6 Ways to Fold a Prefold Cloth Diaper | This West Coast Mommy
Cloth Diapering

6 Ways to Fold a Prefold Cloth Diaper

6 Ways to Fold a Prefold Cloth Diaper | In this cloth diaper tutorial, I show you how to fold a prefold diaper 6 different ways, with tips and recommendations for each.

I love cloth diapers. All kinds. Usually, I prefer pocket diapers for their convenience and versatility, but with both my babies I rocked prefold diapers and covers their first few months. Most of my pocket diapers are one size, and let’s face it, they don’t usually fit that well on small babies. At least, not without weird bits sticking out and frequent leaks.

I like prefold diapers for how versatile they are, how easy it is to get a custom fit with them, and how easy they are to wash up and dry. Because they’re made from natural fibers, they’re great for sensitive skin and allow more airflow to baby’s bum. Both my babies got yeast rashes their first couple of months, and we often used prefolds without a cover around the house to allow more airflow down there. I know prefolds can seem a bit intimidating to some, so I wanted to share some popular ways to fold a prefold and my take on their best uses.

>> Scroll down to the end of this post for a pinnable image with all 6 diagrams in one for your reference.

Anatomy of a Prefold Diaper

Prefold diapers are the next evolution of the old school big square of cotton fabric (called a flat diaper). Someone realized one day that a flat diaper could be prefolded and sewn together as a shortcut to the all the origami folding needed with flats. Prefold diapers are made from multiple layers of cotton (occasionally hemp or bamboo) sewn so that there are three sections lengthwise, with the thickest section in the middle.

Prefolds are typically described by the number of layers in each section. So a 4x8x4 prefold has 4 layers of cotton on each side and 8 layers in the middle. Like all natural fiber diapers, prefolds need to be washed and dried 3-5 times to strip out the natural oils that inhibit absorption. It takes several more laundry cycles after that to reach maximum absorbency and fluffiness. It’s important to note that prefolds require a cover or wrap to make the whole package waterproof.

How to pad fold a prefold cloth diaper.

Also called the trifold (my inner geek insists on changing that to Triforce), the pad fold is the simplest fold. Simply fold your prefold into thirds lengthwise (along the seams) and lay it inside your waterproof cover. No fastener required – the cover keeps it (mostly) in place. These can be prepped ahead of time with a stack of pad folded prefolds in covers. While the easiest fold to do, without a fastener I find the diaper doesn’t stay in place as well as the other folds listed below. And that means more dirty covers, especially when baby starts to move.

Another option is to fold it in thirds widthwise (across the seams). This will give you a shorter but wider pad for a smaller baby, and also puts extra absorbency into the middle of the pad suitable for baby girls.

Some wraps/covers have what seems to be a convenient flap of fabric in the front forming a sort of pocket. People often tuck the front end of the pad under there to help keep it in place, but that little flap is actually there to prevent wicking through the sew line. So be aware that tucking the pad in that pocket will increase your likelihood of leaking through the thread.

Pro tip: Use pad folded prefolds to stuff pocket diapers in place of or in addition to standard inserts. They’re super absorbent and an easy way to extend the usefulness of prefolds once baby is bigger!

How to make an angel fold with your prefold cloth diaper.

The angel fold is probably the most common and the simplest, most straightforward fastening fold. Lay the prefold flat and fold the front half into thirds. Leave the back unfolded so the corners form little “angel wings”. Pull the front up, wrap the wings from the back to the front, and pin or use a Snappi to attach the wings to the front of the diaper.

How to make a newspaper fold with your prefold cloth diaper.This is a variation on the angel fold and useful to size a larger prefold down or to add extra absorbency up front for little boys. Fold the front edge up about one quarter of the way, then fold the front into thirds as if you were doing an angel fold. Some people tuck one of the corners into the other side which helps keep it together, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Pull the front up, wrap the wings from the back to the front, and pin or Snappi the wings to the front of the diaper.

How to make a jelly roll fold with your prefold cloth diaper. Best fold for containing messes!The jelly roll was my preferred fold during the first six months of exclusive breastfeeding. I found that rolling the diaper around my baby’s thighs worked best at keeping in runny breastfed poops so I could reuse my covers more often. Lay the prefold flat and roll the edges inwards and on an angle so the front edges are rolled in and the back is still flat. Fold up, pull the back corners around to the front, and pin or Snappi the wings to the front of the diaper.

