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10 of the best breast pads

Disposable or reusable? Bamboo or cotton? We've rounded up some of the top nursing and breast pads out there that stop milk from leaking out of your boobs and onto your clothes

best-breast-pads

Breast pads, sometimes called nursing pads, are pieces (usually flat discs) of absorbent material such as cotton, bamboo and polyester that are worn over your nipples and against your breasts to soak up leaked breast milk.

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We’ve researched the market and used feedback from mums to bring you our pick of the best disposable and reusable options to suit your needs.

Why do I need to buy breast pads?

Your breasts can start producing milk as early as the second trimester of pregnancy, and continue as long as 2 years after breastfeeding stops.

And that means that during this wonderful, and at times maddening, roller coaster we call motherhood, our breasts can release milk when we least expect it. Such as in a warm shower, from one breast while your little one is feeding from the other (since letdown occurs in both breasts simultaneously), or when you hear your baby cry. Some women find their breast milk leaks while they are sleeping, waking to find wet patches on their pyjama top and bedding.

Worry not – for most of us, the impromptu leaking will normally stop in the first 6 to 10 weeks after giving birth.

In the meantime, we have breast pads to catch leaked milk and keep it away from our delicate skin. Not only do they prevent leaks and stains on your bras and clothing, breast pads also help stave off infections by keeping your nipples and surrounding skin dry by drawing leaked breast milk away from the breast and into the pad.

And they can keep your sensitive nipples comfortable, putting a soft, dry layer between them and any wet patches.

What are the different types of breast/nursing pads?

You can choose from disposable or washable breast pads at a range of prices and made from a variety of materials. These can range from cotton, polyester, bamboo and even silk – or a combination of textiles. Your choice will depend on your budget – washable breast pads cost more initially but won’t need replacing whereas disposable pads will – and preference.

Materials can range from organic cotton and sustainable bamboo, polyester which is less green but highly absorbent and silk which can feel sumptuously soft next to sore skin.

Disposable pads tend to have adhesive strips at the back of them to keep them secured in your bra whereas reusable or washable brands don’t. There are pros and cons – sticky strips can impede breathability of the pad but without them, pads can slip and bunch up at the bottom of your bra, rendering them useless.

And pads that are not stuck fast to your bra will need to be carefully removed before breastfeeding otherwise they can fall out and onto the floor, then will need washing.

Here’s our pick of the best breast pads:

1. Lola&Lykke Curved Bamboo Nursing Pads, £13.00 for 2 pairs/4  (£3.50 each)

– Best for softness

These reusable pads, from the people behind the latest smart electric breast pump, are made from a combination of polyester and soft and sustainable bamboo.

They offer 3 layers of protection – the lining is 80% bamboo, a naturally antibacterial, anti-odour and absorbent material that gives all-day comfort against skin, and 20% polyester; the core contains a liquid-soaking foam; and the backing is covered by waterproofed polyester.

The domed shape of each pad is designed to accommodate a nipple, helping the pads stay in place and, just as crucially, remain comfortable. Our home tester Danielle, said “the pads are very good at preventing leaks however initially I found them difficult to mould to my breast as they were very stiff.”

A quick wash softened them up and Danielle notes “the good-quality materials are soft against my skin and the pads are very appealing as they are reusable, which makes them cost effective.”

Available from: Lola & Lykke  – Get 15% off sitewide with the code MFM15 and Baby Mori

2. Medela Disposable Breast Pads, £5.99 for 60 (10p each)

– Best for heavy leaking

Designed for when you’re experiencing heavy breast leaking, which often occurs soon after your milk comes in and before breast feeding is established, these individually wrapped curved breast pads from leading breastfeeding brand Medela stand out thanks to their superior absorbency.

They have a natural-fibre lining that wicks away leaked milk and is gentle on skin that is likely to be sensitive in those early days of breastfeeding, plus an ultra-absorbent core that distributes moisture evenly around the pad by turning it into a gel, keeping it away from breasts. They’re ideal for the night time when breast skin can become sticky and uncomfortable after hours pressed against wet pads or clothes.

Each one comes individually wrapped to keep them clean and lint-free. And with 2 adhesive strips at the back on the waterproof layer, these pads won’t slip around.

Available from: Medela, and Amazon

3. Jubblies, £7.99 for 3 pairs in 3 designs (£1.33 each)

– Best bamboo breast pads

Awards: Silver – Breastfeeding products, MadeForMums Awards 2021

Made from 100% natural bamboo fibres, which the brand claims are 40% more absorbent than organic cotton, these moisture-wicking pads pull a greater amount of milk away from your skin than cotton versions so. This helps to keep your skin dry thereby preventing infection and reducing discomfort (no wet materials to chafe your nipples). MFM tester Rachel particularly liked how absorbent they were and found she could “wear one set all day with no leaks or wetness”.

Bamboo is also great eco option since it takes around a third less water to grow and requires fewer pesticides than cotton does. MFM tester Emma praised the use of bamboo in the breast pads and said, “The bamboo material feels nice against your skin, it in no way irritates which is perfect when your nipples are already sore from feeding and pumping.”

We also love the cute designs printed on the back; choose from owls, Scottie dogs and foxes.

Available from: Jubblies

4. Little Lamb Washable Bamboo Breast Pads, £14 for 10 (£1.40 each)

– Best for choice of sizes

Presented in their own mesh drawstring washing bag (very useful to stop them going astray in the machine), these woven breast pads from family-run company LittleLamb are made from two layers of Oeko-tex certified bamboo, and feature a layer with an internally bonded waterproof backing.

The bamboo in these pads is woven rather than knitted and since weaving ensures 3 times the yarn in the same space, they are super absorbent without being bulky.

