Nursing/Breast Pads Uses, Choosing Tips, Types & Benefits

Nursing Pads (Breast Pads) – Benefits and Tips to Use

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Shruti Kainth (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Pregnancy and delivery can often lead to a situation where you may experience some milk seepage. And, this can often be an inconvenience to mothers. Whether minorly dismaying or majorly concerning, the situation has sparked inventions and creative solutions that put the modern mommy at ease. What are we talking about? Nursing pads, of course!

What Are Nursing Pads?

A nursing pad (a.k.a breast pad) is a protective pad (made of cloth or composite material) that is placed between your bra and your nipple to protect your clothing from milk leakage.

What Are the Types of Nursing Pads?

Nursing pads can be classified into the lines of materials used to make them.

1. Disposable Nursing Pads

As the name suggests, these are made for single use only. Disposable pads usually contain a lining of plastic to prevent milk seepage. However, this makes them unsuitable for long-term use as they are convenient but expensive in the long run.

2. Reusable Nursing Pads

Reusable pads are thicker than the disposable kind. They are made of fabric and can be machine washed to use over and over. You will need lots of pairs of reusable pads if you opt for them, as some of them will inevitably be getting laundered while others are being used. They are cost-effective in the long run.

3. Silicone Nursing Pads

Silicone pads are thin and sticky – they adhere to your skin and do not require additional back-up from a bra. They do not absorb milk leakage; instead, they apply pressure on the nipple to prevent it. These are specialised for use with dresses like sheer evening gowns and for physical activities like swimming.

4. Hydrogel Pads

Hydrogel pads are used to soothe sore or bruised nipples. Similar to cold compression bags, these pads are cooled in the fridge or freezer and then placed over your nipples to provide relief.

6. Homemade Nursing Pads

Whether as a temporary fix or a practical staple, nursing pads can easily be made at home, by you, for you! An easy quick-fix in an emergency is to make use of the absorbent properties of diapers or sanitary pads – simply cut out a circular piece from a diaper or sanitary pad and place them in your bra. Alternatively, a homemade nursing pad could be fashioned out of some cotton fabric by simply folding them into overlapping layers or sewing multiple layers of fabric together.

Homemade Nursing Pads

When and Why to Use Breast Pads

Milk leakage occurs because your body is producing more than enough milk for your baby. Once your baby’s feeding times and amounts become regularised, instances of leakage go down significantly as your body adjusts its milk production accordingly. However, it could still occur due to emotional or physical triggers, as long as you are still lactating.

Here are a few instances when you should wear nursing pads, so that you may be safe rather than sorry.

  • At the final stages of pregnancy and early weeks after delivery.
  • When you are not going to be near your baby for more than 2-3 hours.
  • If your milk production is overabundant.
  • When you return to a professional setting after maternity leave.
  • During sex.
  • While sleeping.
  • Use hydrogel pads if your nipples are sore.

Note: Leaky breasts can be because of improper breastfeeding management, too. Mothers must breastfeed the baby on demand and breastfeed from both sides. Also, do not consume galactagogues unnecessarily.

Benefits of Nursing Pads for Breastfeeding Moms

Although breast pads may seem uncomplicated and trivial, they provide you with these invaluable benefits:

Soaks Milk Leakage

  • The primary use of breast pads is to soak up milk leakage and protect your outer-wear.
  • Avoid the embarrassment of wet-spots.

Refines Appearance

  • While lactating, your breasts can become tender and lose firmness. Even a supporting bra cannot maintain appearance.
  • Some breast pads may provide additional support and improve appearance by holding your breasts in place.

Soothes Tenderness

  • Breastfeeding causes nipples to become tender. Pads provide a soft medium between your nipples and bra and prevent rubbing on the bra.
  • It provides relief between feeding sessions, helping you nipple to recover.
  • Soothing hydrogel pads can take away pain or irritation and fasten healing process if your breasts are sore or bruised.

How to Use Breast Pads

To ensure proper care and to prevent irritation during use, follow these steps on how to use nursing pads.

1. How to Place Them

Put your bra on before placing the pads in.


Ready the Pads

  • Take your pads out of their packaging.
  • In case of adhesive pads, remove stickers protecting the adhesive surface.

Placing the Pads 

  • Ease off your bra strap on the side you are placing the pad in.
  • Place the pad on your nipple. The whole of the nipple should be covered.
  • Bring the bra strap back up after placement.
  • Nursing pads can be used with both maternity bras and regular ones.
  • If you feel mild irritation in and around your nipples, apply baby-safe lanolin cream before putting on the pads and bra.

Positioning the Pads

  • Make sure the pads are correctly aligned over your nipples before you put your top on.
  • During the early days after childbirth, when milk leakage is at its highest, you will need to use a thicker pad. This may show through the clothing, but that is perfectly normal.
  • After the first few weeks of breastfeeding, leakage will decrease, then you can opt for thinner pads.

