Mama Cloth: Natural Care for Your Menstrual Cycle


We’ve talked nutrition and health. We’ve chatted up pregnancy and birth, and the various intimate details therein. I’ve shared about breastfeeding my toddler. We’ve even ventured into the subject of placentophagy (the act of consuming one’s placenta after birth – and yup, I did it).

Today I want to talk about another subject that has become near and dear to my (crunchy-mama) heart: cloth pads and alternative solutions for your menstrual cycle.

(Side note: I couldn’t decide what to title this post. Eco-friendly? Frugal? Healthier? Yes, yes, and yes. The great thing about this whole natural living journey is that those things often go hand-in-hand, which I love).

My Experience

All of my life I’ve used the typical necessities for “that time of the month”: disposable pads and tampons. Then I started my natural living journey a few years ago, and began hearing bits and pieces about women using cloth pads. Being the crazy and natural crunchy mama that I am, my interest was immediately piqued.

Shortly after our first child was born in 2008, before my monthly cycle returned, I bought a diva cup on a bit of a whim. I used it and liked it, but was still using a fair amount of disposable pads for extra protection in case of leaks, for over nights, and for when I was out of the house for extended periods of time.

I looked into cloth pads a bit more and decided I’d really like to try them. However, the budget was too tight at the time, and I’ve only had a handful of cycles in the last 6 years due to breastfeeding and pregnancy, so it was never a financial priority. Then, at my blessing way while pregnant with Canaan, I was gifted with six homemade cloth pads from a very dear friend.

When he was born a year ago, I got to try them out for the first time. In the earlier weeks when my flow was heavier, I would soak them within a few hours. These particular pads don’t have a waterproof layer, so I didn’t wear them out of the house in those weeks, just in case. Then as my flow lightened considerably, I was eventually able to wear one all day and not have any issues.

The Benefits

Oh. My. Goodness. I just have to say: comfort and period are no longer banned from the same sentence. Rather than having plastic and petroleum-based materials filled with all kinds of toxic chemicals in *that* area, I can have soft flannel and cotton.

There are countless anecdotal accounts of women who turn away from the disposable stuff to alternative options such as the diva cup and cloth pads who report that their cramps are lessened and their bleeding is not as heavy. There are tons of testimonies for cramps that were debilitatingly severe and then all but disappeared after switching to cloth.

Things like disposable pads and tampons (and disposable diapers, too!) contain dioxins, which are chemicals that “are toxic and are usually a by-product of plastics and chlorinated products. Dioxin is the most deadly man made chemical, second in line to radioactive waste“. Tampons have also been linked to increased rates of endometriosis and other fertility problems (source).

Wash & Care

Washing is simple – I drop it into the diaper pail and it washes with the cloth diapers. Done. If I were to use them while out of the house I’d just take a little wet bag along. Once I no longer have kids in diapers, I’ll probably have a much larger stash so that I can go longer between washing, and just do a little mini-load. It seems pretty easy to me. I also have friends who are perfectly ok with throwing them in with regular laundry.

Cloth pads are available in so many places now – there are entire companies devoted to making them, and there are scores of like-minded mamas making and selling them on places like Etsy.

Some women also use a natural sea sponge intended for menstrual care. Between that, the Diva Cup (plus other brands of the same idea), and all kinds of cloth pads, there are more than enough options that are healthier, more frugal, and more environmentally friendly.

My baby is almost 13 months now, and I am expecting my cycle to return any time now, if it follows the pattern of my first two kiddos. (I was going to warn you of TMI before I told you that, but I’m pretty sure we crossed that line approximately thirteen paragraphs ago).

I am considering making a shortlist of cloth pad companies and seeing if I can get one or two from each to try out, so I can report back to y’all some details and thoughts. Would this be something you’d be interested in reading at all? Which companies would you like me to try? Let me know in the comments below!

Have you ever tried a healthier option for menstrual care? Would you ever consider it?

(Edited & reposted from the archives: July 30, 2012)

I'm Beth. I created Red & Honey because I'm obsessed with the wild art of wellness.

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  1. Sarah says

    Party in my Pants are the kind that I use. They offer a free sample (or really cheap) and have great descriptions about shape. If you wear this kind of underware try this pad. Thong kind and different fabrics like flannel and cotton (winter and summer?) AND they include chocolate with your package. What else can you ask for!! I have only been using them for 3 or 4 cycles but I feel better. No leak issues except when one slid around a bit. I think that was operator error. I don’t have a crazy heavy flow tho. Just my 2 cents!

  2. Angie Peterson says

    Am I the only one who at first glance at the picture at the top thought you pictured a used clothe? Anyways, I’m intrigued and want to do more research before trying some. Thanks for the information!

