Inside: An extensive guide to the different types of period or menstruation products your child can use for their first period. You’ll learn about the different types of products, how they work and why you may (or may not) want to use them. Plus how to find free samples and books about periods!
Pads, tampons, liners, period cups, sea sponges… the list goes on!
Eventually, a time comes when you need to think about what menstruation products (or menstrual products) you need to get for your child’s periods. By menstrual or period products, I mean something that will absorb menstrual blood ie pads, tampons, period cups, and sea sponges. And you might be surprised at how many different products for periods exist!
There are many names for menstruation…. periods, menses, your rags, your monthlies, that time of the month, the list goes on…..
But for this article, I’m just going to refer to them as ‘periods’.
You’ll find more information about puberty (and periods) in my Puberty 101 page.
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There are lots of different products for periods!
Walk down the ‘feminine hygiene’ aisle of any supermarket, and you will be surprised by the wide range of menstruation products that are now available.
It can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you are a dad, who won’t have any personal experience of using these sorts of things. And if you are a mum, it is highly likely that you won’t have used a pad for a long time, or are using menstrual products that just aren’t suitable for a young tween who is just starting out.
So don’t be surprised if you stand there in the menstrual products aisle and feel totally overwhelmed by how many different types of pads and tampons you can now find in the menstrual products aisle of the supermarket.
For a product that just absorbs blood, it has become very complicated! I’m not a coffee drinker, so for me, it feels a bit like ordering coffee at a coffee shop! Very overwhelming and tempting to just walk out and leave it for another day!
If you’re feeling unsure about how to talk to your child about periods, you’ll find some tips in this blogpost about the “period talk”.
The range of different products can be overwhelming!
Different types of menstruation products to use
There are a lot of menstrual products out there, but at the end of the day, it is just about pads and tampons.
Or period pants (which are the best period product for beginners). They are so good that I’ll talk about them first!
Period pants are the latest invention for menstruation products ie underpants with an absorbent leak proof crutch that absorbs the blood!
I guess you could also describe them as a pair of underpants with a built in cloth pad.
These provide extra security and will work as a liner or as extra backup when wearing a pad. Or you can use them instead of a pad and just let the underwear absorb and hold the blood.
What I love about them for young girls (or kids with a female body), is the extra surety that it gives them against leaking. Especially if they are stressing out about their first period or when they’ll next bleed.
And a lot of kids do worry about when they’ll get their first period. They worry that it will start and they won’t know about it. That they will bleed so much that it will stain their clothing. And that everyone will see the bloodstain and they will die of embarrassment.
This is a real fear. And the anxiety that some kids experience is high.
Period pants are the perfect solution. Especially if your child is worried about their period starting and staining through onto their clothing. They can wear period pants each day and feel safe knowing that if their period does start that they’ll be fine. As the period pants will absorb the blood (which means no stained clothing for everyone to see).
And then once they’ve had a few periods and their cycle is more regular and predictable, they can wear in the week leading up to their period. So they don’t get caught unexpectedly.
They even make period pants for swimming, which means that you don’t need to rush your daughter into using a tampon.
You can read more in this blogpost about the best period pants for girls.
Over the last couple of years, I have slowly been trialing some of the different brands of period pants. To see if they really do hold as much blood as they say, where they leak, and what they actually feel like. One brand did stand out from the crowd – Modibodi. These definitely outperformed the other brands that I tried. And they now have a range of tween and teen period pants available, which means smaller sized underwear that will actually fit your tweens.
You can watch the video below to learn more about why you should be getting some period pants for your child.
If you are looking at getting ready for your child’s first period, you will probably be starting with pads. They are the easiest of the menstrual products, for a beginner to use!
Pads are literally that ie a pad. They are a wad of something absorbent that is placed inside your underpants and absorbs blood as it comes out of the vagina.
So what are best pads for a first period?
That’s up to you, as everything is different. Plus choosing pads nowadays is no longer simple. There are a lot more options to choose from today.
Your child will need to experiment with some different types until you work out which ones are the most comfortable for them to wear.
The different options with pads include:
- wings or without wings
- different thicknesses – ultrathin / thin / night time
- different absorbency – light / regular / super / overnight /
- different sizes – teens / extra long / slim
- different fibres – cotton, silk cotton / cloth / bamboo / eco
Pads are usually held in place by a sticky adhesive strip underneath the pad (that you place on your pants – not your vulva). The wings, that come with many pads, are also adhesive and are there to help keep the pad in place (fold the wings down to the outside of the pants).
You can now buy special sized pads for teens and even smaller-sized sanitary pads for tweens.
It is a good idea to get your child to practice wearing pads on the weekends, just to get them used to putting them on and in wearing them.
There are lots of different types of pads available, with some that are more environmentally friendly and safer for children to use ie less bleach, perfumes, etc.
Cloths pads are specially made fabric pads that can be washed after each use and reused when dry.
They come in a range of different fabrics and designs and work just like regular pads.