Best of all, they come in 2 different sizes – 11cm diameter or 13cm diameter – so you can match them to your bust size and underwear (no more breast pads peeping over your bra line).

Available from: Little Lamb

5. ECO by Naty Nursing Pads, £2.89 for 30 (10.4p each)

– Best for natural materials

These are a great choice for environmentally conscious mums who prefer the convenience of disposable breast pads but don’t want to sacrifice on natural materials. Each pad is constructed from a soft and breathable bamboo top layer, a core made from absorbing wood pulp and a bottom layer made from a certified compostable waterproof barrier material with double adhesive strips to hold pads in place inside a bra or top.

The natural materials and the way leaked milk is drawn away from the top layer and into the middle of the pad helps reduce skin irritation, while the pads are gusseted to make them contoured for a more comfortable fit.

They are also individually wrapped so ideal keeping on standby for when all your reusable pairs are in the wash, or in your bag when it’s not practical to carry washable spares. And although they are disposable so not waste-free, these thick pads are packaged in certified compostable film inside a recyclable cardboard box, so you don’t have to worry about excess packaging.

Available from: BigGreenSmile, Naty and Amazon

6. Close Pop-in reusable breast pads, £10.99 for 6 (£1.80 each)

– Best for absorbency

From the makers of the Caboo baby carrier, these reusable breastpads have a unique teardrop shape designed to match the natural contours of your breasts, improve the fit and reduce the appearance of lines under your clothes.

They are made up of 3 layers – the first being a fast-wicking polyester outer that claims to carry away any wetness from the skin. The second is an absorbent core made from bamboo viscose terry, used for its natural absorbency, softness and ability to help regulate body temperature. The bamboo core is an upgrade on the previous material, soybean, and makes these pads twice as absorbent as they were previously. And lastly a full layer of waterproof laminate backing.

Packs of 6 come in a mesh drawstring bag that can go in the washing machine, ensuring the same number that go in, come out.

Available from: Close and Jojo Maman Bebe

7. Elvie Catch, £29.99 for a pair (£15 each)

– Best for collecting milk

Awards: Silver – Breastfeeding products, MadeForMums Awards 2021

This innovative product from femme-tech company Elvie, the brand behind the first silent wearable tube-free breast pump, is designed to sit neatly and discreetly inside a bra just like the pump.

The 2 slip-proof silicone cups don’t just keep your clothes dry, they collect leaked breast milk (up to 1 oz/ 30ml in each cup), which would otherwise be wasted. This milk can then be used to top up a feed, put in your baby’s bath or applied to  your little one’s skin as a tonic.

Each cup is surrounded by a silicone ‘skirt’ that prevents slippage and can be rotated to find your best fit. Once in place, the cup can collect milk for up to 3 hours before it’ll need emptying, cleaning and drying.

MFM tester Precious said, “I’m a new mum with a 2-month-old so I’m producing a lot of milk and I do suffer from leakages even wearing breast pads. So with this product I’m able to save what would have wasted away.” MFM tester Loira also added, “Being a larger chested lady, I worried about the external profile of these, but I found them to be really discreet once in place and they worked really well. ”

Available from: Boots, Look Fantastic and JoJo Maman Bebe

8. Cariwell Natural Silk Washable Breast Pads, £16.24 for 3 pairs (£2.71 each)

– Best for sore nipples

If breastfeeding has left your nipples cracked, sore and in need of some TLC, these natural silk-covered breast pads may help. Silk has anti-inflammatory properties so is perfect for wearing against sensitive and irritated nipples as it helps soothe, cool and heal skin. It also won’t disintegrate and stick to your skin, unlike pads made from water-soluble fibres such as paper or cellulose.

Behind the first natural silk layer are 2 further layers made from polyester and designed to absorb moisture and encourage air circulation to keep your breasts dry while preventing milk leaking out onto your clothes. The final layer is cotton and has no darts or seams so sits flat against your bra.

Despite being covered in silk, these slim pads are machine washable at 30 degrees (though they don’t come with a washbag), making them luxurious and practical.

Available from: Nursing Bra Shop, Amazon and Vertbaudet

9. Lansinoh Ultra Thin, Stay Dry Disposable nursing pads, £6 for 60 (10p each)

– Best for convenience

From the company behind the leading brand of nipple cream, these disposable nursing pads have 2 adhesive strips to hold them in place in your bra, and are made with an absorbent polymer in the middle of the pad that traps milk and keeps it away from your skin. In fact, this special core means the pads can hold up to 20 times their own weight according to Lansinoh.

Helpfully, the white pads are individually wrapped in recyclable packaging, so you can carry spares around when you’re away from home safe in the knowledge they’ll stay hygienically sealed.

Available from: Boots, Superdrug and Amazon

10. NUK Ultra Dry Breast Pads, £2.99 for 30 (10p each)

– Best for a smooth appearance under clothing

These smooth-surfaced, gently curved and super slim pads are more absorbent than they look thanks to an inner layer that effectively retains liquid. The layer that sits next to skin is made from extra-soft fleece and is highly breathable to keep breasts comfortable and dry. Their thin profile, smooth sides and slightly curved shaped makes them ideal for wearing under close-fitting tops.

Another handy feature is that the pads wrapped together rather individually in minimal packaging, meaning you can easily get to them in the middle of the night or if you need to grab one quickly.

Available from: Ocado and Amazon

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About the author

Gabrielle Nathan has been working as a journalist for nearly 20 years, on publications including GQ, Red, Women’s Health and Tatler. She began writing about parenting and family travel while pregnant with her first child in 2012 and joined the MFM ranks in 2014.

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