How to make a bikini fold with your prefold cloth diaper.

Some people like the bikini fold for girls as it puts more absorption in the middle, but I found it not very practical for baby poop. To do a bikini fold lay the prefold flat then twist it 180 degrees in the middle. Pull the front up and tuck the front corners behind baby. Pull the back corners around to the front and pin or Snappi them to the diaper.

How to make a diva fold with your prefold cloth diaper.

I’ve never used the diva fold myself but I thought I’d include it here in the interest of completeness. This is basically a back-to-front angel fold that puts the bulky extra fabric and the fastener in the back.
Pro tip: With any of these ways to fold a prefold (with the exception of the pad fold), you can fold the back edge down a couple of inches to shorten a too long prefold and to create a barrier for up the back blowouts.

Are you ready to try prefold diapers yet? They’re economical, highly absorbent, and easier than you think! If you found this post useful, please share it!

More cloth diapering resources!

9 Common Cloth Diapering Mistakes and What to Do Instead

All About Using Cloth Baby Wipes

Which Cloth Diaper Inserts, Doublers, or Liners Should I Choose?

12 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Cloth Diapers

Pin all 6 diaper folds!

6 Ways to Fold a Prefold Cloth Diaper | In this cloth diaper tutorial, I show you how to fold a prefold diaper 6 different ways, with tips and recommendations for each.

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  • I keep thinking I’ll try prefolds but then I chicken out and buy more pockets. But this streamlined post gives me courage to try! Thanks.

    • LOL! I firmly believe there’s a cloth diaper for everyone, no shame in being a pockets kind of mama! Like I said, I usually like pockets too, but there are certain situations where prefolds are the best option for me.

  • I’m planning to use prefolds with my first during the newborn stage, but was a little apprehensive. This is helpful. I never heard of the “jelly roll” before, but looks useful. Thanks. I’m also curious what covers work best with prefolds (I know there are lots of choices).

    • You’re right, there are so many choices, materials, closures, etc. to consider when it comes to covers that it’s a post all on its own. But for what it’s worth, I liked Bummis Super Brite covers a lot. They’re wipable on the inside, fit my babies well, and are priced pretty reasonably.

  • I have never used prefolds (other than the few Gerber ones I got as gifts and used as burp cloths!). I have a hard enough time trying to get a pocket diaper on my wiggly worm, I don’t know if I would be able to manage getting a prefold AND a cover on her.

    • πŸ˜€ I started when my babies were first born so not doing much of anything. They only became wiggly worms over the course of several months. So maybe that’s the trick. Start small and work your way up!

  • I love the jelly roll and newspaper folds for when babies small. Once they hit toddlerhood, i can’t get them to stay still for anything other than pad fold.

    • Yep! I can totally see that! I switched to pockets/fitteds by that point, partly because of that exact issue. Forget about anybody else (babysitter, grandparents, etc.) doing folds.

  • We used prefolds on our older daughter when she was born because she was too small to fit into the OS diapers we had. For this #2, I’m buying a stash of NB fitteds. My babies are small, so they will last us at least a couple months.

    • That’s exactly why I bought prefolds with my first baby too. Plus they were so much more economical than getting newborn diapers that wouldn’t fit after a few weeks. Congrats and good luck with your newest little one!

  • I’ve been using flats and covers for my son when we cloth diaper. The folds are pretty much the same for prefolds as for flats. I didn’t know about the Diva fold previously…but I haven’t had to , as my LO is a front heavy-wetter.

  • Thanks for the pictures- Id have to say that the bikini twist is my favorite fold as it is more narrow in the crotch area and everything else seems much too wide.

  • Love the other ways to fold a prefold. I have been doing the jelly roll with my little one and it works well for us. I should try some other ones too!

  • The folds actually look super simple. I was surprised to see that it’s not like folding a napkin into an origami swan.

  • Prefolds always seemed ‘hard’ to me, I use pockets, but your visuals helped explain really well. I love the rainbow teddy too πŸ™‚

  • I like the pad fold for newborns and babies not on the go, but I’m not sure how well it will stay in place with an acrobatic toddler. The jelly roll looks like a great way to hold everything in. I’m still playing around with different folds so when my LO comes I’ll hopefully be ready.

  • I’ve heard of all these different folds but never seen them all in practice, thanks so much for adding pictures for a cloth diapering newb like me! I am bookmarking this page because I will likely be using prefolds and covers when I get started.

