How To Use Nursing Pad (And Do You Really Need Breast Pads?)

How To Use Nursing Pad And Do You Really Need Breast Pads?

The start of motherhood is nothing less than a crazy roller coaster ride.

As you heal, you care for the little miracle you grew inside your belly for 9 months. Now as you juggle through this routine, one of the things that might be irksome is leaking breasts.

Near the end of pregnancy, our bodies prepare to receive our little ones, and you might experience what is known as letdown, or milk leakage from the breasts. And if you are in public and unprepared, it can become an uncomfortable situation.

This is where breast pads, or nursing pads, enter the picture.

These soft, absorbent, and removable liners are used inside your bra and they prevent leaks and stains while soaking all the excess breastmilk.

With a wide range of options available (reusable breast pads, disposable nursing pads, etc.), let’s break it down so you can decide what is best suited to you.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice or consultation.

Are Nursing Pads Necessary?

Nursing pads are not a must-have in your hospital bag, but trust me, once you use them, there is no turning back.

As a mother, your body go through a lot of hormonal and physiological changes, to ensure sufficient milk production for the baby.

During this initial phase where your body is adjusting to your baby’s demands, the breasts leak milk more than often, and sometimes without any heads-up or stimulus (sometimes a baby’s cry or even thinking about your child can make you lactate)1.

You will find yourself running around in soaked shirts and milk spots, which is not exactly how you must have envisioned your breastfeeding journey.

Breast pads help soak up the let-downs or surprise leaks, so you can tend to your baby, do other chores around the house or even work without worry. Once they are full, you can replace them with a fresh pair, and get back to being the awesome mama that you are.

In my opinion nursing pads are one of the essential things that new moms need for themselves – simply because they make life after having a baby easier!

When Should I Start Wearing Nursing Pads?

These are some of the benefits of using nursing pads:

  • Nursing pads help prevent leaks, stains, and milk spots on your clothing.
  • They help keep the damp circles around your nipples away, which can be quite awkward.
  • They keep your nursing bras dry, which helps reduce the piling laundry load.
  • Reusable nursing pads prevent the occurrence of cracked sore nipples.
  • They help you feel confident and comfortable as you breastfeed your bubba.
  • They prevent skin irritation and infections and leave you feeling dry, as the pads are absorbent.

When Should I Start Wearing Nursing Pads?

You will notice leaking breasts regularly near the end of pregnancy. Once you have given birth to your baby, your breasts will often be leaking, so it is best to wear nursing pads once you start breastfeeding.

When we are around 16 weeks into pregnancy, our bodies start producing milk. If your breasts are leaking regularly then, you can wear breast pads while you are pregnant too.

Do I Need Nursing Pads If Not Breastfeeding?

Do I Need Nursing Pads If Not Breastfeeding?

Our bodies are designed to produce breast milk on the arrival of our little ones, irrespective of our decision about breastfeeding.

Even if you are not breastfeeding, wearing nursing pads will help you stay dry, confident, and mess-free, as you navigate through the start of motherhood. Once the milk supply diminishes gradually, you can stop wearing the nursing pads.

Types Of Nursing Pads

Here are five different types of nursing pads2 you should know about:

1. Reusable Breast Pads

Reusable pads are soft, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective. You can use them over and over, since you wear them, wash them, and they are good to use again. Just make sure to get them perfectly clean when you are washing them.

You’ll need to get a couple of pairs because you will need a backup as you have to change breast pads often (about 3-4 times a day), even if you are doing laundry every other day.

Are Nursing Pads Necessary

2. Disposable Nursing Pads

Next up, we have the disposable nursing pads. These are thin, discreet, and great for one-time use, after which you can discard the disposable pads. They have an adhesive side that sticks to the inner side of your bra. The downside, however, is that you have to restock them regularly while you are nursing, and it can get expensive.

3. Silicone Pads

These pads have a sticky side and they are worn directly on the breasts, with or without a bra, to apply gentle pressure that prevents leaking. Mind you that these are not absorbent.