Care While Wearing 

  • Your pads may slide around in your bra during the course of the day (Non-adhesive types).
  • If they feel out of position, take the time out to go to the restroom and position them correctly, or leakage could dampen your bra and top.

2. How to Remove Them

There is no certainty as to when you will need to replace a soaked nursing pad, so it’s best to carry an extra pair or two with you when you have to leave the house.

Replacing Your Pads 

  • Removing and replacing your nursing pads should be done whenever necessary.
  • If your pads are damp or it is time to feed your baby or pump milk, you will need to remove them.

Taking Them Off 

  • Be slow when peeling adhesive-backed pads to prevent hurting your skin.
  • If they are stuck to your breast, dampen with water to loosen it.


  • If you are using reusable pads, store them separately for the laundry. If they are moist from seepage, put them in water or wash them right away as the old milk on the pads will attract germs.
  • Disposable pads can simply be thrown away.

Clean Your breasts

  • If there has been seepage, you will have to wipe your breasts with a wet cloth. Use warm water to dampen the cloth.
  • Wipe it clean and dry the area with a soft towel before you replace pads. Dried milk and moisture could both potentially serve as grounds for infection, especially when sealed with the pad underneath clothing for long hours.

Change Your Clothes 

  • Heavy leakage during the first weeks may make the use of breast pads after delivery insufficient to prevent wetting your bra.
  • If leakage has seeped onto your bra or even your top, you might want to change them.
  • Carrying a change of clothes (bra and top) is advisable to avoid awkward situations.

Replacing Your Pads

  • Put on a new pad only after your skin is fully dried.
  • Pick a fresh, dry bra, if your old one was soiled.
  • Put your bra on and place fresh pads in position.


How Often You Should Change Breast Pads

  • There is no set-time or rule for replacing your pads. The rule to observe is to simply replace your nursing pads when they are too damp.
  • Even if leakage is low, do not keep a moist pad on for too long.
  • During the weeks right before childbirth and the weeks right after it, you will find that you need to replace your breast pads often, maybe even several times a day, due to high leakage.
  • Beyond this period, milk production stabilises according to the needs of your child. This minimises leakage and the need to have to change pads often.

How to Choose the Right Breast Pad

Your nursing pad needs are unique. There are multiple options to choose from that will suit your needs! Here are some things to consider:

1. Consider Your Needs

If you are a first-time mommy, it will be hard to determine what your experience is going to be as far as milk leakage is concerned. In general, high milk leakage is limited to the first few weeks after childbirth. Ask yourself these questions to figure out what you will need:

  • For how many months do I intend to breastfeed?
  • Where can I buy nursing pads? Are they easily available?
  • What are my budgetary concerns?
  • Will I be spending my time at home or will I be back at work while continuing to breastfeed?

2. The Long Run

If you intend to breastfeed your baby for more than 6 months, you are likely better off buying reusable nursing pads. Although they are costly, the reusability makes them the cheaper option in the long run. This also makes them the greener option!

You will need to buy about 12 pairs of reusable pads to ensure you have a few at hand, at all times, while the rest are being washed.

3. Convenience

Disposable nursing pads may suit you if you do not plan on long-term breastfeeding. However, these do become expensive as their count piles up over long-term use.

If you plan to work or spend a lot of time outside the home, the convenience of easy nursing pad disposal is unbeatable. They are easy to change, easy to carry around, and you do not have to deal with the hassle of laundering them!

4. Making Your Own

If you are on a budget as you have used readymade pads after the initial stages of high leakage, you can opt to make your own ones.

  • A simple folded handkerchief or piece of cloth placed inside your bra can serve as a rudimentary nursing pad.
  • You can cut out absorbent, skin-friendly material, such as sanitary pads or diapers and use them as nursing pads. Do not use the gel kind, as the gel will leak.
  • You can make your own pads by sewing together multiple layers of fabric. You can make it circular or contour it to wrap comfortably over your breast.
  • Always use cotton fabric when making your own pads.

5. Materials Used

Your breast pad should be made of breathable fabric that wicks moisture or milk away from your body. To ensure that moisture does not come into contact with your bra and outerwear, some disposable types of pads have a plastic lining. This lining traps moisture and increases chances of bacterial infection (bacteria and fungi thrive in humid conditions). Do not use such pads for more than 2 hours at most, and not more than once a day.

Are There Any Risks Associated With Nursing Pads?

The major risk associated with the use of breast pads is a bacterial and fungal infection.

  • Bacteria could block the ducts in the nipple, clogging milk flow. If this condition escalates, it could lead to mastitis.
  • If your child has ‘thrush’ (a fungal infection affecting the mouth), it could pass on to your nipple.

Chances for both of these infections arise from pads creating a moist, warm environment around your nipples. This only happens when the pad is damp or soaked and hasn’t been changed for a long time.

Using breathable pads and changing them regularly mitigates chance for infection.

Also Read:

How to Deal With Cracked or Bleeding Nipples?
How to Deal with Over Supply of Breast milk

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