They’re an unfortunate side effect of breastfeeding.
Whether it’s waking up in the middle of the night with soaked pajamas or experiencing the let-down reflex on the breast you’re not breastfeeding from, leaky breasts can be a nuisance.
I remember having this problem as a new breastfeeding mom and being embarrassed about it because it’s one of those things no one told me about when I was preparing to have a baby. I eventually found a solution and so I’m making it my mission to tell all the breastfeeding mamas of the world that there is a solution to leaking breasts when breastfeeding.
The solution is to use nursing pads.
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But we can’t just stop there.
In this guide I’m going to tell you about the best nursing pads for different situations like heavy leaking, going braless when you want to wear a cute shirt (yes there are nursing pads for that!), and many more.
What are Nursing Pads?
Nursing pads are absorbent pad material used to catch breast milk when a lactating mother’s breasts release milk. Nursing pads are shaped to fit the areola and nipple area of the breast and can come in a variety of shapes like circular and heart-shaped, and a variety of material like cotton, bamboo and silicone.
Why Do You Need Nursing Pads?
While some breastfeeding moms are lucky enough to not experience leaking, the majority do leak when they are lactating.
Leaking can cause embarrassment if you are out in public when it happens. It can also cause discomfort because of a wet shirt and bra against your skin.
Using a nursing pad can help eliminate that problem by absorbing any milk that you leak. It acts as a barrier between your breasts and your clothes to keep you comfortable and dry throughout the day and night.
When to Use Nursing Pads
When to wear nursing pads are specific to each mother’s preference, but here are some times a lot of mom’s choose to wear them for protection and comfort.
- Outside the home
Wear your nursing pads for protection anytime you’ll be leaving the house for things like work and errands to keep you dry.
- While breastfeeding
A common problem many breastfeeding mom’s face is leaking from the opposite breast when they begin breastfeeding. Nursing your baby from one side will cause the let-down reflex in both breasts and without something there to catch the leaking milk, you’ll end up with a wet spot on your clothes. Wearing a breast pad on the breast you’re not nursing from will prevent this.
- At night
Even though you aren’t breastfeeding while you’re asleep, often times your nipples can still be stimulated enough to trigger your let-down reflex in your sleep. You won’t always wake to catch it so by the time you do wake up, you’re soaked! (This totally happened to me and it was not fun!) Popping in your breast pads before you go to sleep should keep you comfy and dry throughout the night.
- All day
Leaking breasts can happen any time of day. Clothes brushing against your nipples, hearing your baby cry, full breasts and any number of other things can have you leaking milk. And since there is no time of day this is restricted to, you may feel safer just wearing your breast pads all day long.
Washable vs Disposable
Reusable or disposable? That is the question.
There are distinct differences between disposable and reusable breast pads. Which one you should use depends on what features are most important to you.
The features of disposable nursing pads can include:
- Waterproof lining to stop milk from leaking through
- Often individually wrapped which is great for keeping them sanitary when you need to carry them with you
- One time use so it’s easy to toss when you’re done with it and not have to worry about rewashing
The features of washable nursing pads include:
- Reusability – just wash them when you’re done using them and reuse. Saves you money
- Often made without harsh chemicals and with natural material that’s great for sensitive skin
- Usually not individually wrapped so they’ll need a separate carrying case to keep separate and hygienic
- Consideration for detergent – You should be careful and use detergent that is mild and won’t irritate your skin, especially if they are dry, chapped, sore or have any other problems.
How to Use Nursing Pads
Nursing pads can come individually wrapped or bundled together. When you need to wear a pair, follow these steps:
- Remove a pair of nursing pads from the packaging (one for each breast)
- Remove any protective adhesive from the back of the breast pads
- Place the pad over your nipple making sure to center it over as much nipple and areola as possible*
- Put bra on over the pad and lightly press to make sure the adhesive sticks to bra and doesn’t move around
*Note: Some women prefer to place the nursing pad inside the cup of their bra first, and then put their bra on. I tried it both ways and I found that positioning it over the nipple first before putting on my bra allowed me to get it in the perfect spot nearly every time without having to remove and re-stick it multiple times which can make the adhesive less effective.
