When Beanie was about 8 months old, I came across a range of modern cloth nappies and, upon further research, I immediately made the switch from disposable nappies to cloth nappies. It just made sense: cloth nappies are more economical, they’re better for the environment, and they’re better for your baby.
It was an easy decision to make, especially after I read up about all the nasty materials and toxic chemicals used during the manufacturing process of disposable nappies. You know that blue, absorbent gel that you find in disposable nappies? That’s called Sodium Polyacrylate, and it’s responsible for allergic reactions and could even cause toxic shock syndrome – and it’s just one of the many chemicals found in disposable nappies. (You can read up more on cloth nappies and their benefits, here).
I made the switch to cloth nappies, and reaped all sorts of benefits: it saved us money, I felt less guilty about the amount of waste ending up in landfills, and Beanie never got nappy rash (serious – never!). Pretty soon, Beanie was potty trained and nappies were a thing of the past. Then, while scrolling through Facebook one day, I came across Hannahpad, a range of certified organic and reusable cloth pads (also known as ‘mama cloth’).
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a sucker for pretty things – I think that’s part of the reason why I was so attracted to cloth nappies (in the beginning, at least), and it’s definitely what got me interested in Hannahpads to begin with. As someone who’d been through the cloth nappy journey, I was immediately open to the idea of using mama cloth – if I can wash someone else’s poop nappy, I can definitely deal with a little bit of my own blood!
I clicked onto the Hannahpad website to find out more, and I was sold. Despite all my research into the harmful effects of the chemicals in disposable nappies, I’d somehow failed to put two and two together to make the connection to disposable pads and tampons. Disposable pads are made using a combination of plastics, synthetic fibres, cotton and wood pulp, which are then bleached using dioxin (the same chemical used to bleach disposable nappies). Not only is dioxin extremely harmful to the environment, it also damages the immune system, disrupts hormones, can cause developmental and reproductive problems, and may even cause cancer (click here for more information from the World Health Organization). This is incredibly scary and I couldn’t help but wonder whether the surge of infertility in recent decades might have something to do with the harmful chemicals and plastics used in disposable nappies and menstrual pads? It might just be that it seems as though infertility is on the rise with the introduction of social media and the fact that more people are willing to open up about their problems with infertility, but given that disposable nappies and pads were only introduced a few decades ago had me wondering.
Disposable pads and tampons also contain a number of synthetic fibres, like rayon, which are incredibly absorbent. This might seem like a good thing at first (you want all of that blood to be absorbed after all), but it also happens to absorb all the moisture in your vagina, which can increase your chances of experiencing cramps, severe pain, and even infections. And it’s at this point that I was sold.
As someone who’s always battled with heavy periods (I’d ordinarily use a super tampon every three to four hours, along with a disposable pad for extra protection) and extremely painful cramps (the first day of my period is usually the worst, and it’s often so painful that I can’t get out of bed), the idea of a potentially less painful period was all I needed to know to give cloth pads a go. That, and the added benefits for both the environment and my budget, of course!
I’ve just finished my second cycle using my Hannahpads, so I feel that I’ve come to grips with using them and washing them, so I can give you a proper, in-depth review – although I’ll admit that I was a big fan from the minute I started using them. The first thing I noticed about these cloth pads (apart from how pretty they are), was just how comfortable them were. They are so soft and snug, and they weren’t bulky in the slightest. In fact, they’re so snug and discreet that I was worried that they wouldn’t work for me and my heavier flow. I have the Hannahpad ‘Take 5’ pad set (R395), which includes 1 pantyliner, 1 small cloth pad, 1 medium cloth pad, 1 large cloth pad, 1 ultra overnight cloth pad, 5 free Ziploc bags (to store soaked pads while on the go), 1 bar of ‘boerseep’, and one beautiful wetbag to store everything.
