motherhood, Postpartum

Alternatives to Tampons and Pads: Making the Switch to Better Period Products

The Truth about Periods, Pads, and Tampons

Do you remember that time the boys and girls were separated for a special series of middle school health class? There was awkward talk about sex, boobs and vaginas. I even remember talking about how friendships could change and hormonal girl fights. I remember hearing about how you would be wearing a tampon and/or pad to soak up the blood and how everyone has that one time blood gets through and creates an embarrassing moment. What I don’t remember anyone talking about is how standard brands of tampons and pads can be full of toxins, how uncomfortable they can be, how the fill up landfills and how there are actually other options. I did not learn about tampon alternatives.

To be fair, “other” options weren’t as prevalent at that time, but you’re in luck because now there are so many more options for how you treat your vagina well and honor the feminine time. Whether you despise or don’t mind your menstrual cycle, having a way to deal with it that feels good is important.

Related: Am I Ready for Sex After Giving Birth?


are pads and tampons full of toxic chemicals and are they safe to use

Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links which means that at no extra cost to you, Postpartum Together may receive a small commission from any purchases made on this page. Good news- we only recommend things we love to use ourselves and products/services that don’t suck. 

Why You Need to Ditch Most Pads and Tampons

Your vaginal walls are very permeable. This means that anything near them can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. While chemicals sprayed on cotton may not have a big impact on the tshirt you’re wearing, putting that cotton into you through your vagina runs greater risk. Having that cotton (and other elements we’ll discuss) resting on the vulva and opening of your vagina means that the toxins that are present in that pad or tampon have more access to your bloodstream and body.

Toxins Found to be Present in Pads and Tampons

Currently (August 2020) only the state of New York requires ingredients to be disclosed on packaging of period products. (Read about the recent bill signed by Governor Cuomo). Because tampons and pads are seen as “medical products” there is no regulation and no federal bill stating that ingredients must be disclosed. This is a problem when it comes to products that go inside or near your vagina. According to Women’s Voices for the Earth 2018 testing, “Previous testing of tampons and menstrual pads have found pesticide residue, parabens and phthalates linked to hormone disruption, antibacterial chemicals like triclosan, and various carcinogens including styrene and chloroform.” This alone is an alarm to find a tampon alternative.

Let’s say you have your period from the ages of 13-53. That’s 40 years of periods and 12 periods a year. Let’s take out 3 years of no periods if you have 2 children. 40×12=480 -36 =444. Four hundred and forty four periods. Four hundred and forty four days of wearing something inside of you for 5(ish) days. That’s 2,220 days of products inside of you (or lining your vulva). With that frequency, it makes sense that you would want to protect and be mindful of what you’re using.

With chemicals, pesticides, dyes and sometimes fragrances compromising tampons and pads, that’s a lot of exposure. If you haven’t thought about this before, don’t beat yourself up or feel ashamed. We aren’t taught this in health class. Most of the time this isn’t mentioned to us by our PCP or OBGYN. There is a lack of education and support surrounding women’s reproductive health and in an ideal world we wouldn’t even have to think about whether the products made for our bodies are safe. You’re here now- hooray! It’s never too late to make positive changes.

Waste of Pads & Tampons

Not only are feminine hygiene products unregulated and containing potentially harmful chemicals, they create a lot of waste. I know, there are a lot of things that create a lot of waste, but this is one step each of us can take to cut down on our waste. Not only do the actual products create waste, but plastic tampon applicators and pad wrapping also creates waste (read more from National Geographic here).

Save Money with Tampon Alternatives

I like to keep things honest so I’m going to tell you truthfully- there are options that are going to be cheaper than your regular tampon and pad purchases (like using a reusable menstrual cup) and there are options that will be more expensive (like having 4-5 pairs of period underwear) so if price is the major factor for you, switching to a cup is going to be what saves you the most money.

