It's a fact… you need some sort of pad after you've had a baby. That cozy lining that your baby has been growing against has done its job, and it's time for it to shed and leave your body. This flow is called lochia and you can expect to see it for around four weeks after your baby is born.
In the first few days it's heavy but after the initial days postpartum it will probably reduce dramatically, eventually becoming pink, then brownish, then a clear fluid before stopping completely. There may also be blood clots at first – these are normal, but you should call your midwife if you're worried for any reason or if they're really large.
Most women use disposable pads. I had sort of gotten the impression from others than mama cloth couldn't handle the postpartum flow in the early days. But I'd used disposable pads during my previous postpartum times and well, they just didn't agree with me! I usually use cloth when my cycles resume at some point postpartum because it's much softer. Disposable pads chaff and just feel uncomfortable to me. I also don't like the way they smell – there's something they put in them.
I decided to look for a postpartum pad pattern and make as many of them as I could. I figured that even if I had to change them super-frequently to keep from leaking, I'd do that.
So I made them myself, using scrap fabric. The pattern I found used fleece (like PolarFleece) for the backing and flannel for the actual pad part. I used one layer of fleece and seven layers of flannel. We had a flannel sheet that had a rip in it which I had saved for something. So I used that (and have cowboy-themed pads, hah!) I also had various fleece scraps (dinosaurs, trucks, pink, and yellow :p). So that's what I used.
I made as many as I could with the scraps, ending up with around 20 pads. The pattern has wings, which I wanted, but I didn't have time to put fasterners on the wings before Honor was born.
I was really and truly surprised by how well the mama cloth worked. I used the mesh undies that come in the birth kit (and I believe hospital birth mamas get, too) to hold the pad.
With all my previous babies (using disposable pads) I had leaks and the mesh had to be washed out and another pair used while that was going on.
This did NOT happen with my homemade mama cloth!
Even with just folding the wings down over the sides of the mesh (remember, no fasteners to snap under), they completely prevented any leaks.
I did change them frequently, but I wouldn't say excessively.
In the early days your uterus is contracting back down to normal size. Nursing the baby frequently brings on stronger contractions and a fresh flow of blood or even a small clot in those first few days. I was pleased that the mama cloth could take this flow just fine – no leaks.
Best of all, it was much, much more comfortable for me. Just soft flannel against my skin! No paper, no “absorbant substances,” nothing but soft fabric.
Scott handled the washing in the first few days. I had a small tub with a sealing lid close by, and when I changed my pad I put it in the tub. I had a quick routine – I'd change the pad then put a few squirts of a natural product called Bac-Out on the pad itself.
Then I put the pad into the tub and poured enough water over it to get it soaked. Then I sealed it up. When the tub was full, Scott would put them in the washing machine for me. At first we did them daily, but soon the bleeding had slowed and I was able to do them every couple of days.
They washed clean, with no staining. I think the Bac-Out helped with this, though I mostly wanted the Bac-Out to keep any odor from developing.
All-in-all I found using mama-cloth a much more pleasant experience than using disposable pads. After a couple weeks in pads I was still tired of them, but I didn't have any chafing, “disposable” odors, or leaks.
Here's the pattern and instructions that I used: