Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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The Other Mama Cloth

In our household, the turn to cloth diapering was pretty gradual. We had some difficulties early on, and I focused my efforts elsewhere. But after a few months, I decided to pursue cloth again with a renewed sense of determination. Pockets are working out wonderfully for us, and I’m thrilled with our decision. A new box of disposables certainly never brought forth the same excitement as a package of fluff on my doorstep! The next logical step seemed to be mama cloth, and I have several carefully sewn, swirly colored pads and liners prepped and waiting for whenever I might need them again.

My switch to the other mama cloth, however, was not gradual. When I switched, I switched fast, all because of a startling realization in the middle of the night that hit me like a ton of bricks.

When I decided to breastfeed, I read everything I could get my hands on. I researched products online, and I stocked up on everything I thought I might need. Electric pump, manual pump, nursing bras, nursing pillow, ointments, creams, shields…you name it. During my maternity leave, I never really used any of it. Besides some pain at first, the only issue I really had was oversupply and a bit of an overactive letdown. It doesn’t sound like a problem, but it can be. A too-fast letdown can cause baby to fill up on foremilk and not get enough nutrient-rich hindmilk, but our problem was not that severe. What it did require was lots and lots of breast pads.

Here’s where the problem came in. The longest stretches between nursing sessions were at night, so that was when I was most likely to engorge and/or leak. Of course, I made sure I was wearing maximum absorbency breast pads. When it came time to nurse, I would either roll over and nurse my son back to sleep, if he was in my bed, or I would sit and rock him quietly, in his room, with the light off to keep stimulation to a minimum.

One night, after nursing, I went into the bathroom and flipped on the light. I noticed my breast pads were very wet and knew I needed to change them. When I took the pad away from my one still-heavy breast, I found something strange on my skin. It was the same absorbent gel that had troubled me so much when I found it on my son’s bottom. (Sodium polyacrylate, I think?) It was in my disposable breast pads, and just like with disposable diapers, it had gotten saturated and burst out all over my skin.

So what about the other breast? The one my son had just happily emptied? Surely it was covered with the clingy little balls of squishy gel, too. How many times had this happened? How much of this weird, alien substance had he ingested? I was taking the utmost care in every respect to protect him from toxins and unnatural ingredients, and here I was, essentially feeding him something toxic.

What had I done? Did other moms know about this? I shudder to think how many do not, given that the most likely time for it to happen is in the middle of the night, in the dark, when you’re bleary-eyed and exhausted.

It was careless on my part not to think about the possible consequences when I used the disposable samples and coupons I had been given. I should have known better. But I assure you, I never used another disposable breast pad (even when I was away from my son, because that stuff can't be good for my health, either.)

I encourage all breastfeeding moms—especially new ones who are not yet familiar with the sea of products out there—to also consider using cloth breast pads; cotton, hemp, bamboo, store-bought or WAHM-made, the choices are many. Do it for the environment, do it for your budget, but most of all, do it for your health and the health of your baby.

By Wendy Cray Kaufman

23 comments:

Ashley said...

I didn't even think about that! I never used breast pads at night as I never wore a bra so I would just lay a washcloth under my breasts lol! This was BEFORE I knew about cloth pads!

I didnt even think about the gel getting into my sons belly! Thanks!

Rose said...

I never even considered using disposable breast pads, since I already knew I was going to cloth diaper and use mama cloth on myself. Here is one more reason I'm glad I didn't. Excellent post - I will share this with other new moms!

Ashley said...

This a great post! For reasons unknown -- probably because I was a first-time mom and the idea of reusable + bodily fluids just jarred me -- reusable breast pads always weirded me out. By the time I came around to cloth everything I was past the point of needing breast pads.

I only ever used my disposable ones if I was sleeping, and when I was at work -- and even then, only when I remembered. Once I was working again, my "HOLY CRAP BOOB EXPLOSION" problem pretty much went away. It was crazy in the beginning, though; my boobs would let down if I just thought about them wrong. I'd get out of the shower, being brushing my hair, and bam -- geysers.

So, um, I feel you.

Stephanie said...

I was "lucky" in that as long as I breastfed on demand, I only leaked if I wasn't in a bra or while nursing. So, I just kept a receiving blanket with me when I went to nurse and used it as a "pad" for the other side. I occasionally used a trimmed panty liner (disposable) if I was going to be out, but that was rare.

jeanna said...

I am so glad you posted about this, I had no clue that the disposable ones could do this! I have some clothe pads my SIL gave me and disposables, but I think I might not use the disposable ones.

Deltaflute said...

I made my own breast pads. The disposable samples were good for one thing: to be used as a template.

Crystal said...

Which cloth breast pads out there actually have a waterproof layer in them? The ones that have been given to me are absorbent, but they're not waterproof in the outer layer so the moisture just wicks into my bra and then onto my shirt. I'm a heavy leaker and I go through allot of disposable breast pads, so I would love to find a solution with cloth breast pads.