  • Thank you so much for a descriptive depiction of all the ways to fold a diaper! I look forward to having my first and using cloth diapers like my mother did with me! I have bookmarked this page to experiment with my favourite style πŸ™‚

  • The angel fold or the jelly roll fold seem like the two I’ll probably try first. Prefolds are a little scary but since we only got one (AIO) diaper for our baby shower I’ll have to at least try! Hopefully I’ll learn to love the inexpensive prefold πŸ™‚

  • Ive only ever used a prefold to stuff into a pocket diaper but with a newborn i think these with a cover will be a great option

  • Thank you for showing the pictures! It was very helpful. I have only ever seen 2 of those folds before so it was great to see a few more.

  • I am debating trying prefolds with the little one I am now expecting. I was very nervous to try them with my first as not really sure how to fold them or how well they would work. Thanks for the post. I am going to save this to refer back to when I start diapering again.

  • i’m planning on using lots of prefolds this time around (pregnant with #2 and we used mostly pockets with #1) so i am definitely bookmarking this guide!

  • Thanks for showing all the different folds I usually do the angel fold I’ll to try these ways now . I love using prefolds.

  • I’ll have to try some of these – we have a few prefolds but I always have a hard time using them πŸ™‚

  • This is singularly the best resource I’ve found on prefolds. Shamefully, even though I use modern cloth diapers, I still didn’t reeeeally know the difference between flats and prefolds. Now I do! And I’m not scared to try them. Maybe even *gasp* sew my own!

    • I’m sorry Kristine, I just saw your question now. I know it’s far too late, but maybe someone else with the same question will see my reply.

      You don’t need to get the prefold snug around your baby’s legs like you do with a pocket diaper or all-in-one. It’s the cover that holds the prefold on and keeps any leaks in that aren’t absorbed by the prefold.

  • I love the visuals of this posts! I’ve never done the newspaper or the diva. My faves are the angel wing and jelly roll! I used to really like the bikini twist but it seems to bother my son so I haven’t used it in awhile.

  • I love my prefolds, is usually do a pad fold or a bikini twist. I’m intrigued by the diva… I feel like it would be awful for blowouts though. Maybe it would be good for tummy sleepers.

    • I’m a late starter with this cloth diapering thing. My daughter is 6 months old and although I’ve attempted prefolds before (as in 1 every few days), today was my first consistent day. Another use I can see for the diva fold is for wigglers and flippers who will not stay on their back. I use pins and, let me tell you, my fingers are cursing me for not knowing of that “trick!”

  • Awesome blog post! I’m new to cloth, and my daughter is a year old (better late than never, right?). I’m curious which fold you recommend to contain poop. She doesn’t have breastmilk poop anymore (it’s definitely more solid now and not runny at all, but when she goes she goes A LOT! Do you think the jelly roll fold would be helpful for this kind of poop too? I want to try to save my covers as much as possible.

  • I’m planning on starting with pockets (mostly due to not trying to scare my boyfriend with the whole cloth diapering thing), but this makes pre-folds a lot less scary! Once I get him used to not using disposables I’m going to have to show him this and see if he’ll be up for giving it a try.

  • My original plan was to use prefolds and flats. I just loved the micro fleece touching the bum instead. I tried my own micro fleece insert with the prefolds and flats, but they kept moving and didn’t work as well.

  • This was a really helpful post! I’ve been searching for some basics folds online and its actually harder to find a good post about them than it should be! Thanks for including the pictures- they’re really helpful!

  • Thanks for the tutorial. I started CDing late with my first, but when baby #2 comes along, I plan to start CDing from day 1 and will definitely be referring to this tutorial for assistance. Thanks!

  • Im very determined to use flats and prefolds and only occasionally the modern cloth diaper. This post def prepares me for what’s ahead. Im a first time cloth diaper mom

    • I used mostly prefolds and covers for several months with both my girls, and it’s really not that hard once you get over the initial learning curve. You can totally do it! πŸ™‚

  • I found this post via Pinterest. Thanks for sharing it! I have a few different styles of cloth diapers, but I’m hoping to use prefolds a lot in the newborn stages until pockets/AIOs start to fit a little better. I like prefolds because you can really get a close fit with them, avoid leg gaps, etc. I also have a few newborn fitteds, AIOs and pockets, so I think between them all I’ll be able to successfully cloth diaper my wee one once he/she gets here in March.

