I've read that some reusable nursing pads leak and I think it's a lack of absorbancy issue (ie 100% cotton isn't all that absorbent). When they are handmade, it can be because the maker has chosen all-natural fibers, and nothing synthetic. "Fitted diapers" are also like this - they absorb moisture up to a point, but because they're made of cotton, hemp, bamboo, or a blend, eventually they will soak through. I like these DIY pads I made because they have the absorbency of the bamboo, but a waterproof layer with the PUL, which is the same material that makes cloth diapers waterproof.
I had a look at Bamboobies washable nursing pads in person and figured they must have been made with one layer of PUL, one layer of bamboo fleece, and one layer of bamboo terry. At $30 for 4 pairs though, I figured I would be shelling out at least a couple hundred dollars to buy enough to get me through one or two laundry days. That first month or two after birth and nursing, I had to change the pads with every feeding.
I originally bought the materials with the double intent of making diapers (hardy har har), but my due date quickly approached and I realized I didn't want to deal with fussing with elastics and snaps and fit with something that could leak pee at any given moment of the day. I bought one yard of bamboo fleece and bamboo terry and half a yard of PUL, and made about two dozen pairs of what my husband calls "boobsies" with tonnes of fabric left over. Half a yard of each is probably plenty. I spent 15 minutes a day making one pair at a time after I gave birth, and I regret not doing it well beforehand! By the time I had two dozen, I just barely made it to the next laundry day, and only because I had a newborn that suddenly created a mountains of dirty laundry I never thought imaginable.
I bought this bamboo fleece which has a "weight" of 280 GSM (grams per square meter). There are also heavier options that will absorb more, like 400 GSM, and lighter options like 200GSM, but I wouldn't recommend the latter. If you are worried that you will be a heavy leaker, I would opt for buying the 400GSM or 500GSM, or testing that out and using double layers if necessary. Another good absorbing option would be hemp fleece.
I bought bamboo terry for the fabric that goes against my skin because it's the same fabric that they seem to use on the Bamboobies, but now that I've learned a lot more about natural fabric options, I would have much rather have some luxuriously soft bamboo velour. Velour! There is some good bamboo velour here on etsy for Canadian bees and American bees alike, or here from Nature's fabric in a variety of colors and a couple different weights. I bought hot pink PUL but you can get it in any color at places like etsy where you can buy half yards, and even scraps that would be perfect for this project. You can use any leftover scraps to make "mama cloth" if you're adventurous - reusable menstrual pads.
Here is what I recommend buying:
- PUL: ~$3.50-4 per 1/2 yard or $5 for scraps
- Organic Bamboo Velour: $5.50-6 per 1/2 yard
- Organic Bamboo Fleece 280GSM: $7-7.50 per 1/2 yard
I have seen PUL at local fabric stores in their Babyville section, and you can probably score some with a 50% off coupon, but as far as bamboo and hemp fabrics, I've yet to see them in person. So your only option for that is buying online and paying for shipping.
The most important thing I can tell you is to prewash the bamboo in hot water, with soap, and throw it in the dryer, 3-6 times. Six times? I know. But it's important because the fabric will shrink a lot, and maximum absorbency won't be reached until 6-12 washes. The PUL does not shrink and I didn't bother prewashing it. After everything is sewn, it's a good idea to throw everything in the dryer on hot after a wash which can shrink up the tiny stitching holes in the PUL.
Here is my pattern - it's not contoured and there's no darts; it's just a heart. It should print out to the correct size on your printer, otherwise it's about 5.9" x 5.1". It works well for me, and I can even wear it under most of my camisoles with built in bras without it showing. Tucked into a thin spandex bra, yes, it would probably be bunchy.
I traced the pattern onto each piece of fabric with a crayola felt pen because it was too hard to fuss with the traditional blue dressmaker pencil, especially on the terry. Then I pieced them together with the shiny side of the PUL facing the smooth part of the fleece and the smooth side of the terry (or velour) facing the fluffy side of the fleece. I didn't bother pinning because I am not a pinner; I just sewed it with a zig zag stitch, and then cut along the edges after I was done so all the layers were flush to the edge. Voila! They're not perfect, but no one sees them except me. I threaded the machine with hot pink thread that I happened to have, and then used white thread in the bobbin so the stitching is less visible, but again, no one's going to see them except me.
Honestly, I'm usually terrible at sewing with "regular fabrics" and none of the clothes I've tried to make have ever turned out. I say "regular" because I do sew very well with vinyl and leather, but that is so completely different. This is totally doable -- all you need is a simple sewing machine. I definitely don't think I would have been able to handle sewing a contoured pad, but hearts? Easy peasy! You can also buy some already made nursing pads off etsy if you don't want to tackle sewing.
Does anyone else sew? What have you sewn for yourself or your kids?