edges. I've found that mine are thin and molded enough that it isn't a problem. Breastfeeding in public, too, is easier if the end result is flexible and on the thin side, so that the pad just sort of stays tucked and folded into your bra's cup until it's time to pull it up to close.

Caring for the pads is easy-peasy. I don't have a washer, so I just wash mine in the sink with my bras, with Eucalan or Woolite or, if I'm feeling plebeian, dish soap. You might be able to throw yours in the washer and dryer, depending on your fabric choices. Wool will need special care.

Feel free to experiment, and let me know how your pads turn out.

Or be lazy like I was, and buy some from a work-at-home mama, which is not a bad idea, either!


Please read our other carnival participants:

Breastfeeding Mums reviews The Food of Love, a witty book about breastfeeding
Babyfingers raves about her Bravado nursing tank
Half Pint Pixie finds gorgeous nursing bras for smaller-breasted mamas
The Motherwear Blog checks out breastfeeding and pumping CDs
Mama Knows Breast suggests breastfeeding and pregnancy pillows
Blacktating gives tips on products to boost milk supply
Mama's Magic blogs about basics and bling
Breastfeeding 1-2-3 finds comfort with the Medela Sleep Nursing Bra
LaylaBethMunk @ offers a selection of favorites

DIY photo from the Exploring Womanhood project


Elita said...

You are really crafty! What a neat idea. I never leaked but I know it's a big problem for many moms. Glad to know there are some more natural and organic options in nursing pads.

Lauren Wayne said...

I know! The cloth ones are more comfortable, and at the same time more sustainable. Funny how that often works out!

P.S. Amazing that you never leaked. Fun!

Jen (Mama's Magic Studio) said...

Fantastic post! Love that you even provided directions for DIY!!! I was lucky to never have much trouble with leaking -- just for the first week or so, and just on one side -- so I never had to do much exploration of the world of nursing pads. I agree that the disposables aren't all that wonderful, though, even just for occasional use.

Lauren Wayne said...

What lucky women you are not to leak! I think it might be genetic -- my mom knew exactly what I was talking about and had stories of her own. LOL

Anonymous said...

Reusable breast pads sure can save you a lot of money! and so much nicer to where something soft against your skin rather than paper - gel stuff!

Lauren Wayne said...

No kidding! It's like the difference between cloth & sposie diapers -- I'm always amazed at how stiff and scratchy the paper kind are, and they say stuff like "now more cloth-like." I'm not starting a sposie rant (yet...); I'm just saying the difference is so stark against the skin.

I like your site, by the way! I see you have hemp pads as well. I haven't tried hemp yet (for diapering either) but have heard good things and would like to give it a whirl. I like that the pads coordinate with your bra colors -- that makes so much sense, for discretion purposes!

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