Also note that if you’re using washable/reusable pads or your disposable pads don’t have an adhesive back, you can skip step 2.
How Often Should You Change Nursing Pads?
How often you change your nursing pad will depend on how heavy your breasts leak.
Some moms prefer to put on fresh pads every time they nurse their baby. They might do this because they’ve leaked a lot in between feedings so they need a new pair to be able to soak up more milk. Some may be dealing with thrush, nipple blisters or other breastfeeding problems, and they need to keep their nipples as dry as possible to heal.
Other moms can wear their pads all day because their breasts only leak drops here and there throughout the day. Their pads don’t get soaked so they are able to keep the same pair on and only change at night.
Once you use your breast pads for a few days, you’ll learn how your body works and be able to tell how often you should change them.
BONUS: Use the breastfeeding and pumping tracker to keep track of how much milk you produce each day.
How Often Can You Wear Nursing Pads?
You can wear nursing pads as often as you need to.
As long as they are comfortable and you’re not experiencing any chaffing, blisters or other adverse effects, wear your breast pads whenever you need protection. I wore mine every day, all day for at least a year while I was breastfeeding and never had any problems.
How Many Do You Need?
With disposable pads, you’ll need to buy more since you’ll be throwing them away after each use. Buying them in larger quantities can save you money in the long term. I always loved these nursing pads by Lansinoh. They come in a big box of 100 pads (50 pair) and that would last me quite a while-at least a month, but usually longer.
If you’re going to use washable breast pads, aim for at least 15-20 pair to get started. This may seem like a lot, but this way you can change them out several times a day (even at every feeding it you need to), but you won’t have to do laundry every day to have a clean pair for the next day.
It will be more of an up-front cost but you’ll only have to buy them once and you’ll be set for the remainder of the time you breastfeed. BabyVoice reusable breast pads are very economical and they come six pair in a pack.
Best Nursing Pads
Now that you know what breast pads are, the difference in disposable and washable pads, and how to use them, here are the best nursing pads for breastfeeding and pumping moms.
Nuby Stay Dry Nursing Pads
Best for heavy leaking
- Cotton layer soft to the skin
- Waterproof lining for leak protection
- Individually packaged
Nuby Stay-Dry nursing pads are made with a very soft cotton material that makes them ideal for moms with sensitive nipples.
They have a waterproof lining to prevent milk from soaking through the pad onto a bra or short so you can be confident that you’ll remain dry.
The extra layers inside this pad makes them thicker than most nursing pads and provides extra protection especially for moms who are heavy leakers.
Kindred Bravely Washable Organic Nursing Pads
Best organic nursing pads
- Organic layer next to skin
- Waterproof layer to stay dry
Kindred Bravely hit the ball out of the park on this one. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t discover them before I was done nursing my babies because I would definitely have given them a try.
These nursing pads are made with organic bamboo so the side that touches your skin is super soft and won’t irritate already sore nipples.
Another pro of the Kindred Bravely nursing pads is that it is made to curve to the fit of a woman’s breast. In contrast to nursing pads that are flat, these have a shape that make them less bulky and more comfortable to wear.
Kindred Bravely nursing pads are extra absorbent and hypoallergenic so you’ll feel safe and comfortable wearing them.
Bamboobies Washable Nursing Pads
Best washable nursing pads
- Ultra-thin pads for daytime & thicker pads for overnight protection
- Leak-proof liner for leak protection
- Absorbent cotton layer
Besides the cute name, Bamboobies are a great alternative to disposable breast pads.
Bamboobies come in two varieties: a heart-shaped thin nursing pad that is most suited for light leaking and a circle-shaped thicker pad that protects better for heavy or overnight leaking. You are able get both varieties in the same box or buy more of one type in a box by itself.
The overnight pads are made thicker to be able to absorb more milk and many moms have left reviews that they have had no problems with leaking when wearing them. They can also be good for breastfeeding mothers who also leak heavily throughout the day.
Because they include two different levels of leak protection, these are our pick for best washable nursing pads that can be used over and over again for light and heavy leaks.