    Thanks again for the folding tips!


  • Thank you for this. I’ve got this post bookmarked and I keep referring back to see how to fold my prefolds. Is it normal that every time I use a fold other than padfolding, my cover barely fits over? I usually end up just padfolding inside an fst, but I’d like to have more fun with prefolds…

  • This is a good reference because we’ve gone back and forth between different folds depending on how wiggly our little one is and how big she is getting. I got pretty good at doing bikini twist but now only jelly roll or angel fold works good on her.

  • I started my CDing journey with AIOs– I figured the alternatives were to hard. I’ve eventually graduated to love my prefolds; they’re just so soft, so absorbent, and so flexible to use! I’m not sure I’ll ever fall in love with flats, but my prefolds…. I’ll keep em. πŸ˜‰

  • This gives me some hope! We have to use prefolds because we’re using a diaper service (My husband is home with our little one so I know I couldn’t convince him to do cloth diapers without a diaper service!). Lately we’ve both been really frustrated with all the blow-outs and having to wash our diaper covers so frequently. I’ve been experimenting a bit with trying to decrease blow-outs but nothing has been working. Now I am looking forward to trying the Jelly Roll or Newspaper on our little boy – I think they might help! Thanks!

  • I started cloth diapering 11 years ago and I’ve used most of these folds, I just didn’t know the names for all of them. I used the newspaper and angel wing folds most for my first cloth baby. I had to use the newspaper fold a lot because I had only big Gerber DSQ prefolds for him.

    I used Angel Wing mostly for my second and I tried the Bikini Twist from time to time.

    With my third, I used Jelly Roll quite a bit. I have switched to liking flats over prefolds and I pad fold those. If I do use prefolds anymore I tend to pad fold those too.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard of the Diva fold before. It looks hard to do but I guess like anything, if you use it long enough you become good at it and speed comes as well.

    My husband uses pocket diapers because that’s what he likes. I use flats and covers mainly.

  • Thank you for showing the pictures,cloth diapers are so different that when I used them on my kids…back then it was just a square of flannel and pair plastic pants

  • Thank you so much for the straight-forward explanations WITH PICTURES! I’ve always been intimidated to use prefolds except trifold used as an insert

  • MERCI !! I am slowly building my stash, mostly pockets so far but the more I read about prefolds , the more excited I get ! I want something versatile, easy to custmize, easy to dry, etc . My first will be born in a few weeks and I can not WAIT to start my CD adventure. Thank you for the info, it is definitely bookmarked, saved, and ready to go. I am practicing as we speak !! <3 Lots of love from Northern Ontario .

    • You’re welcome, Christine! I hope you find this useful when you have a real live baby to practice on. πŸ™‚ Congratulations and best of luck for a smooth and easy delivery!

  • Hi there! Have you or anyone on here ever used the gerber prefold diapers? I received a bunch of them as a gift and am just starting out cloth diapering. I’m just wondering if there is a trick with them. I just tried them out and it seems like theyre not very absorbent. Any tips, advoce or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi Kelsey, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Gerber prefolds are well-known to be not good for anything other than burp cloths, for reasons it sounds like you’ve experienced. The good news is you haven’t wasted much money (prefolds are very cost effective), and you will have much better luck with a different brand. I’ve used my Bummis prefolds for 5 years and they are great quality and super absorbent. Diaper-rite, Geffen Baby, and Green Mountain are all well-regarded as well. I suggest you forget about the Gerber prefolds and try one of these other brands.

      • Thank you foryour reply! I also have a few osocozy prefolds and they are much better. Is it normal for the prefold to be soaked all the way through when you change it? Like every part of the diaper is wet and leaks through the legs a little bit I’ve noticed.

        • If it’s saturated all the way through, that means you should be changing more often. Any diaper can only hold so much liquid, and it will start to leak out the sides when it’s too full. On average, expect to change a baby every 2-3 hours (whether in cloth or disposable diapers). Hemp is a very absorbent material, and some mamas with heavy-wetting babies will wrap the prefold around a hemp insert/booster for some extra absorbency.