Related: First Period After Baby

What to Use for Your Period Instead


do menstrual cups work


do thinx period underwear actually hold all your blood

Period Underwear as Tampon Alternatives

Pros: Non-intrusive, nothing to change in and out all day, eco-friendly, reusable, prevents accidental leaks
Cons: Harder to have on hand for emergencies, More expensive

Menstrual Cup as Tampon Alternatives

Pros: Cheapest option, eco-friendly, reusable, toxin-free silicone
Cons: Messy, Some believe it can cause TSS (though very unlikely, read more here)

Washable Pads as Tampon Alternatives

Pros: Reusable, nothing in and out all day
Cons: Hard to stay in place, easy to leak

Related: Finding a Pelvic Floor Therapist and Why You Need One

Why I Choose Thinx for Period Care

Recently I upped my period game and made the switch to Thinx Period Panties. While I’ve been free of disposable period products for years now, this was a step from using mostly cups to now primarily using the underwear. First, I bought one pair to try them out. I noticed that the absorbance exceeded my expectations, they were comfortable to wear, I didn’t experience the “stink” throughout the day and didn’t feel gross and wet. My husband even commented on how cute they were. This is more than I can say for any other type of period product. ALSO while I haven’t personally had this experience, I’ve been told they are GREAT for postpartum bleeding once you graduate from the momma diapers!

As a previous cup user, I really enjoyed not needing to empty my cup, get blood on my hands, find a sink, etc., especially in public places. Along with how convenient and effective they are, I also feel great about supporting a company committed to eradicating the taboo of postpartum and providing effective solutions around the world. Have questions about using Thinx for your periods? You can find all my Q&As on my personal Instagram. Head to the profile highlights and find “Thinx!” and check back to the blog as we share more information about Thinx, periods, postpartum and more!

If you want to try Thinx for $10 off your order, you can find my favorite style and all the details here!


why should you switch to period underwear
Postpartum, Pumping

Your Breasts After Pregnancy and Giving Birth: What You Need to Know

Engorged Boobs, Nipple Pain, Breastfeeding and More

I thought it was as easy as choosing whether I wanted to breastfeed or not. I considered things like how long I had off of work and if I would be comfortable breastfeeding in public. We considered the financial tradeoff, my family’s history, my friends opinion. What I didn’t know the factors could include so many boob problems like mastitis, thrush, insufficient glandular tissue, D-MER, nipple pain, engorgement and more. My breasts after pregnancy came with a number of surprises.

We talk a lot about how you choose to feed a baby. Nursing, formula, pumping, combination. But, we don’t talk much about all the issues that can be part of that decision. The breast issues that can occur after birth can be painful and isolating and they are often still taboo. This post is meant to introduce topics, not go deeply into each.

Breasts After Pregnancy are Not One Size Fits All 

By being aware of these, the goal is that we are more understanding of our bodies (boobs primarily), understand the complexity of feeding choices for ourselves and for others, and speak more openly about a part of our bodies that is often taboo.

 

Note: At Postpartum Together we are team “Take care of you and your family in the way that suits you. There is no one way to feed a baby.” With this in mind, we will refer to problems that can occur both while breastfeeding and/or in the process of stopping milk production. We believe in YOU and the choices you make. It is important for you to be informed and supported throughout your entire motherhood journey- with no one best way to mother.

 

mastitis, thrush, engorgement breastfeeding

Disclaimer: This is not intended to be medical advice, please talk with your providers about any issues or questions you may have. Also, this post contains affiliate links which means, at no extra cost to you Postpartum Together may receive a commission for items purchased from this page.

When Boobs Aren’t Sexy

Chances are, your breasts have been seen by yourself, your partner and/or others at some point in your life as a sex appeal. Breasts are part of the dominant sex narrative of our culture and are often deduced to an object of attraction. With the complicated meaning given to our breasts as we first form them in adolescence and all through our lives, the changes and function of breasts after pregnancy can feel confusing. For many women, it is unsettling to discuss difficulties related to boobs because of two narratives: 1. The sex appeal of breasts and 2. The “Natural” language surrounding breastfeeding.

