Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade Cloth Postpartum Pads Tutorial

I've been busy getting ready for the upcoming birth of my third child, running here and there getting various errands run, connected to things I'll need during and after my home birth, as well as for my child after he/she is born.
On Saturday, I was having about a million and five contractions, Braxton Hicks contractions, because they weren't painful, just very noticeable. However, by the time Saturday night came around, even while lying in bed, the contractions continued, and increased in frequency, and some of them were painful to the point that I was contemplating starting to do my breathing techniques for labor. I was freaking out, because I was not ready to give birth! There were still things I needed to get done! Numero uno on that list- make cloth pads for myself to use after birth!
Fortunately, with some homemade wine and some sleep, the contractions stopped (my midwife said I was still a bit early to go into labor and to try to see what I could do to stop it, and recommended drinking wine and sleeping), and by the time Sunday came around, I was motivated to get the things I needed done for birth, completed as soon as possible, and made my own cloth postpartum pads on Sunday and Monday of this week.

Here's a little tutorial about how to make your own cloth postpartum pads, like I did, as well as why I made them.

Before I continue further, I want to say that this post includes some TMI, so if you're a guy, or even a girl who has never given birth before, and doesn't want to be educated yet about some of its "gory details", I'd advise you not to read on.

So, why, you may wonder, am I using cloth pads after birth? Is it purely because of financial reasons? And how do postpartum cloth pads differ from the 2 types of homemade menstrual pads aka mama cloth that I've written about so far?

First off, I wanted to say that I have a package of disposable postpartum pads that were passed on to me, and another package that was offered to me by a friend, but I have no plans on using them. I vastly prefer using cloth everything, for environmental, health, and comfort reasons, even when money isn't an issue at all.
But yes, money may be an issue for you, and homemade cloth postpartum pads certainly can be a great idea to save you money, because women generally bleed for at least a few weeks after giving birth, and go through a lot of pads, which can get quite expensive. (Locally, our pads are much more expensive than in the US. For some half decent disposable pads, it can cost you 4 dollars for every 12 pads!)

What are the advantages of cloth pads?

Well, I have no scientific proof for any of these, only personal experience.

One time, I got my period in the middle of the night. I didn't have any cloth pads in the bathroom, so used a disposable pad instead. I got back into bed and was writhing in pain with cramps, unable to sleep for more than an hour. Finally, I went back to the bathroom, switched to a cloth pad, and the cramps went away entirely and I was able to go to sleep immediately. From something as simple as switching one type of pad for another.
That pretty much cemented my decision that the chemicals in disposable pads aren't something I want near my lady parts- they mess around with my body and make a tangible change in how my body feels. Since then, I don't care what happens, I don't ever want to use a disposable pad again. Something is funny about them, and they scare me.

Another reason why I want to use only cloth is because of what happened after my last birth.

I bled. And bled. And bled. For weeks and weeks. My lady parts were getting rather irritated by the material of the disposable pads. On top of the discomfort of the constant dampness, I was getting chafed by the pads I was wearing. (In case you were wondering, you can't use anything internally like tampons or menstrual cups until after you stop bleeding postpartum, because of risk of infection, so there's no choice other than pads.)
I asked on a message board what to do, and some ladies recommended switching to cloth pads. I did, and the chafing went away completely, and on top of that, within a few days, my postpartum bleeding finally stopped! I can't say for certain that switching to cloth helped the bleeding stop, but I am betting that it did make a difference, as women also tend to find that their periods are shorter and lighter after switching to cloth pads. (Something about the absorbent chemicals in the pads drawing more blood than necessary out of the uterus.)

Ok, so that's why I want to use cloth pads for postpartum. But why not just use my other homemade cloth menstrual pads postpartum?

This really is an answer that most mothers who have already given birth will know, but for those who haven't yet given birth, this will be a bit of an education on a subject they generally don't write in depth about, even in pregnancy and birth books. And men, if you're still reading... don't say I didn't warn you.