I decided to start with the highest absorbency possible and tried my ultra overnight cloth pad first, and I was pleasantly surprised at how absorbent the pad truly is. Each pad features layers of 100% organic cotton and a waterproof backing to prevent leaks, as well as a super-handy, high-quality plastic snap to fasten the wings of the pad to your underwear to keep it in place. (A big bonus of these snap fasteners? They don’t come undone until you clip them loose – unlike that nasty, sticky backing that so often loses it’s tackiness when wearing disposable pads. The result? Less leaking, and way more comfort).
Something that really stood out to me was the fact that it didn’t feel as though I was wearing a pad – if anything, it felt as though I was wearing nothing but underwear. I also immediately noticed the lack of that annoying, crinkly sound that the plastic backing of a disposable pad so often makes… there was absolutely none of that with my cloth pads, and I also didn’t experience any of the sweatiness or stickiness that comes with using disposable pads – especially in the middle of summer. Another thing? I felt as though my va-jay-jay could actually breathe! Now I know that sounds weird, but I don’t know how else to describe it… there was no crinkly, plastic-y pad that was getting in my way. It was just such a massive joy to feel both protected against leaks, and so comfortable at the same time!
One thing that I was a bit apprehensive about in the beginning was washing my reusable cloth pads. As I mentioned, I have plenty of experience when it comes to washing cloth nappies, but blood is notoriously difficult to get out of fabric – and I was also concerned at just how much blood there would be!
After two months of using my mama cloth religiously, I’m happy to report that the washing process really isn’t as difficult – or as gross – as I imagined it to be. I use a very easy and effective method to wash my cloth pads, and I’ve found that the boerseep included with my set of cloth pads is the best thing to use on my mama cloth. This is the process I follow:
1. Immediately after removing the cloth pad, I give it a good rinse using cold water to get rid of the majority of the blood. NB: When rinsing your mama cloth, be sure to use cold water only. Since blood is a protein, warm or hot water will potentially set stains.
2. I then leave the pad to soak in some cold water for roughly 10 to 20 minutes, before doing one final rinse (until water runs clear).
3. Next, I roll the wet cloth pad up lengthways to get rid of as much water as possible (I avoid wringing the pads or squeezing them up in a ball to ensure that I don’t damage any of the fibres).
4. At this point, I rub a bar of boerseep directly onto the surface of the pad to clean the pad and remove any remaining stains. I give the pad a good wash, before rinsing and leaving the pad to air-dry.
You can simply pop your mama cloth into the washing machine as you would with cloth nappies and other laundry items, but I’ve been use the hand washing method highlighted above since I only have five cloth pads at the moment. (I didn’t want to buy more until I knew for sure that they worked for me… two months in, you can bet that I’ll be stocking up on some more pretties soon!) I hand wash my pads throughout my cycle, then pop them into the washing machine on a cold wash using a biodegradable laundry detergent (and NO fabric softener – this will affect the absorbency of your cloth pads) at the end of my cycle, so that they’re fresh, clean, and ready for my next cycle. It really couldn’t be easier. Yes, the hand washing process takes a little bit of extra time out of my day, but this is because I’ve chosen to stick to 5 cloth pads for the time being. As soon as I’ve upped my mama cloth stash, I’ll rinse and soak the pads in cold water before popping them into the wash with the rest of my laundry.
I’ve loved my experience of using mama cloth so far, and I definitely won’t be going back to using disposable pads or tampons. They’re so much more comfortable than disposable pads, and washing them really isn’t as much of as a fuss as I originally expected. The fact that they’re so much better for both my health and the environment is another added bonus!
I’ll be filming a YouTube video to better explain the washing process, as well as to answer any other questions surrounding using cloth pads, so if there’s anything you’d like to know, pop your question in the comments section below and I’ll answer them in my video.
In the meantime, if you’d like to find out some more info or would like to order your own mama cloth, head on over to the Hannahpad South Africa website by clicking here. You can also follow them over on Facebook and Instagram.