Before the birth of your first baby, you may not understand the importance of postpartum pads. They are a necessity for the days or weeks following delivery. Your standard period pads will not suffice.
We’ve put together this helpful guide to explain the importance and highlight the top features of the best postpartum pads on the market so you’ll know exactly what to look for.
With our combined experience and the reviews offered by hundreds of moms, we’ve also compiled our top seven choices for postpartum pads, including regular, organic, and cloth options, as well as a liner for the final, lighter days.
- Super absorbent
- With leak guard core
- Absorbs 10 times its weight
- Stays in place
- No dyes or fragrances
- Flexible design
- Has wings
- Completely organic
- Gentle on skin
- Soft quilted top
- Great for overnight use
- Locks moisture away
- 90% organic cotton
- FDA registered
- Feels like wearing nothing
- Controls odor
When Should I Start Using Postpartum Pads?
You’re going to need postpartum pads right away, as soon as you can stand up and walk your way to the bathroom after delivery. The hospital will supply you with some, but in our experience, they aren’t nearly as nice as the ones you can purchase yourself. You’ll want to bring some with you, along with some other essentials for the hospital.
Most hospital pads, although absorbent, tend to be cheap, thick, and uncomfortable. Most women prefer postpartum pads with wings to wrap around and fully protect their underwear from stains.
Regardless of which pads you choose to use, it’s still a good idea to avoid bringing your favorite underwear to the hospital. Even the best postpartum pads may not absorb liquid quickly enough in the first few hours after birth to fully prevent leaks or stains.
How Many Postpartum Pads Will I Need?
You might underestimate what’s going to happen unless you’ve already had a child before. But expect that you’ll have a very heavy flow that may last for weeks.
The first few days will be intense — you’ll be changing your pads frequently, sometimes as often as every 60 to 90 minutes.
And although it may seem crazy to you right now, you may end up sandwiching pads on top of each other to make sure you are thoroughly covered. That sandwich trick may seem wasteful, but if you want to sleep for any length of time, a single pad might not cut it, and you don’t want to ruin your clothing or sheets.
Slowly, as the days pass, you’ll begin changing your pads less frequently. But you can still expect to need them for about four to five weeks (1).
When you’re pregnant, the amount of blood in your body will increase by up to 50 percent (2). But after birth, the extra blood vessels and tissue that supported your baby need to come away and be shed from your uterus — the medical term for this is lochia (3). Some bleeding is normal as your uterus shrinks to its regular size, and of course, some is due to injury or tearing from the birth itself.
The number of pads needed varies greatly from woman to woman. Some like to change their pads well before they’re fully soaked, while others leave them on until they can’t hold any more blood.
If you opt for cloth pads, you won’t need nearly as many as you will with disposables. The number you choose to purchase will depend on how frequently you want to wash them. We recommend having twelve cloth pads per day. If you plan on doing laundry daily, twelve pads should suffice.
How to Choose Postpartum Pads
No matter what your postpartum experience is like, these are a few basic qualities you should look for in a good postpartum pad, plus some tips you’ll need when buying them.
Buy a Wide Assortment
You’ll need a large number of postpartum-specific or heavy overnight pads. About half your stash should consist of these highly absorbent pads as they’ll be required for the first week when your bleeding is still very heavy. But for the following weeks, thinner pads should suffice. In the final stages of postpartum bleeding, you may be able to get by just with panty liners.
Get Pads with Wings
We can’t stress enough the importance of pads with wings for protecting underwear, clothing, and bedding from stains in the days following delivery. As the blood flow may initially be very fast, and pads are prone to shifting around with your varying positions, having wings will prevent additional messes.
Decide Between Cloth or Disposable Pads
The decision to use cloth or disposable pads is a personal one based on your individual preferences.
There are many benefits to using cloth postpartum pads. They are much softer than disposable pads, and because they can be used repeatedly, they cost less in the long run. They also help protect the environment from unnecessary waste.
However, disposable pads have benefits as well. They prevent additional cleaning and laundry, you can toss them in the trash and not worry about carting them in your bag when you’re away from home, and they’re easy to find in stores.
After delivery, your bottom is likely to feel tender and sore for the first several days — or longer if you’ve had a more difficult delivery. A pad that isn’t exceptionally soft will only make things worse, so make softness a priority — even if it costs more. After all, you’ve been through, you deserve that little bit of pampering.
The Best Postpartum Pads of 2021
These are our favorite postpartum pads currently on the market.
1. Always Maxi Extra Heavy Overnight Pads
These overnight pads by Always are the undisputed champion in our books. They have the wings you need to protect your clothes, and they’re big, wide, and long enough to protect you during your heaviest flows.
The pads measure 15 inches long, and they have an extra-wide back portion, so you’ll get plenty of protection — even if you’re a back sleeper. They have a raised core, so they fit your body better than flat pads do.
- Super absorbent — lasting up to 10 hours.
- Contoured design is great for back sleepers.
- RapidDRY design wicks gushes quickly.
- May feel like you’re wearing a diaper.
- Mesh fabric can catch on stitches.
2. Always Radiant Feminine Pads
Don’t let the thinness of this pad fool you — it can hold a lot. The super absorbent FlexFoam core can hold 10 times its weight.
They’re so comfortable that you’ll forget you’re wearing a pad. The ultra-soft cover is tightly woven, which means stitches are less likely to snag.
Thanks to the strong adhesive, these pads stay in place, so you don’t have to worry about shifting or bunching. The roomy wings will protect your clothing.