Body Image and Breasts After Pregnancy

It is okay for you to explore how the changing function of your breasts after pregnancy impacts you as your consider body image and emotional response. It may take time for you to decide how you want your breasts to factor into your motherhood experience and how that impacts both you and your partner.

When we take into account how celebrated a bikini model picture is and how shamed a breastfeeding in public picture is, we can see that there is a general societal discomfort with the functionality of breasts. Whether or not you choose not to breastfeed, you still face the changes your breasts experience in form, shape and size.

RELATED: Sex After Baby, Am I Ready?

Some Boobs Can’t Produce Enough Milk for Feeding

IGT

An uncommon, but real and unspoken breast issue is Insufficient Glandular Tissue. This occurs when the mammary tissue doesn’t develop properly in adolescence. The lack of tissue results in the breasts no producing any milk or producing a very small amount. This is an uncommon issue, but very real and important for us to know as professionals, friends, and mothers. You can learn more about IGT on KellyMom

Endocrine System

Some health problems impacting the endocrine system may have an impact on the hormonal release necessary for milk production. Health problems like PCOS, thyroid (high or low), diabetes, hypertension may factor into the body’s ability to produce milk.

Boobs Can be Physically Painful

Regardless of your choices around breastfeeding (if you do, how you do, how long you do), the body producing milk in reaction to birth can be difficult. From planning to breastfeed to planning to dry up milk supply, there are things to consider as your boobs physically change. Your boobs after pregnancy can create painful situations you want to be aware of.

Engorgement:

Engorgement is the fullness of the breasts that can make the breasts hard and painful. This often happens when milk starts to come in (around day 3-5) and can happen throughout a feeding or weaning journey.

Engorgement can be tricky because you want to relieve the fullness and possible pain without stimulating the body to produce more milk. If you are choosing to not breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding, engorgement can be a painful part of telling your body to stop making milk. Engorged breasts after pregnancy can also lead to plugged/clogged ducts which can be uncomfortable or painful. This article from The Bump provides good information on engorgement.

Mastitis:

Mastitis feels like the flu on steroids. An inflammation of tissue, mastitis can also turn into an infection. Bacteria entering a cracked nipple or clogged milk ducts can lead to mastitis. This is one of the issues that can require medication to heal. It can happen as your milk is coming in and your milk supply is not regulated, when baby goes through a nursing strike, when you begin wearing tight-fitting tops again, or any other point in a feeding or weaning journey (when weaning or choosing not to breastfeed, work with a professional to decrease milk supply and avoid clogged ducts). You can learn all about Mastitis in this Healthline Article.


Thrush:

Thrush can happen in different areas of the body throughout life- it is not exclusive to boobs after baby. However, thrush can come along with milk and feeding choices. This is another issue that can require medication and special treatment. You often can feel thrush on/in/around your nipples and with a stinging pain throughout the breast. This is from candida yeast and can be passed between you and baby (if you are nursing) or you and the pump (if you are pumping). Learn the signs and treatment of Thrush here.

 

Breasts after Pregnancy Can Cause Emotional Reactions

 


Why do I feel sad when I start breastfeeding

With D-MER, we are not talking about the kind of emotional reaction you felt when you walked by a frat house in that sexy top you bought in college. We are talking about DMER- Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. DMER is the onset of negative emotions, sometimes describes as depression, anxiety, anger, annoyance, upon a let down. DMER is physiological, not psychological. This is not an indication of a direct feeling towards feeding, but a hormonal reflex (quick drop of dopamine). Some women say it feels like a pit that hits the stomach and a wave of sadness. This usually only lasts a few moments at and following a letdown. You can learn more about DMER here.

RELATED: What is Maternal Ambivalence?

Making Boobs Less Taboo

On the quest to make boob issues less taboo, it takes a group effort. It takes professional who prepare women for birth and postpartum bringing up these topics and potential struggles. It takes professionals, such as lactation consultant, postpartum nurses, etc., being educated in and openly discussing the issues that may arise during the choice of breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. This requires us, as women and the collective of mothers, sharing our experiences and stories without the fear that our boobs are “broken” or a “failure.”

