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9 best breast pads: Stay comfortable and dry while pregnant or nursing

Whether you’re after an all-natural pad or a smart silicon breast cup, ease soreness and chafing with our picks

Ella Delancey Jones
Wednesday 09 February 2022 11:10
<p>Leaks can start towards the end of pregnancy, but sometimes continue for many months into breastfeeding</p>

Leaks can start towards the end of pregnancy, but sometimes continue for many months into breastfeeding

Something that all new mothers may underestimate in the lead up to birth and beyond is how much their breasts leak. Whether it’s colostrum before the baby arrives or when the milk “comes in”, it’s likely that every mother will experience some form of leakage during their pregnancy or breastfeeding journey.

Rather than putting up with wet spots and stains on bras and clothes, a way to combat the dampness is to use breast pads. These come in many different shapes, sizes and materials and can be disposable or reusable. However, each kind has one job: to wick away moisture to keep you dry and drip-free.

Kathryn Stagg, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) said: "Breast pads are a useful item to have when breastfeeding, especially in the first few weeks. When the milk "comes in" in the first couple of days after birth, it is quite common to leak. This often continues for a few weeks until milk production has settled down. So, a breast pad can be placed in the bra to soak up any leaked milk and save embarrassment of wet patches on your clothes.

She adds: “Some parents may leak colostrum towards the end of pregnancy. Others may continue to leak for many months into their breastfeeding journey. Others do not leak at all. It is very individual. Please note, this has nothing to do with milk production or your ability to breastfeed."

How we tested

We put these breast pads to the test by wearing each brand for several hours across several weeks, marking them on comfort, absorption, ease-of-use, sustainability and of course, price. We looked at how comfortably they sat in the bra throughout the day, how well they absorbed leaks, and how they performed at catching let-downs while nursing – we also tested at night too.

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The best breast pads for 2022 are:

  • Best overall –Lansinoh disposable breast pads: £11.98, Lansinoh.co.uk
  • Best value – Tesco ultra slim breast pads: £3.50, Tesco.com
  • Best for discretion – Medela disposable breast pads: £5.99, Medela.co.uk
  • Best for sustainability – Eco by Naty nursing pads: £2.89, Naty.com
  • Best for sore nipples – Elvie catch: £19.99, Elvie.com
  • Best for easy cleaning – Close pop-in reusable breast pads: £12, Closeparent,com
  • Best for nighttime leaks – Nuk ultra dry breast pads: £4.10, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best size choice –Tommee Tippee made for me daily disposable breast pads: £4.99, Tommeetippee.com
  • Best for comfort – Little Lamb washable bamboo breast pads: £14, Littlelambnappies

Lansinoh disposable breast pads, pack of 120

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Individually wrapped with one-way moisture technology, we found these pads to be super-absorbent when heavily leaking throughout the day and importantly, overnight. While it’s recommended that breast pads are changed regularly to avoid sore skin and thrush, these pads are so effective in wicking away moisture that we didn’t feel that we had to change them too often.

Said to hold up to 20 times their weight in liquid, the pads are held in place by two non-slip adhesive tapes which hold up really well, even after being moved around during feeds. They are quite large and not very discreet, but we found that they weren’t seen at all when wearing a full maternity bra which was covered by a top.

If you’re looking for pads that are guaranteed to save your clothes from leaks though, these are the ones for you. These are on the more expensive side for disposable pads, at £11.98 for 120 or approximately £5.50 for 60, but we think they’re well worth shelling out for, if you can afford them.

Tesco ultra slim breast pads, pack of 40

Best: For value

Rating: 9/10

Soft and breathable with a contoured shape, we found that these pads were the closest quality to the best overall pads in terms of staying power and absorption. A good price for a decent amount, these were the strongest contenders when tested against other supermarket brands which didn’t make this list. Held in place by two adhesive strips, the pads are soft against the skin and held up well throughout both the day and night – an impressive product, even when up against specialist bread pad brands.

Medela disposable breast pads, pack of 60

Best: For discretion

Rating: 8/10

Of all the pads we tested, we found that Medela’s version were best for wearing during the day to catch leaks. We were impressed by their oval shape and “ultra thin” design, allowing them to be worn under a bra and clothes more discreetly than perhaps a few of their counterparts.

Not designed for extreme leaking, we found these were perfect for wearing and swapping out throughout our day, and would be best suited for use when wanting to wear something a little more adventurous than a heavy-duty maternity bra, while still needing to wear pads. Soft and comfortable, the ultra-soft and hypoallergenic material is comfortable on the skin, while keeping it dry.