- Comfortable design.
- Highly absorbent despite being extra thin.
- They don’t shift or bunch.
- More costly than many other disposable pads.
- Scented pads may irritate those with sensitivities.
3. Seventh Generation Overnight Maxi Pads
If you’re irritated by dyes or fragrances, you’ll love these fragrance-free overnight pads by Seventh Generation.
Plus, these chlorine-free pads are made with wood pulp and cotton and help reduce environmental waste. They are heavy enough to use for maternity pads, even in the first few days.
- Non-irritating for even the most sensitive skin.
- Not overly expensive.
- They have wings.
- The cotton tends to bunch when the pad starts getting wet.
- Although they’re very absorbent, they don’t absorb quickly.
4. Organyc 100% Organic Cotton Pads
These heavy-flow pads are made of 100 percent certified organic cotton on both the inside and out, so you won’t have to worry about potential chemicals next to your skin. They also have wings to give you added protection from leaks.
As these pads are biodegradable, you won’t have to feel residual guilt when throwing them away. However, like most organic products, these pads are more costly than many other options.
- Made with certified organic cotton.
- Won’t irritate sensitive skin.
- Better for the environment than most disposables.
- Fairly expensive.
- You’ll have to change them more frequently than synthetic pads.
5. Poise Incontinence Pads for Women
You might feel a little awkward buying incontinence pads from the store, but consider it par for the course — as a mom, you’ll soon get used to regularly dealing with body fluids, stains, and smells.
While these pads are designed primarily for bladder weakness, their absorbency makes them ideal for new moms. If you happen to find yourself with a little postpartum incontinence anyway, this pad will have you covered.
These are super absorbent for heavy flows, with a long, generous shape that adheres well to your underwear.
- Large pads don’t bunch up.
- Soft, quilted top is comfortable against the skin.
- Great for overnight use.
- Locks moisture away and keeps it off skin.
- No wings.
- May have a chemical smell.
6. Think Eco Organic Reusable Cotton Pads
These reusable pads offer plenty of postpartum protection. They come in packs of three. While your initial investment may feel like a lot, they will more than pay for themselves in just a few months of repeated use.
The cloth wings secure with a snap and can be folded over and snapped together for compact storage.
These pads use 90 percent organic cotton layers and when properly cared for, will last for about five years.
- FDA registered product.
- Good for the environment and your body.
- Made with soft, chemical-free fabric that will last for years.
- Lack of adhesive means they may shift around.
- Needs proper maintenance.
7. Always Thin Daily Liners
These Always liners are great for all women, mothers or not. They’re small, discreet, and comfortable to wear and they really help with keeping light bleeding or spotting at bay.
After a few weeks, your postpartum flow will slow, and when it does, you’ll be eager to switch to smaller pads. A regular panty liner will be enough for the lightest flow or those days when you don’t want to be caught by a drop or two.
These breathe well and are light and thin enough that you can forget you have one on.
- Small and portable.
- It feels like you’re wearing nothing.
- Controls odor.
- Cheap enough for long-term use.
- May not provide adequate coverage for some women.
- May not protect the sides of your underwear.
Make Yourself a Postpartum Survival Kit
Postpartum pads are one of the many things you’ll be glad to have around once your baby is safely delivered and in your arms. In the weeks leading up to the big day, spend some time putting together a hospital bag to have with you during delivery. It will also be helpful to prepare a postpartum kit of essentials for when you return home from the hospital.
For your hospital bag, choose a large tote and pack it ahead of time so it’s ready to grab when you need it. Consider including comfortable pajamas, a belly wrap, some lovely new toiletries, breast pads, nipple cream, soft nursing bras, clothing, and essentials for your baby.
On your return home though, the real recovery begins. A great postpartum survival kit will make you feel cared for and will put you in the right state of mind to heal, recover, and bond with your baby.
Here are some things to include:
- Bath herbs: Sea salt and healing herbs can be added to a warm bath to soothe your mind and help your body repair itself. Keep in mind that herbs are not regulated by the FDA.
- Peri bottle: You’ll be feeling pretty tender for a while, and wiping with ordinary toilet paper can be painful. A peri bottle gently squirts water to help you stay clean and fresh without aggravating any stitches. Gentle cleansing wipes are also useful.
- Haemorrhoid cream: It’s not fair, but it’s a fact. 25 to 30 percent of women end up dealing with hemorrhoids after their baby is born (4). You’ll want something to soothe and relieve this less-than-glamorous side effect of childbirth. Witch hazel is a great natural alternative.
- Nipple TLC: Have plenty of nipple pads, nipple cream, and lotion on hand, plus a few good quality nursing bras.
- Numbing spray: Some moms take time to get back to normal after a traumatic birth, but fortunately, there are medicated wipes and numbing sprays to take the sting out of recovery.
- Large maternity panties: For a few days, you might appreciate the support of large, full coverage, mesh maternity underwear, especially if you’re dealing with a giant postpartum pad.
- Laxatives: Postpartum healing can be crappy except, ironically, when it isn’t. Many women experience postpartum constipation (5). It’s a good idea to have laxatives or stool softeners on hand in case you need them.
- Treats: Childbirth is physically draining, but it can also be emotionally difficult. While your body is reeling, take care of your heart and mind, too. A luxury scented candle, some gorgeous silk pajamas, a pretty new hair clip, or some soothing herbal tea can go a long way to making you feel pampered and ready to start your new life as a mom.