Cloth Pads VS Diapers/Disposable Pads: Which is better for postpartum?

Hello again! As promised, I wanted to come back and share my thoughts on using cloth pads postpartum and whether I would recommend them or not. So, as you may have guessed…I had my baby! He is now 3.5 weeks old and we are loving all of the sleepy newborn snuggles. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I started using the cloth pads until the end of day 2. That is because my midwife had a kit that she brought that had some pads and diapers already in it and that’s what she helped me into right after giving birth. With my first birth, I never wore diapers—I just went straight into mesh undies with a pad—so this experience was a little different. But, I think it was helpful to be able to experience 3 different options so that I could better know which is the best option. 

Well, here it is: I think reusable (aka cloth) postpartum pads are the way to go. They were much more comfortable to wear and didn’t make me feel really gross. I didn’t wear them directly after birth, as I had said, and so I am not sure how often they would need to be changed since your bleeding is heavier. However, once I began wearing them, I changed them every other time I went to the bathroom—so about every 5 hours. I may have been able to wear them longer than that without leaking through but I know they say it is important to change the pads often to prevent infection from occurring. 

In wearing the pads, I did learn a few things that I would have done differently when making the pads. I’d like to share those so that you can learn from my “mistakes” or things that I think would make the experience better. 

I had made 12 pads to use. I knew that was on the lower end of what people recommend so my goal had been to make at least that many. I was hoping to make closer to 15, but honestly, once I had made 12, I lost all motivation since I was so pregnant and tired. Something to keep in mind: having more pads would be better—especially in the beginning. 12 was an ok number to have but we were needing to do wash about every 1.5 days in order for me to have the pads clean by the time I needed more. Granted, if you are willing to put your pads through the dryer, than you would be able to spread out your washes a little but I was air drying mine and so I needed to account for the hours that it would take for them to dry. It did work out for us because we cloth diaper and so we were doing wash anyway. This also won’t be a continuous problem as long as you take it easy and your bleeding decreases. After about a week and a half, I was needing probably only using 2-3 pads a day and now at 3 weeks PP, I only change the pad morning and night since I am more so using it as a back up now. 

As I mentioned in the last paragraph, it is important to take it easy. Your body needs time to heal! This means lots of sitting and laying in bed and really only getting up to go to the bathroom or take a sitz bath. One thing I learned was that the length that I had ended up making my pads, made it so that the edge was right at my tailbone when I sat leaning back. This made my tailbone a little sore. Definitely not a dealbreaker, I just needed to be aware of how I was sitting and not sit leaning back as much or give myself breaks. However, if you are working on making your own pads, just be aware of the length that you make them. Also, as I had said in my DIY post, you can take in the center portion. I did that and it ended up working out really well. I suggest taking the pattern to your underwear and measuring it out and seeing what you would like to change. 

A slight issue that I had was that the blood would “leak” onto the wings. It didn’t ever cause an issue because not enough of it came through to even leak onto my underwear, but I am not sure I would feel confident wearing a pair of white jeans if you know what I mean. I am not sure if this was an issue unique to me and so it is user error or if all cloth pads do that. I debated how it would work to maybe only make the wings from a waterproof fabric but I am not sure how that would work either. Although it could be worrisome if you bleed to much for your absorbency, it never was an issue for me and so it’s not something I worried about. 

In the tutorial video I had watched about how to make postpartum pads (linked in my other blog post), she mentioned that you want to make sure to use 100% polyester thread so that you don’t leak through on your stitching. Well, I did use polyester thread but I found that on the stitches where I sewed through all of the layers (so the stitch that went around the whole pad), a small amount of blood would come through and get soaked in on the underside fabric if I bled right onto the stitching. So, the only stitching it really happened on was the center portion by the wings because that was the thinnest part of the pad and where most of the blood was falling but I did make one pad where I had restitched more so in the center of the pad and I had that issue more on that pad than any others. So, my advice would be, don’t stitch through the whole pad except for when you are going around the whole pad as the last step, and then try to keep your stitch as close to the edge as possible. 

Lastly, I used a really cheap fleece blanket as the top material on my pad. If I were going to make them again, I would choose a different fabric. The fleece was comfortable but after washing them just a few times, the fabric pilled A LOT. More so just an annoyance than anything because now the pads look like they have been used hundreds of times and I worry about their longevity (aka if I can wear them in the future after having more babies). Slightly frustrating since one of the pros to the pads was that I would be able to save money by wearing them again and again. I may try to take a razor to them and shave off the pilling… but we will see. 

So, there you have it! My opinion on using cloth pads for postpartum bleeding and what I would do differently next time. Overall, I was really pleased with my experience. They are definitely more comfortable to wear, I felt better about not having toxic chemicals near my healing body, being able to reuse the pads rather than contribute waste to landfills, and saving money while doing so. Even if you don’t know how to sew or wouldn’t make your own, I would still recommend buying some from someone on Etsy, if you can. It may seem expensive, but it is an investment (since you can reuse them) and there are the other benefits I listed as well. If you choose to use cloth pads for postpartum or just regular menstrual cycles, be sure to comment and let me know your experience and what you think!

DIY Reusable Postpartum Pads

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!

Reusable postpartum pad

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. 

The Process:

Sewing the cloth pad

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. 

DIY cloth menstrual pad

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!