Can we commit to normalizing the conversation around breasts way beyond swimsuit magazines, push up bras and sexual desirability? What if instead we made room for the conversation around the many changes that happen to and within the boobs and how that impacts us mentally, physically, and emotionally? This is the way we make breasts and specifically breasts after pregnancy less taboo and a more natural part of our lives.

Related: Finding Counseling Support for Perinatal Mental Health

Resources for Breastfeeding

If you are choosing to breastfeed and are looking for resources, you can find some of my favorites here:
Pumping/Back to Work Class

Exclusively Pumping Class

Breastfeeding Cookbook

Breastfeeding Planner

Get Your Free Pump through Insurance

Pumping Must-Have

Beaugen Breastpump Cushions

Postpartum

Maternal Ambivalence: Mixed Feelings About Being a New Mom

Am I a Bad Mom for Feeling Maternal Ambivalence?

Do you feel like motherhood is not pure bliss 100% of the time? Is your joy is mixed with resentment and grief? ⁣Do you have 𝘮𝘪𝘹𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 about motherhood? ⁣ Are experiencing maternal ambivalence? What does that mean and what does it say about you as a mother?

If this is you, chances are you feel a sense of shame or guilt about these feelings. It ss easy to feel like you are the only one going through an uncomfortable experience, especially the kind not many people talk openly about. Believe it or not, maternal ambivalence and what you are experiencing is probably more common than you know. This post will discuss what maternal ambivalence is, why you may have mixed feelings about motherhood, whether or not this makes you a bad mom, and how to work through conflicting emotions regarding motherhood.

a is for ambivalence postpartum together postpartum coach

What does Ambivalence Mean?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ambivalence means:

having two opposing feelings at the same time, or being uncertain about how you feel.

  • I felt very ambivalent about leaving home.

  • He has fairly ambivalent feelings toward his father

  • She has an ambivalent attitude to exercise

Ambivalence describes this opposition of feelings we can have simultaneously. When we discuss maternal ambivalence, this is the opposing or conflicting feelings regarding motherhood, ones role as a mother, you children, or a mix.

What if I don’t Always Love Motherhood?

It can be hard to say out loud, to say to another person, but likely there are times you don’t love motherhood and things you don’t love about it. Motherhood requires us to continually balance our children’s needs with our own needs for growth.

In a day full of gleeful social media feeds and “good mom” expectations, you might not feel safe in your conflicting feelings. ⁣

Motherhood comes with a long list of things to do, shortened time for the self, and a roller coaster of emotions. ⁣

𝗠𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗮𝗺𝗯𝗶𝘃𝗮𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗺𝗶𝘅 𝗼𝗳 𝗹𝗼𝘃𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘆𝗲𝘁 𝗮 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗹𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲𝘀.

⁣Maybe someone says birth is “love at first sight” and you are filled with other emotions when your baby is first handed over to you.
Maybe your child’s need is keeping you from a job, a friendship, your partner, quiet time… things that make you feel resentment or anger even though you surely love your child.

Maybe someone says “isn’t motherhood just the best?!” and it leaves you wondering if you’re broken because you don’t always feel that way. ⁣

𝗬𝗼𝘂 𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻’𝘁 𝗯𝗿𝗼𝗸𝗲𝗻.

The system of unrealistic expectations of the “good mom” is broken and ambivalence can be a very normal part of motherhood. ⁣

There are many things you don’t expect about postpartum, as discussed in the 10 Things No One Tells You About Postpartum, and those things can both take us by surprise and also create negative feelings towards motherhood.

Related: Postpartum Planner

I have Mixed Feelings Because I Miss My Old Life

Motherhood changes everything, and it changes it quickly. Mixed emotions are a part of any big change, yet it seems like with motherhood there isn’t room for these conversations and topics.

