Mama Cloth

admin January 11, 2010
Image by Sara. Nel
**This post has been entered in Works for Me Wednesdays at We Are THAT Family and Things I Love Thursdays at Diaper Diaries.**

Ever heard of “mama cloth?” It’s cloth pads to replace the disposable ones typically used during your monthly “visitor.” (I’ve barely had a need in the last three years, since I’ve been pregnant most of the time from May ’07 – Jul. ’09 and just got it back Sunday!) But, mama cloth is really great for you and the environment! And I did use it postpartum with Daniel. I’m liking using it now too.

A lot of people say their first postpartum period is really painful and awful and this time I’m having no pain at all (which wasn’t true when I got it back after Bekah and I was still using disposable pads!). I really think the cloth is making a difference because I always had cramps and general soreness and fatigue before.

Why Should You Use A Mama Cloth?

  • Disposable pads contain dioxin and other chemicals, which can cause serious and as yet unknown reproductive problems (like PCOS, infertility, or even just extra cramping and bleeding. Think about it — you’re pressing these chemicals up against your most sensitive regions and you’re actually absorbing the chemicals!).
  • Cloth pads feel softer and nicer. No more crunchy, bulky pads!
  • Cloth pads are much greener — just save them in a zippered, waterproof bag and wash at the end of the week. Nothing to throw in a landfill.
  • Potential for reduced pain and reduced bleeding (due to the fact that you’re not exposing yourself to the chemicals anymore). This is really serious. I believe that our exposure to these chemicals is causing us to experience longer bleeding, more painful periods, PCOS, and other reproductive disorders. Eliminating your exposure to harmful chemicals could, over time, cure you of these problems (and red raspberry leaf tea can reduce your pain naturally in the mean time, by the way).
  • Always have clean pads (bleeding more than usual? Lasting longer? Do a wash and you’ll have fresh pads in an hour or two, no trips to the store).

How To Get Yours

There are many places that you can buy pads if you want to (look at the resources below). You can also make your own. I made all of mine. They’re not like the old rags women used to use. They’re shaped, absorbent, they snap in place, and the top layer wicks the moisture away from you.

(You can also buy cloth tampons if you’re interested, but I can’t quite get my head around that one. Some people knit them and stuff them with cotton padding, leaving a trail of yarn at the end to remove it. Of course there’s no applicator with this type. But, if you really hate the feeling of pads, you can try this. Another option is the Diva Cup, which many women prefer, but I believe these are silicone, and you do have to put it inside. If you don’t like putting things inside or you are allergic to silicone or latex — I can’t remember which they’re made from — cloth pads are for you.)

There are many free patterns out there to make your own mama cloth, and many that you can pay for as well. I offer one for free on another website (listed in the resources). The patterns have instructions with them. They really do sew up quickly; I made 30 pads in just a few hours. My pattern also comes in two different sizes. If you don’t have a snap press, you can use sew-on snaps, or Velcro (though I recommend Aplix or Touchtape instead).


For postpartum use, along with my pads, I also sewed several 6″ x 6″ flannel wipes, and I kept a peri bottle in the bathroom. Whenever I used the bathroom, I would wash off warm water from the peri bottle and wipe gently with the flannel wipes. It was soooo very soft when I was sore and swollen from birth, and I just tucked it all into my little zippered, waterproof bag! I had cloth (bamboo terry, also very soft) ice packs that I had dipped into comfrey leaf tea and frozen that went into these bags. I highly recommend this system, and you can use parts of it every time, not just postpartum.

Check out the resources section for more information!


What do you use during your period? Are any of these options new to you?

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  1. One word – YUCK!!!!!!


  2. Anonymous,

    It's really not bad. You just toss the pads into a zippered bag instead of the trash, and wash them like diapers at the end of the week. If you've used cloth diapers it's really no different (except what's on the pads, but you know).


  3. Okay, but how do you know all of the stuff that was in the pads is completely gone? The germs and bacteria you can't see?


  4. Anonymous,

    If germs and bacteria were building up, the pads would smell. If they don't, they're clean. But you can use special products like Bac-Out, hydrogen peroxide, etc. to make sure they are clean. Hanging them out in the sun (weather permitting) can also kill any leftover bacteria. Ultimately it's a lot better cleaned and killed by these products than put in a landfill where the pads won't break down and the yuck can get into the groundwater!