    • says

      Um, yup, you’re the only one, lol! It’s definitely not a used one – in fact, they are sitting on top of my drying rack on some clean cloth diapers! :)

  3. says

    I’ve been making mine for a few years and used the cotton prefold as well. Now my favorite is actually just using pieces of felted wool sweaters. Super absorbant, comfy against my skin, stay in place really well, and so easy to wash out.

    • says

      That’s a great idea, Marissa! Do you ever have problems with leaking? Or are you just really good at remembering to change them? What about overnight?

      • says

        I have a pretty heavy flow so leaking is always a problem except with the Diva Cup (that includes any disposables as well) so yes, I’m good at remembering to change them:). I actually find that the wool is really good for at night if I make them long enough and with a few folds. I’m going to try to post a tutorial about it because they are so easy!

  4. says

    I am extremely heavy due to Endo and I use these:

    Epicerma moonpads are the best for absorption! I have tried many and these are my fav. I have been on them for 4 years. I have to say that it is WAY cheaper in the end then plastics. They last for years…and also they do take down on cramping and flow for most women. With Endo I did not have that benefit as much but for awhile it seemed to lessen the pain. And yes- absolute comfort!!!! The long extra absorbant are best for heavy flow…

  5. says

    Hi! Thanks for your post! I originally learned about the idea of cloth pads (not mama pads for me as I’m not a mama) from a pin I found on Pinterest. After researching them I decide I wanted to try making a couple and if I liked them, maybe start selling them.
    I loved the idea of cute patterns and soft cotton…but while I did like the way they looked, fit and felt I wasn’t too pleased with how they worked. I think the reason I found myself unsatisfied due to the fact that store bought pads pull the moisture away from you and I didn’t experience that. But I would love to hear what others have found out…maybe it was because I made my own.
    I am heading to Africa for two years as a missionary and would love to be able to take cloth pads, so I would enjoy hearing more input from those who have more experience using them!

    • says

      Well shoot, I really should not have called them mama cloth – how silly of me! Of course women who aren’t mamas can use them too. Sorry about that! I think it’s just a term used by mamas who do cloth diapering on their babies. Cloth for babies and cloth for their mamas :)

      I think the moisture issue might easily be solved by a different sort of material. The same goes for cloth diapers. For example, the cotton prefolds feel wet against baby’s skin, but a microfleece will wick it away. Wool also wicks moisture away beautifully. What kind of material did you use for yours?

      • says

        I totally understand the Mama Cloth! It’s a cute catchy name, it just doesn’t fit where I’m at right now! :)

        Thanks for the info about the types of material used…I wondered if that would help. I did wonder though if the microfleece would be too hot for the warmer months. But maybe it’s time I made a few more with a variety of materials and see which works best. They don’t take that long to make, it’s just a matter of finding some time!

        Thanks again for your post and for responding to my questions?

  6. says

    Love love love em! I am completely broke so after looking at a few varieties and ‘ouching’ at the price, I made my own. They are way way way better, especially since most companies don’t make the thong variety and being that I made them myself I was able to make my own thong style. . My stuff has never really been bad or heavy, lucky I guess, but I can attest that cramp isn’t even part at all anymore and it’s not ever very heavy or long lasting with cloth. . . I bet it’s a conspiracy somewhere. . Disposable brands making the periods last longer and they’ve gotta have the midol company in their pocket. . . Lol. . .

    By the by happy recent birthday. . . You old old girl you. . . Lol (as I say that and realize you are only 11 days older than me!)

    • says

      You know, I don’t doubt that the pad/tampon companies know about the cramping/increased bleeding issues. Unfortunately the bottom line rules, right? Yuck.

      Thanks so much for the birthday wishes – you are too sweet! :)

  7. Kelly says

    I’ve had luck with Talulah Bean and Domino pads–both have a super comfy fleece tops and were fantastic after the birth of my chid–especially sprayed with healing mama spray. . .

  8. says

    I use GladRags cloth pads, and I love them! I can use one all day no problem, and my bleeding has lessened. They’re so much comfier too. Plus I love never having to go to the store to buy pads again! Haha.

  9. Andrea says

    I just bought some mama cloth from a mama who was recommended by several people on a cloth diaper forum to which I belong. Her name is Gabriella and she has a FB page called Gabriella’s Family Products and they are wonderful! She is a WAHM and I love to support WAHM’s! It’s kind of odd, but when I started with PMS this time, I was kind of excited for AF to get here so I can try them out! LOL

  10. Rebekah says

    I would definitely like to know of companies that sell these. I’ve heard of this before but have not got into doing it yet but would love to know where to start.

  11. says

    I am the proud owner of a Diva Cup and cloth pads (Lunapads & Gladrags). The Diva Cup makes a period easy (it’s like it’s not even happening, it’s that comfortable for me!) And the cloth pads are much more comfortable, definitely better for delicate parts and cute if you have fun colors or prints.