I first heard of maternal ambivalence when I was pregnant with my second child and it felt like a relief to learn about. It still felt “icky” and “unpleasant” to consider and I felt guilty even considering it. Heck, even today as I write I feel like there is darkness and guilt tied to thinking about the role ambivalence can play into our motherhood. And yet, the language that gives a name and permission to the resentment, boredom, anxiety in the midst of joy, love and gratitude. The term maternal ambivalence allowed me to realize this wasn’t something flawed in me. It was, and it is, a very natural reaction.

what does it mean if I have mixed feelings about motherhood with a new baby

I love My Baby But I’ve Lost My Identity

When we care deeply about things, we have emotional reactions. For many of us, there are things about ourselves and our reality pre-baby that we love. Maybe you love your career. You love your outings with your best friends. Or maybe you love spontaneous travel with your partner. It could be your love for reading a book in your PJs all weekend.

Then, motherhood hits and things we know, the things we love, are turned upside down. Being sad about the loss of those things doesn’t take away your ability and the reality that you love your child. It means you have mixed emotions worth recognizing.

While you are working through the change of your identity in many ways, you’re now taking on the identity of a mom. The opportunities for judgement and self-doubt run wild in our current society.

How does a good mom feel after birth?
How does she feel about her baby? Herself? Her changed life?
What are the things she does, says and feels that makes her a good mom?

Related: New Baby, Lost Identity

Society And Motherhood: Contributor to Ambivalence?

 Chances are, if you’re a mom, you want to be a good mom.

And truth is there are many messages, marketing structures and stories try to tell you what it means to be “good.” These messages pull you in different directions. The tell you that you need to DO more and BE more and BUY more. They tell you that there are 187 steps to being a good mom and this can set you up for failure. So now, not only have you lost a part of your identity, but society is constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough at this new part of your identity. It is no surprise if you feel anxiety, boredom, guilt and resentment even while feeling connected and loving towards your baby.

In the American society, maternity leave policies suck for the most part. Women are expected to breastfeed, lose the baby weight, get back to sex, pick up their jobs as usual and more in just weeks.
What.
The.
Fresh.
Hell?

Related: Am I Ready for Sex After Baby?

Motherhood and the Workplace

A mom who chooses to breastfeed but has a short maternity leave then often returns to an office with a less-than-accommodating pumping room and judgement for taking pumping breaks. Yet a woman who decides to cease breastfeeding “didn’t try hard enough” to “give her baby the best.” (Quotes indicate society terms, not my beliefs.)

A mom who wants to lie-in and spend time resting and recovering from childbirth is often frowned upon by a society that says you need to get newborn pictures, take your baby to meet the family, join a moms’ group and more before their 2 month birthday.

A mom who decides to heal her body from the inside out- starting with emphasis on pelvic floor and core recovery and “smaller” movements is often preyed on by weight-loss companies urging her to get her “body back.”

And all of these situations create a narrative that you aren’t doing well enough as a mom. How can we blame you, then, when you have ambivalence? When you long for the things you knew how to control, how to do well, and had spent years mastering? When you wanted a break from the pressure, the crying, the needs?

Related: Myths About Motherhood

You Can be A Good Mom and Feel Maternal Ambivalence

You can be a good mom and feel ambivalence. Having conflicting emotions about motherhood does not make you a bad mother. It makes you a human who doesn’t want to lose sight of her own existence and who wants to be able to grow her child and herself. You feel the joy and gratitude of motherhood while also recognizing the difficulty that can come with it. It is okay to recognize the loss of so many comforts and routines you once knew.

Personally, I believe this ambivalence can be recognized, appreciated and serve as a tool in the future. As am ambivalent mother, you have the experience and power to teach your children one day that it’s okay to have conflicting feelings. You can teach them to listen internally and not drown out their own voice. This is an opportunity to teach your children to make choices even when emotions are contradicting. You can teach them that good and bad, negative and positive, can co-exist. You can teach them to care both for themselves and for others even when it’s messy.

Momma- I believe that your ambivalence doesn’t have to take away from your motherhood journey. It can be a powerful part of it.