Cloth Diapering Greener Living

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, 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!

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

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4 Tips for Dealing with Cloth Diaper Burnout

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.

  • i love our prefolds we go newspaper and pad fold the majority of the time… never really was a fan of the bikini!

  • Thanks for the post, I am definitely bookmarking this as a good, easy to understand resource for those new to cloth!

  • 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!

    • I tried these all at the beginning, but once we figured out the fold that worked best for us (the jell roll), we didn’t really use the others.

  • 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™‚

    • Hmm, I don’t know. I’ve never used Flips. If they’re similar in size/proportion to the prefolds in the pictures, it should be the same.

  • 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.

  • Great tutorial! I’ve never used prefolds. I didn’t realize there were so many ways to fold them!!

  • 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…

    • Glad you find this helpful!

      Which covers are you using? I used Bummis and Mother-ease covers, both of which have plenty of room.

      • I tried it with a best bottoms, a grovia shell and a wool cover. It might be the size of my prefolds though…

  • 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.