17 July 2015

(Cloth 101} Flats - the how what & why's

WHAT is a flat?

A flat is a square-shaped single layer of fabric. Fabrics used can be almost anything from the terry toweling squares that we grew up with (eg Glodina), to the US favourite birdseye cotton flats, muslin flats (these are normally double layer), flannel or hemp/cotton flats. You can even use old t-shirts as makeshift flats.  Any absorbent fabric will do! 

HOW do I use a flat? 

To use a flat you can either 
a) fold and fasten it onto your baby using a snappi, diaper pins or boingos
b) padfold it (ie fold in quarters and then into thirds to form an insert sized rectangle) and lay it in a cover

Note - both these methods require a cover to be waterproof. With option a you could opt to let your baby go coverless around the house to let them air out a bit (great for preventing diaper rashes), but be aware that a snappi could catch on things or hurt inquisitive toddler hands. 
Pokkelokkie hemp/cotton jersey flat in origami fold
There is a wide variety of different folds for flats and there is sure to be one that you like and that fits your baby perfectly. Here are a few of my favourites:

Origami fold

This fold is great if you need extra room around baby's waist or lots of layers in the wetzone. The rise is not adjustable so if your baby has a longer rise or your flat is on the smaller side, this is probably not the fold for you.

You can find instructions for how to do the Origami fold on Dirty Diaper Laundry. Also check out the variation of this fold, Happy Anteater fold on Padded Tush Stats.
Imagine birdseye cotton flat in Neat Fold
Neat fold

This fold is very aptly named as it looks quite neat when snappi'd onto baby. The layers are distributed quite evenly which also distributes the bulk and makes this a nice fold for younger babies. The rise is adjustable, however the waist size is limited and might not be a good option for bigger waisted babies/toddlers.

Here are instructions for how to do a variation of this fold, the Skinny Neat fold on Padded Tush Stats.
Receiving blanket in Kite fold
Kite fold

This fold is great for maximum adjustment of the rise and also gives a good waist size. A great fold to use for those smaller flats you might have on hand that are a little too small for some other folds (eg origami).

You can find instructions for how to do the Kite fold on Dirty Diaper Laundry.
Receiving blanket in Jo Fold
Jo fold

If you're used to prefolds, this one is a great way to start out as you essentially fold the flat into a prefold shape and then the equivalent of the angel wing fold for a prefold. You could also vary it by doing other prefold folds after the first few steps (eg jelly roll or bikini twist).

You can find instructions for how to do the Jo fold on Dirty Diaper Laundry.
Imagine birdseye cotton flat Padfolded in a Best Bottoms cover

This is probably the easiest of all the folds, great for dads and daycare, for adding to the diaper bag and to speed up changes with wriggly toddlers. You fold the flat in half, in half again and then into thirds to end up with an insert sized rectangle. You can lay this in a cover or use it to stuff pockets with.


a) It's cheap! Flats are one of the cheapest ways to cloth diaper.
b) It's easy to clean - no complicated washing routines necessary and you are less likely to encounter stink issues because there is only a single layer of fabric to clean. It's also ideal if you need to hand wash. 

c) Trimness  - while terry squares are a bit on the bulky side, other flat options are of the trimmest diapers I own.
d) Absorbency - you are able to customise absorbency to exactly where you need it using different folds and in terms of absorbency vs bulk, flats are your best bet. Hemp/cotton flats are one of the best options for heavy wetters or for overnight. 
e) Quick drying. Flats dry super fast which makes them ideal for handwashing, stash fillers or rainy Cape Town winters.
f) You can get a customised fit on your baby using different folds and a snappi/boingos/pins.
g) Padfolding and placing into a cover (especially if you prep a few diapers in the morning) makes diaper changes just as easy as using a pocket diaper or AIO, especially if the cover has flaps to keep the flat in place.
h) Takes up very little space in the closet or diaper bag. They are great for weekends away or holidays.
i) A snappi'd flat plus cover is almost foolproof for preventing blowouts with a newborn


a) Since it's made of natural fibres it can get stiff if line dried and may require a few minutes in a tumble dryer to soften up
b) There is a learning curve if you are intending on folding it and using a fastener to put it on your baby - you'll have to figure out which fold works best for you.
c) If you are padfolding when your baby is a newborn, poop will (often) get on the cover so you will need more covers vs folding and fastening the flat on your baby.
d) Daycare, babysitters and dads could be reluctant to use flats (see point b). Padfolding is a great option for those not as familiar with cloth.

e) Flats require a cover and are a two-step system of cloth diapering vs one-step systems like pockets or AIOs. This means a few extra seconds when changing baby's nappy.

WHERE can I buy flats?

Hemp and flannel flats from various local WAHMs eg Tyrilove, Pokkelokkie. 
Imagine birdseye cotton flats from Mulberry Moon.
Receiving blankets and terry squares from Ackermans, PEP, etc.
Snappy's are available at Ackermans, PEP, Edgars, Jet
Boingos available from Mulberry Moon.


Master Flat Fold Table - a summary of different flat folds which indicates how many layers are in the wetzone.
South African Flat & Prefold Diapers - a Facebook group dedicated to flats & prefolds 
You might also find my posts on the Flats & Handwashing Challenge interesting.

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