  5. I see your point about landfill, but I plan to stick with disposables. Doesn't the yuck get in the groundwater through washing anyway? It has to go somewhere.


  6. Anonymous–if you think about it, we get "yuck" on all of our clothes. Unless you're always wearing a disposable pad or pantyliner, most women do wind up with some discharge on their underwear. But besides that, we get sweat, tears, and dead skin cells on our clothes every day, yet we trust the washing machine to take care of it so we can wear them again. I doubt most parents would throw out a piece of clothing every time their child had an accident or drooled all over their shirt. Cloth pads don't have to be for everyone, but it's certainly perfectly safe and sanitary.

    I personally have been totally sold on cloth pads for about a year now. I have a "wet bag" that I keep in my purse for when I'm out, and when I'm home, I keep a Tupperware-type container of cold water under the sink. When I change one out, I rinse it in the sink until the water runs clear, and then store the pad in the cold water until wash day. This is what the maker of my pads recommended, and it has worked great! They come out of the wash looking like I never used them. I get mine on etsy–the seller's name is Crea8tiveMama. Hers are flannel, which I've found to be so comfy, and she has a lot of different fabrics to choose from. Getting to pick out a pretty colored pad each day *almost* makes it kind of fun. 🙂


  7. Bloody pads are the last thing I'd probably want to carry in my purse all day but I admire your efforts to cut down on disposables. Also my husband would probably never help with the laundry.


  8. The "Yuck" which you refer to is mostly blood, is completely degradable. The chemicals in disposable pads–as well as the plastic and absorbent "beads"–are far from degradable and "earth friendly".


  9. Rachel — you are correct. All human "waste" (blood, vomit, pee, discharge, etc.) is biodegradable, and cleaning them properly can help to "neutralize" them. And the disposable pads are not biodegradable at all. Unlike the cloth pads, which, when you're done using them (when they've become just rags), are!

    Chris — it's really no different than carrying around a baby's soiled outfit in a diaper bag. I don't think anything of it because I've carried lots of dirty clothes and diapers around. My husband has washed my pads before (like postpartum) and didn't mind…but if your husband doesn't like it, you can always do just that load! And also, do remember that it doesn't have to be all or nothing — you can use cloth at home only and disposable on the go. It's not for everyone but there ARE options.

    For me, just the serious reduction in cramps and pain makes it worth it. I feel like I don't even have my period at all most of the time. For a lot of women that would be a big deal, because the cramps are hard to deal with!


  10. I have been meaning to get some cloth pads for a while now…just seems to make sense since we are already washing cloth diapers. 🙂 I have also heard that disposable pads and tampons can cause physical discomfort (I'm interested to see if mine is relieved when I start using cloth). Thanks for the Etsy seller recommendation, April!


  11. I would love it if there were classes offered on making cloth diapers and mama cloth. I don't do it myself because the thought of researching how to make them, what is best to use to make them, where to buy supplies at the best price, and then figuring it out with my limited sewing skills makes me weary. I would even gladly pay for a detailed list of what to use, where to get it, and how to do it. Any thoughts from anyone on this?


  12. Liesel,

    I've seriously thought of teaching such a class and selling my pattern too. I'm doing a brief workshop at CHOICE in March. If there is interest I could do a more formal class locally or maybe even online.


  13. I would LOVE it! Keep me updated!


  14. Thanks for your great post on the benefits of cloth pads and The DivaCup.

    To answer your question, The DivaCup is made of a medical grade silicone that is very soft.

    As you discussed, the benefits to the environment, landfills and your pocketbook are endless!

    Follow us on Twitter @divacup!

    Best wishes,

    The DivaCup Team


  15. I use a DivaCup sometimes, and it is fairly soft. My problem with it is that I tend to get pretty bad cramps with it (that go away when I take it out) and sometimes, my cervix just will not let the thing sit right in there, and I'm feeling it/worrying about it all day. It is really soft, and not too hard to put in, although in a public restroom it is hard unless it's a single-person restroom and you have a sink that you can go to before pulling up your pants (as your fingers will get bloody). Also, the website for DivaCup says that you can just wipe it out with toilet paper and put it back in if you have to change it out in a public bathroom, but I disagree. It gets really sticky (well, the stuff on/in it does) if you try doing that and you get bits of TP stuck on it…and I wouldn't put that in my body.

