13 February 2013

{Cloth 101} Prefolds (the how, what and why's)

 WHAT is a prefold?
A rectangle made of several layers of cotton (can also be a blend of cotton and hemp or bamboo). The rectangle is divided in three equal parts with the middle piece being the thickest and most absorbent. Because of this centre panel it requires less complex folding than a flat diaper (eg terry square). 

HOW do I use a prefold? 
To use a prefold you can either 
a) snappi it onto your baby using one of a couple of different folding techniques or 
b) trifold it (ie fold into thirds lengthways) and stick it in a cover
Prefold simply trifolded and placed into a diaper 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 the snappi could catch on things or hurt inquisitive toddler hands. 

There are a couple of different folds, the most popular three are:

Jellyroll fold

Commonly recommended for newborns, since the prefold fits very snugly around the leg, containing runny ebf poop very well. Roll the two side panels tightly towards the centre panel of the prefold (roughly in the middle of the prefold), then place your baby on top (with baby's waist lined up to the top of the prefold), bring the bottom of the prefold up between baby's legs and fasten with a snappi or pins.

Prefolds - jellyroll fold
Prepping for the jellyroll fold
Jellyroll fold on a toddler
Jellyroll fold - note the snug fit around the legs
Bikini twist

My favourite - this is quick and easy to do and requires no prepping beforehand. Simply place baby on the prefold, with baby's waist lined up with the top of the prefold. Now grab the bottom of the prefold and pull up between baby's legs and towards his/her waist, while simultaneously twisting the prefold so that the right side of the edge you're holding is on the left and vice versa.  Fasten with a snappi or pins. Gives a nice trim fit between the legs to reduce bulk under a slim fitting cover. Also good to use if your prefold is slightly too long for your baby, since it uses up some of the length with the twist.

Bikini twist fold on toddler
Angel wing fold

A favourite amongst many parents for the sleek front appearance and relative ease of folding. Fold the side panels on to the centre panel, fanning out in the back. Then place your baby on the prefold, again making sure to align the top with his/her waist, bring the bottom edge up between baby's legs and fasten with a snappi or pins.

Prepping the prefold for the angel wing fold
Angel wing fold on a toddler
Prefold PROS
a) It's cheap! It is the second cheapest option after flats - a huge plus point. 
b) It's easy to clean - no complicated washing routines necessary and you are less likely to encounter issues like detergent build-up or stink issues (common with synthetic fibres). 
c) You can get a customised fit on your baby using different folds and a snappi
d) Trifolding and placing into a cover (especially if you pre-stuff 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 prefold in place.
e) Takes up very little space in the closet or diaper bag
f) A snappi'd prefold plus cover is almost foolproof for preventing blowouts with a newborn

Prefold CONS
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 snappi - you'll have to figure out which fold works best and it's not easy when you have a screaming baby to contend with. After a few tries you should be a pro at it though. 
c) If you are trifolding when your baby is a newborn, poop will (often) get on the cover so you will need more covers vs just using a snappi.
d) Daycare, babysitters and dads are often reluctant to use prefolds (see point b). Trifolding is an option to make things easier for them. 


  1. Where did you get your prefolds? We've only used the Bambino mio ones as thats all we could find in SA and they basically only work with a trifold and a few others. Would use the angel fold with the size 2 on our smaller baby but it was then too bulky.

    1. I tried the Bambino Mio ones, but wasn't a fan of them - hated the bulky edges and found them a bit awkward for snappi-ing like you say. I bought the Imagine brand prefolds from Nicki's Diapers - very well priced, soft and absorbent. I wish there was something like this available in South Africa...

  2. I needed this! Thank you! :-)

  3. Great fit. We use jelly roll fold almost exclusively and love them paired with a wool soaker in summer

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. The size small will work perfectly. I used them snappi'd or trifolded on A when she was 3 months old and still ocassionally use them trifolded in a cover for her now at 2 years old (I packed them on holiday in December actually to save space). As a bonus you can also use the size smalls as inserts in your pocket diapers. The medium will be pretty big on your three month old.


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Drop me a line and I'll make sure to answer any questions or comments you might have.