Everything You Need to Know About Using Breast Pads

Everything You Need to Know About Using Breast Pads

Breast pads certainly became my breast friend after I had my baby!

They’ve been a lifesaver for many different reasons and in many different ways, so in my book, they're a must—even if you aren’t nursing.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about these useful pads and be sure to stock up on some before you head to the hospital!

Why You're Going to Need Breast Pads

I had some girlfriends who scoffed at the concept of breast pads as they were packing their hospital bags.

They weren’t planning on nursing and thought they would not be useful.

Little did they know that their milk was going to come in, whether they liked it or not!

Breast pads play an important role in motherhood.

Some of their duties include:

  • Absorbing released milk.
  • Preventing milk from leaking through your shirt or nightgown.
  • Stopping leaks from letdowns.
  • Stopping leaks from emotional situations (hearing a baby crying).
  • Protecting your clothing from being stained.
  • Collecting every last drop (pads can be squeezed into bottles!)

The Different Types to Choose From

Breast pads are a no brainer to use.

They are thin and discreet, and they are comfortable and soft—you don’t even know you have them on you!

In fact, there are disposable breast pads and reusable breast pads.

Both have pros and cons of using them. Let's take a look at each.

Disposable Pads

Disposable pads are meant to be used once.

When they’re wet, you simply toss them.

In order to wear them, simply make sure your nipples are dry.

You can always apply a nipple cream if your nipples are sore or chapped from use.

Then, grab a pad and peel off it’s sticky backing.

The pad is easy to position over your nipples and will stay put because it will rest up against your bra for additional support.

Be sure to check on the pad every so often to determine if it’s wet.

If so, simply repeat the process and replace it with a fresh one.


  • Hygienic. Because you aren’t letting a wet pad hang out on your body, you are less likely to become susceptible to bacteria. Each pad is used once, and for a short amount of time.
  • Easy to Use. A monkey could literally apply them!
  • Convenient. Disposables are small, compact, and can be taken with you anywhere, discreetly. You can change them pretty much anywhere, with zero hassle.
  • Strong. The adhesive backing is strong on these pads, so they stay in place. No worrying about a loose pad sliding down or out of your bra!
  • Leak-Proof. Because most of them are lined with plastic, you can be your bottom dollar they won’t leak through your clothing.


  • Need to Buy in Bulk. If you’re using them all day, every day (for the first year of your baby’s life of more if you’re nursing), you’re looking at quite a large amount of pads.
  • Pricey. Piggybacking off the point above, you’ll need nursing pads for the first year of life or longer if you plan on nursing into toddlerhood.
  • Not Eco-Conscious. These pads are not biodegradable, for those who are ultra-concerned with environmental issues.
  • Not Very Breathable. Because your nipples get “smothered” while using them, they aren’t the most breathable item/material. This could potentially lead to clogged ducts.

Reusable Pads

In order to use reusable breast pads, you also have to make sure your breast and nipples are dry.

These pads get placed in the cup of your bra, and should be centered around your nipple before firmly adjusting your bra so everything stays put.

Like the disposable, you need to remove the pad when it gets moist.

Because you can’t just toss the pad, it’s important that you keep a wet bag in your baby’s diaper bag, or a discreet plastic bag that can be sealed in your purse.

When able, wash your pads. Because reusable pads come in different materials, it’s super important to learn how to wash them.

Cotton, bamboo, and other fabrics have specific washing guidelines, and you want to protect and make the most out of your investments.

Once you remove the pad, simply replace it with another (yes, you’ll need to keep a bunch on hand) and repeat the process as outlined above.

When wearing a reusable pad, it’s wise to wear darker colors up top, as well as patterns.

Because the material used for reusable pads are thicker, there’s a heightened chance your pads will be seen.

An extra padded bra can help combat this problem and keep your pads hidden.


