Stack of classical square white cloth diapers

How to Fold Cloth Diapers: 4 Easy Techniques for Tired Parents

Cloth diapers are a great way to save money and be kinder to the environment, plus they can be great for gentle baby bottoms that are sensitive to the chemicals in traditional diapers. There can be a learning curve when you first start using cloth diapers, though. How will these squares of fabric turn into a diaper?! Is there an easy way to master this mysterious art, or will you be forced to abandon your dreams of a simple living?

Don’t worry. Folding cloth diapers is a lot easier than it looks. Whether you’re working with prefolds or flats, or even pre-cut inserts and cloth diaper covers, these techniques will show you how to fold cloth diapers easily!

Flats vs. prefold vs. inserts: Which cloth diaper are you folding?

When you think of cloth diapers, you probably think of the old fashioned ones: fabric tied together with sharp pins. These days, thankfully, diaper pins have been replaced by clever, flexible fasteners that grip the fabric with teeth instead of a sharp pin. There are also adorable waterproof diaper covers to avoid most leaking drama. Other than that, though, the cloth diaper has changed very little over time.

Today, however, there are a few more options: 

  • Prefold diapers: These have several layers sewn together. They typically have three sections, with the thickest layers in the middle where the baby needs them most.
  • Flat and prefold squares: These are single layers of fabric that can be folded into a diaper shape.
  • Cloth diaper covers with pre-cut inserts: These are becoming much more popular, as the insert (diaper pad) is perfectly sized for the diaper insert, and can be removed and snapped together quickly. There are also some modern cloth diapers that come “all-in-one” which means the insert is sewn into the waterproof covering.

Today’s modern parents have a few more options than our grandparents when it comes to cloth diapering options, but flats and prefolds are making a comeback! Why? Because they can be folded and adjusted to fit from birth through potty training, while all-in-one diapers may need to be re-purchased as the baby grows.

Plus, with the right folds, flats and prefolds can offer a better fit with fewer leaks. Think of a belt that can be fastened anywhere compared to one with holes, and how sometimes your perfect fit is right in the middle of two increments. Especially for newborns and small babies, flats and prefolds are much easier to fasten just right.

Prefolds and flats, along with their plastic and fabric covers, are also much easier to separate in the laundry. This allows for a more thorough clean, and to prevent any build-up of ammonia or waste that could irritate a baby’s skin! Using natural and gentle detergents on these prefolds and inserts can also help keep cloth diapers in great shape for future kids, too. 

How to use prefolds, flats, and cloth diaper inserts

Learning how to fasten and shape these cloth diapers and cute covers can be a feat all on its own. There are dozens of methods for folding flat and prefold diapers, but we want to share some of the easiest ones to make your life easier:

The Upside-Down Pyramid Fold

Using the bottom corners of the diaper insert, this Upside-Down Pyramid fold is one of the easiest ways to fill a cloth diaper and ready it for use!

Best for: Ease and versatility

  1. Position your prefold or fabric insert so the section seams are running top-to-bottom.
  2. Next, take the bottom corners and fold them in by thirds. The flaps should cross each other at the bottom, while the top corners stay open to form a triangle or pyramid shape.
  3. To store these diapers, simply stack them on top of one another, or fold them in half.
  4. Lay them flat on the diaper table when it’s time to diaper up!

This fold is ideal for tired parents who aren’t super interested in complicated folding or who have plenty of storage space between diapering.

The Newspaper Fold

The Newspaper is a way to shorten the diaper for smaller babies or to provide more thickness at the front, which can be helpful for little boys.

Best for: Small babies and extra absorbency up-front

  1. Fold the bottom of the square about a quarter of the way upward.
  2. Fold the bottom corners in by thirds and fasten like the Triangle fold, or insert into your cloth diaper cover.

The Rolled Fold 

This is another variation of the Pyramid fold that is especially good for containing runny poops.

Best for: Messy poops

  1. Grab the bottom corners like you would for the Pyramid fold, but instead of folding into thirds, roll each corner into position.
  2. Fasten onto the baby the same way as the Pyramid fold, or use as an insert into your cloth diaper cover.

The Insert or Pad Fold

If your baby is ready for insert diaper covers, this fold makes the job a breeze.

Best for: Insert diaper covers

  1. Fold each side in by one third to make a rectangle.
  2. Insert into the diaper cover and snap or velcro it all together. So easy!

Ready to fold some diapers?

Now that you’ve mastered the art of diapering origami, you can get out there and start folding your way to simple, affordable comfort for your baby.

No matter what type of cloth diaper you choose, don’t forget to take care when washing your flats, prefolds, or inserts. Any remnants or residues can cause rashes and gradually reduce the absorbency of the cloth, so always use a clean-rinsing detergent like Charlie’s Soap laundry detergent.

Diaper experts recommend pre-washing cloth diapers 3-5 times before first use and being careful to make sure they are rinsed and dried very well after every wash to reduce the chances of bacterial irritation or rashes from chemical sensitivity. 

Charlie’s Soap is designed to rinse completely and is the preferred gentle detergent for many cloth diapering parents. Order online and try our subscription options to make sure you never run out when you need to clean those diapers and cloths most!

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