The Practicality of Prefolds

Have you ever wondered what could be so great about prefolds? I always heard people talking about them— how great they were in cloth diapers, but until my son gave my current absorbency stash a run for its money, I didn’t get the hype. Join me as we adventure the ways prefolds can be useful in the world of cloth diapers!


Prefolds are made of a natural fiber absorbent material, typically cotton. Occasionally, you might come across bamboo or hemp prefolds, but they are most commonly made of 100% cotton.

What does this mean for you? As a natural fiber material, prefolds are easy to wash and safe to be in contact with baby’s skin. You can also use any diaper cream with prefolds, including petroleum-based ones, as long as you wash on hot. Prefolds are a super-absorber. Prefolds are also a great option when hand washing is your method of cleaning. Because they are easy to wash and dry fast, using prefolds may help you cloth diapers on your baby.

When to use prefolds

When it comes to using prefolds, be aware that they come in various sizes, to match ages/wetting levels. A newborn/small size prefold on its own may not have enough absorbency for the typical 9-month-old baby— but if it’s hanging around, use it as a doubler (to boost absorbency of another absorbent material)!

Because of the varying sizes of prefolds, sometimes it can be easier/more cost-effective to find prefolds that you can buy/receive second-hand. Just be sure to check condition, as wear-and-tear is common with natural fibers. Prefolds with edge wear and first-layer holes are still functional, just become a little less absorbent the worse the wear gets.

There are other options that work similarly to prefolds. Flats are a whole other cloth diaper rabbit hole! Flour sack towels ("FST" for short) work a lot like cotton flats, and can be folded into an insert or into other flat folds as well. Flour sack towels are 100% cotton, so they are skin safe and incredibly versatile. Another option, if you are looking to avoid spending extra money on absorbency, is to go through your t-shirts. T-shirts made out of 100% cotton are a great alternative as well.

Prefolds can be your primary absorbency, used in a cover. They can also be used to add absorbency to any type of cloth diaper. You can even use them to stuff your pockets! There are numerous different folds you can use with prefolds, which makes them all the better. It’s easy to customize your needs when the fold options are nearly endless!

Prefolds can be stuffed into a pocket or laid on top as pictured.

Help! My baby wets through a prefold

Mine did too! Man, leaks are frustrating. I had to take a break so I could think through my absorbency options before making a correction. It’s okay if you have to do the same, but keep these tips in mind!

  • Check that your prefold size is appropriate for your baby’s age and weight.

  • Assess baby’s pee-zone (what is this?!)

    • Is baby wetting just the front, just the back, or is the whole prefold/absorbency soaked?

    • Add absorbency if the whole thing is soaked.

    • Fold over the absorbency to make the front or back thicker if it’s location-based

  • Is your diaper fit right?

    • It is important to make sure that elastics are snug and in contact with skin around the legs, and snug at the low back. In the front, you should be able to comfortably fit 2 fingers between baby’s diaper and belly— if it’s too loose leaks can happen this way as well, and too tight leaves baby uncomfortable.

With a good fit, there is no open gap between diaper and skin. You should also make sure that prefold is completely tucked into the cover.

Chime in: how do you like to use prefolds?