Health & Safety Mom

Nursing Pads: All You Need To Know

Nursing pads are an extremely useful accessory for pregnant women and nursing moms.

Breast pads or nursing pads are designed to protect you, your clothing and your bedding from leaking milk, which can be both annoying and embarrassing depending on the situation.

So in this article we will take a closer look at these items, to help you decide if you need them and how to use them correctly and safely.

What Are Nursing Pads?

A nursing pad (also called breast pad) is a pad that is worn against the nipple and breast of a nursing mother.

The purpose is to absorb any milk that may leak between feedings.

Some moms like to wear them all the time while they are nursing, while others prefer to wear them only when out in public.

They can be either reusable or disposable, and they don’t always have to be worn with a bra (more on these points shortly).


Breast or nursing pads can be found in a variety of types, shapes and sizes, and as mentioned they can be either disposable or reusable.

The most common types include:

  • Disposable: great for when you are out or traveling on vacation as you don’t need to worry about washing them, although the cost can add up since you’ll need so many.
  • Reusable: more cost effective, but you’ll need to buy a few since they will need washing between use.
  • Silicone: rather than absorbing leaks, silicone pads are designed to put pressure on your breast, and don’t have to be worn with a bra as they have a sticky surface that sticks directly on to your breast.
  • Homemade: nursing pads can also be made from other items, such as a clean folded handkerchief squares which can be put inside your bra.

Do I Need One?

You may be surprised to learn that leaking breasts are very common, especially during the start of your breastfeeding journey.

Leaking can happen and be caused by a number of reasons, including:

  • Seeing a baby
  • Hearing a baby cry
  • Seeing a picture of your own baby
  • Thinking about your baby

What is happening in these scenarios is your maternal instinct is kicking in, and your body wants to be able to feed your child.

Leaking can also occur when your breasts are full, when you are getting intimate with your partner, and sometimes for no reason at all.

As well as the above, here are some other reasons why you may need to wear nursing pads:

  • You are returning to work
  • You are going to be away from your baby for several hours
  • You have an oversupply of milk
  • Overnight when you are sleeping

How To Use Breast Pads

If you have decided you would like to use breast or nursing pads then the good news is they are easy to use.

Nursing pads are worn inside your bra to keep you and your clothes dry.

When you choose one, you should ensure it has a contoured fit that is snug against your body.

It’s best to choose ones that are soft and absorbent, and ones that are designed to enable your breasts to breathe.

Here is how to use a nursing pad, depending on the type you’ve chosen:

Disposable Nursing Pad

  • To start with, you should always make sure your nipple is clean.
  • Place in the cup of your bra – ideally it should be in the center as that will ensure it covers your nipple and gives you the best protection against leakage.
  • Stick the pad in place using the adhesive.
  • Once it has become quite wet, peel it off and throw it in the trash.

Reusable Nursing Pad

  • To start with, you should always make sure your nipple is clean.
  • Place it in the cup of your bra.
  • Given reusable ones don’t have adhesive, you might need to adjust it from time to time.
  • When the pad is too wet to continue using, remove it and put it in the laundry.

Whether you are using a reusable or a disposable pad, one thing to always keep in mind is that it should be changed regularly to avoid irritating your skin and infecting your breasts (see below).

How Often To Change

It’s important to change a breast pad once it becomes wet, because moisture around your nipple for long periods of time can cause bacteria to grow and therefore lead to infections.

If you are wondering how often to change your breast pad, there is no single answer that is right for all women, because it depends on how much you are leaking.

A lot of women find they need to change theirs every 2-3 hours, but if yous is still dry after a few hours, there should be no issue leaving it there.

One thing to be aware of is you may need to change your pad overnight,

As we mentioned the longer a wet pad is in contact with your nipple, the higher the chance of getting an infection, so when feeding your baby in the middle of the night you may want to change your breast pad at the same time.

Breast Pads Side Effects

Typically they don’t come with any noticeable side effects, although you should be aware that:

  • Breast pads can cause skin irritation around the nipple (applying nipple cream should help with this).
  • Prolonged exposure to wetness can lead to infections such as thrush and mastitis.

How To Wear Breast Pads Without A Bra

If you want to enjoy the benefits of a breast pad without having to wear a bra, then a silicone nursing pad may be the answer.

These are designed to put pressure on your breast, and don’t have to be worn with a bra as they have a sticky surface that sticks directly on to your breast.

If you the reason why you don’t want to wear a bra is because you would rather not wear one overnight, then there may be a different solution, which is to wear a nursing tank top with a built-in shelf bra to hold your nursing pads in place while sleeping.

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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