Flat and prefold cloth nappies (or diapers) are the least expensive of the modern cloth nappy family, but by no means the worse for it. Prefold nappies are really just as easy to use as pocket diapers, and no more likely to leak, as long as you have a good nappy cover.
While prefolds can be used in much the same way as a flat nappy, with pins or a snappy to do them up, they can also simply be folded and placed inside a quality cover, much like a pocket nappy.
What are Prefold Cloth Nappies?
Prefold nappies are very like the old fashioned (but still perfectly functional) square or rectangular flat nappies, but with extra layers sewn in. Cotton prefolds typically have four layers on the outside panels and 6-8 in the middle. Which is better depends on a number of factors, such as how heavy a wetter you baby is, how quickly you want your nappies to dry, and how hot it is. Of course the thicker nappies will take longer to dry and are hotter. On the other hand, they are more absorbent.
Prefolds are usually made from cotton or a mix of cotton and hemp, or cotton and bamboo. Hemp and bamboo prefolds are usually made of 2-3 layers of fabric, as both fabrics are far more absorbent than cotton.
How to Use Prefolds
Prefold nappies can be wrapped around your baby like a traditional flat diaper, in which case you will need a snappi or pins to hold them together. Alternatively they can simply be folded into thirds and held in place with a well-fitted nappy cover. Either way they will need a good cover to keep them from leaking (this applies to all cloth nappies, except all-in-ones). For an older baby most people recommend using a snappi to hold the diaper in place, as once the baby gets more mobile the prefold will shift around and leaks onto the cover are more likely.
As with flat nappies, the best way to fold your prefold depends on whether you are folding it for a girl or a boy.
For a girl, to fold you prefold to fit into a cover without the need for snappies, you fill fold it in thirds so that each panel is folded into thirds and the thick middle panel still sits in the middle (as opposed to simply folding the two outer panels onto it).
For a boy, you can vary this so that you create more absorbency at the front. Fold one end of the nappy in about a quarter of the way (again, ensuring that you folding over the end of all three panels). Now fold both sides in to the half way mark. Turn the nappy over and place it into your cover, so that the smooth, unfolded side will rest against your baby.
You can also use a liner over the nappy to keep your baby’s skin dryer and ensure an easier clean up.
For more prefold folds, see How To Fold Prefold Nappies, Step-By-Step Instructions.
This video demonstrates four different ways to fold prefold nappies, both with and without a snappy.
Also Use Prefolds For…
Like flat nappies, good quality prefolds will last well past the nappy years of your first child, to be re-used not only for subsequent children but for burp cloths, for wiping up spills, for covering seats and even for blankets for your children’s dolls and teddies. They can also be used to as stuffers for pocket nappies, or as an extra layer in fitted nappies.
In short, no matter what form of cloth nappy you decide to use, a few prefolds in your nappy bag will never go astray.