Mommy DIY: Nursing Pads

Every new mommy, breastfeeding or not, will find herself endowed with a set of what might as well be water balloons hiding under her blouse. The solution, or rather, prevention, of motherhood-induced wet T-shirt contests is to use nursing pads. And because we are a nation built upon disposability, we either have the choice of buying enough boxes of disposable nursing pads over a few months to dam up the Colorado River, or we can spend $20 to buy two or three pairs of washable nursing pads.

After two brands of nursing pads and three boxes, I was looking for an alternative. I’d rather not spend $6-12 per month on something I can only use for an hour and a half.

I tried the ultra-thin Nuk brand because, let’s face it, it was the cheapest. Nuk and Gerber are reliable brands, right? Maybe for babies, but certainly not in the mammary department. I could render a pair doused and useless in less than 30 minutes.

So then I went a more expensive route. Medela is the brand I use for my breast pump, so I tried them out. They worked—I even went a full day forgetting to change them—but they freaked me out. First of all, I am pretty sure they use either 1) the same chemical pellets used in disposable diapers or 2) alien nuclear technology. No joke, the pads somehow turn breast milk into a pasty gel, that squooshes when you poke it. If I had eaten something spicy, I am pretty sure that milk gel would have sprouted tentacles, stolen my car, and driven to Cape Canaveral. Also, I still didn’t want to spent ten to twenty bucks each month for the next year.

So I did some sleuthing and research on absorbent fabrics. All I needed was five dollars to make enough nursing pads to last the rest of my baby-producing life.

Ready to nip leakage in the breast? I’ll show you how it’s done.

I am a novice machine-sewer, so I have extra steps that helped me out. More advanced sewers, just be patient. (I just realized that sew-er is spelled the same as sewer, as in sewage. That is really depressing. I meant seamstress. Apologies to those-who-sew, on behalf of the English language.*)

*Yes. I can speak on behalf of the English language.

Step 1: Buy and prewash fabric

You will need microfleece (or polar fleece) and flannel. Shop the remnants section to get better deals. Get 3x the flannel as the fleece (Is it just me, or do way too many fabric names start with F? Fabric, fleece, flannel, felt, microFiber…). How much will you need? Check out Step 2 to get an idea.

Don’t forget to wash and dry the fabric before starting!

Step 2: Cut the circles

Figure out how many pairs of nursing pads you want to make. I usually use one pair during the day and one at night. I rarely use more than 3 pairs in 24 hours. Six is enough if you do the laundry every other day. I would recommend 8-12 pairs, so you have plenty of extras.

Multiply that by two (since one pair=2 pads). That’s how many fleece circles you need. Then multiply the number of fleece circles by three to find out how many flannel circles you need.

(8 pairs=16 pads=16 fleece circles=48 flannel circles)

Each circle should have a diameter of 4-6 inches. I made mine 5.5, so after trimming (last step), mine are a little over 5 inches in diameter.

If you want thinner pads, then 2/3 of your flannel circles should be about an inch smaller in diameter.

Step 3: Assembling the circles

Start with the fleece circle. Add 3 flannel circles to the top, “pretty side” facing you. For thinner pads, add two small flannel circles topped off with one big one.

Step 4: Sewing the circles

Choose a medium-sized zigzag stitch (that’s just my preference. You can choose others, or hand sew).

With the flannel side up, place the circle under the foot in the 9 o’clock position. (Fleece-up seems easier to work with, but then the pad will curve the wrong way, inside-out, creating awkward bulges…)

Use your right hand to pull the circle, rotating it clockwise as you sew.

The circles may very well warp or pleat. Don’t worry, this helps the pads conform to your basoomas.

To reinforce the stitch, double up at the end by sewing a bit past where you started.

Step 5: Trim

Trim about 1/4″ around the stitch. Know that washing and drying the pads will cause some fraying around the edges.

Step 6: Woot!

Yay! You are finished. Make more! Give as gifts! Save money!


To wear, place the flannel side towards your skin (flannel wicks away moisture) and the fleece side towards your bra / shirt (fleece works as a barrier). Trade in for a new pair when you feel any dampness, to avoid leaking.


To wash, put the pads in a mesh lingerie bag. Wash and dry without softeners. (Softeners build up on fabric. You shouldn’t use fabric softener anyway, but definitely do not use it on any fabric meant to absorb moisture!)

16 thoughts on “Mommy DIY: Nursing Pads

  1. Thank you dear mommy Willard. I will definitely keep this in mind when I am pregnant in the future. :-) You are such a good homemaker! :-)

  2. Squandering an entire rare 2-kid naptime at your blog; what fun!
    My lessons learned from this project: Things kept shifting too much when I sewed and I ended up with puckers at the end, plus cutting the circles was a pain. Eventually (several friends asked for these as gifts as well, so I got lots of practice), I just stacked the big fabric pieces, pinned in a few spots, drew circles on the top piece, and sewed around all the circles. The I cut them out after everything was all sewed up. Many fewer hormone-induced craft-time tears.

    • Aha! I’m actually about to make more of these this weekend! I actually HATE pinning and avoid it whenever necessary, but I do need to just bite my lip and do it.

      Puckering will decrease if you don’t pull on the fabric, which is what I did the first time around. The last time I did it, I didn’t pull on the fabric or push it, I just guided it in place, and I only had one pucker out of 18 nursing pads.

  3. The proper term for someone who sews is seamstress. :P

    Thanks so much for sharing this tutorial. I can’t wait to try it out.

  4. Pingback: My 3-Year Bloggiversary! | diary of a bewildered mother

  5. I haven’t tried it yet with flannel/fleece but I tried it with an old cotton t-shirt. It buckled so much around the edges that it was really noticeable under a shirt. You mentioned the buckling with this pattern but I wonder if it buckles less than the cotton I used. Do you find it only minimal puckering?

    • The problem with jersey knits is that they roll up at the edges. Fleece and Flannel don’t. I’d try again using the F fabrics! :)

      The buckling really only occurs because I (an amateur) was sewing in a circle, using a machine. Hand-sewn, there wouldn’t be any pleating going on, but I found the pleat does help a bit with the cup shape of the nursing pad.

  6. Such darling fabric! Is it “snuggle flannel” that you used? I know you said flannel but I usually only see those cute patterns in snuggle… Plus, I’ve got a LOT of it already (might be addicted!) Great tutorial!

    • I actually don’t know what “snuggle flannel” is! But from what JoAnn’s selection online looks like, yes, it looks the same. Honestly, I just got the cheapest remnants I could find and found matching fleece. They might pill a bit, but I’ve had them for 4 years, washed them with diapers, dried them, and they are still soft.

  7. I am making these for a niece. I found a new waterproof mattress cover at the habitat store. I cut it and used it with the flannel. It should make a perfect wetness barrier. Also for my inner layer I use cotton batting used for quilting.

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