Diaper Origami

Folding a Prefold Cloth Diaperdiaper-origami-1-stack

  • 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.)


You may be able to see the seams running vertically down the middle third; the other two sides are only one layer thick and much thinner than the prefolded middle section.

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.


One side folded into middle


Both sides folded in to form a column shape

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.


Column fold laid in diaper cover and tucked under front flap

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.


Folded against the seams so the thicker section triples over itself


The thicker middle fold ends up in the middle inside a diaper cover

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.


Folded into a diaper shape, where the wings on top wrap around to meet over the belly button of baby and legs stick out on either side of the bottom

For smaller babies (and smaller diaper covers), I simply folded the extra material over until it fit the length of the diaper cover.


Here I used the same diaper cover as above, but sized it as small as it would go (roughly 9 lbs) and folded the extra material at the top to tuck into the cover flap

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.

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