Sewing tutorial: Washable breast nursing pads


breast nursing pads 1

I had the best of intentions – I promise I really did.  When Little came along in August last year, I pulled out all the cloth nappies I used last time (albeit only for 6 months or so).  Yep, definitely going to do better this time around and use them for at least the first year.  The planet and mother nature will smile down on me and all that.

Well, alas, I think I lasted about 2 weeks before the mess and time got the better of me and I went back to disposable.  I have a lot of admiration for those dedicated mums (and dads) out there  (sorry planet, I’ll plant a few trees this year I promise).

As a compromise I decided I ought to at LEAST cut down on the number of disposable breast pads that I use (at least one pair a day) and sew my own washable breast pads.  They look so simple, it should be a breeze to knock a few together  but oh dear… here was my first attempt…


breast nursing pad first one

Hmmm…maybe not as simple as I thought!

So, while it’s a simple concept, I’m going to share with you my method and tips for sewing these bad boys (or girls?) together quickly and easily and save you the trouble of working it out for yourself.

1)      Materials: You need three layers – one waterproof outer layer, one absorbant layer and one comfortable inner layer.

Waterproof outer layer: I used polyurethane laminate (or PUL).  Sounds complicated?  Not really, it’s the material that many of the modern cloth nappies use as their outer layer.  I bought mine online from Greenbeans Australia.

Absorbent layer: I used 2 layers of bamboo wadding which is well known for its absorbancy and is again used in many of the modern cloth nappies.

Comfortable inner layer: I used some scraps of flannelette I had lying around but I’ve heard of others who have used jersey knit (from cutting up old tshirts), minky, soft quilting cotton.  Really anything that has the ability to wick the moisture away from your skin into the wadding layer.

breast nursing pads materials

2)      Now you need to cut out your circles.  I made my own template by choosing the size I thought was best.  To save you the trouble, I’ve put together a PDF version that you can use if you like.

breast nursing pads circles cut

3)      Next, you need to sandwich your layers together and pin.  Make sure you have your PUL so the shiny side faces inwards, towards the bamboo.  The PUL is really slippery and can be annoying and fiddly to work with.  Maybe close the door if you have little ones within earshot.

breast nursing pad pin

4)      This is the step I found REALLY helped when trying to overlock the edges.  First, sew the outer edges together on your sewing machine and, if you have one, use your walking foot.  Because the PUL is so slippery, this will really help to hold everything together neatly when you come to the next step.

breast nursing pad sew

breast nursing pad stitch

5)      Overlocker Set Up:  After a few goes, I found these settings worked the best for me.  Using a standard 4-thread overlock, reduce the tension of your left needle slightly.  Increase your stitch length to around 3.  Cutting width can stay at a standard 2 and differential feed neutral. Also, use the best quality thread you can find – it really does make a difference!

overlocker set up breast nursing pad

6)      Now you’re ready to overlock the edges.  Go fairly slowly and try not to cut too much off the edge (a few mm’s is fine).  Check your progress as you go around and make sure it looks right on the top and bottom of your breast pad.

7)      Ta da!  Hopefully now you have a beautiful neat finished breast pad!

  breast nursing pads finished

Just a few extra points:

  • The absorbency of bamboo increases after you wash it a few times so I recommend doing that before you use them.
  • As with modern cloth nappies, it’s recommended to use half strength detergent when washing them to preserve the waterproof nature of the PUL.  Personally, I can’t be bothered with that and figure its quick enough to make some more if that happens.
  • What IS important though is to NEVER use Napisan/Vanish when washing them (or MCNs).  I made this mistake with some MCNs and they completely lost their waterproof ability.  I later read the instructions which tells you this very point (whoops!)

So there you are!  I hope you found this tutorial useful and would love to hear from you if you used it to make your own.

Thanks for reading!


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