*Warning: If you are male, you probably don’t need (or want) to read this post. This one’s for the ladies only!
Photo from Crea8tiveMama on Etsy
Guest Post by Kate from Modern Alternative Mama:
Many of you mamas out there probably did or do cloth diaper your babies. We all know about the benefits of that; Emily has written about it quite a lot! But while this seems to make sense to many of us, using cloth for ourselves – also known as “mama cloth”, for our menstrual cycles – seems a little, well, odd. But the option is out there, and it’s really not as strange as you might think.
What is Mama Cloth?
So what is it, anyway? Mama cloth is basically reusable pads that you use during your period. There are many different sizes and styles out there that you can purchase. There are actually also reusable tampons (often crocheted and stuffed with batting) that you can make (not sure on ‘buy’ yet!). An additional option is a reusable menstrual cup, like the Keeper or the Moon Cup (click the link to read my review of it).
Cloth pads are made of different materials, depending on which type you get. But the backing is often PUL or another waterproof material; the middle is something absorbent, and the top is flannel, suedecloth, or another soft fabric. Basically, it’s like a mini-diaper. Doesn’t that sound fun?
All of the mama cloth I’ve seen has wings on it. The wings fold under and snap on the outside of your underwear. Since there’s no sticky backing, this keeps the pad in place (at least most of the time).
Why Would I Want To Do This?
I know, I know. Like you need one more thing to wash, right? There are already the diapers, the kitchen towels and wash cloths, maybe even the family cloth. So much cloth! But trust me, these are not a big deal to care for, and health-wise, they’re definitely worth it.
Disposable menstrual pads have the same issues that disposable diapers do: they’re full of bleaches and other toxic chemicals. One of these bleaches is dioxin, a chemical that is actually banned in Europe and other countries. We don’t know exactly what this does in terms of human exposure, but it can cause cancer and other problems. Some women have noted that their cramps and pain eased significantly after they switched to cloth, because they were no longer being exposed to these chemicals.
These pads also don’t allow breathability (unlike cloth pads). This means that you’re more prone to yeast infections and other infections when you use them.
Tampons have been associated with TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome). And although it’s not as common today as it was in the 80’s (the particular brand/type of tampon that was causing most of the cases was pulled from the market), it still does occur.
Tampons, too, have been bleached with dioxin and other chemicals, and you are inserting them into your body. Your body will easily absorb these chemicals! Exposure is cumulative, too, so the longer you use these products, the more you are at risk!
Many women think that cloth is more comfortable. It’s softer (not all crunchy and papery!) and it bends and moves more with your body. Depending on the design of your pads (some are pockets), you can make them more absorbent, if you need it. You can also buy custom shapes, or sew them yourself, to get what works best for you. And, although it may not really matter, you can buy them in pretty colors and prints, which might just brighten your day a little bit when you see them!
And I know a few of you are wondering…no, it’s not gross. The pads absorb really well and wick the moisture from your skin, so as long as you change your pad regularly, you don’t feel gross. Certainly no more so than in any other pad. They don’t usually leak, either, as long as they stay in place. If they don’t stay in place, it might be that they’re too small or not fitting you very well and you need a different design. But in general they’re not messy or any more likely to cause “problems” than disposable pads.
How to Care For Them
Mama cloth is really easy to care for, especially if you already cloth diaper. They can actually be tossed into the same wet bag as the diapers, and washed along with them. They may stain if you do this, though, since blood is more likely to stain than other stuff. If you don’t care (because really, who’s going to see them?), then go ahead with that!
If you don’t like that option, or if you’re not currently cloth diapering a baby, there’s another way. When you remove a used pad, you can either stick it into a small, zippered wet bag; or if you are at home, you can keep a small (covered!) bucket with some water and Bac-Out in it. Soak the pads in the water and Bac-Out until the end of the week, then dump the whole thing in the washer and wash on hot, with mild detergent (the same as what you’d use for cloth diapers – free&clear, Charlie’s soap, soap nuts, etc.). Make sure you do an extra rinse so they’re really clean, then you can either put them through the dryer, or hang them to dry.
If you buy your pads, make sure you read the care instructions. Although similar, different types of fabrics may require different care. And of course, each person’s washing machine, water (hard/soft), type of detergent, etc. will affect the washing process. If the first way you try doesn’t do the job, try something else.
Where Do I Buy It?
There are tons of shops out there that sell mama cloth. Etsy is a great place to try, because many sellers there make it themselves (and many will take special requests if you wanted a different size, color, etc.).
Many cloth diaper stores, like Nurtured Family, will also sell mama cloth, too, so if you have a favorite shop, check to see if they carry any.
Health food stores may have some options available, too, although they are often more limited. If there’s a smaller one in your area that carries items from local artisans, that might be the best place to check.
Local craft fairs, parenting exhibitions, or other “natural” places might have it, too. For example, my local midwives’ practice carries a lot of these types of things.
Can I Make It Myself?
Yes! If you are crafty, sewing your own can be an excellent, and frugal, way to go. I designed and sewed my own when I first got into mama cloth. I had designed and sewed all my diapers, too, so it seemed only fitting.
There are lots of free patterns out there. There are also patterns you can pay for. Some women choose to take their favorite disposable brand and simply trace it (a little big, to allow for seams) to create their own pattern. If you have sewn diapers, you can often use scraps you have leftover. Thin quilt batting is easiest for the absorbent layer (it’s a neat tip and what I used for mine!).
Here are a few resources for patterns: http://www.sewingclothdiapers.com/cloth-mama-pads.html, http://rctdiapers.webs.com/freepatterns.htm.
Interested in mama cloth yet? Give it a try! Buy a few and see how you like them. And if they don’t work for you, check out the reusable menstrual cups. There are lots of great, green, safe options out there!
Kate is a work-at-home mom to two kids, Bekah, age 3; and Daniel, age 19 months. She is married to Ben, a wonderfully supportive husband! She blogs at Modern Alternative Mama, where she writes about natural health, real food, parenting, and all things “green.” In her “free” time, she enjoys sewing, crafting, cooking, and playing with her children.
I’m so glad that Kate was willing to tackle this subject for me! It’s still on my “Changes to Make” List, but I thought that some of you might be interested in learning more about this. I hope this post gives you the inspiration and courage to green your feminine care!