Going to work with cloth pads
Mrs. B of OneWeirdMamma.com
Before I went on my Maternity Leave I started researching all things reusable. Kiddo started off in cloth diapers, and I was on the hunt for reusable menstrual & breast pads for myself. If I was going to be away from work I was determined to save money where I could so my lower income wouldn’t kill our budget.
By the time my maternity leave was almost over and I was looking at going back to work there were 2 things I knew:
1. I was going to miss kiddo like crazy while I was at work
2. I wasn’t giving up my Tree Huggers!
As the time drew near for my return to work it looked like I would have a double whammy going back to work AND starting my cycle on the first week. In the end, at least taking my cloth to work has been easier than I expected.
Now a year and a half later here is what I’ve found are the ways I make it simpler & some of the cool benefits I didn’t expect.
Do you need a wet bag?
The first thing I thought about was how I would strategically hide all my used pads while I was at work. At home it was simple, I had a basket in the bathtub that they went in when they were used. But I didn’t think my boss would like me putting a basket out in the ladies public washroom or by my desk.
So I looked into wet bags, at first I used one that came with the cloth diapers I use on my son. It was large enough to fit the soiled pads and fit in my bag. It also had the benefit of being big enough that I could zip it closed around the used pads and still fold it around a couple cleaner ones.
What I do recommend is that you make sure the wet bag you have is big enough for a day's worth of pads (Read: "What size wet bag do I need?"). If you drive you can always stash the bag in the vehicle, but it is a lot more convenient if it is with you.
I've tried using a small dual pocket wet bag from Colibri but I find I like that one better for in my purse when I'm out and about and need something larger for at work.
And while I love my wet bag I also know this is a personal preference. When I was caught at work without my wet bag I have also stashed the used pad folded up and snapped closed in my purse without any issues.
How many pads will you need?
This answer depends on your flow and how often you want to wash your pads. When I went back to work I made sure I had the same amount of pads with me that I normally went through plus a few extras. (It's always nice to have some choice in your pretty options right?)
If you have a vehicle with you stashing some extras there can be helpful. I prefer to keep all my clean ones in my purse, usually up against my wet bag. When I used a dual pocket wet bag I kept leaves and a menstrual cup in the front pocket of my wet bag. But most of the time I just put them between two pads at the moment.
Going to the bathroom...
This is probably the aspect of having my cycle at work that bothered me the most previously. For some reason, I always felt fear and shame around using the washroom at work when I was bleeding. I felt the need to hide the fact that it was "that time of the month" and regularly would sneak off with a pad and tampon stuffed in some hidden sleeve or pocket to handle the necessary part of my hygiene.
With cloth, whether you are scared or not of someone seeing something, the process is really the same. Take your purse with you, change your pad, toss the used one in your wet bag and continue on with your day.
If you are comfortable with it, you could even just take your wet bag with you instead of your whole purse.
Or, stuff a pad into your bra, sleeve, pocket etc and do the same. Just keep in mind that the used one will have to get back to your wet bag as well.
The benefits I've noticed so far:
So among the many benefits that come with cloth pads, there are some that I've found to be important in my daily work schedule. The most obvious ones being things like:
I'm far more comfortable. Personally, I always found disposable products slightly scratchy and stiff and more than a little uncomfortable. With Tree Hugger Cloth Pads I find it feels more comfortable. And occasionally I will forget that I'm wearing a pad because they are just that much softer. It's not a constant annoyance in my pants anymore.
On top of the physical comfort of the fabric difference, I've also had my cycle regulate consistently and my flow has lightened. While I've heard that this happens for some it may not for all bleeders. For me, this means fewer days of cramps and fewer days of flow too.
The convenience is also much better, I never run out of pads because I just wash them. No more emergency runs to the store because "surprise" I started early that month. Or hadn't re-stocked my emergency supplies in my bag.
Plus have you ever gone to the washroom at work and the garbage bin was full in the stall? I never have to worry about making sure there is room in the garbage for my used pad because I know where it will go... right in the wet bag!
No crinkly wrapping paper... snapping on and off a cloth pad is a lot quieter. In our public washroom where other women are coming and going no one else can hear me changing my pad.
No Smell, even when I accidentally left my back up wet bag full of used pads in the van on a hot summer day I couldn't smell anything coming from them. I wouldn't recommend doing that btw. But having a wet bag of used pads just won't cause the same smell as one wrapped up disposable in the garbage can. I've also never been hit with a smell when changing out my pads either.
Confidence even when you gush... I work at a desk job, and can be sitting for hours at a time if I get deeply involved in what I'm working on. The problem with this is that when you stand up the "gush" happens. You know what I'm talking about. And I've had situations with disposables that didn't absorb enough quickly enough which can be embarrassing.
With cloth I've never had that issue, I sometimes still get the gush, but I've found the cloth pads handle it a lot better and it has given me so much more comfort and confidence when I need to stand up from my desk or in meetings.
I'm saving money while I make money. Since I've started using my Tree Hugger Cloth Pads I've saved more money on pads then I've spent. And these ones I already have will keep on going for years and years, so those savings will keep adding up.
The biggest benefit I've encountered:
The biggest benefit I've encountered so far though is definitely the confidence in my own cycle. It's not easy being a bleeder, but in an environment that encourages us to become more like non-bleeders I've found it freeing and empowering to do something that feels more like self-care then a punishment.
And no matter where you work from (Home, office, on-the-go, etc) I think we all deserve a lot more self-care in our days. Heck, it may even open up the opportunity to discuss self-care with some of your co-workers. I've certainly had some interesting conversations because I walked past with a pretty wet bag that made someone else curious. ;)
Final Thoughts on Cloth Pads at work:
In my experience, if you have used disposables at home you already know what and how to handle cloth pads at work. The biggest change will be that you take them home to wash instead of throwing them out.
And the process is just as simple and easy as using cloth at home. And quite frankly it can be a great mood booster to change out one pretty pad for your next one in the middle of a rough day.