After using them, they can be rinsed out and washed with your everyday clothing.
They also make them in teen sizes (which is the size I have photographed).
Are they a good choice when it comes to menstruation products for young tweens?
It depends, as it is a personal choice.
On a school day, will they be able to change their cloth pad during the day, store the used pad discretely and then remember to wash it at the end of the day?
Some tweens are happy to use cloths pads at school, and some aren’t. Some will use cloth at home (and disposable products at school). Whereas others will use cloth pads at night. Everyone is different.
Do cloth pads leak? Personally, I have found they don’t leak. They can absorb and retain quite a lot of blood before they leak. If you’re concerned about leaking, suggest to your tween that they test them on a weekend or during the night.
For reusable and environmentally friendly menstruation products, cloth pads are a viable option. Plus they are so pretty and colourful!
JuJu make a cloth pad that is very comfortable to wear with good absorbency.
You can find lots of tween and teen sized cloth pads on Etsy, with makers from all over the world.
Here’s some super cute ones that are suitable for tweens and teens.
Tips for using pads
If you don’t wear pads yourself anymore, it is a good idea to buy some and try them out again for a period or two. This is a great way to refresh the memory on what they are like to use, and also gives you some personal experience on which to base your advice! We all have favourite menstruation products that we tend to use, and what you like may not necessarily be the best choice for your tween.
It may take a while to work out what size, style and brand your child prefers. Just keep experimenting until you find the ones they like. Libragirl does a teen brand, and you will find plenty of options down the menstrual products aisle at the supermarket.
You’ll need a range of absorbencies with these types of menstruation products. Some people bleed lightly and evenly over 5 days. Some start light, bleed heavy for 1-2 days and finish by day 3. Or they might bleed heavy for 1 day, and then light for a day. Everyone is different.
Which brand for a young child who doesn’t have an adult-sized body?
In Australia, LibraGirl do a teen sized pad (I have looked but can find no other brand that markets a young girl/teen size). They are slightly narrower (10mm) than a standard libra pad but the same length. The slightly narrower width may make a difference for some girls. Also, nearly all of the menstrual products companies offer free trial/sampler packs – so start ordering the free samples now as it may save you a few dollars!
Johnson & Johnson emailed me back with what they recommend for young peoples – ‘The pad we recommend for young girls that do not have heavy periods is the STAYFREE* Ultra Thins Lights which come in a pack of 16.’
Wear pads with firm underwear so the pad sits closely to their vulva or they’ll get that sagging ‘over full nappy’ look. You don’t want the pad to flap around as leakages are more likely plus it may be more visible through their outside clothing.
You can also buy menstrual products called liners, which are a much smaller and thinner version of a pad.
They are usually worn at the end of a period. Or for those few days before your period is due.
Some people wear them as a daily item but I would discourage your child from doing this (unless using a cloth or eco liner). The vagina is supposed to discharge and there is never enough discharge for it to be visible through clothing. Plus liners do have things in them (like perfumes and other additives) that aren’t natural, so there is a greater risk of thrush and other vaginal infections.
Here’s some handmade cloth liners from Etsy, with some disposable and re-usable options below.
Tampons, just like pads, come in different sizes and absorbencies – slim, regular, super, flexible. Some come with cardboard applicators.
They are inserted into the vagina so that you are left with the string hanging out. The string is then used to pull the tampon out.
Tampons take a bit of practice to get used to using them, so they are not ideal for starting out with. And then there is always the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, which is uncommon, but still a risk that needs to be discussed.
Personally, I wouldn’t even think about buying tampons for a couple of periods (unless your child swims regularly or is active with sport). They need to get used to using pads first and to eventually be more ‘vagina friendly’ ie quite comfortable with sticking their fingers into their vagina to get tampons in and out. If they can’t fully insert their finger into their vagina, then they will struggle with using tampons.
If your tween needs to start using tampons because of sport, they may be better off starting off with the tampons that come with cardboard or plastic applicators or the tampons with silky covers. You want something that will glide in easily. And make sure your child doesn’t start practising with them when they’re not menstruating – it will be a very dry and uncomfortable experience! They need to be bleeding, and it is easier if they try on a day when they’re bleeding more heavily.
Also try reflecting back on your own experiences and memories of using tampons for menstruation products. Inserting your first tampon is stressful, and the more you stress, the tighter the pelvic floor muscles become, which means that it is harder to insert the tampon.
And what about the hymen? Well, there is some research that says that the hymen (now called the vaginal corona) which is supposed to cover the entrance to the vagina, doesn’t really exist. You can read more about that here and the original report here.
You can also buy reusable tampons that are either crocheted or knitted or out of cotton fabric. Now, I have not used any of these products and I don’t know about the risk of TSS with them. So make sure you do your own research first!
Another menstruation products that you may have heard about is the menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are squishy cups that are placed inside your vagina and collect the blood. They don’t sit as high up in the vagina, as a tampon would.
Menstrual cups can be a bit tricky to use and take practice. You won’t usually find them in the menstrual products aisle at the supermarket. You will find them in a chemist or online.
