My goal was to sit down and write a detailed post about the year my boobs have had, but the time it would take to compose such a post has not yet become available and I doubt it ever will, so I'm just going to break this all up into bite-size parts over the next however long it takes to tell this fabulous and woe-filled tale because this is good stuff and I'd hate for you to miss it.
So...breastfeeding, mastitis, thrush, sore nipples, leakage (of the milk variety), nursing bras, fond remembrances of days past...there's a lot to talk about.
Today, I have time to say cotton nursing pads are the way to go. They are available at most smaller, boutique-y baby shops and they will save you hundreds of dollars, as well as keep frivilous waste out of the landfill. They are also nicer to your nipples and that will become very, very important. Washing them is as simple as tossing them in with the baby clothes, though I would suggest giving them a little tug to straighten them out when they come out of the dryer to help straighten them out.
I should have a link to the nursing pads I have, but I have no clue who makes them. I got them at The Kid's Shop in downtown Corvallis. If you're in a town that has any cute, often independently-owned baby stores, they're bound to have cotton nursing pads of some sort. Lingerie boutiques that sell nursing bras will also carry reusable nursing pads.
I can't think of a single argument in favor of disposable nursing pads. They make little purse cases to carry any cotton pads that get wet, so there's your convenience. I had less than one box of disposable pads when I started--my sister sent me the remainder of the box she barely used--and there are still some floating around somewhere. Oh! I thought of a reason to have some on hand! Just like keeping tampons around for any surprises your non-pregnant friends might encounter, disposable nursing pads could come in handy if you have a lactating friend who springs a leak at your place.
I made it just fine with about 30 pads. It should cost less than fifty bucks to get all the pads you need for the life of your breastfeeding versus about ten dollars a week for disposables. Plus, you can stash them away after you're done using them and save them for your next baby, thereby saving even more money. If you forget to put the baby clothes in the dryer and, when you're getting ready to go to bed at night, find you have no clean nursing pads, a clean pair of socks or a folded handkerchief will work just fine.
There is, of course, the chance you will soak a pad and end up with wet spots on your shirt. This is not uncommon when your milk first comes in, regardless of which type of pads you choose. The easiest way to combat this is to wear a shirt that has some sort of print on it--the print will serve as camoflauge.
...and that's all we have time for tonight. Do a little research of your own and use your research as an excuse to visit your favorite little baby store. Make sure you ask questions at the store--most boutiques are staffed by extremely knowledgeable ladies (and men) who have been through all this before.
Next time: oh, the things that can go wrong...