Ok, you bleed a lot postpartum. That's what the book says. But what exactly does "a lot" mean?

When I gave birth to my eldest, Lee, the ladies in my hospital room who had a few kids were quick to give me advice. "Take this package of pads to the bathroom. Use 5 pads at once. Make an X with the pads- two in the front in a V, two in the back in a V, and one more on top of them all in the middle where you usually would put a pad."

Seriously, I thought those ladies were ridiculous! 5 pads at once???
But yea, I soon learned that their advice was good. Yes, you really do bleed that much postpartum.
Especially when you nurse. Nursing contracts your uterus, and that means that when you are sitting down nursing and then get up, expect to feel a rush of blood coming down, and if you're not "properly protected", your skirt or pants and possibly even chair might be covered in leaked blood.
Yea, no exaggeration. I learned to use those 5 pads at once. I learned to wear my hospital gown underneath my robe as an extra layer of "protection" in case of leaks.

And that is why I won't use regular homemade cloth pads postpartum. You need some heavy duty stuff for the heavy duty bleeding postpartum. And the regular stuff just ain't it.

Here's how you also can make some super heavy duty cloth pads suitable for the postpartum period. (You can also use them as overnight pads when you have your menstrual cycle.)

Here's what the final product looks like-


I decided that for my postpartum pads, I wanted an all in one (AIO) style pad, not a pocket that you stuff, as I wanted to make sure everything stayed exactly in place... and to be honest, even though I have my homemade pocket pads, I vastly prefer the AIO that my friend made and sent me from Australia.
I based these pads on one of the ones she sent me, only I changed it up a drop and made it much larger so its more absorbent.

P.S. You can make regular menstrual pads exactly the same way, just make them a drop less long.

Here's what it looks like opened, unsnapped, then snapped, and then how it looks from the reverse when snapped.



With the wings, instead of using adhesive to hold it on to your underwear, you use snaps to hold it into place. 

I don't have a template for you to use, but you can see the shape and pattern and make your own based on that. 

There are 2 parts of these cloth pads- the outer part and the inner part. You ideally only need 3 layers- one of flannel, one of absorbent material, and one of waterproof material, such as PUL, but since I didn't have PUL, only a different, less high quality waterproof material, I added another layer of cotton material.
If you're using PUL, you'll have the two outside pieces be made from flannel and PUL, and the inside layer from the absorbent material. If you're making them like mine, you'll make your outside pieces from flannel and cotton, and the two inside layers from the absorbent material and your waterproof material.

I honestly am not sure what type of waterproof material I have- its rubbery on one side and fabric on the other side- when I asked the store keeper what type of fabric that was, I was told "it's meant for rain", aka waterproof, so I went with that.

As for absorbent material for the inner layer, you can use any highly absorbent material, like microfiber clothes, hemp, bamboo, etc. I took an old, thick, and highly absorbent towel that had some holes in it. I wouldn't use a thin, ratty towel as it likely wouldn't absorb enough.

(For the record, my flannel is black, my cotton is light green, my waterproof material is darker green, and my absorbent layer is blue, just so you know what you're seeing in the pictures.)

To start off, trace a shape like this on your fleece, then cut it out, trace it onto the material you'll be using as a backing, and then cut that out as well. You want these to be roughly half an inch wider all around than you want the pads to be, as you'll be hemming them and turning them inside out, so they will be smaller than the size you're cutting out now. I specifically made these much longer than your standard pads so that they'd have extra absorbency and be able to prevent leaks. 



You may want to fold the pieces in half along their width to make sure they're symmetrical, but this step isn't necessary.


Then you want to cut out the pieces for the internal layer. You want these to be approximately the same basic shape as the outside layer, only without the wings, and a drop smaller.


Once you have your outer pieces and your inner pieces cut out, lay them on top of each other so you can see that the outer pieces are exactly the same, and if they're not, adjust them with scissors. Do the same for your inner pieces.