    As for the contents of the 'flow' itself, I thought that it was mostly the lining of the uterus, with only a few teaspoons of actual blood (like what flows in our arteries and veins). I could be wrong, and correct me if I am, but those two things are not the same.


  16. How in the world would you sterilize a diva cup? Do you have a special pan designated for the diva cup? What if someone in your house decides to make something, like soup, in the pan? Do you label the pan, "diva cup only"? I know it's is not "green," but I really don't want permanent feminine products. I'll drink water in non-diposable bottles to do my share instead!


  17. <p>Reusable feminine gear is so wonderful that I’ve hardly used disposables at all in the past 12 years! I wrote article about the incredible convenience of the Diva Cup that also has some information about cloth pads. I would not use cloth tampons because I think that, being absorbent and internal and also reused, they would be even higher risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome than disposable tampons. The cup is not absorbent, so it doesn’t harbor bacteria like tampons and has never been associated with a case of TSS.</p><p>As far as the gross-out factor, it might help to know that menstrual flow is sterile until it leaves the body; it is NOT full of germs! When women get TSS from tampons, the bacteria don’t come from the flow but from the tampon (disposable products are NOT sterile!!) or their hands. Blood does provide a growth medium for bacteria once they’re there, so of course you want to wash pads/cup carefully, but like April said you don’t have to be any more careful than when washing blood out of clothing.</p><p>I’ve never felt a need to boil my cup, but if I did I would just use a normal pan and wash it right afterward. No bacteria can survive stove temperatures.</p><p>You know what worries ME about menstrual flow and disease? Some women have blood-borne illnesses like HIV and hepatitis, yet used disposable pads and tampons get thrown into trash that custodians handle with no special precautions. </p><p>By the way, just like with diapers, I’ve learned that most of the odor I thought was associated with the bodily fuction actually is caused by the fluid reacting with disposable products. Cloth pads do not smell anywhere near as strong as disposable pads and tampons, and the Diva Cup (where the flow doesn’t touch air until you remove the cup) actually smells sort of pleasant! I previously had the Keeper cup, which is made from natural latex, and that has its own smell like Converse sneakers. :=) It worked well, but the Diva is even better IMO.</p>


  18. Interesting… This is the second TILT I have read about these. i'm getting ready to have baby #2, so I may consider these for PP. Thanks!



  19. To clean the cup, you wash it with soap and water, just like you do your hands after using the restroom. You can boil it at the end of each period (which I really don't feel a need to do – it is still the same color it was when I bought it almost a year ago), and then you keep it in a breathable cotton bag so no moisture would be locked in and cause a bacterial bloom in between uses.


  20. Wow, 2 TILTs on this. I haven't had my period in about a year since I have a 3 month old and am still nursing. Yippee!! I must say I am intrigued, but don't know if I can make the leap. But maybe I will be brave and check it out.


  21. I love love love my diva cup. I actually told me husband I was sad to throw it out when I got pregnant (you get a different size after your first baby). It is so much more comfortable than tampons or pads. I used to have really bad cramps with disposable tampons but they were reduced a lot when I switched. I rinsed mine in super hot water but that is it, they have special washes but I don’t feel the need for that.

    I am curious as to the mama cloth though as I will be needing something for postpartum soon. I think I’ll try making my own. I don’t have a snap press though so I’m not sure what to do about that. And those ice packs sound great, do you know where you got them from?


  22. Just linked over to this page from your divacup giveaeway page. I have been thinking about switching to cloth pads as disposable pads leave me irritated. I switched to Seventh Generation brand pads three years ago since they are made with organic cotton (no pesticides or dioxins) but I still get a bit irritated. I think I need to just make the leap to cloth and see if that helps.


  23. My initial reaction to mama cloth was also "Yuck". I HATE blood & the thought of it really put me off. I am a regular poster on a forum where alot of the ladies use mama cloth & I saw discussion where a few ladies had said that their flow was lighter & less painful. This really appealed to me as I have had very heavy & very painful periods for as long as I can remember & they had only gotten worse after the birth of my second child (I always get my period back when baby is 12 wks even though I am breastfeeding exclusively).

    So I took the plunge & gave it a go. I noticed the difference straight away. My first period was shorter & my second caught me completely by surprise as I did not get my usual pain a few days before it arrived. It also was shorter again & much lighter.

    If you haven't tried it, I encourage you to. The benefits far outweigh having to "deal" with the cloth.


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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