  • Cost-Friendly. You don’t need half as many pads as you would with disposables. You can’t use the same one forever—its inevitable you’ll have to swap a reusable out for a new one in time—but you’ll end up purchasing and using far less than you would.
  • Eco-Chic. Like anything that is reusable, it’s a friend to the environment, not a foe.
  • Provides Breathing Space. Because they are composed of a completely different material, reusable breast pads provide much more breathing space, keeping you cooler and ventilated—especially during summer months.
  • Portable. Much like disposable pads, reusable pads are just as light, compact, and portable.


  • Noticeable. Because they are made of a thicker, different material, you will be able to notice them under clothing (especially clothing that is light in color).
  • Lots of Upkeep. Intensive, regular cleaning is necessary for hygienic reasons.
  • Need Back Ups. While pads are cleaning, you’ll still need back ups. It’s suggested that moms have at least 10-12 extra pairs on hand!
  • Not Secure. These pads aren’t composed with an adhesive backing, so they won’t stay in place like disposable pads will. You need to adjust them often as well, to make sure they are fully covering your nipple. A tight, well fitted bra is a must!
  • Costly at First. Still far more affordable in the long run than disposables, you will pay a higher amount initially for reusables than you would with disposables—especially if you need to buy lots of pairs.

Now that you understand the pros and cons of each, you can make an informed decision as to which will work best for you and your lifestyle and personal preferences.

In addition to types of pads, how to wear them, and pros and cons, you should also be aware of the risks that can sometimes be associated with them. They include:

  • A Clogged Duct. A clogged milk duct can lead to a more serious infection called Mastitis.
  • Bacteria Growth. Bacteria loves warm, wet environments, so pads need to be tended to frequently. If plagued with bacteria, your baby could end up with Thrush, which is a yeast infection that occurs in the mouth.

Doctors do disclaim that yeast infections revolving around the breast and nipple are mainly because the risk of them increases when pads are used.

However, with proper precaution and care, they can be avoided.

Additional Tips for Using Disposable and Reusable Pads

Here are some more helpful tips!

  • Wash your breast pads in the washing machine with a cup of vinegar if your baby has contracted Thrush, or if you suspect an infection in your breast or nipple seek immediate medical attention.
  • Always turn to disposable pads until your infection goes away!
  • Always allow your reusable pads to air dry—especially outdoors in the sunlight, rather than dry them in the dryer if possible.
  • Turn to nipple cream if the disposable pads have irritated your already sore nipples.
  • Experiment with reusable fabrics. Some moms prefer cotton, while others prefer wool. You won’t know which you’ll like until you try them. After all, you need to be totally comfortable since you’ll be wearing them for a year or more!
  • Invest in a new bra. Extra padding and support helps a nursing mom regardless of which type of pad they utilize.
  • Wet your nipples. If your disposable pads get stuck, all you need to do is put a little water on them and they should slide off. Of course, be gentle since your nipples are probably sore, cracked, and irritated already.
  • Wear them at night. For whatever reason, moms think nipple pads are for the day. But, it’s suggested moms wear their nursing bras even at night. Plus, the pads help eliminate staining, so this will eliminate the need to buy new pajamas or night tops and will also save your sheets!
  • Place them in plain sight. Some mornings, you’re pretty tired from being up with a hungry, crying baby all night. It’s easy for working moms to forget to place their pads in their bras before scooting off to work. To prevent Baby Brain from getting the best of you (and to certainly save you from lots of embarrassment), always make sure you place your breast pads in the cup of your bra as you lay out your clothes the night before!

Wrapping Up

Nursing pads aren't just for nursing moms—all women need them once their baby is born!

While breastfeeding moms needs them much longer, they serve a great purpose and serve it well.

Weigh out your pros and cons of each type of pad, and be sure to brush up on all this information so you can make sure you’re always protected, always prepared, but most of all, always comfortable!


Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place for new and expecting moms to come to for practical pregnancy advice, parenting tips, and baby care tricks.

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