Lay your inner pieces on top of your outer pieces and make sure that they're truly smaller, and if not, trim them down. (These pieces needed to be trimmed a drop.



Once you have your pieces cut out, take your inner pieces and pin them together. If using 4 layers as I did, pin your pieces so the waterproof layer of the fabric is facing the absorbent layer, not away from it.
Once it's pinned, using a sewing machine or a needle and thread, sew down the sides to hold it together. This doesn't need to be perfect- you just want the pieces to stay together.


Then pin your outside pieces together along the two sides (but not the rounded ends). You want the soft/good side of the fleece facing inward, and if you're using PUL for the outer layer, you want the plasticky part of the PUL facing outward.


Using a sewing machine, sew a seam along the sides of the material, but leave both ends open. Make sure to do this as close to the edge as possible. Once you do that, make a second seam very close to the first one for extra strength.


Turn the fabric inside out, making sure to turn out all the corners and the wings. (Pardon the specks on the fabric. Cut towels make a huge linty mess, and fleece attracts those like mad.)


Lay your internal pieces onto your now-flipped-to-right-side-out outer layer and make sure that the inner layer is still smaller than the outer layer. If not, trim it.


Put your inner later inside the outer layer, laying it flat inside, and making sure that you're aligning the bigger end with the bigger end and smaller end with smaller. If it won't lay flat, you may need to trim the edges.


Check to see where the inner layer ends. If it is inside the outer layer like it is on this side, great. (Ignore the permanent marker on my nails...)


If it sticks out like it does on this side, trim it so that it is a good half inch smaller than the outer layer and doesn't stick out.


Pin the inner layer in place, and then, using your sewing machine, sew a straight stitch down the middle, stopping approximately an inch from each end.


Zigzag around the outside of the inner layer to hold it in place.


Fold over the inner edges of each end of pad, with the cut edges sandwiched between the two layers, and then pin them in place.


Sew a zigzag stitch along the end of the pad to hold it closed. Do this two or three times on each edge for extra reinforcement.


Here's what the final pad looks like from the back, sans snaps. (I'm showing the back, not the front, just so you can see the placement of the stitches more easily- its not that easy to see the stitches on black.)


Sew snaps onto the wings, ideally using heavier duty snaps. Sew the snaps on very well, and make sure to place them so that when the snaps are closed, the wings are folded as they should be. You only should be able to see one snap at a time- one snap should be on the front layer and one should be on the back layer for it to close properly.



And again, here's the finished product, both opened, and closed.




I hope this explanation was clear enough for you so that when you also want to make these, you'll be able to follow my instructions and also make your own homemade cloth postpartum pads.

Was the explanation clear, or were there some parts that need a better explanation?

How was your bleeding postpartum? How long did it last? Was it also as heavy as what I experienced at first?
Do you use cloth or disposable pads when you have your period? How about after birth? If you use cloth during periods and disposable for after birth, why is that? Is it because you didn't know how to make cloth postpartum pads, or because you didn't think they would be absorbent enough?
Any chance you'd be making these?
And tell me, are there any guys that actually read through this post, even with my warning? Did I gross you out too much with my "postpartum bleeding" TMI?

Linking up to Fresh Bites FridayFreaky Friday, Frugal Friday Frugal Days Sustainable WaysWFMWHealthy 2Day WednesdaySimple Lives Thursday,

2 comments:

  1. So, can you still use 5 pads in 2 V shapes as you described when you are using cloth pads? Or since they are not adhesive would they not stay in place (since it's not possible for them all to snap under the panties)?

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  2. With a pad this size I don't think you would need 5 of them! I'm sewing up nice postpartum pads for myself for baby #6 because I've been using folded up burp cloths for the past 4 births. I had a similar experience to yours- horrible periods and lots of endometriosis symptoms when I was using conventional tampons. Switched to pads and symptoms disappeared, but developed lots of external irritation. Once I went to cloth, no problem.

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