    • says

      I don’t find my diva cup as comfy, but I think it’s just the way I’m shaped??? I do love my cloth pads though. And I’ll gladly still use a diva cup instead of tampons (yuck!!) :)

  12. says

    This is what I love about the blogging world – you learn something new EVERY day! I am a super active (exercise-wise) mom in Cali as are my kids. My daughter is only 11 and we haven’t (thankfully) crossed that bridge yet. It would be nice, when the time comes, to be educated about all of the options and start her on a healthier path at a young age. As for me, I should have definitely invested in P&G!!!!!

    Thank you for showing a healthier alternative.

  13. J.B says

    Great article! Whats Old is New. My grandmother,who
    would be 100, said they used soft cotton & flannel
    cloth. That is where term ‘on the rag’ came from. From their
    menstrual rags. Haha. So just hearing in last yr or
    so about the Diva cup and bought one. Not so great on the very
    heavy days…definitely need extra pad and have to empty
    frequently. The cloths might be great. However, girls
    what do you do, swimming etc.?? we live near beach so always beach & pool
    for us. Thanks for post

    • says

      Of course! Makes perfect sense – “on the rag”. Love it. For swimming I would probably use a diva cup, but if that’s not doing it for you, maybe you are inserting it wrong? It shouldn’t leak if used right, and emptied often enough.

  14. says

    Yes!! I am very interested in any info that you find!! I have tried softcup. I can only wear on lighter days. I am in dire need of anything that can help with lessening cramps, heavy flow, etc.!! Thanks!!

  15. Cait says

    I would love to see a round up of brands like that! I was interested but am now pregnant, so I have awhile to figure out what I’ll try next. I’m interested in the cups too, but they scare me as I never even used tampons!

    • says

      They aren’t too bad, especially compared to having a baby, haha! You can do it! :) And the cloth pads are not intimidating at all!

  16. Serena says

    I have been using mine for a few years now. They have held up really well. I honestly cannot remember which shop I bought them from, but it was a little shop on etsy. I have 6 of them now and I dont need any more. My cycle has shortened significantly down to 3 days tops, its gotten lighter and I rarely have any cramps. I did buy disposable pads for after Caleb was born. But it was so uncomfortable. This time I will be using my cloth ones after the baby is born.!

  17. says

    It seems so long since I regularly had a period but sure enough, a year to the day that Lewis was born, I started back up. I’m always happy, is that weird? Anyway, I’ve always used premie prefolds that I had used as doublers for my newborn diapers. But eventually I’d like to purchase or make some. I like how the Sckoon brand looks.

    • says

      Wow, to the day? Your body is very punctual. I already knew that, though, with your due dates :) I don’t think it’s weird to be happy… it’s a very womanly/empowering thing, I feel. Or maybe we’re just weird together, lol.

  18. Pamela says

    Two weeks ago I was conversing with a family member regarding Mama clothes. I have known anyone that has actually used them. A year ago I had never heard of them. I already use organic chlorine free pads. A year ago we began our journey so I am still learning. I told my family member I would have to find her friend and ask her about her experience, naturally, I was curious. This is a very well written article about a natural entity in our lives, if we can’t be open we can’t fully learn from each other. As I type, I am presenting this information to my fiance. He is utterly repulsed by the the idea.

    • says

      haha, Pamela. I’ve been married for nine years, had four babies and my husband has been a trooper for every birth and all the in between. But he still doesn’t like anything relating to Menstruation at all :)

    • says

      Haha! I would say that’s weird, but I think that perhaps we are the odd ones out in our society! Menstruation has a definitely “ick” reputation in our culture! It’s not really that bad though, honest. Disposable pads ick me out way more.

    • Pamela says

      I know my fiance. I know how his mind works. I made a presentation outlining the pros and cons as well as information regarding the issues surrounding the “convient” kind he’s use to. With that factor added by the fact that 2 of our 3 children are females and that this will effect them, he’s warmed up. His only request is that they be kept seperate from all other laundry. That’s kind of a “duh!”, lol.

  19. says

    I’ve been using cloth pads for a year now and love them! I have less cramping and chaffing (too much info, maybe?).

    I made mine using newborn bumgenius inserts (Farmer said our 4th was our last baby, so I thought “waste not, want not!). I covered them with microfleece and flannel.

    While I do have some leakage on heavy days, I also did with disposable pads too. I think it’s from me being too busy to think of changing the pad soon enough though.

    • says

      Ha, no such thing as TMI on R&H! :) I’m so jealous of all you crafty mamas who can sew your own pads – I have a bunch of unused prefolds that would be perfect, but alas I can’t sew!

      Thanks for sharing your experience!

      • Lisa says

        Well, with that being said. I would also love to see some resources for homemade patterns and/or instructions. Thanks for the post.

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