4. Hydrogel Pads

If you have cracked or sore nipples, hydrogel pads can bring you the cool relief you are missing. They soothe the nipple and can be placed in the freezer/refrigerator. Remember that they are not meant for leaking.

5. Homemade Pads

You can cut up various clean handkerchiefs, sanitary napkins, diapers, cotton, or any breathable fabric to fit inside your bra and use them as homemade nursing pads. This is cost-effective and if you know stitching, you can create a soft and comfortable nursing pad by layering absorbent cloths cut in round shape, creating your very own DIY nursing pads.

How To Use Reusable Breast Pads?

Here’s my step-by-step guideline how to use reusable nursing pad:

1. Use Dry And Clean Pads

Since moist environments lead to bacterial growth and potential infection, ensure to use a clean and dry reusable pad.

How To Use Reusable Breast Pads

2. Prep Your Nipple

The key to using a breast pad hygienically is to make sure the nipple is clean and dry to avoid irritation or infection. If the nipple is cracked or sore, apply nipple cream before using the nursing pad.

3. Put The Pad Inside Your Bra

Secure your breast pad inside the bra. Since reusable breast pads do not have an adhesive surface, make sure to wedge it safely around the nipple.

4. Make Adjustments

Since reusable pads are thick, keep adjusting them to ensure maximum absorbency. You can wear a padded bra to be a little discreet.

How To Use Nursing Pad

5. Replace Instantly When Wet

To prevent irritation and infection, make sure you change your nursing pad when it gets wet. Wash it instantly if possible, and if not washing them right away, put them in a ziplock bag until you get home and keep them in the open air to avoid bacteria growing on them, until you are ready to wash them.

6. Wash Properly

Reusable nursing pads are made of various soft materials such as cotton, bamboo, or other fabrics, and it is best to look at the manufacturer’s instructions/website. Just one thing to remember – avoid using softener as it can alter the absorbency of pads.

7. Sterilize Yeast (In Case Of Thrush/Yeast)

Since yeast can survive washing and live on in clothing, it is best to switch to disposable pads for 2-4 weeks if you or your baby has thrush (yeast infection). This helps to kill the yeast without using chemicals. Brownie points if you set them out in sunlight.

How To Use Disposable Nursing Pads?

If disposable breast pads are more convenient for you, here are my tips how to use them:

1. Prep Your Nipple

Clean and dry your nipple. Use a nipple cream if you have sore nipples before using the disposable pad.

2. Remove The Sheet From The Adhesive Strips

Since disposable breast pads have an adhesive surface, peel off the sticking sheet on the back.

How To Use Disposable Nursing Pad

3. Secure The Pad In The Cup

Position the pad centrally around the nipple.

4. Stick The Pad

Press the pad into the bra cup. Readjust the pad if needed.

5. Replace Immediately If Wet

Moisture attracts bacteria, hence change your breast pad when it feels wet, so you do not trap moisture and end up with infection.

6. How To Remove Pad Stuck To Nipple

If the disposable breast pad gets stuck to the nipple, avoid pulling the pad away from the nipple, as it may cause distress and pain. Instead, use moisture to loosen it and then remove it.

How Often Should I Change Nursing Pads?

Though it depends on the leakage that varies per woman, it is recommended to change nursing pads 3 to 4 times per day, or even more if your body is still adjusting to the baby’s milk demands3.

Since a wet pad can trap moisture which leads to skin irritation, and infection, it is best to change them when they start feeling wet or full.

How Often Should I Change Nursing Pads

How Many Nursing Pads Will I Use A Day?

It depends on the leak volume. Some moms use about 4-9 pairs per day4.

This is why disposables can be a bit expensive in the long run.

Is It OK To Wear Nursing Pads All Day?

Yes, as long as you are comfortable. Most mothers who breastfeed their babies prefer wearing them while they are in public, and once they are home, they stay pad-free, as they feel relaxed with no milk leaks to worry about. Some prefer DIY nursing pads at home.

Do You Sleep With Nursing Pads?