Like tampons, I would not suggest these as the first product for children. They need to be really comfortable with inserting their fingers into their vagina, and with the blood involved. They can be a bit messy to use!
Juju makes menstrual cups in 4 different sizes, with a smaller cup (Model 1) that is often the first cup for many teens. So the JuJu period cups are definitely worth checking out as they have a cup to suit almost any type of vagina! It’s the brand that I use myself (I like the ethos of the company plus it is a comfortable cup to wear!).
There are many different brands of period cups, with many now being sized for teens (with the ones below all receiving positive feedback).
For a more natural menstruation products, there are sea sponges. Sea sponges can be used as an alternative to tampons or menstrual cups. They are natural sea sponges that are cut into different shapes and sizes. They are used moist, and are inserted into the vagina to absorb blood.
In Australia, sea sponges are no longer sold for the use of tampons, so you need to buy them for another purpose or online. They are not a product that I would recommend for young children and I would suggest that tweens are comfortable with tampons before they even think about using sea sponges. And of course, to find out as much as you can before making a decision about using sea sponges. I found a really nice review of sea sponges for menstruation products here.
Make sure your child has a period kit (with menstruation products inside) in their schoolbag. Periods usually (not always) start two years after the first appearance of soft pubic hair. You can learn more from this blog post about the 3 signs that your child is about to start her period.
A period kit has the things in it that kids may need for managing their period at school. You can learn more from this blog post about how to make a DIY period kit with your child.
They are a pretty simple thing to make up and is something that the two of you can do together! The sooner that you start looking at menstruation products together, the more prepared they’ll be.
And if you are looking for the perfect bag to hold it all, check out the period bags from Raigan J. They are just the right size for a tween to hold all they need and are designed for easy use.
Or you can buy some period kits that are already made up.
Depending on what part of the world you live in, you may be able to order some free period samples. I have asked the parents in my free facebook group, that parent group, if it is a thing in their country, and it only seems to happen in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In the USA, all the period starter kits seem to be paid (not free).
In Australia, Libra Girl offer a free Libra Girl Starter Pack that I was pretty impressed with. My daughter especially liked the cute colourful pen and the case that it came in! It came with 2-3 samples of their age-appropriate liners, pads, tampons and their tampon applicator. (I haven’t bought tampon applicators for years but they now come with a plastic applicator!!!!) Their slimline tampons are tiny! Smaller than my little finger!
In Australia, schools or organisations can also order an eco resource kit that contains a menstrual cup, period pants, reusable cloth pads, disposable all-cotton pads and teaching resources from the Sustainable Period Project. This is an amazing resource that a mum shared to me from that parent group.
U by Kotex also have free period kit samples that you can order. You choose a product, with a limit of 4 per household.
Carefree also have free period product samples listed on their site.
You can find free sample period product samples in the United Kingdom from Wow Free Stuff. There is also this school-based Puberty Education Program in the United Kingdom, that provide kits for schools, but I can’t find any kits for parents to order for themselves (sorry).
Please do let me know if you learn of any other free period samples, and I will add them to the list.
Resources to help with talking about puberty
My mission is to create resources that will help you to naturally talk to your kids about sex, all while respecting your personal values.
Which means that inside this website, you’ll find lots of resources to help you with talking to your child about puberty.
My Puberty 101 page includes all of the information on puberty. You’ll find lots of different blog posts to help with talking to your child about growing up.
You’ll find videos about puberty in my Sex Education Videos resource page that you can watch with your child or to learn more about puberty yourself.
You’ll also find an extensive range of children’s books on puberty, for kids of all ages.
If you get stuck and feel that you need some extra support with talking to your child about puberty, then my book, The Parents’ Guide to Puberty, may be helpful. It’s a straightforward common sense guide that will help you to start having honest conversations that will guide your child through puberty, and strengthen your relationship without feeling embarrassed, awkward or nervous.
Or maybe you’re looking for a video course to sit down and watch together with your child. My friend Rowena from Amazing Me has created a fantastic 2 part interactive course for parents/carers to attend together with their 9 to 12 year old. It’s fun, educational and age-appropriate! You can learn more about her puberty course here.
If you have a child who is expecting their first period, then you may want to consider period pants. Period pants are fantastic for kids who are worried that they won’t know that their period has started until it stains through their clothing for the world to see. My favourite brand for tweens and teens is ModiBodi, as they are good quality and quite absorbent.
If you need some help with explaining sexual intercourse to your child, then How to Talk to Kids About Sex will help you explain sex to your child in a way they will understand. It breaks sex down into simple steps that take the stress out of explaining!
If you’re unsure about how to answer your child’s questions about sex, then I have the perfect book for you! The Sex Education Answer Book will give you age-specific answers to the most common questions kid’s ask parents about sex. Which means you don’t need to worry about finding a child-friendly explanation that your child understands.
And if you get stuck, feel free to get in touch! You can contact me here.