Monday, June 15, 2009

The Showdown Between Reusable and Disposable Nursing Pads

After carrying our precious little bundles of joy for10 months (yes, it really is 10 months instead of 9 months) each woman must make a personal decision of whether or not she will be providing breast milk for her child. If a woman does decide to provide breast milk for her child she is then faced with the decision of which nursing pad she will use. The easy thing to do is to buy disposable nursing pads and go on your merry way. However, if you are like me and you want to make sure you are making the right decision for not only yourself but also for your wallet as well as the environment you may be looking at getting yourself some reusable nursing pads. If you are at all considering using reusable nursing pads I have done the leg work for you so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not this is the direction you would like to go. From what I can tell there are six criteria that we need to consider when making a decision about what kind of nursing pad to wear:
  • Cost
  • Comfort
  • Leakage
  • Aesthetics
  • Environment
  • Maintenance


In order to do a cost comparison I went to my local Target store to see at what prices the various nursing pads were listed. I chose Target because I feel this is a retail chain that can be found reasonably easy throughout the country and offers prices that are comparable to other big box stores. After browsing the shelves I found only one brand of reusable nursing pads: Gerber. I found only two brands of disposable nursing pads: Lansinoh and Medela. The Lansinoh brand was marginally cheaper than the Medela brand so for the purposes of this comparison I decided to use the Lansinoh brand. Here is a picture of the two brands I decided to compare:

The Lansinoh disposable nursing pads were selling for $8.19 for a box of 60. The Gerber reusable nursing pads were selling for $3.59 for a box of 6. Let’s break this down. Even though the Lansinoh box had 60 pads we must remember that we need to wear 2 pads at a time….therefore, we find ourselves with 30 wears for $8.19. When we divide $8.19 by 30 we get the cost of $.27 cents per wear. The Gerber reusable nursing pads cost $3.59 for a box of 6. In order to determine how many wears we need to get out of the Gerber reusable nursing pads we divide $3.59 by $.27 and get 13.3….lets round this up. At first glance we see that we must get at least 14 wears from the Gerber reusable nursing pads to make them the same cost per wear as the Lansinoh.

However, one additional item to consider is that we need to wash the reusable nursing pads after each wear. Let’s say we use a teaspoon of detergent with every wear of the Gerber reusable nursing pad. A bottle of Woolite at Target costs $3.82 for 16 oz. (or 96 teaspoons). $3.82 divided by 96 is an additional $.04 cents that must be added onto each wear of the disposable nursing pads. Working in this additional element changes the total wear count of the reusable nursing pads to 16 wears. (For those that want to know the math I used: 16 wears times $.04 cents is $.64 cents. $.64 cents plus $3.59 is $4.23. $4.23 divided by 16 is $.26 cents per wear).

The bottom line: If you think you will wear reusable nursing pads more than 16 times it would worth your money to invest in a box.


Comfort is an important factor in this decision due to the fact that when providing breast milk to a child, a woman’s breasts can become quite sore and irritated. After wearing both of these brands I found the Gerber reusable nursing pads to be far more comfortable than the Lansinoh disposable brand. The Gerber reusable pads were made of cotton and were very soft against my skin. I found the disposable nursing pads to be scratchy and itchy.

The bottom line: In my opinion there isn’t even a comparison in this area. The reusable pads are far superior in the area of comfort.


It is important to maintain some sort of modesty when providing breast milk for a child. When going out in public it is important that your shirt stays dry in order to not draw attention to yourself. It was my experience that the disposable Lansinoh nursing pads held much more liquid than the reusable Gerber brand. A few times, when I was especially engorged, the reusable Gerber brand leaked when the disposable Lansinoh brand did not. However, it is important to note that I felt that the Gerber brand did the job just fine when I was not engorged.

The bottom line: If you feel that you may become engorged at a time where it is important to not leak you may want to wear the disposable brand. However, for regular day to day usage the reusable pad worked just fine and did not leak.


As you can see from the below picture the disposable pad (on the left) is much larger than the reusable pad (on the right).

Due to the varying sizes of these two pads I found a big difference in the aesthetics of each of the pads under a shirt. When wearing a shirt that was somewhat form fitting the outline of the reusable Gerber brand could be seen through my bra whereas the outline of the disposable brand could not be seen.

The bottom line: If you are wearing a form fitting shirt out in public you may want to wear a disposable pad. If you are wearing a baggy shirt at any time or a form fitting shirt at home, where you don’t care if the outline of your pad can be seen, you would be just fine wearing a reusable pad.


The reusable pads are clearly much better for the environment. There is much less waste even with the additional hand washing that is required with reusable nursing pads.


The disposable pads are clearly much easier in terms of maintenance. After you wear them you simply throw them away and pull out a new pair. Whereas, you will need to wash the reusable pads after each use.


In my opinion it is important for every lactating woman to have a box of disposable pads as well as a box of reusable pads available for her use. There is no doubt in my mind that a woman who is lactating will find 16 times to use her reusable pads. There are many times in a mother’s life when she finds herself lounging around the house in her baggy sweatshirt and sweatpants. This is an ideal time to wear the reusable pads. Even just wearing them 16 times will help a little bit for the environment, not to mention that the reusable pads are so much more comfortable. Especially for sleeping!

However, it is also important to have a box of disposable pads available for those times when a woman wants to look nice in a tighter fitting top as well as those times when there is a fear of engorgement and a little extra protection is needed.

I hope this helps you to determine which nursing pads would be most appropriate for your use! Here is a site to go to if you are interested in making your own reusable nursing pads.

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