Breast Pads: The Guide 2021
Types of Breast Pads
Disposable, Reusable, Silicone, and Hydrogel Breast Pads
Breast pads, also called nursing pads, are a very useful breastfeeding accessory. Placed into a regular or a nursing bra, they can absorb breast milk from leaking breasts to help prevent embarrassment, and protect your clothing from stains.
Leaking is more common in the early days of breastfeeding, while the supply of breast milk adjusts to your baby’s needs. You might not experience leaking at all. You might leak for a few weeks, or you might deal with leaking for as long as you breastfeed your baby.
Leaking can occur when you hear your baby cry when your breasts become very full when you’re intimate with your partner, or for no reason at all. Here are some other reasons when you might need nursing pads:
- During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, when your milk first comes in
- If you’re going to be away from your baby for a few hours
- When you’re returning to work
- If you have an overabundant milk supply
- During sexual encounters
- At night when you are sleeping
Choosing the Right Breast Pad
Choose breast pads that are soft, absorbent, and made of cotton. They should allow your breasts to breathe, so avoid pads with waterproof or plastic liners that can trap moisture against your skin. You should also change your breast pads whenever they get wet.
Constant exposure to wetness against your breasts could lead to skin irritation and sore nipples, which can also create an environment that will encourage the growth of yeast and bacteria, which can cause infections such as thrush and mastitis.
More on Types of Breast Pads
Breast pads come in different types, shapes, and sizes and they can be disposable or reusable. Some have adhesive strips to hold them in place and prevent them from shifting in your bra, while others are contoured to the shape of your breast.
- Disposable breast pads: Disposable breast pads are designed to be worn once and then discarded. They’re available in a variety of shapes and thicknesses, so you may want to try a few different brands to see which one you like best. Disposable pads are also great for when you’re going out or traveling since you won’t have to worry about washing them. But, over time, disposables can be expensive, since you have to continuously buy new ones.
- Reusable breast pads: Reusable breast pads are more cost-effective since you can wear them, wash them and use them again and again. They’re also environmentally friendly since you’re not throwing away multiple pads each day (they won’t end up in a landfill). You’ll have to buy a few pairs since you will need to change them often, and you’ll want to have a few pairs handy while others are in the laundry.
- Silicone pads: Silicone breast pads are not absorbent. Instead, they put gentle pressure on the breast to prevent leaks. Made from soft silicone, these pads have a sticky surface that adheres directly to your breast, so they can be worn with or without a bra. They are often used under fancy clothing or for swimming.
- Homemade breast pads: Breast pads can easily be made from a variety of items. You could cut up disposable diapers or sanitary napkins to fit inside your bra, use a handkerchief or other piece of cotton material, folding it and placing it over your breasts or, if you know how to sew, you can stitch together a few layers of absorbent material into a circular shape, or any other shape that’s comfortable for you. When making your own pads, avoid artificial materials. It’s best to use 100% cotton fabric, which is better at soaking up leaks, and soft against your skin.
- Hydrogel pads: Hydrogel pads are not used for leaking. They’re often used to help soothe and heal sore nipples, and they can be kept in the refrigerator or freezer so they can provide cool relief. If you have sore, cracked nipples, hydrogel pads may be helpful.
Breast shells are helpful breastfeeding products designed for breastfeeding women who have inverted nipples, sore nipples, or leaky breasts. They are made up of two silicone or plastic parts that are worn over the breasts. You place the round bottom ring over your areola allowing your nipple to stick through a hole in the center.
This piece puts gentle pressure at the base of your nipple. It shouldn’t be painful. A second dome-shaped piece fits over the bottom ring to protect your nipple and collect any breast milk that may leak from your breasts while you’re wearing the breast shells.
When Breast Shells Are Helpful
Breast shells are worn to help correct flat nipples, retracted nipples, or inverted nipples. If you wear breast shells between feedings, they may help to draw out your nipples and make it easier for your baby to latch on well. Here are some other helpful uses.
- Protect sore, cracked nipples from rubbing up against your nursing bra or breastfeeding clothes
- Promote quick healing because they help to prevent further pain and irritation
- Can relieve mild breast engorgement by putting slight, constant pressure on the nipple that lets some of the breast milk drain slowly out of your breasts and into the outer shell
- Prevent embarrassing leaks and protect your clothing from stains
- Collect the dripping breast milk from one breast while you breastfeed or pump on the other breast
Breast shells are a helpful product for breastfeeding women who need to correct inverted nipples, protect sore nipples, or manage leaky breasts.
Breast Shells and Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, it’s important to talk to your doctor before you use breast shells. Some women with flat or inverted nipples begin wearing breast shells before the birth of their baby.
You should not wear breast shells if you are at risk for premature labor. They can cause uterine contractions since they stimulate the nipples.
Breast Shells vs. Nipple Shields
Breast shells are not the same as nipple shields. Nipple shields are devices that your doctor or lactation professional may recommend if your baby is not latching on well.
You wear a nipple shield while you’re breastfeeding. Breast shells, on the other hand, should always be removed before you nurse your child.
Leaking and Overabundant Supply
Even though you can wear breast shells to help with leaks, it is possible that they can make the leaking worse. An increase in leaking is more likely to occur during the first few weeks after the birth of your baby.
Breast shells can also contribute to an overabundant milk supply.
What to Do With Collected Milk
Bacteria and fungus can grow in warm, dark, moist areas. Breast milk that leaks into breast shells can become contaminated with these organisms. Therefore, you should not store or feed your baby any of the breast milk that you collect in your breast shells between feedings.
Care and Cleaning
Breast shells with ventilation holes allow air to circulate around your breasts and nipples. The circulation of air around your breast tissue is necessary to keep moisture from building up inside of the shells.
Moisture from breast milk that stays inside the breast shells can cause irritation to your breasts.
So, you need to keep your breasts and your breast shells clean and dry to prevent some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as skin breakdown, rashes, sore nipples, thrush, and mastitis. Breast shells are easy to clean. Wash them with warm soapy water every day, and allow them to dry thoroughly.
Where to Buy
Breast shells may be available at the hospital where you deliver your baby. You can also buy breast shells online or in a store that sells baby supplies, or breastfeeding and breast pump accessories. If you have any questions about the use of breast shells or where to get them, talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding group.