One thing that I’ve been trying to incorporate into my life is a more zero-waste approach. I am definitely far from perfect but I’ve been working on little switches that I can make when I run out of things. Usually when something runs out, I make the switch to a more natural and safe alternative and so I’ve been trying to find something that is zero-waste or low waste at the same time.
Once learning about the dangers of the cotton in menstrual products (pads and tampons), many crunchy moms look and switch to a different alternative. There are many options to choose from (which I will go into in a latter blog post and discuss why I switched to a menstrual cup), however, I want to talk about reusable pads today. I am not a pad person myself, but after you have a baby you need to use something because you continue to bleed. If you’ve never had a baby before, you basically have what’s comparable to a really heavy “period.” Everyone’s bleeding can last different lengths of time depending on how much you let your body rest afterwards—which is why it is important to take it slow and spend most of your time in bed! I have heard of many people loving reusable pads because they say they are more comfortable and many people use them for the postpartum period.
Personally, I see a lot of positives to using reusable postpartum pads: saving money (in the long run), less waste, cleaner alternative than regular pads, and them supposedly being more comfortable. To some, the idea might make them squeamish. We already do cloth diapers for our toddler and will be doing cloth diapers again with this baby and so I will be putting the pads in with the cloth diaper laundry (which gets washed twice). My husband having it in our washer was more gross than baby poop (surprising, right?) and so I told him I would rinse off the pads before putting them in our wet pail which would get most of the blood out before it even went into the washer. This seemed to be a good compromise for us.
Once I decided it was something I wanted to do, I began looking online and on Etsy to find postpartum pads to purchase. They were EXPENSIVE! Most pads that can be used for postpartum (they need to have a lot of absorbency) were $15-20…. each. I’m not sure on how many I’ll need but I was thinking that at least 12 would be a good number to have, so that total went up fast. So, rather than purchasing them, I decided to make my own. I was 39 weeks pregnant making these but I finished 12! I have more material to make more but I’m hoping 12 will be enough for what I need. I will be doing a blog post about my thoughts on how well they work and if I like them or not once this baby decides to come!
Making the Pads:
I wanted to do this as cheaply as possible, and so my pads all look the same. I know some people enjoy having fun and different fabrics, which I would have liked too, but that would have made for more of an investment rather than just using the fabric we had.
I watched a YouTube video about how to create them and bought a pattern from this shop on Etsy. I adjusted the pattern a little bit because I thought that the center part would be too wide for my underwear when I measured how wide my underwear actually was. To do this, I measured out how wide I wanted the center part to be on the pattern and cut the pattern to come in to that point. I left the front and back as wide as the pattern was originally because I didn’t think that part would need to be adjusted.
For my top layer, I used a thin fleece blanket that I bought at Walmart for $3. We’ve used that same fabric for “liners” in our cloth diapers to wick away the moisture so that baby doesn’t feel wet when sleeping in a wet diaper. I chose to use that fleece instead of flannel or a different fabric for these because I figured I wouldn’t want to feel really wet down there either. I’ll have to let you know how well it works! For the inside absorbent layers, I did two layers of a bamboo/hemp blend that I bought on Etsy and two layers of Zorb fabric which I bought on Amazon. Behind that is a layer of PUL, which is a waterproof fabric that will stop it from leaking onto your bottom layer. The back (and final layer) is flannel. Luckily, my mom has a lot of flannel laying around and so I just used some scrap pieces of hers and so I didn’t need to purchase any flannel. The other thing we needed to buy was a tool to help put the snaps on. On the pads, there are “wings” that fold around the middle of your underwear and you snap it on the underside so that the pad will stay in place.
Once we had all of the materials, it was a lot of cutting. There are a lot of layers that go into making this pad but I did find that rather than making one pad from start to finish, it was easier to make a few at the same time so I could do the same step over and over.
I was worried when I put all of the absorbent layers together at first because it seemed SO thick. I considered taking out one of the layers but I am glad I didn’t. They don’t feel that thick once it is all sewn together.
After you have all of your pieces cut, you’ll want to line up the absorbent layers and sew those together first. I just did a quick stitch down the middle so that they would stay lined up better. I also made sure that the smallest one was on the top so that I could make sure to catch every single piece. I didn’t want anything to be sliding around or moving after a few washes. You may not have this issue but for some reason, even though I was using the pattern, my cuts kept being slightly different on each piece. Go figure. It’s a home project and way cheaper than buying them so I guess I can’t complain too much.
Next, I sewed the absorbent layers to the fleece top. I used a zig zag stitch to do this. After that, you’ll take the PUL and flannel and sew those to the piece you just finished. The glossy/shiny side of the PUL is the side you want touching the absorbent layers and you’ll be flipping this inside out so you want the right sides touching. I found it was easiest to lay down my PUL glossy side down, then add the flannel, and then the top piece with the absorbent layers on top of the flannel with the absorbent pieces facing up.
When you work with the PUL, keep in mind that you don’t want to poke holes into it because then liquid can leak through. When I cut it out, I just held the pattern on top and to sew I still used pins but I used them vertically and put them right on the edge to make sure that my stitch would be on the inside of it. I know that there are clips and some other things you can buy to help hold the fabric in place, but like I said, I was trying to make this as cheap as possible! When sewing those pieces together, you’ll want to leave a few inches on the straight edge of the larger back pad of the pad unsewn so you can flip the pad inside out. Before flipping the pad, you’ll want to make some quick snips on the corners of the wings (don’t hit your stitches!) so that it won’t pucker. After you’ve flipped it so the top is the fleece and the back is the flannel, you can sewn that open portion closed and then sew around the pad one more time. Lastly, add the snaps to the wings!
I am by no means an expert seamstress, as you can tell from the pictures of my pads. But, this project was easy enough for me to complete and I’m excited to be able to try them out for so much cheaper than if I bought them from someone else. I got better and faster at the whole process after I figured out a system, but making 12 pads probably took me 12 hours to complete. My advice would be to make them sooner on in your pregnancy than when I did it because cutting fabric out on the floor isn’t super easy when a big belly keeps getting in your way. All in all though, I really did love the project. It was nice to be able to practice some of my sewing skills on something that people won’t see and if there were mistakes with stitches and I had to make extra stitches, that wouldn’t matter. I also loved feeling accomplished that I had made something that I could use each time I have a baby to save money while also saving the environment. If it is something you’d be interested in making and you have basic sewing skills and/or someone that can help you with the process, I would highly recommend trying to make them for yourself!