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Adventures in Lactating: Cloth Nursing Pads!

Posted by Becca on 10/24/2011 to Breast Feeding

Nothing prepared me for what breastfeeding would be like. Absolutely nothing. I was told about the leaking, engorgement, and blistered nipples, but until I experienced it for myself, I had no way of understanding what those who’d gone before me were talking about.

My Mom breastfed all seven of us and since I’m the oldest in our little clan, I was accustomed to seeing her whip out a boob regularly to satiate the hunger of my younger siblings. Because of my Mom’s example, it rarely, if ever, fazed me to see a stranger pull out her breast and nurse a baby either in public or in a room filled with only females because even as a child I understood that this is how babies eat.

With that as my role model, I was understandably determined to breastfeed successfully even if it killed me in the process. I read and studied and read again and tried unsuccessfully not to let the stories of friends who had tried to breastfeed and failed scare me.

In preparation for my daughter’s birth, I bought all the things that I would surely need as a breastfeeding mom: a breast pump, nursing bras, storage bags and containers, and Gerber’s cloth breast pads.

When my daughter was finally born 8 days later than her due date, I found that, though it is worth every bit of effort, breastfeeding is not the easiest thing in the world to do, and doing so correctly does not come naturally despite what anyone tells you. After laboring for 24 hours, every muscle in my exhausted body resisted the effort it took to try to get my newborn to latch on. I can’t remember how many times I stuck my nipple in her mouth in vain or how many times we used a dropper of formula on a finger or my breast to get her to start sucking, but I do remember that the process took the better part of an hour and I doggedly stuck to it despite the fact that muscles I hadn’t known existed prior to labor ached in ways I hesitate to describe.

Once she learned to latch, my little one was a very good nurser. She ate wonderfully and if I’d left it up to her (which I wish I had) she would have happily stayed on my breast 24/7. Painful engorgement, blisters, blood, and pain so sharp that I curled my toes in agony as she latched on weren’t enough for me to break the amazing bond that I found as I looked into her eyes and gave her nourishment from my own body.

I quickly found that my fears about not producing enough milk were unfounded because I had breastmilk in excess like you wouldn’t believe. Seriously, I could have taken on a job of a wet nurse at an orphanage if asked. My breasts were so full that even after my daughter nursed for 40 minutes or more, they would still tingle with the weight of milk. Time and time again I’d wake up in the middle of the night in puddles of milk and have to pump in order to fall back asleep because my daughter simply did not need all the milk that I was producing.

The Gerber cloth breast pads—which were the only cloth pads available in the retail stores—were a joke. Not only did they lack absorbency, but they had no waterproof layer whatsoever. I would soak through them in seconds if my daughter even whimpered. So I looked and looked but I could find no other cloth solution to my problem. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was when I had to turn to paper breast pads. I was mostly frustrated because buying them ensured that I would have to continue to buy them for as long as I nursed which, to me, is just about as useful as starting up an expensive cigarette habit. But what could I do? There was nothing else available and I was sick of having dark wet circles on my shirts. I bought them.

I’d been cloth diapering almost since the day my daughter was born so as I searched for cloth diapers to buy her, I soon discovered that most cloth diaper retailers have cloth breast pads as well. I was careful to read the materials when I started my online search for waterproof nursing pads and I found that many quality cloth pads do not have a waterproof layer. When I discovered that Knickernappies makes cloth pads with not only the amazing absorbency that’s found in their diapers but also a stay-dry layer of microfleece and a waterproof outer layer, I bought them without hesitation. After trying them for a day or two, I discovered that they were just the thing to keep my breasts happy and my shirts dry so I bought two more packages of them so as to be certain that I would never run out!

I’m sure there are other, wonderful nursing pads out there, but the Knickernappies nursing pads served me so well that I never looked any further. After buying them, I never worried about milk stains on my shirts or my sheets or about embarrassing myself with wet spots on my shirt again. What’s best, is that my breasts remained dry and comfortable rather than staying moist and cold—which doesn’t promote good milk production or healthy breasts.

My one regret is that I didn’t discover quality cloth nursing pads sooner. I spent a full two months using leaky Gerber cloth pads, and yucky, gel-filled disposable ones and I wish I would have known better so I could have saved myself all that hassle and money.

Now that my daughter is 16 months old, we still continue a healthy nursing relationship but my breasts have calmed down considerably so I no longer experience pain, engorgement, or leaking. Not only am I much more relaxed about nursing, but I find that I no longer need to use my nursing pads because my breasts have learned how to produce just enough milk for my little girl rather than for an army of children. So, I’ve given of my beloved breast pads away to new mothers, but most of them I keep for the future children that I hope the Lord will one day bless me with. I look forward to one day experiencing newborn nursing without all the leaking, embarrassment, and wetness that I went through with my first because I feel that the next time around I’ll be fully equipped for whatever adventures lactation throws my way!