Those of you who know me in real life may want to skip past this post. It's a little... TMI. The internet is a vast resource of information, but sometimes you just don't want to know that about someone, even if you can close the tab and walk away!
But I'm going to brave it, and talk about cloth menstrual pads.
(By the way, why is a woman's cycle such a taboo thing to talk about? Probably a post for another day...)
Most of my post-menarche life, I've used disposable pads or tampons. I was not aware of there being any other choice. I heard vague, whispered talk of the "old days" when women had to use "belts" of some description to anchor some device in place, but it sounded bizarre and so difficult! What could be easier than opening a cute little scented package, sticking it in your underwear and going about your day?
Well, if I was entirely honest, part of my discomfort during my periods was the sticky-backed plastic pads in the first place. I was super excited when I heard about Mooncups, and immediately bought one.
No more pad issues, fewer changes at the toilet (sometimes I could go all day without changing) and a single purchase that would last me years.
After having my fourth child, moving into a house with a laundry room, and a generous friend who gave me her cloth nappy stash, I became more committed to using cloth in general. I stopped buying disposable whatsits and have now even converted to cloth dishrags rather than plasticky sponges.
It suddenly hit me that if I was happy to use (and wash!!) cloth nappies, what real difference was there in using cloth pads for myself? Well, when it comes down to it, not very much.
I was kicking around the idea of using cloth, mentally planning how I would run the operation and if I would buy a set or make my own, and wouldn't you know it? My period, absent after almost 3 years, decided to renew our relationship. Ah.
I dug out a pack of disposable pads, and after half a day, I realised that I HATE them. For various reasons I'm not using the Mooncup right now (there's a TMI limit that even I don't want to cross!) so my choices were:
1. Buy a set of pads from a UK company and get them delivered post-haste. No matter where I looked, a set of pads would cost £40 and more. Much, much more. Call me cheap, but no thanks. I don't care how cute your fabrics are.
2. Make my own, from fabric I have in the house and using the plethora of free pad patterns available online. I am suffering from extreme sewing machine aversion right now (I go through phases) and just can't summon the energy to turn my machine on. I have a tough life, I know. Le Sigh.
3. Pilfer some cloth nappy items that are just sitting up in the loft, doing nothing.
I chose option 3, but before you get all concerned that a grown woman managed to snap on a cloth nappy around herself and start reaching for the "get me out of here before her brand of crazy reaches through the internet and infects me, too" button: No, I did not use an ACTUAL nappy. I used these:
Which are not very different in composition and size to these:
So there you have it.
If you don't want to use chemical-laden disposable pads or tampons during your cycle, you might want to consider the simpler/cheaper alternative of cloth pads. You only have to buy them once, and they last for many years.
Once used, chuck them in a container of cold water and baking soda (yes, I use it for everything) to soak until the container is full, and then put them in a cold wash. Done.
It's not any messier/grosser/more of a hassle than any other method of catching or absorbing. It works out cheaper and you aren't sending waste to landfills that will take eons to decompose.
You just might like it!