  • Hi there
    Seen this site.love it.im baby freddy and im an adult diaper boy..love wearing cloth diapers, i have on 36×36 diapers with toddlers prefolds inside 4-8-4s..love the thickness of them. .been in diapers most of my life and have always worn cloth diapers ,,i live in mich and amvery Happy in my Diapers, love to share my live of diapers with everyone and i act and play like a toddler baby. .
    Im baby freddy

  • I do mostly pockets and have a heavy wetter so I started buying flats and doing the trifold but now I want to try some of these different prefolds and see if we can get even less leaks!

  • when i had my son – 18 months ago – when he iwas a newborn i was so stressed out being a first time mom, and cloth diapering AND trying to figure out good potty solutions. i thought i had to use prefolds with a newborn and i gave up after some time b/c i didnt know where to look anymore. this is good info for next baby so i know that there are good options out there ………. thanks!!!!!

  • I really like using the bikini fold. Unlike you, I haven’t had many accidents with baby poo, though now my baby is using elimination communication and rarely poos in her diapers anymore. Even with my first child this was our exclusive fold most of her diapering days. Thanks for the clear-cut tutorials on how to conquer the folds. I know it can be very confusing for new cloth diapering parents.

  • This is an awesome post. I was so curious about how to fold prefolds. I plan on using them and diaper covers on my newborn when he gets here. And these will be so easy to teach my fiance too =]]

  • Great information for new users of cloth diaper inserts. Really appreciate the photos of all the possibilities along with the pros & cons of each. My grandson is just 3 weeks old and all of this information is a big help as we are figuring out the best method to keep messes to a minimum. Thanks!!

  • I know you wrote this post a long time ago, but thank you so much for doing so! It helped us immensely as we researched cloth diapering and using prefolds for our DD. The bikini fold has actually been our go-to fold and has been bulletproof even for poos! However, as our DD outgrows a prefold, the Angel fold allows to get a few more weeks of use!

    On a side note, we’ve since started a parenting blog of our own and wanted to get permission to link to and/or use the images you have on this post. Of course, you’ll be credited for everything. Thanks either way!

    • Glad you found this useful, and congrats on your blog! You’re free to link to my post, and you may use the title picture (the one that says 6 Ways to Fold a Prefold Diaper), but please don’t use any of the actual tutorial pictures. Thanks for asking!

  • Wow! I never knew there were so many great ways to fold cloth diapers.I will be bookmarking this for future referenc.I like the Pad fold and the Angel fold and will try them first.

  • Thanks for the information! I can fold the regular cloth diapers but the pre-folded seems to be the in thing. I should have searched how to use them. I just started sewing baby fabric on them for burp cloths to match quilts I was making.

  • not sure if i missed it, but what’s your favorite brand of prefolds? I bought the Gerber ones on clearance at Walmart because i heard they were great for burp cloths… but as I intend to try CDing, i want to try a few different types and styles, so I’m curious where to begin with shopping for prefolds – i do have some diaper covers already because i was also interested in the hybrid method.

    • Hi Sara, I’m sorry I missed your question until just now. Most of my prefolds were Bummis (infant size), and they lasted through 2 babies and more than 5 years. They’re great quality and last forever!

  • I did such a lot of cloth diapering, with 7 children you do, but I never knew there were so many different ways to fold a diaper. It’s so long ago now that the first diaper I used was a big square terry cloth piece that was folded to a triangle and safety pins used to hold it together. πŸ™‚

  • i’ve never done any fold, just trifolded the prefold and put it in the diaper. i’m printing this, it will come in handy i’m sure.

  • We have a newly adopted 14 year old daughter and we are using regular cloth diapers and rubberpants on her 24/7.Her diapers are the Gerber flat cloth ones that come 10 to a package in the 24×27 inch size.I lay them out flat,and then fold the sides in towards the middle and then bring the corners out so the diapers resemble an hour glass.I slide them under her,apply the babypowder,then bring the diapers up and pin the corners with regular diaper pins.I then put her adult size medium rubberpants on over the diapers and then a teen size onesie and she is good to go.She likes the rubberpants with nursery prints on them,so they are what she mostly wears over her diapers.

  • Hi today’s mothers seem to be very lazy in wanting to wash nappies. I only used toweling and nappy liners when my boys were born. Thanks so much for the info on cloth diapers.

  • Thank you! I exclusively used pockets for our first as we didn’t start cloth until she was 4 months. Now that I am due with my second I don’t want to buy a whole newborn stash for the same price, so I am looking into prefolds. These look easy enough to handle and I might even be tempted to try them on my 1 year old if I get some sooner than later!