Staying comfortable while nursing
When you are pregnant or breastfeeding, finding the right nipple pads can help to ease soreness and prevent chafing on the skin. Nipple pads are available in most pharmacies, and many brands have an online store. You’ll also find a wide range of pads on Amazon, and a selection on the health and beauty aisles of large retailers like Walmart.
Many new moms don't anticipate that their breasts will leak during pregnancy and after birth, leading to spots or stains on bras and clothing. While this is nothing to worry about, you may want to feel secure that you'll stay dry while out and about. Breast or nipple pads are an effective way to combat leakage, and avoid stains on clothing.
Pads are available in different shapes, sizes and materials, and may be disposable or reusable. So where do you find pads that are comfortable, easy to use and won't irritate your skin? Your lactation consultant or doctor might recommend a particular brand or type of pad, but if not - or if their recommendation didn't work for you - our team has some useful pointers.
When can leaking start?
Women's breasts can start producing milk as early as the second trimester of pregnancy and continue for up to two years after breastfeeding stops. For many women, unexpected leaking stops in the first 6 to 10 weeks postpartum, but every woman is different. Nipples are a sensitive area, and the skin can often become cracked or sore due to infant sucking, especially if they have a poor latch. Nipples can also become dry and sensitive with frequent expression if you are exclusively pumping.
How to use
Breast pads can be incredibly useful when pumping or breastfeeding, especially in the first few weeks postpartum. In the first few days after birth, milk 'comes in,’ and most women experience some leakage. Leaking usually continues until milk production is well established, typically several weeks after birth. Breast pads are placed in the bra to soak up milk and keep clothes dry. Breast pads should be changed regularly throughout the day, to avoid skin irritation. Depending on their material, and how absorbent the pad is, some pads will need to be changed more often than others.
Remember that there are individual differences when it comes to leakage. Some moms find that they leak for many months postpartum, whereas others see no leakage at all. This has nothing to do with your milk production, so don't worry.
Factors to consider
Comfort, absorption capability, ease-of-use and price are all things you're going to want from your nipple pads. You need the pad to sit comfortably against your breasts all day, or during the night. Certain pads, such as multi-layered pads, will be better for night-time leaks, as they are more absorbent. Thicker, highly absorbent pads may be a great option for the nighttime, but some women find they aren't discreet enough for daytime wear. That said, if you leak quite heavily, then they may be a good investment. Thicker nipple pads are less visible when worn with a good maternity bra.
Disposable or reusable pads?
Disposable pads can be a convenient option for busy moms. They tend to have adhesive tapes, so they fit securely against the skin and hold up while you move around and in-between pumping sessions or feeds.
Reusable pads tend to be made from cotton, bamboo, or silicone and can be washed and reused. Washable breast pads are generally more expensive than disposable ones, but this balances out over time as they don't need to be replaced. Unlike disposable pads, reusable pads don't have adhesive tapes. There are pros and cons to this - adhesive tape can make the pad less breathable, but on the other hand, pads without them can slip out of place, rendering them useless.
Breast pads can be made from one material or a combination of many, for example a bamboo lining. There are benefits to each type of material, and women with sensitive skin should look for antibacterial, hypoallergenic pads. For example, bamboo is naturally antibacterial and anti-odor, making it a good option if your skin is easily irritated. Bamboo pads, which are woven, rather than knitted, will be more absorbent, without being bulky. Organic cotton is another hypoallergenic material that won't irritate nipples. If your skin is sensitive, make sure any pads you buy aren't bleached with chemicals, such as chlorine or dioxin, and avoid pads that are synthetic or synthetic blends (e.g. viscose, polyester).
Easing nipple pain
Nipples and skin around the areola can become dry, cracked, and even wounded while nursing or expressing milk. When you're looking for breast pads, look for a product which helps skin to heal - many pads contain a moisturizer or antibacterial substance to promote healing. A cream or moisturizer specially designed for nipples can promote healing and prevent dryness. A standard moisturizer won't be suitable - you need to find a cream specifically designed for nursing women. Lanolin is a popular and effective product - it is a thick, oily balm which is non-irritating and soothing. Lanolin should not be used if you are allergic to wool or lipstick. Other nipple creams are made from calendula, a plant oil.
Breast pads tend to be flat discs, but there are other shapes that can help ease nipple pain. Nursicure pads are flat discs made from PolyMem, a soft, flexible material that helps prevent nipple damage and heal cracked skin. They absorb fluid, expand to establish full contact with the nipple, and have a built-in moisturizer to soothe wounded skin. Other pads are dome-shaped or circular, designed to fit the shape of the breast.
This blog was written by the Limerick team, led by certified lactation consultants. Learn about our hospital-grade breast pumps here.