Monday, April 9, 2012

Cloth 101: Prefolds and Flats

Prefolds and flats. These are what most of our moms and/or grandmothers used on their babies. They would pin them on and cover them up with (usually) rubber pants. Well, the diapers are relatively the same, but the covers couldn't be more different!
First up are Prefolds.

There are basically 3 kinds of prefolds: Chinese, Indian, and Only-Good-For-Burp-Cloths. The picture above is of unbleached Indian prefolds. Chinese prefolds are basically the same, only they are made in China. Prefolds look like there are 3 sections to them, and are described as 4 x 8 x 4 or 4 x 6 x 4 - meaning there are 4 layers on each side, and 8 layers in the middle (some newborn or preemie prefolds will only have 6 layers in the middle). Both Chinese and Indian come bleached or unbleached and with different colors of thread at the end. They are usually 100% cotton (some are hemp or bamboo), and are a very, VERY inexpensive way to cloth diaper. 

When I put Boogs in a prefold, I like to pin it. I had a horrible time fitting a Snappi on him. He was a big, big boy.

Plus, look how stinkin' cute he is!

As much as I love my pins, many mamas prefer the Snappi fastener. They have little teeth that grab the diaper in 3 places and hold it fast.  

Or, once your little one has started solids, you can simply trifold the prefold and lay it in a cover. No fastener needed! 
There are several ways to fold a prefold, and there's a little trial and error involved until you decide what works for you and your baby. I googled "how to fold a prefold" when I started, but I plan to make a post about all the different folds at a later date.

Bleached vs unbleached  - well, that's just personal preference. And Indian vs Chinese - personal preference again. Although, I have noticed that Indian tend to be softer, but wear a little more quickly. Chinese may last longer, but aren't as soft as Indian. Both can get pilly  - I just gave mine a shave with a sweater shaver and they were soft and smooth again!

On to flat diapers...

Flats are one layer, usually a birdseye cotton (can also be hemp or bamboo), that average around 27 inches square. They have their own set of folds, and you can pin or Snappi them as well. When you first see a flat diaper, you may wonder how a thin little piece of fabric can possibly hold up to all the pee and poo your little can produce - but they really can! When folded, there are many layers in the wet zone, and they provide full coverage just like a prefold. You also have the option of adding a doubler (extra layers of absorption) when you fold them (I will touch on this later, too). I will make sure to include flats folding when I do my prefold folding post later!

And lastly, the Burp Cloth Diapers... Ugh. These are the Gerber or Carter's "prefolds" you see at WalMart and other big box stores. Some have used these in a pinch with success - not us! I really wish they would relabel the packages as anything but cloth diapers. There is poly batting in the center instead of more layers of cotton which really is NOT an absorbent material. Cloth diapers you order from a cloth diapering store are much thicker, with only layers of cotton (or bamboo or hemp), and absorb like crazy.

I keep talking about cotton with hemp and bamboo in parentheses after. Some manufacturers make hemp or bamboo prefolds and flats. They are pricier, and some people swear they are more absorbent. I think its mainly personal preference.

No matter which fabric you choose, you will have to prep your prefolds or flats when you receive them. This is to wash out the natural oils. You can wash on hot with detergent several times, running through the dryer about every other load, or boil them and then do a wash and dry cycle. Prefolds will quilt up quite a bit when you prep them, but they will also be a TON more absorbent than unprepped prefolds. 

With pricing anywhere from $1 to $3 per diaper for most prefolds and flats, these are truly a very economical way to diaper a baby. Toss in a few covers, and you are set!

I hope that was relatively easy to absorb (pun intended). If there is anything I left out, or that you have questions on, please let me know and I will edit this post to include it. 

 Next time, I will talk about covers.