Breast pads are an essential part of your nursing wardrobe, and they will help you stay protected and enthused for your breastfeeding journey even if things get a little bit messy during the first few weeks. The Limerick team explain why this is, and explore your options when it comes to breast pads below!
There's one main reason why breast pads are needed...
...And that's breast milk leaks. Breast milk leaks can happen anytime, and there's no way to know where you'll be when they do. You could be in the middle of a business meeting, or on a plane heading home after your vacation. No matter where you're at or what you're doing, having some kind of protection against leaks will make things easier for everyone involved.
Breast pads are also extremely useful in absorbing leaks and keeping breasts dry throughout the day. Wet spots can be hard to avoid when dealing with something as unpredictable as breast milk leakage. And while we're on the subject of keeping things dry, this is important too. Breast milk obviously contains moisture, and keeping moisture trapped against the skin (ANY skin, not just your breasts) will eventually cause irritation and soreness if left untreated.
The ability for moms everywhere to keep their skin dry and their clothes stain-free, is therefore an important function typically served by wearing breast pads while breastfeeding. By absorbing leaks they help to keep your nipples and the skin around them from becoming sore, and by keeping your leaks discreet, they help moms keep their confidence and their enthusiasm for breastfeeding too.
When to be prepared for leaking
When it happens, you might leak a little, you might leak a lot - everyone is different in this regard. However, there are certain times in your daily routine when leaking is more common, and by recognizing when these times are, you can be well prepared for them. That being the case, the team here at Limerick explains when those times are in the paragraphs below.
During the first few weeks
The first few weeks of breastfeeding are when most women experience the highest number of leaks. This is because their hormone levels are high for 3-4 months after birth, meaning that when your milk first comes in, it's more prone to causing your breasts to feel full and heavy (also known as engorgement). When they feel full, it's the best time to feed their baby, as the additional volume means the milk will come out faster. If, after feeding, mom still feels uncomfortable, it can be a good idea to use their breast pump and express the excess.
Anytime you'll be away from baby for a few hours
Anytime you’re going to be away from the baby for a few hours (and certainly once you go back to work), it’s a good idea to consider using breast pads. If you normally feed or pump during that time, your body will naturally produce milk. If there's nowhere for that milk to go, you'll leak! However, breast pads can also help increase confidence and comfort when out and about. You might feel more at ease if you're aware that your breast pad is absorbing any leaks before they happen — sort of like an insurance policy against embarrassment.
When you're sleeping
For many mothers, breast pads are a must when you're sleeping. Your baby starts life needing to feed at night and your body knows this, so it will produce milk even while you're asleep. That's why many moms find that their breasts feel full and leak when they wake up in the morning, or have leaked overnight. This can be especially true if they have oversupply issues or have been away from their baby for a few hours or more for reasons we've discussed above.
Fortunately, there are solutions! While it may seem uncomfortable initially, wearing an adhesive bra liner can help keep the moisture from reaching your clothing (and thus potentially staining). If that doesn't work for you—or if you want an easier solution— then many breast pads are comfortable enough that you can sleep while wearing them too.
What different types of breast pads are there?
Many different breast pads are available; the type that's best for you depends on your lifestyle and preferences. Some pads are reusable, but these often need to be washed each time they get wet. Other kinds of pads are disposable and can be thrown away once they become soaked with milk. If you want to save money in the long run, then reusable breast pads may be a good choice for you; if not, disposables might make more sense. Still, other options include washable cloth breast pads that can also be used as nursing covers when needed (and then reused).
Some women prefer thinner breast pads because they don't feel like their breasts are being weighed down by them—which can be particularly important during hot weather or when exercising regularly outside of one's home. However, others find thicker ones more comfortable because they help prevent leaks from occurring under clothing without pressing into the nipple area too tightly (which often happens with thinner types).
Homemade nursing pads
There are several options if you're looking to make your own nursing pads. You can use old t-shirts, cotton sheets, or similar fabric items and cut them into squares or rectangular shapes. Then, fold the fabric in half and sew along three sides of each rectangle (or glue the edges together). If crafting is your thing, this is also a great sewing project for beginners!
Reusable nursing pads
Reusable pads are frequently made from cotton, bamboo, or hemp. They're designed to be washed and reused over and over again. This is a more environmentally friendly option than using disposable pads, which often end up in landfills. However, you'll need to buy multiple pairs of reusable nursing pads if you want to go this route; so that you still have some pads ready to go while others are being cleaned or worn.
Disposable nursing pads
Disposable nursing pads are made of cotton, which is absorbent. They're also easy to find in stores, so you don't have to worry about making them yourself. In addition, disposable nursing pads are relatively inexpensive compared to other types of pads. Finally, they're very convenient because they don't need to be washed or changed like reusable ones.
These can be used for light to moderate leaking. These pads are not absorbent and should only be used for small amounts of breast milk. They also usually come with a waterproof backing that lets you attach them directly to your breast or nipple, keeping them in place. Silicone pads are reusable and washable, so you can use them multiple times. Silicone pads make great multipurpose products because they can be used in place of regular nursing pads during the day, then removed at night before bedtime (when you might prefer something more discreet).
Nursicare pads are the choice Limerick recommends. These therapeutic breast pads support and speed up the natural healing process, preventing discomfort and microscopic tissue damage. We even recommend wearing these during labour to prevent nipple soreness in the first few days after delivery. The semi-permeable pads allow the nipples to breathe while still absorbing and preventing any leaks that could occur in order to maintain a healthy moisture level.
Which is the right pad for me?
When it comes to breast pads, there is a wide range of options available, and with all these options to choose from, it can be hard to make the right decision. If you're still unsure which breast pad best suits your needs, you're best served to ask someone who has been there before - or even better, consult a lactation consultant (just like the ones on our team). They'll be able to advise you regarding what kind of breast pads are right for each stage of breastfeeding and can guide you through everything from choosing the right size for your breasts to figuring out how much absorbency is needed in each type. After all, having enough support during those first few weeks when things might get messy is crucial for both mom AND baby's health. We hope that the paragraphs above have helped you identify the pads that will work best for you and when. However, if you need some extra personalized advice, then feel free to contact our breastfeeding experts today, consult our resource center, or reach out to us over Facebook or Instagram!