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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cloth Diapering 101- Prefolds and Flats

            Cloth Diapering 101

Cloth Diapering 101- My take on modern cloth diapers

Diaper Types- Flats and Prefolds

Flats and prefolds are old school. If your parents (or you!) were cloth diapered, you grandmother most likely used one of these with vinyl underwear style pants. I will touch briefly on flats, but the focus here will be on prefolds, as they are more commonly used in the cloth diapering world.

With my oldest daughter, I was honestly afraid prefolds would be too much hassle. So I didn't own any (aside from the Gerber brand we used for burp cloths). I wanted to start cloth from birth with my son and all of my research said prefolds were the way to go with newborns.

When speaking of prefolds, of course I get the usual battery of questions: What is a prefold? You mean a burp cloth, why would you use that?!? Which type is best? How do you put them on? How do you get them to stay on? Don't they leak? So here it is, everything you ever wanted to know about flats, prefolds and more!

  • What is a flat? A flat cloth diaper is just that- a single layer flat cotton diaper. These are usually made with 100% cotton birdseye. This is an original cloth diaper still used today in many countries. They are a one size fits all diaper that requires folding to properly fit your baby. In the United States, these diapers are more often used as comfort blankets, dish towels, burp cloths, cleaning cloths, cloth napkins, and facial cloths. They are very easy to clean (especially if you have to hand wash) and also dry very quickly. This is really the most economic way to cloth diaper, as you can get a dozen for around $20.
  • What is a prefold? A basic prefold is pretty similar to a flat diaper, but it is already folded for you-- hence “pre” fold. Most commercially made prefolds are made of birdseye cotton or twill and are either bleached (stark white cotton) or unbleached (the tan natural color of cotton) and made organically or non-organiclly. They generally come in three sizes—preemie (4-8lbs), infant (7-15lbs), regular or premium(15-30lbs). Prefolds are available in different ply. These are usually listed cryptically, for example: 4x6x4 or 4x8x4. This means that looking at the prefold like this photo below (comparing an unprepped bleached prefold to a prepped prefold) Left side is 4 layers, center is 6 layers, and right side is 4 layers, hence 4x6x4. You can find quality prefolds from about $1-5 apiece depending on size. They are very heavy to ship, so don't be surprised if you see high shipping costs if purchasing online.
  • Which type is best? There are 2 types of commercially made diaper service quality (DSQ) prefolds available: Chinese or Indian style. DSQ prefolds are made to withstand industrial washing such as the sanitary washing required by a diaper service or hospital.
    • Chinese: Chinese prefolds are overall heavier duty. The stitching is tougher and they hold up well through more washings. The major drawback are that they tend to pill easily, are less soft than Indian prefolds, and the unbleached versions need 8-10 hot wash/dry cycles before they are ready to use.
    • Indian: Are softer and in the unbleached form are ready to use after 3 washes, but the fabric and stitching is lighter weight.
      We personally chose Indian prefolds just for the softness factor, but ask around- everyone has an opinion on what is best!
  • How do you put them on? There are so many ways to answer this question. The methods for putting a prefold on a baby are called “folds.” This is not my area of expertise. I am still a novice folder, but I found this website to be particularly helpful: The most popular folds are the jelly roll (most popular for newborns), the newspaper, the bikini twist, and the angel wing fold. When baby gets bigger and starts having more solid poo, the quickest and easiest method is to “trifold” the prefold, aka fold it into thirds guided by the stitching and simply lay it inside of a waterproof diaper cover. 
  • How do they stay on? There are three basic methods for keeping a fancy folded prefold in place. Old school diaper pins, a Snappi brand fasterner, or a Boingo Baby brand fastener. Here is a photo of my little doll modeling all three, and comparing an old style (yellow) Boingo fastener to the new style (green Boingo fastener). He is sporting a bamboo prefold with fabric embellishment that I made for him. The top left is the Boingo fastener, top right is diaper pins, and bottom left is the Snappi. As you can see- by the time I put the snappi on he was SERIOUSLY unhappy with mommy! Find more info on the Snappi and Boingo fasteners here. If you're a visual learner, search YouTube. There are hundreds of videos right at your fingertips!
  • Don't they leak? Simply put—yes. Prefolds are made of all absorbent materials, so they need a cover if you want them to be waterproof. Some days, a baby's bum needs a little more air (for example, we're currently combating a teething rash), so it is fine to leave a prefold coverless. Just know you'll be changing very frequently, and if your baby is mobile, you'll want to watch to make sure they're not playing with the sharp parts of the fasteners. Waterproof covers are generally made of a polyester laminate (PUL), polyester fleece, or wool. We'll go more in depth on covers in a later issue.
  • Is there a luxury version? As with any cloth diaper, you can find a luxury version! Many commercial companies and work at home moms (WAHMs) make their own versions. I make mine of a bamboo knit terry (like the picture of my rockin' Zach above). The little loops on the terrycloth make the diaper fasteners hold tightly and securely. If you look hard enough, you can find some really awesome high quality handmade prefolds, but expect to pay more! (And yes, they're worth it!)
  • What should I avoid? While some people swear by them, many cloth diapering moms will say to avoid using the Gerber brand prefold diapers you can buy at Target or Wal-Mart. They just don't absorb as well and aren't as high of a quality as DSQ prefolds for around the same cost. If they're all you can get, they're better than nothing! I personally think they make better burp rags than diapers.
  • Are there special washing instructions? Once you get beyond the intitial prepping, DSQ prefolds are the easiest to wash and keep clean. They wash well in cold water washes and can withstand high temperature washes as well. They can be tumble dried at any heat, you can bleach them if necessary, and can put them in the sun to dry and take advantage of the sun's natural stain fighting power.

Do you have any further questions or comments about prefolds? I would love to hear what you have to say! Comment away!

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