Alycia said...

I used a couple sposie nursing pads after I had DS and hated them. They were sticky, scratchy, and stuck to my skin like glue. Bamboo pads are way more comfortable!

wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas said...

@Crystal...I'm not sure which ones are waterproof, but there is such a huge community online, and I'm sure there has to be someone out there willing to share that info with you. I would contact customer service for some of the online cloth diaper retailers and ask them!

Elizabeth K said...

I haven't had much luck with reusable nursing pads. I purchased some Knickernappies (fleece, hemp and PUL) and these worked OK for a while. I used them at night and while at home. They leaked at night and now they smell like sour milk and just look nasty. They have fleece so maybe I need to "strip" them like a cloth diaper. Not sure. I also purchased some WAHM pads through etsy and the fabric actually bled (even after several washings) and I tossed those. I've never had any problems with my Lansinoh pads. I'd love to hear about some great reusable pads.

Sarah said...

I have the same question as Crystal. I've tried several styles of cloth breast pads and all have leaked through. I'm 6 months pp, baby is nursing on demand when I'm with her, but I'm also working 40 hours a week and still having abundant supply, crazy let down, etc. It'd be nice to go cloth, but I just don't know how to do so without soaking everything.

Jill Brown said...

I had a friend that recommended the cloth breast pads so I bought a bunch of them. Luckily that meant that I only had to use the disposable ones a few times. I definitely prefer the cloth ones, not only are the better for the environment but they are SO MUCH more comfortable.

Sarahjenne said...

I loved my cloth breast pads. I started with cloth while I was pregnant as they were good for holding down perky nipples, too. I picked up a package of disposable pads just in case, but used only a couple of them before I realized how much more comfortable the cloth ones were.

kaheels said...

I've noticed that too. I even bought some cloth breast pads, but they really didn't work. The milk just seemed to drip down between my skin and the pad. I guess I need to find a better variety ad I really don't like the idea of my infant ingesting absorbency crystals.

Jenney said...

I have used cloth breastpads since I started being a cloth diaper mama, but I used disposable and cloth breastpads before that...now I wonder what on earth he was getting!

PhotogMom said...

@Crystal...Knickernappies nursing pads boast a description of 'waterproof pul.' I just ordered two packs and should receive them in the mail this week. I used the thin 'nuk' brand of nursing pads, then soon realized when engorged they offer zero protection. So then I switched to Lansinoh, hated paying so much money, so I found playtex nursing pads do the same job but for less $$. I go through a pair each night since my son has slept through the night. Just like with disposable diapers, I'm tired of feeling like I'm throwing my money away, so after 4 months I FINALLY ordered cloth nursing pads. Will report back once I've put the waterproof layer to the test! :)

Mel Hagberg said...

Gerber cloth ones work alright for the price they are $4 for a six pack (3 pairs) can't be that. If you can't sew...which I can't. And you can buy them at Wal-mart or Target. If you leak a lot, for over night or going out you can just double up or put a disposable water-proof one behind (away from your skin).

a said...

I knew I wanted to use cloth diapers but I never thought about cloth breast pads. I got a big box of Lansinoh pads and I'm so glad I didn't end up using them very often. And I won't use them next time either.

Laura said...

I hadn't thought about that either and fortunately did not run into that problem. I have been nursing my DD for 9 months come Aug 21st and have been using cloth nursing pads exclusively for the past 6 months or more. I realized quickly that the disposables were going to get quite costly. However, I also realized quickly that I needed to get "leak proof" cloth options after my first overnight with cloth pads left me with the lovely wet circles. I love my Kushies nursing pads best & my WAHM leak-proof pads w/PUL & flannel.

@Crystal - you can find some on Etsy.com - there a few WAHM shops that offer "leak-proof" nursing pads that have the PUL. Just do a search for them & you should have some options come up.

Nicole Pond said...

I learned early on that the cloth pads I had weren't going to cut it. I used some disposables given to me by a friend and they worked, so I didn't think much of it. never got any goo on me. One thing I did learn and will use for the next child, I liked the wool pads I got, but they were too small. now I get why I need the ginormous ones, because otherwise, anyone can tell I'm wearing nursing pads! Not such a great fashion look! the price I pay for giant boob genes!

Carl and Tracey said...

wow! that's scary! I don't think the one's I use contain gel crystal stuff... I haven't found a reusable nursing pad that's absorbent enough.

Anna said...

I switched because I was spending so much $$ on the pads (over supply for me too). I didn't even think about what my baby might be ingesting! Yuck! With baby #2 on the way, I've been making some extra thick pads of my own to use especially at night. Thanks for your post!

wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas said...

Wow...sounds like there's a niche out there that needs to be filled!

Go Go sewing WAHMs!