Yes, you can sleep with nursing pads, why not? If your nursing pad is absorbent, it will help you get better sleep while feeling dry at night5.

How Many Nursing Pads Will I Use A Day

How Much Milk Does A Breast Pad Hold?

A breast pad (like the one from Kindred Bravely brand) can hold up to 1-2 ounces of milk, so it is quite absorbent6. Of course the actual absorbency depends on the type and brand of pads you’re using.

What Happens If You Don’t Change Nursing Pads?

If you don’t change your nursing pad, it can become a ground for bacterial growth, which enters the nipple through cracks and causes an infection called mastitis. Hence it is hygienic to keep changing the breast pad frequently7.

Why Does My Breast Pad Smell?

When there is bacteria in the fabric of the breast pad, it can smell. You can soak it in vinegar, followed by washing it with warm water later, and then set it out in the sun to dry.

How Often Do You Wash Nursing Pads?

It is recommended to wash nursing pads after every feeding, or when they are full. This helps to keep the skin healthy8.

How Much Milk Does A Breast Pad Hold

When Can I Stop Wearing Breast Pads?

Once you have established regular feeding, you can stop wearing breast pads if there is no leak.

What Are The Side Effects Of Breast Pads?

Since bacteria grow in warm and moist environments, breast pads can lead to mastitis and other infections.

Do Nursing Pads Cause Clogged Ducts?

No, there is no scientific backing that supports it.

Can Dirty Breast Pads Cause Mastitis?

If you don’t change wet and dirty breast pads, they can break down delicate skin on your nipples. Cracked, or even bleeding nipples are a perfect environment for infection. So yes, this way dirty breast pads can give rise to mastitis as bacteria thrive in moist environments.

Final Verdict: Are Breast Pads Good Or Bad For You?

Speaking from my personal experience (and dozens positive, raving, reviews online) I would say that breast pads are definitely good for you and can be very convenient. In my opinion they are a must-have that should be included in every new mama care package!

Breast pads make breastfeeding easier by preventing milk spots, stains, and soaked clothing. You can choose from a wide range, and nourish your kid like a pro without a worry.

Even if you’re not breastfeeding, you can still use breast pads – your breast may still be leaking (until your supply diminishes).

Always remember to change your breast pad after feeding or once it is full.

Is It OK To Wear Nursing Pads All Day

Using Nursing Pads Like A Pro – FAQ

Here are a few more questions you might have regarding how to use a nursing pad:

Which Side Of the Nursing Pad To Use?

In the case of disposables, stick the pad to the bra using the sticky surface.

What Size Breast Pads Do I Need?

It should be in accordance with your breast size. It’s best to follow specific manufacturer sizing guidelines.

What Is The Best Material For Breast Pads?

The best material for breast pads is 100% cotton fabric.

Are Disposable Breast Pads Better?

Disposables are convenient but expensive.

Are Silicone Nursing Pads Safe?

Yes, silicone nursing pads are safe.

What Breast Pads Don’t Stick To Nipples?

Silicon pads and hydrogel pads don’t stick to nipples.

How Do I Stop My Nipples From Sticking To My Breast Pads?

Let nipples air dry after breastfeeding. Use dampness to remove breast pad from nipple.

Do Breast Pads Expire?

No, breast pads do not expire.

How Long Do Reusable Nursing Pads Last?

Reusable nursing pads can last up to 100 washes or more.

Do Breast Pads Make Breasts Look Bigger?

Reusable breast pads are thicker, so they can make your breasts look bigger.

What Can I Do With Old Nursing Pads?

Here are some ideas what to do with nursing pads leftovers:

  • Makeup remover
  • Quick towel
  • Bath time washcloths
  • Push-up bra fix
  • Whiteboard eraser
  • Duster
  • Mirror cleaner
  • Plant mat (to soak in excess water under the pots)

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.


Pictures number 2 and 9 belong to Lansinoh Brand. Source:

Pictures number 1, 3-6, 11 belong to Kindred Bravely Brand. Source:

About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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