5 Types of Nursing Pads

Disposable, Reusable, Silicone, and Hydrogel Breast Pads

Nursing bra with breast pads and a breast pump

Ruth Jenkinson / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Nursing pads, also called breast pads, are a very useful breastfeeding accessory. Placed into a regular or a nursing bra, they can absorb breast milk from leaking breasts to help prevent embarrassment, and protect your clothing from stains.

Leaking Breasts

Leaking is more common in the early days of breastfeeding, while the supply of breast milk adjusts to your baby's needs. You might not experience leaking at all. You might leak for a few weeks, or you might deal with leaking for as long as you breastfeed your baby.

Leaking can occur when you hear your baby cry, when your breasts become very full, when you're intimate with your partner, or for no reason at all. Here are some other reasons when you might need nursing pads:

Choosing the Right Breast Pad

Choose nursing pads that are soft, absorbent and made of cotton. They should allow your breasts to breathe, so avoid pads with waterproof or plastic liners that can trap moisture against your skin. You should also change your nursing pads whenever they get wet.

Constant exposure to wetness against your breasts could lead to skin irritation and sore nipples, which can also create an environment that will encourage the growth of yeast and bacteria, which can cause infections such as thrush and mastitis.

Types of Breast Pads

Breast pads come in different types, shapes, and sizes, and they can be disposable or reusable. Some have adhesive strips to hold them in place and prevent them from shifting in your bra, while others are contoured to the shape of your breast.

  • Disposable nursing pads: Disposable nursing pads are designed to be worn once and then discarded. They're available in a variety of shapes and thicknesses, so you may want to try a few different brands to see which one you like best. Disposable pads are also great for when you're going out or traveling since you won't have to worry about washing them. But, over time, disposables can be expensive, since you have to continuously buy new ones.
  • Reusable nursing pads: Reusable nursing pads are more cost-effective since you can wear them, wash them and use them again and again. They're also environmentally friendly since you're not throwing away multiple pads each day (they won't end up in a landfill). You'll have to buy a few pairs since you'll need to change them often, and you'll want to have a few pairs handy while others are in the laundry.
  • Silicone pads: Silicone nursing pads are not absorbent. Instead, they put gentle pressure on the breast to prevent leaks. Made from soft silicone, these pads have a sticky surface that adheres directly to your breast, so they can be worn with or without a bra. They're often used under fancy clothing or for swimming.
  • Homemade nursing pads: Nursing pads can easily be made from a variety of items. You could cut up disposable diapers or sanitary napkins to fit inside your bra, use a handkerchief or other piece of cotton material, folding it and placing it over your breasts or, if you know how to sew, you can stitch together a few layers of absorbent material into a circular shape, or any other shape that's comfortable for you. When making your own pads, avoid artificial materials. It's best to use 100% cotton fabric, which is better at soaking up leaks, and soft against your skin.
  • Hydrogel pads: Hydrogel pads are not used for leaking. They're often used to help soothe and heal sore nipples, and they can be kept in the refrigerator or freezer so they can provide cool relief. If you have sore, cracked nipples, hydrogel pads may be helpful.
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.