Q&A: breast pads (specifically Lilypadz)

Daphne (who is newly pregnant and either a market researcher or product liability lawyer, judging from her questions) writes:

"So. Lilypadz. Any specific feedback you can give me that would be enlightening? 

How long have you been using them? Months? A year? 2 Years?
What are they made of, by the way? Plastic/silicon/latex/NASA-developed secret substance?
How many pairs have you gone through? 
What color are they?
Are they detectable through clothes? 

Speaking of clothes/foundation garments… if you’ve used the Padz for a long time… do you NEED a nursing bra? Or can you use a normal bra at some point?
Have you had success with wearing them to bed minus the foundation garment?
Did you use them with the prior pregnancy? 

What are the noticeable differences between the Padz and antique padded milk-absorber thingers (if you ever used the old fashioned ones)?

Do they still stick if you use ointment to preserve the integrity of the skin (cracking/chapping/etc)?

Anything else you can tell me that I might not think to ask you would also be most helpful.

Earlier tonight, my sister in law complained that her old-fashioned breast-leak-preventers were horrible.  So not only would I like to get some for me, but I’d like to get SIL some ASAP. "

That is a thorough line of questioning, Daphne. I hope never to be up against you in a courtroom.

I was told, in the breastfeeding class I took while pregnant with El Chico, that the reason some women leak is because there's a muscle inside each breast that controls the flow of the milk. Some women have tighter muscles there (they won't leak) and other women have looser muscles there (they will leak). The LC who led the class did not think supply was directly correlated to whether or not you'd leak (although obviously if you have chronic low supply you won't ever get engorged enough to have anything to leak).

The difference in muscles (which apparently has some genetic component) also has something to do with the different ways women experience the sensation of milk letdown. I've heard some women describe it as painful, like little electric shocks, while others say they never noticed it, but most seem to feel something in between.

Also, the longer you nurse, the better your body becomes at storing and regulating supply, so the less you'll get engorged and the less you'll leak. All this stuff make sense to me, based on what happened to me and the women I've talked to about this. I stopped leaking with El Chico at maybe 4-5 months, and with El Pequeño at around 7 months. I stopped feeling the letdown with each kid right around the time I stopped leaking. I have a friend who had a huge supply (her daughter had a heart defect that caused her to need an enormous number of calories for the first two months until the hole closed up) but never leaked. I have other friends who leaked until they weaned.

So you don't know ahead of time whether or not you'll leak and even need nursing pads, although if you leak during pregnancy you know you'll leak at least some once your milk is in.

And now a little review of the nursing pads I've tried. I'm an oversupplier, and I leak. Waking-up-in-a-puddle-of-my-own-milk kind of leaking (a problem I know tons of people would love to have even if it means you smell like a cheese factory). So nursing pads aren't optional for me (my mom says she used to just put a cloth diaper in each side of her bra).

I've used disposible pads, and really really don't like them. They are convenient, except that I always run out and then by the time I get to and from the store I've leaked through my bra and shirt. The adhesive never really works that well so I end up with a bunched-up pad that looks like a boll weavil in my bra and is not giving me proper coverage. They're not absorbant enough to cover me for all night. The stay-dry material of the pads always makes me itch. And if you aren't careful to buy disposible pads that breathe you can get a wicked infection or fungus, which just, eew.

I've used cloth pads and like them slightly better. They're far more comfortable, and it's not throwing money down a hole because you can reuse them. But I have to change them 3-4 times a day, they bunch up and are bulky even when they're not bunched, and I have to remember to wash them and somehow keep track of the pairs (yes, I use a lingerie bag, but somehow they escape). Also, they don't contain my nighttime output.

I struggled through with the cloth pads during my leaking time with El Chico, but lost all patience when I was leaking with El Pequeño. So I gave in to the hype about Lilypadz (despite my misgivings about purchasing a product with a Z where an S should be). Oh, so worth the $20. So, so worth the $20.

Lilypadz are clear, floppy, flower-shaped discs made of "silicone rubber compounds" that are smooth on one side and tacky on the other side. You peel them off the hard plastic discs they come on and stick them right to your skin, like pasties (link is not work safe, no no no!). They work the same way it does if you press your fingers or the back of your hand against your nipple when you feel the letdown coming--the pressure stops the milk from coming out. So Lilypadz don't catch any milk; instead, they stop it from coming out to begin with.

Because they stick to you you don't need to wear a bra with them (I didn't at night), and because they're so thin and flexible you can't see them under clothes. A friend with no kids told me that her friend (also with no kids) wears them under skimpy outfits to prevent nipple show-through. For what that's worth.

After you wear them you should wash them with soap and let them air dry. If you don't wash them in between wearings they won't stick to you that well (and milk can come out and leak down out the bottom of them). Whenever you want to you can boil them to sterilize them (boiling them turns them a little cloudy, but doesn't affect the performance). After a couple of months mine started to disintegrate slightly. I used mine for about 3 1/2 months, at which point I stopped needing to use them (I stopped leaking) and stopped keeping track of them and one went missing (it's undoubtedly back behind the headboard of our bed, where I can't see or reach). The website says they last for around 4 months, which I think is probably a good estimate.

From a financial standpoint, they're way cheaper than using disposible pads for the same amount of time. In order to have a decent rotation of cloth pads you'd probably end up spending at least $20, so you end up ahead there, too. Environmentally speaking, I liked only having two items in use that required minimal care.

The website claims that they are less likely to cause thrush than other pads are, and that makes sense to me since the milk shouldn't even come out to get trapped next to your skin. I didn't use mine until I was past the irritation phase of nursing, so I don't know how they'd perform with lanolin underneath them. I'd recommend that in the first few weeks of nursing, if you're using ointment for irritation or cracking you allow your nipples to be in the open air as much as possible anyway, so pads shouldn't be an issue at that point.

For me at least, Lilypadz were absolutely the answer to the question "If they can put a man on the moon, why can't they invent nursing pads that don't make me look like an idiot and smell like a fine Stilton?".

Oh, and I have problems nursing while not wearing a nursing bra because I have a big cup size. Friends with smaller cup sizes have great success just lifting their regular bras to nurse. So the question about whether or not you need nursing bras totally depends on the size of your particular rack. You may want to check out this post about nursing bras, and especially the comments, to gather some more info about nursing bras in general.

I hope that answers all your questions, because my brain is empty now on the topic of leaking and breast pads.