Eco by Naty nursing pads, pack of 30

Best: For sustainability

Rating: 7/10

These pads by sustainable brand Eco by Naty are completely compostable and plant-based. With a double adhesive strip to keep them in place, the pads are made without perfumes, dyes or oil based plastic. Soft and natural with a slightly cupped shape and one large adhesive strip, we found that the pads did a good job in keeping us dry throughout the day, although those who heavily leak will need to swap them out regularly, and we wouldn’t recommend them for overnight wear.

Most disposable pads come individually wrapped for hygiene purposes and these are no different – but these organic ones help to ease guilt with their 100 per cent compostable wrapping, soft bamboo outer layer and absorbing wood pulp tissue core.

Elvie catch

Best: For sore nipples

Rating: 8/10

While not strictly a breast pad, the Elvie catch is a great option if you’re suffering from sore nipples due to nursing or chafing. It’s a pair of collection cups that we found sat comfortably in our bra. Contoured to the shape of the breast, we were able to wear it discreetly and went about our day as usual. Recommended to be worn for up to three hours, the catch avoided anything touching our nipples at all – a welcome relief after cluster feeding or an awkward latch.

The added bonus is that the cups collected leaks that would otherwise be wasted into breast pads. We managed to save a few ml each time which went towards topping up expressed bottles, but the cups can hold up to 30ml. Made of slip-proof silicone, the edges “skirt” out around the breast, and would suit a variety of breast shapes and sizes. Easily cleaned with hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher, these cups can be used time and again.

Close pop-in reusable breast pads, pack of 6

Best: For easy washing

Rating: 7/10

These three pairs of breast pads come with a handy mesh laundry bag for easy washing – just add to the bag and throw them into your wash to avoid them getting lost in the machine. Billed as being now twice as absorbent as before, these pads have a hidden waterproof layer to soak up any daytime leaks. They’re incredibly slim and are contoured to fit discreetly in our bra without any visible lines. The unique “seal to skin” binding helps to keep them in place and the 100 per cent fast-wicking polyester ensured we didn’t feel damp.

We found that these pads suited light leaking throughout the day between feeds but required regular changes over the course of the night when going several hours between nursing. A great option if you’re only having slight leaks, but you may require something a little more heavy-duty if you’re heavily leaking throughout the day and night. Importantly, the pads don’t end up smelling of sour milk when in the laundry basket while waiting for the other pairs to join them.

Nuk ultra dry breast pads, pack of 30

Best: For nighttime leaks

Rating: 8/10

Developed to meet the highest demands, the multi-layer lining of these breast pads – with its moisture retention – makes them extremely absorbent. The breast pads feel particularly kind on our skin, as the breathable outer layer allows air to circulate, reducing the chances of skin irritation. The increased diameter of the pad fit our breast well and the adhesive strip held the pad in place effectively. We found these great for overnight leaks, especially when baby suddenly started sleeping for longer periods at night. We woke comfortably, with no leaks through to our bra.

Tommee Tippee made for me daily disposable breast pads, pack of 40

Best: For size choice

Rating: 9/10

These pads are discreet and designed to fit your bra, in sizes small, medium and large. For guidance, we are a 34DD and found medium best. If you’re not sure, the box comes with a handy sizing guide on the back to help you choose the pad best suited to your bra size.

They come with five highly absorbent layers to provide protection from leaks, which do offer soft and breathable comfort. In fact, these are the only disposable pads on our list which come as a pair in one package, and each pad has a defined “left” and “right” marked by a sticker. This is nice to have but we did forget a couple of times when applying in the middle of the night, and, we have to be honest, it didn’t actually seem to matter which side the pads were on. Great for daily and overnight leaking, they stay in place and don’t bunch up in the bra between feedings either.

Little Lamb washable bamboo breast pads, pack of 10

Best: For comfort

Rating: 9/10

We found the breast pads incredibly soft, almost a luxury feeling against our skin. The pads held up through some pretty serious leaking during the day and were even able to cope with a couple of let downs before needing to be changed.

The pads come in a mesh bag and are easy to wash – just throw them in with your normal laundry – and are also available in two sizes. They come in 11cm or 13cm diameters which is handy depending on breast size, and sit freely in our bra without any adhesive. Made of woven bamboo, they’re absorbent but the suppliers do warn that they will shed a few fibres for the first dozen or so washes. But to give you a gauge of how long they will last. we used all five pairs in a 24-hour period.

The verdict: Breast pads

The Lansinoh disposable breast pads truly trump all others in terms of their durability, absorption rate and even comfort – you’d be hard pressed to outleak one of these pads, even with a fast let-down. However, a close contender to rival them are the Tesco ultra slim breast pads, in terms of performance.

If it’s reusable pads you’re looking for, the Little Lamb washable bamboo breast pads have our vote as being the most comfortable and effective.

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