Folding a Prefold Cloth Diaper
- What: Methods on folding prefold diaper inserts
- Why: They don’t come with directions
- Where: On the changing table, on your baby, or anywhere you find a flat surface
Wait a minute! What?!? It’s called a prefold. Isn’t that because it’s already folded for me?
Nope. Prefold actually refers to the fact that the diaper insert has been prefolded (in the 1950’s, they called it like it was) into several layers to create a thicker layer in the middle for absorbency. That thicker middle layer is sewn down permanently. The two sides are thinner. (I took these photos on a dark surface because it was nearly impossible to see on a white background. It’s still hard to tell the difference in some photos, but hopefully it helps illustrate.)
Prefolds look like what you picture when you think of cloth diapers before they became the next new thing. If you’re using a diaper service, you’re probably stuck with prefolds. You can fold them, or wrap them, or pin them, or not. Whatever works best for you, your kiddo, and your preferred diaper cover.
Now we’re going to take the mystery out of folding. There is no right way.
I folded the diaper into thirds to make a rectangular column. The thinner two sides folded over the fatter middle and created a nice column that ran from belly button to back of the bum to catch everything. I then laid the rectangle into the diaper cover, tucking the edge into the flap (if the cover had one). The diaper cover held it in place.
A variation on this column method folds the diaper against the seams, so the middle portion has a triple layer of the thickest part of the diaper. I suspect this folding method works better for girls than boys as the thickest part ends up in the center of the diaper, but I never experiment with it myself.
Another method I tried but ultimately eliminated involved folding the diaper into a diaper shape, narrow at the middle for between the legs. Taking the thinner sides of the prefold, I pulled them around baby to meet on each side, much like a disposable diaper. I used a Snappi to keep the diaper in this shape once I managed it. I found this method trickier to master, and unlike the column, I couldn’t do it ahead of time, preventing me from having a stack of diapers ready to go. Wiggly babies also didn’t make for easy folding.
For smaller babies (and smaller diaper covers), I simply folded the extra material over until it fit the length of the diaper cover.
Turns out there are many variations on folding a prefold into a diaper shape and fastening it. We didn’t know about any of them. If you have lots of time on your hands at the changing table or an incredibly peaceful baby, go for it. Some of them seem promising but I have zero hands-on experience with any of the fancier variations. I folded diapers, not origami.