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|how many do you need? what fabrics are availabe and what works best? what do you do when you're out? what features are good/bad?
You need as many pads and pantiliners as the disposables you would use on your heaviest day, multiplied by the number of days you go without doing laundry. (You can wash them in with your regular laundry, in cold water to avoid stains. I put mine in a zippered mesh bag so they don't get lost amid bigger items.) You need only one cup; just don't forget where you put it!
I think flannel is most comfortable against my skin. The best absorbency I've found is terrycloth or hemp fleece for the inner layers. There are a lot of cloth pads with synthetic microfleece next to your skin, but I don't use those because the stuff has never been safety-tested, and I'm wary of microfibers in my most delicate areas.
I use cloth pads only at home or on short outings when I won't need to change. I use a cup (Keeper) and cloth pantiliner the rest of the time. When I empty the Keeper in a restroom where I can reach the sink, I rinse it, but in a stall I just blot w/TP and reinsert. It's unusual for me to have enough leakage that I need to change pantiliners, but if I do I fold the used one wet-side-in and snap the wings around it, tuck it in the inside pocket of my purse, and rinse it ASAP after getting home.
There are so many different styles of pads, I think the best approach is to try one of each kind that sounds good and then order more of your favorites! One thing I do want to mention is length: If you walk a lot, unless you wear very tight panties, you want pantiliners at least 6" long and pads at least 9" long, because as you walk they tend to migrate slowly backward...and that is not something you can correct discreetly!
Oh, also, look for pads (esp. for heavy flow) that don't have stitching along the crease between the middle part and the wing, esp. stitching through a waterproof layer. If you have a big surge of flow, the watery part will go right through the stitch holes.
I wouldn't bother with Instead cups. They're a very different shape, so they don't give an accurate impression of what the Keeper/Diva/Mooncup is like. Also, both Keeper and Diva (not sure about Mooncup) have a money-back guarantee, so you can try it out without wasting money. The only thing Insteads are good for IMO is stashing in various places in case a period starts unexpectedly--they CAN be reused a few times, so just one will get me home to my Keeper, whereas if I stash tampons I need to stash 3 of them.
The explanation I've heard for why a reusable cup shortens your period is that it creates a mild suction that helps the flow come out, whereas a tampon blocks it up and a pad is kind of neutral. I've had shorter periods with the Keeper (3-4 days) than I did with tampons (6 days), but if I use cloth pads for most of my period that lengthens it by a day or so.
|Also, this is hard to describe until you experience it, but most of what you bleed never makes it to the pad. it stays inside until you go to the bathroom and pee, the peeing action is enough of a kegal to push it out so it goes into the toilet instead of on the pad.
That's interesting but definitely not universal. I bet it depends on the amount of flow and maybe also on certain details of your anatomy.... I have a heavy flow, and although I do get a sort of surge when I pee, I can soak a cloth pad in an hour or two.
Hope this is helpful! I love reusables!