Updated June 2021
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Buying guide for best breast pads

Though one of the joys of new motherhood is breastfeeding your baby, it’s not without its trials and tribulations. Leaking is a common experience for breastfeeding mothers. However, this doesn’t make it any less of a nuisance when it happens. Fortunately, the fix is simple: breast pads.

Also called nursing pads, these discreet inserts slip into your bra or tank top to absorb any leaking breast milk. Some breast pads are designed to be tossed after use, while others are washable and reusable. A third type is made from silicone and actually prevents leakage in the first place.

There are as many breast pad options available to new moms as the number of considerations you’ll need to make before purchasing. We’re here to help with our buying guide, which details all you need to know for a more comfortable breastfeeding experience.

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Silicone breast pads can be worn without a bra due to their sticky surface that adheres to the breast. These thin pads are well-suited for evening wear or swimsuits.

Why leakage happens

Leaking breast milk is very common with new moms, especially when your milk supply first comes in and hasn’t yet regulated. Many moms experience little to no leakage after the first few weeks. Leaking can also happen during stretches of not breastfeeding, like during the night once your baby is sleeping longer. It can also occur if you have an oversupply of milk or you’ve been away from your baby. It can happen for no real reason between feedings as well.

Breast pads are designed to keep the leaking milk from soaking through your bra and clothes, which can be noticeable and stain your garments. Many new moms wake up with drenched pajamas as breasts often become more engorged with milk overnight. Good breast pads will not only absorb the milk, preventing it from leaking through to clothing, they will also wick away moisture from the skin to keep you dry.

Types of breast pads

There are three main types of breast pads available.

Disposable breast pads

Disposable breast pads are designed to be thrown away after use. They are highly convenient, especially if you’re already overwhelmed with newborn chores and don’t want to do extra laundry. Though a pack of disposable pads is cheap, the price racks up since they must be purchased repeatedly.

Reusable breast pads

Reusable breast pads are designed to be washable and are eco-friendly compared to disposable ones. Plus, after a one-time purchase, you won’t have to make a further investment, and they can be used throughout your childbearing years. While a more economical choice, they do need to be laundered. If you don’t have much time for laundry, choose a pack that includes over a dozen pairs.

Silicone breast pads

Silicone breast pads are pricier than the other two types and are often multi-functional. Some are designed to collect up to an ounce of milk in reservoirs that ring the nipple. Others place gentle pressure on the nipple to prevent leakage in the first place. Neither design absorbs milk like traditional nursing pads, but silicone pads will keep you dry nonetheless. They are also reusable.

Key considerations

Daytime vs. nighttime

When you’re out and about during the day, you want breast pads that are discreet and don’t show through your clothes. Thinner pads are more suitable for daytime use but require more frequent changing. Nighttime pads are thicker to absorb heavier leakage during the night, so you don’t have to wake up to change them. Some packs come with a mix of both daytime and nighttime breast pads.


Disposable breast pads are made from synthetic materials and have a plastic lining. Although this material is highly leakproof, it also makes these pads prone to irritating sensitive nipples and skin. Some users question their safety as well, especially in proximity to their baby’s mouth. Reusable pads come in fabric materials like cotton, bamboo, and polyester blends. Select organic cotton or bamboo reusable pads if you need a hypoallergenic material. For silicone breast pads, choose those made from medical-grade or food-grade silicone. For some women, however, any silicone can irritate sensitive skin.


Disposable breast pads come in various levels of absorbency, similar to menstrual pads. Reusable pads may only have one or two options for absorbency, with thicker pads being more absorbent. Silicone pads provide no absorbency.


Softness is just as important a consideration as absorbency when choosing breast pads. Most new mothers experience a range of nipple discomfort from breastfeeding, from tenderness to chafing to painful blocked ducts. It’s important to choose breast pads that won’t further irritate your nipples. Disposable pads with a textured weave can irritate the skin, though some come in slightly domed shapes to prevent nipple irritation.



Breast pads are generally round in shape, though some manufacturers offer other shapes like hearts or flowers that resist bunching. Breasts pads are either flat or contoured. A contoured shape has a cup for a better fit. Be sure the contour works with your breast size.


Most breast pads come in one-size-fits-all. However, breasts come in all sizes. Some manufacturers recognize this and offer a range of sizes, from small to extra large.

Adhesive backing

Disposable and silicone breast pads have adhesive backing so that the pads stick to the skin and stay in place as you move through your day (or toss in your sleep). This may either be adhesive strips or an entirely sticky backing.


Disposable breast pads are generally white. Fabric pads have a larger shade range, including white and light neutrals like gray, pink, and yellow. Silicone pads are translucent.

Carrying pouch

Some reusable breast pads include a carrying pouch. The best carrying pouches are stylish and don’t announce their contents. Mesh bags are also included with some washable breast pads for machine washing.

Breast pad prices

Breast pads range in price from $0.20 a pair to $20 a pair. Disposable pads are at the lower end of this price range, and silicone pads are at the high end.

Budget-friendly breast pads are disposable types that start at $0.20 a pair and go up to $0.30 a pair.

Mid-range breast pads are reusable, starting at $1.50 a pair and going up to about $3.00 per pair. Reusable pads at the higher end of this range are typically made from organic fabrics.

High-end breast pads are silicone pads that prevent leakage in the first place. These range from $9 to $20 a pair.


  • If you plan on going swimming, silicone breast pads are waterproof and won’t bunch up in a wet swimsuit.
  • To prevent thrush, change your breast pads as soon as they get wet. Warm, wet breast pads create an optimal environment for yeast to grow.
  • If you have cracked or inflamed nipples, cotton or bamboo breast pads are softer than disposable pads and less likely to irritate nipples.
  • In addition to breast pads, it’s always a good idea to have an extra shirt in your car or at work. You can also carry a sweater with you to put on in case of leaking emergencies.
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Disposable breast pads are convenient to use while traveling or if you don’t have a washing machine at home.


Q. How often should I change my breast pads?
Every breastfeeding mom is different in terms of leakage and how long it takes for pads to soak. Some women leak every few minutes, while others leak every few hours. Women who leak only a little can get by with changing pads twice a day. It’s best to change pads as soon as they get wet to keep your nipples dry. Also, if you leave them on too long, you may end up smelling like spoiled milk.

Q. How do I wash reusable breast pads?
You’ll want to choose reusable breast pads that are machine-washable and dryer-safe. Rinse pads that have been soaked with milk before putting them in the washing machine. Use a mesh laundry bag when doing a mixed load. We recommend using a mild detergent and tumble drying on a low heat setting, but always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Q. How do fabric breast pads keep leaks from escaping?
Many reusable breast pads use a synthetic material, such as polyurethane (PU) or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), to line or laminate the outer layer of the pad. These rubber-like materials offer breathability while also keeping wetness from soaking clothing or bras. The inner layer of fabric pads is usually an absorbent microfiber material, while the layer in contact with the skin is a soft cotton or bamboo fabric that won’t irritate nipples.

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