Disposable vs. Reusable Breast Pads

14 July 2023  |  Admin

Hurrah! You’re preparing to meet your baby which is super exciting. That lump in your belly which has been poking and prodding you for the last few months will soon be making an appearance.

You’re planning to breast feed if you can because of all the benefits it has for you and your baby. Breastfeeding mums provide their baby with the exact nutrition it needs, help your body adjust to not being pregnant any more, protect you from various cancers and save you money too.

Plus according to Unicef, it’s the planet friendly sustainable option for feeding your baby too:

Breastmilk requires no packaging, shipping or disposal and has a negligible water footprint. It does not create pollution…It is a free and safe resource uniquely suitable for human babies which helps to minimise environmental impact….No other health behaviour has such a broad-spectrum and long-lasting impact on public health.”

So if protecting the planet is high on your parenting goals, you’ll likely be thinking about breast pads too.

Breast Pads for Maternity use

Why do you need breast pads?

You wear nursing pads to protect your clothing from the milk you produce and stop you leaking breast milk onto your clothes / partner / bed / postie.

I say this from experience.

Just after I had my eldest son, I didn’t realise I had reached the point where I would be starting to leak milk. After cuddling my partner in bed that night, we all woke up very damp, bed clothes and everything!

Initially I used disposable breast pads (this was 19 years ago people, don’t judge!) but by the time my second son came along, I had discovered silicone reusable breast pads.

In this post, we’ll be comparing reusable breast pads to disposable breast pads on:

  • Cost
  • Environmental Impact
  • Convenience
  • Health

Disposable Breast Pads 

Disposable breast pads are available from specialist breastfeeding / baby brands, such as Lansinoh and Medela.  However most supermarkets and pharmacies also have their own ranges which will be cheaper.

How many disposable breast pads do you use in one day?

How many disposable breast pads you’ll use in a day depends on your milk flow as the breast pads should be changed as soon as they get wet. Initially when your milk has just come in immediately after your baby is born, you’ll likely be leaking everywhere and squirting milk as soon as your baby cries!

At that stage, you may need to change your disposable breast pads each time your baby feeds, so every three hours or so. That means you could be getting through 7 or 8 pairs of disposable breast pads daily.

Once you get past the ‘boobs like melons’ stage and breastfeeding settles down, you may need to change less frequently, possibly three or four times a day.

Cost of disposable breast pads

If you assume 7 pairs of disposable breast pads initially, then you’ll be getting through 49 pairs of breast pads a week. Medela breast pads would cost you around $70 a week, Lansinoh around $49 a week. Let’s assume $60 as an average.

However that usage would drop over time to probably 3 or 4 pairs a day, costing more like $25 to $30 a week.

If you’re breastfeeding for 2 months at 7 pairs a day and a further 4 months at 3 - 4 pairs a day, that could cost you $1,080 which is a lot!

What's the environmental impact of disposable breast pads

What is the environmental impact of disposable nursing pads? 

Disposable breast pads aren’t great for the environment as they tend to contain plastic tabs which keep them in place in your bra. In addition, many brands wrap their pads individually which adds packaging.

Breast pads also shouldn’t be flushed as they contribute to sewer blockages and fatbergs.

Convenience of disposable nursing pads

There’s no doubt, disposable breast pads are convenient to use. Just open the packet, pop in your bra and then throw away when wet.

Health and disposable breast pads

On one hand, disposable breast pads are great if you suffer from thrush because there’s no chance of the yeast infection or bacterial growth getting into your pads.

On the other hand, disposable pads tend to feel sweatier to wear which may cause thrush in the first place if your baby has a shallow latch and you have sore nipples already.

Reusable Breast Pads - No more leaky boobs

Reusable Nursing Pads 

Reusable nursing pads come in various sizes and materials, to suit all breast shapes and sizes. There are two main types, washable nursing pads which are absorbent or pads which work from pressure to stop milk leaks.

Cheeky bamboo breast pads are washable fabric, with a fast wicking top layer for extra dryness, and a bamboo fibre core for maximum absorbency. Lastly, a PUL backing prevents leaks.

They're available as shaped breast pads which are great for smaller boobs. Or flat breast pads which are brilliant for larger boobs. Both types are super soft , ultra absorbent and great for sensitive skin.

Other types of nursing pads include silicone nursing pads and silver nursing pads.

Silicone nursing pads work by keeping constant pressure on your nipples and preventing leaks in that way. They aren't absorbent, but do work well, nonetheless.

Silver nursing shields are also a reusable option which helps heal sore nipples. I haven't tried them myself but they get great reviews so are definitely worth considering.

"Best breast pads,  I have actually bought them for expectant mum presents. Not point trying others - I have done that for you with others so saturated they swim around my bra,  whereas cheeky pads are a game changer. " Via Trustpilot

Cost of reusable breast pads

Reusable breast ads are very cost effective by comparison to disposable breast pads. 12 to 18 pairs should be ample for any breast-feeding mum, which would cost $108 to $163. That's roughly equivalent to just two to three weeks worth of disposable pads!

How eco friendly are reusable nursing pads?

Reusable nursing pads are very eco friendly, a much more sustainable option that disposable pads. That's because they use less materials in their production and transport and you'll use less of them too, so less waste.

When you're finished with your reusable breast pads, you can keep them for another child. You can even repurpose them as makeup removing pads! And once they're totally worn out, they can be recycled with other soft fabrics.

How Convenient are reusable breast pads?

Reusable nursing pads are very convenient as you can guarantee you'll never run out of them. Just pop a wash in the washing machine and you have more nursing pads on hand.

One point to note, don't use fabric softener on reusable breast pads as it can impact the absorbency.

Health and reusable breast pads

Reusable breast pads are just as good for your breasts as disposable breasts - possibly even better as the material allows your breasts to breathe.

However it's worth noting that if you're suffering with thrush, it's a good idea to hot wash your reusable breast pads and then switch to disposables until your infection has cleared up.

We hope you found this worthwhile and gave you some food for thought regarding the use of disposable breast pads vs reusables. If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

How to use reusable breast pads - the Ultimate guide

Maternity Underwear - All you need to know

About the author: Helen Rankin is a Mum of 4 and founded Cheeky Wipes, the original reusable wipes kit back in 2008 after disposable wipes caused her eczema to flare up. She went on to develop their range of 'Simple Reusables' to include period pants, reusable sanitary pads and washable breast pads. 

The team pride themselves on providing relatable friendly advice and LOVE to chat pee, poo and periods all day long! The Company was recognised for their hard work in developing environmentally friendly products with the Queens Award in Enterprise for Sustainable Development in 2021.  

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