Lansinoh Stay Dry Nursing Pads
Best disposable nursing pads
- Breathable Waterproof lining
- Contoured shape that won’t show through clothes
- Individually sealed
My all-time favorite disposable nursing pads, Lansinoh Stay Dry nursing pads are the best in their category.
I’ve used these pads through breastfeeding four children and they have never failed me.
Some of my favorite features are that they are extremely comfortable. Once they are on, you can’t feel them and thanks to the adhesive on the back, they don’t move around. Even when they start to absorb milk, you still feel dry and can’t even tell they are there.
These nursing pads are also superb at leak protection. Not once did I leak through them and I could wear a pair all day or all night. In the beginning of breastfeeding each baby as my milk was adjusting, I was a heavy-leaker. After a few days, I adjusted to suit my baby’s needs and was more of a moderate-leaker. These nursing pads worked great for each stage.
They don’t show. I never had a problem with them showing through my clothes even wearing tank tops or thin materials.
I also love that they are individually wrapped. I could just toss a few in my diaper bag and not worry that they would touch other things and become insanitary.And once I didn’t have a need for nursing pads anymore, I was able to pass on the unfinished box to a relative since they remain hygienic in their individual wrappers.
If you decide to go with disposable nursing pads, you can’t go wrong with these made by Lansinoh.
BabyBliss Natural Bamboo Nursing Pads
Best fitting nursing pads
- 3 size choices
- Soft inner layer for comfort
- Includes organza carrying case and mesh laundry bag
Because some women have larger busts than others, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always work with nursing pads. Particularly for women who have larger or smaller breasts.
We chose BabyBliss nursing pads as the pads for the best fit because they come in three different sizes. The medium pads are 3.9 inches in diameter, the large pads are 4.7 inches in diameter and the extra-large pads are 5.5 inches in diameter. BabyBliss states that they medium is best for bra size A cups, large is good for bra size B, C and D cups, and extra-large is best suited for bra size E cup and larger.
The nursing pads also come with a convenient carrying case and a mesh laundry bag so they won’t get lost in the wash.
Lilypadz Reusable Silicone Nursing Pads
Best nursing pads for going braless
- Thin, breathable silicone
- Adheres to breasts without bra
A non-absorbent nursing pad? Yes!
This pad will come in super handy when you have an outfit to wear that requires you to go braless. Here’s how they work.
Lilypadz are made from silicone so they having a clinging affect to the skin. Because of this material, they don’t need any adhesive or anything to hold them in place.
Instead of catching and absorbing milk when it leaks, LilyPadz work by laying over your nipples and applying a gentle pressure that prevents them from leaking any milk out.
They are ultra-thin making them very discreet and comfortable so you can go braless without worrying they’ll be noticed. Studies have been done on silicone nursing pads and have proven their safety and effectiveness.
BundleBliss Disposable Nursing Pads
Most discreet nursing pads
- 1mm thin pad
- Waterproof lining for protection
The BundleBliss nursing pads are touted as the thinnest on the market. They are so thin that many moms have said that they can’t be detected underneath their clothes, which is a good thing!
That means they are super discreet and no one will know you’re wearing them.
In addition to their thinness, they have a “laminated waterproof lining” that keeps the absorbed milk from soaking through to the other side of the pad and getting your clothes wet. BabyBliss Nursing Pads come 60 in a box.
BabyVoice Organic Bamboo Nursing Pads
Most eco-friendly nursing pads
- Made with certified organic bamboo
- 3-layer leak proof design
If eco-friendliness is an important factor for you, then you’ll like BabyVoice Washable Nursing Pads.
They are made from sustainably grown organic bamboo and won’t add to the waste that packaging for disposable nursing pads do.
The bamboo that touches your skin is hypoallergenic for maximum comfort and protection and the lining is leak-proof so your clothes stay dry. BabyVoice Nursing Pads are machine washable and come with a bonus laundry bag, carrying bag and two baby e-books. 12 nursing pads included.
There are so many nursing pads to choose from and the options can be overwhelming. But when compared with the others, our top picks are: Lansinoh Stay Dry Nursing pads for best disposable nursing pads and Bamboobies Nursing Pads for best washable nursing pads.