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When you pictured what breastfeeding would be like, you probably never imagined sore nipples, engorgement pain, or milk leakage just because you heard a baby crying — and no one warned you it didn’t even have to be your own baby crying to get your milk flowing!
It only takes one public milk-leaking incident to know that leaking through your shirt is a problem that needs a solution (and quickly).
The good news is that mothers have been dealing with breast milk leaks for decades and companies have been hard at work perfecting the best nursing pads. Rest assured, amazing nursing pads exist, and we’re here to guide you to them!
Nursing pads are soft pads placed inside your bra. They work to help absorb any extra milk your breasts leak between feeds so it doesn’t soak through your clothing or irritate your nipples.
When shopping for nursing pads, one of the decisions you’ll need to make is whether you want to go the disposable or reusable route.
Disposable nursing pads are intended for one-time use and can be thrown out after they have absorbed your breast milk for a period of time. Because they frequently come individually wrapped and you can throw them out after they have served their purpose, they’re great when you’re on the go.
Reusable nursing pads are designed to be washed and reused, making these types of pads ultimately more friendly to the environment — and your budget. Especially in the first few weeks with your newborn, extra laundry may not seem very appealing, but we’ll leave it up to you to do your own cost-benefit analysis!
Torn between disposable and reusable nursing pads? Don’t worry, many breastfeeding people actually stock up on a bit of both types!
When considering which pads really are the best, we took into account a variety of factors like absorbency, price, material, and of course weighed heavily what fellow moms had to say — after all, who better to judge what really stands above the rest?
- $ = under $1 per pair
- $$ = $1–$5 per pair
- $$$ = $5–$10 per pair
- $$$$ = over $10 per pair
Best disposable nursing pads
Lansinoh Stay Dry Nursing Pads
These pads from Lansinoh (you might know them for their nipple cream) get rave reviews from breastfeeding moms — and there are plenty of reasons why.
They’re extremely soft, thin, super absorbent (thanks in part to their honeycomb lining), and even include adhesive strips to keep themselves in place! They also have a contoured shape for a discreet fit and come individually wrapped for easy access on the go.
Plus, their price is competitive and you can easily buy them in bulk for additional savings.
Best reusable nursing pads
Bamboobies Washable Nursing Pads
These soft, reusable pads are designed for comfort! Available in a thinner version for daytime wear and a thicker option for additional protection at night, Bamboobies bamboo-rayon-based pads are both eco-friendly and absorbent.
Although washing is never fun, these pads are easy to launder with all of your other baby-related loads. And since they can go in both the washer and dryer, you won’t have to worry about waiting a long time for them to dry.
As an added bonus, many women say they get softer and softer every time you wash them!
Most versatile nursing pads
Curve by Cache Coeur Washable Nursing Pads
These pads are made with anti-slip and antibacterial materials. They come in both daytime and nighttime sizes, are contoured to follow the curve of your bra, and can be positioned in two different ways.
Curve pads are machine washable, and while they aren’t designed to go in the dryer, the manufacturer claims they can air-dry in just 8 minutes. The only real downside to these pads is that they’re only sold in sets of two, making them relatively more expensive than the options on this list.
Best no-show nursing pads
BabyBliss Bamboo Nursing Pads
Unlike many reusable pads, these from BabyBliss have a contoured shape that allows them to cup the breast and avoid bunching. They even come in three different sizes to better match with your bra size. Breastfeeding moms also sing their praises for their soft, towel-like texture and satin-y exterior.
While the shape and structure of these pads allow them to stay hidden, you’ll want to be careful to choose the right color pad for your bra or top — some of the more colorful pads might show through your white shirt!
Best lightweight nursing pads
NUK Ultra Thin Nursing Pads
Focused on being thin, lightweight, and discreet, these pads are ideal for women looking to avoid the appearance and feel of a heavy-duty nursing pad.
Downsides? These disposable pads don’t include an adhesive option to stick to them to your bra, although many moms reported they stayed in place anyway. They also won’t protect your clothing if you have a heavy letdown between feeds, but if you just need a lightweight nursing pad for the occasional drip, this has you covered!
Best overnight nursing pads
Medela Safe & Dry Super Absorbency Disposable Nursing Pads
A bulkier option than many women prefer during the day, these nursing pads offer superior absorption during nighttime hours. Reviewers have found them relatively soft, and they offer adhesive strips on the back side so you won’t have to worry about losing one in the middle of the night!
Added bonus? These are very affordable and can be bought in bulk for even more cost savings. If you end up being a fan of the overnight pads, Medela also makes an “ultra thin” version for daytime use.
Best nursing pads for sensitive nipples
Ameda ComfortGel Hydrogel Pads
If breastfeeding is leaving you with cracked, sore nipples, these soothing gel pads may feel better on your sensitive nipples than pads made of cotton or bamboo. Ameda’s gel pads can also be cooled in the refrigerator before using for some extra pain relief.
Landing somewhere between a disposable and reusable pad, these pads can be used for about 6 days before it’s recommended to discard them — they’re definitely not the most cost-effective option on this list, but if you’re in pain, it might be worth it. They even get good reviews for being fairly unnoticeable!
Best eco-friendly nursing pads
LilyPadz Starter Kit
These silicone pads stand out in a sea of cotton- and bamboo-based nursing pad options! Instead of focusing on collecting milk, LilyPadz aim to prevent milk from dripping out by placing gentle pressure on your nipples.
They adhere to you and not your bra, so they can actually stay put when you’re not wearing a bra. The manufacturer claims that when washed appropriately these nursing pads can last up to 2 months. But even if they don’t make it that long, you can at least know that you’ve prevented a few pairs of disposable pads from ending up in the landfill.
- Even if a nursing pad only needs to cover a small part of the breast to prevent leaks, you may feel more comfortable with a larger pad inside your bra to keep it from sliding around.
- Consider avoiding colors and bright patterns. While decorated nursing pads may seem more fun than white, black, and nude colored ones, they also show through clothing more easily.
- Make sure to check the laundering directions on reusable pads. Some need to be washed or dried by hand.
- Some brands of disposable pads offer a way to stick them to your bra. This can help the pad to stay in place, but it can also potentially irritate your skin if you have allergies or very sensitive skin.
Whether your breast milk is just coming in or you’ve been breastfeeding for a while, you’ll probably want to avoid leaking through your shirt in public.
Having some nursing pads on hand (and in your bra) can help to keep you from constantly cleaning your shirts or feeling embarrassed. Happy breastfeeding!