So, why do I like prefolds so much, you ask?
- I know I've mentioned it before, but I'm cheap (cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap!). If there is a lower-cost option, I will go for it. I'm also practical. I would prefer to wash diapers less frequently, which requires having more diapers on hand. Since prefolds are so cheap, I could afford to buy more, and wash less frequently.
- Prefolds are quick-drying, since you fold them to make them absorbent.
- Prefolds are made from a natural fiber, they are 100% cotton. Natural fibers are less prone to stink issues.
- Your baby will feel wet in a prefold diaper. Wetness is generally not bad for baby's skin, feeling wet is why babies who wear cloth diapers are more likely to potty train faster.
- Prefolds are very durable. No elastic, no closures, they are virtually indestructible. Our prefolds have lasted us through four babies, and while they are considerably thinner now, they still get the job done.
- Prefolds can be used for other things when you're done using them as diapers. We have had customers come into the store to buy our prefolds for a multitude of purposes -- a car dealership uses them as shammies, one woman purchases them as tea towels, since they're so absorbent. I have used many a prefold to wipe up many a spilled glass of milk (don't worry, I didn't cry).
A prefold diaper does require some degree of folding, though not as much as a traditional flat diaper. A prefold is called a prefold because it is sewn in such a way that less folding is required. Prefold diapers are usually classified according to the number of layers sewn into the diaper -- we sell 4x8x4 layer prefolds, meaning the prefolds we sell have four layers of cotton twill sewn into the sides of the diaper, with eight layers of cotton twill sewn into the middle of the diaper. The diapers we sell are unbleached prefolds, manufactured in Pakistan.
There are two basic ways to put a prefold on a baby:
- fold the prefold and lie it in a wrap-style cover
- fasten the diaper onto your baby with a Snappi or diaper pins
When people come to the store, and we start the diaper tour, we usually start with prefolds, since it's the most basic diapering option we offer. Sometimes people will stop us right away and tell us to skip the prefolds because they're not interested. I usually oblige and move on, after all, if you want to be successful with cloth diapers, you should buy what you know you'll use! However, if I can get people to watch me put a prefold on our demo doll, more often than not, they're surprised at how easy it can be to use a prefold (a lot of people associate prefolds with pins and pull-on rubber pants -- it doesn't have to be that way!).
Of course, there are many different ways to do both, and like everything related to cloth diapers, it's a matter of personal choice. I rarely used a snappi with our prefolds, I would just fold the diaper in thirds (the short way, against the lines sewn into the diaper), and lie it in a wrap. I like to use the prefolds this way because it means that putting the diaper on the baby requires only one step -- you can have a prefold folded into a cover ready to go on the changetable, so it's really no harder than putting on a disposable diaper. A drawback to using a prefold in this manner is that the diaper is quite bulky through the baby's crotch, however, I tended to dress our babies in stretchy cotton sleepers and pants, so the bulk was never a problem. I actually felt the bulk helped keep poop in its place, on the diaper and off the cover.
If you prefer a trimmer fit, or if you find your covers are getting soiled with poop, fastening the diaper onto your baby with a Snappi may work better for you. I did use a Snappi occassionally when our babies were newborns, however, once they were pooping every 1-2 days, I didn't bother. For the record, I also didn't make a point to do the 'boy' fold for the boy -- no matter how you fold a prefold, it's still the same diaper, and I found the simple trifold worked as well for him as it did for our girls (of course, he was never a heavy wetter, so perhaps that's why he didn't need extra absorbency in the front of his diaper).
We sell two sizes of prefolds, however, you could get away with using only one size from birth to potty training. Infant prefolds can be used with babies who weigh approximately 8-20 lbs, although if you are using the prefolds with a Snappi, your baby will likely outgrow the infant prefolds around 15 lbs. I used our infant prefolds with all of our kids until they were out of diapers. When they were wearing the prefolds with a small cover, we trifolded the diapers, when they moved into the medium covers, we folded the prefolds in half, lengthwise, so they would fit in the covers from end-to-end. There is a considerable size difference between the infant prefolds and the medium prefolds, which fit from 15-30+ lbs (though I'll be honest, a 15-lb baby would be swimming in these prefolds, realistically, they start to fit well around 18-20 lbs). Since none of our kids were heavy wetters (thank-you infant pottying!), this size was overkill for our needs, so we only used them at night.
I would strongly encourage anyone who is considering using cloth diapers to give prefolds a whirl. Seriously, most people who try them like them. Even if you want to build a stash around easier diapers like pocket diapers, you should still pad your stash with some prefolds, it's a cheap way to squeeze an extra day out of your stash, even if you don't love them, you can still have them as a backup -- in a pinch, they'll do, trust me!