How to Make Homemade Contoured Nursing Pads (with free pattern)

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 Making your own nursing pads can be a great money saver.  
With disposable pads costing about $10 for 60 pads (which is only 30 sets).  That can add up quite a bit, especially when you consider how often you will be changing them.  
Buying reusable pads can help to save a few bucks, and some landfill space, but they are a big initial investment because they are often rather expensive for only a few sets.  
So why not sew up as many as you like, for not-so-much money?  

Besides, then they can be made out of whatever you like --- custom for you.  
And the ability to contour them (most reusable pads sold are not contoured)
 really helps in keeping them discreet.

Let me show you how.

After some investigating, I decided to make my nursing pads out of flannel and synthetic fleece {polar fleece}. And I loved that combination.  The flannel absorbs great and the fleece on the outside kind of repels so it helps to keep the leaks in while remaining breathable.  

But since you are in control of your nursing pads, you can choose whatever material suits you. (I've seen sets at an environmentally green specialty store that were made from hemp --- maybe that's your taste.)  
But for this tutorial I'll stick to saying flannel and fleece.

For myself I used all nude/flesh-tone material.
 I was worried about them showing through clothing. 
But in hindsight I can see that is a pretty minimal concern 
since they are inside both your bra and your shirt, 
so it's not too likely they would show through all that . 
And in the bleary-eyed beginning days of motherhood, 
it might be nice to have something pretty
 to brighten up the fact that you are now a leaky faucet. 
Then again you can have the best of both worlds
 by using the pretty on the inside and flesh tone fleece on the out side.
You can do whatever you want!
Isn't it fun to get to design? 

Money Saving Tips:
Watch for sales at your fabric store, 
flannel and fleece tend to go on sale frequently, keep your eye out.  
While you are there check the remnant bin, you can often find fleece remnants that are discounted, and at most stores if you buy a remnant while there is a sale on that type of material you get both discounts!  
Want to be even thriftier?  
You can cut up old flannel sheets or fleece blankets you already have, or find them at a thrift store.  You can even cut up old clothing made from this stuff.  What about that over abundance of receiving blankets?  Yep.  
Think outside the box and these nursing pads could be almost free!  

Ok so now
 How To Make Your Contoured Nursing Pads:
You need to trace and cut out circles -- 3 flannel and 1 fleece per pad. 
I used my cereal bowls (which are just over 6" in diameter) as a guide.

But just for you...
 I have drawn up a perfect pattern that you can download at the end of this post.  Yay!  

How many pads do you want?  
Well that's up to you.  
 I went hog wild when I was pregnant and made a TON
 and then found out I didn't need quite that many so a shared with a friend.  
After that, as a gift, I have given out 24 pads (12 sets), 
which seems to mean doing laundry about twice a week.  
But these pads are easy to throw in with anything, so you can be washing a couple in every load and have a steady flow of clean ones.  

Once you have cut out allllllll the circles you decided that you need,
stack them into pad piles: 3 flannel, 1 fleece.
Now cut out a "piece of pizza" from each pad, cutting through all the layers at once ---
this is how we will contour them.

You can adjust the size of this slice to create more or less shaping, but the size I have included in the pattern below gives you the same amount of contour that disposables have.  
(Which makes me think it's pretty much universally-appropriate.)

Now move over to your sewing machine.  
Set it to the widest stitch, and a very very short length.  
The goal is to completely close the gap we created with the pizza slice.  

Start at the center of the pad (I like starting with the flannel side up), pull the two edges together, and do not overlap.

Create a very tight seam that reaches both sides of the cut, holding it together.  
(I'm using white thread so you can see it easily, when you make your own you can choose to match or contrast your fabric.)

Ok so you tried really hard to get both sides to connect to each other, but when you flip it over, it's not all sewed together!  
It's ok.  
That's just kinda what happens.  

Flip it so the fleece side is up 
and sew up and down, to each side of the original seam.

Looking good!  

Now I go through and pull at each layer to make sure it got sewn in.  
Uh oh, one didn't quite make it all the way into the seam...  
That's okay.  

Sew a bit more there.

And now, it's all sealed up!

That is kinda a lot of sewing, but it goes fast after you do a pad or two and get the feel.  
And my perfectionistic-leaning self really values this contouring seam because without it, pads can kinda make you look like you have flying saucer boobs.  

Now, I like to cut away anything that sticks out too far around the edge just so I can see what I'm doing as I sew around the outside, making sure I catch all the layers.  

And I use my serger to finish the edge.  

But if you only have a sewing machine, you can use the zig-zag stitch 
set to a wide stitch with a shortish-medium length --- something to hold it all together nicely.  

I found it kinda tricky to get the hang of serging a circle the first few pads I tried. 
It's kind of a pushing-away-from-you-with-your-right-hand and pulling-towards-you-and-around-the-pad-with-your-left-hand motion.  
You'll get it.  

Make sure you secure the serged seam so that it doesn't unravel.  
I just pulled on the individual strings of the tail until it tightened up and then tied a knot.  
There may be a better way but that worked just fine for me.  

What a nice finished pad!

Then I like to give them all a wash and dry just to see how they will hold up.  Check to see if any of them need any attention and sew closed any spots that thought they could escape.  
(Added bonus: washing them a couple times helps them to be ready to absorb!)

And there you have it.  Seriously great nursing pads.
I loved mine so much!
The few times that I used disposables, I was longing for my homemade nursing pads.  I just thought that they were more comfortable and easier to work with.  
(But as a side note, I found  it is nice to have a box of disposables around for random reasons, say a weekend trip, so you don't need to worry about laundry or if you need to wear something very fancy, like a bridesmaid dress, since disposables are more watertight, which means less to worry about in front of an audience!) 

How to wear them:
They look best, and absorb the best, if you wear the seam side on top, facing up --- fleece on the outside of course.

How to care for your nursing pads:
These are easy to wash and dry on any setting.  You should take care to wash them with detergent, not with natural soap or fabric softeners because those cause buildup and may cause your pads to stop absorbing, which would defeat the whole purpose!

Okay, go ahead and download the nursing pad pattern here, print it out, and get sewing!!

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