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What are Nursing Pads?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Nursing pads are absorbent pads which are used to prevent breastmilk leakages from seeping through bras and other garments. Not every new mother needs them, but they can be very useful, and it is advisable to purchase a package of them in preparation for the days following childbirth.

Breastfeeding mothers sometimes experience leakage of breastmilk between feedings, for a variety of reasons. Leakages can be uncomfortable, as most people don't enjoy wearing wet clothing, and they can also cause discomfort in social settings if the leakage appears on outer garments. Most importantly, wearing wet garments against the breasts and nipples can contribute to inflammation and infection, making it important to take steps to address it.

Nursing pads are highly absorbent, and are usually designed to wick any breastmilk which leaks out into the center of the pad, keeping it away from the nipple without staining the bra or outer garments. The pads can be worn inside a nursing bra, or attached with adhesive tape.

It is important to change nursing pads as soon as they are damp. Just as a wet diaper can cause inflammation on a baby's bottom, wet pads can lead to inflammation of the nipple. If the nipple becomes inflamed, it may interfere with the ability to express breastmilk, and it can make breastfeeding very uncomfortable. It can be a good idea to carry spare pads for changes on the go.

Numerous companies make disposable nursing pads, and it is also possible to purchase reusable pads which are washed between uses. Some women like to wear washable ones at home and disposable ones when they go out so that they do not need to carry soiled pads around with them. It is also possible to make pads with fabrics such as cotton, or to improvise with things like handkerchiefs. However, using sanitary napkins as pads is not recommended because they may not allow air to circulate freely around the nipple.

Many hospitals have samples which they can give to new mothers, including samples of products like nursing pads. Women who don't have pads on hand at the time of delivery might want to ask hospital staff for samples so that they will have pads to get through the first few days after the birth. A lactation consultant can also often provide a woman with samples of nursing pads and other breastfeeding accessories.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Mykol — On Aug 08, 2011

Not only are nursing pads good at keeping stains off your clothing, but they can help keep your breasts and nipples from becoming sore and irritated.

Some nursing pads are even advertised as being antimicrobial and to help with healing. I have experienced inflamed nipples with one of my kids and it is very painful and uncomfortable.

I don't know how much wearing clean nursing pads will help prevent this or aid in the healing, I just know that I feel much cleaner and fresher when I wearing nursing pads.

By John57 — On Aug 08, 2011

I have found it is easier to just wear nursing pads all the time when I am nursing. When I am away from home I keep disposable nursing pads with me because it is much more convenient.

When I am home and on the weekends I will usually wear reusable nursing pads. It is so easy to just throw these in with the rest of the laundry and I feel better about not throwing so much away.

I always keep some of each on hand and try to use to reusable ones as much as possible. There are times though when it is much more convenient to use the disposable ones.

I have not found any difference in how effective they are. It is just a matter of reusing and recycling and not having as much waste.

By LisaLou — On Aug 07, 2011

For a new mother who is breastfeeding for the first time, nursing pads may be something that you don't even think about or even knew existed. Hopefully, someone will explain this, as it can save you from an embarrassing situation.

I breast fed all of my kids, and will say that it took some getting used to at first. You never know when you might leak and if you are out in public and don't have a nursing pad on, this can be embarrassing.

I got to the point where I would wear one all the time when I was nursing. Even if I was home, I got in the habit of having them on at all times. This was much more comfortable than having wet clothes and just became part of my routine.

By Bhutan — On Aug 07, 2011

I think also wanted to say that you can check with your local hospital because many hospitals offer breastfeeding classes for women as well as support group services.

There are so many changes that go on when a woman is breastfeeding for the first time and dealing with nursing pads is just one of them. It is nice to have a group that shares your concerns and questions especially when you are not sure.

This is what I did and I am glad because it helped me tremendously and I made a few friends along the way.

By pastanaga — On Aug 06, 2011

It's becoming more and more common now for people to give the services of a doula as a baby shower gift. Or, if you are expecting, you can hire one yourself.

A doula is a trained professional who helps a new mother with things like nursing pads and breastfeeding. She knows all the tricks to soothe the baby and will often help with household tasks as well.

If you are a new mother or a mother to be and you feel a bit overwhelmed by the idea of things like nursing pads, you might want to try this kind of service.

By pleonasm — On Aug 06, 2011

You really do need to change the nursing pads as often as you can, because you do not want to get an inflammation of the nipple.

My mother described this to me as one of the worst pains of her life. It developed into an infection and she honestly thought she was dying.

Luckily, her mother, my grandmother, came over and explained to her what was happening and took her to the doctor.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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