What are Flat Cloth Diapers?


How many times has our generation already realized that doing things the way my granny did — in an updated way — is the best for our health, the environment, and our wallets?

Flats, prefolds, and contoured diapers are the diapers your granny (or great-granny) used, though she used them a little differently, covering them in plastic pants and soaking them in a vile blue liquid before washing. These diapers have survived for generations for many reasons, so let’s dig into it.

What are Flat Diapers?

What exactly are flat diapers? Flat diapers, also just called “flats,” are large rectangles or squares of absorbent fabric in a square or rectangular shape.

I like to equate the size of a flat diaper to the size of a swaddling blanket. Flats are generally made of cotton, but they can also be made of other absorbent materials, such as hemp.

How Do You Use Flat Diapers?

Flat diapers need to be folded to fit onto your baby and secured with either diaper pinsSnappis, or Boingos. Flat diapers do require the use of a diaper cover over them as they do not have a waterproof layer built in.

Are Flat Diapers Any Good?

Flat diapers are definitely old-fashioned, and so they did fall out of favor for a bit, but as with all things, they have really begun to regain popularity in recent years.

I see a lot of intermediate and advanced cloth diaper parents loving the customization and trimness of flat diapers lately, and new takes on the old flat, like stretchy flat diapers, have really become trendy in the cloth diaper community.

But in general, the pros and cons of flat diapers remain the same:

ProsCons
Cost – Very inexpensive! Each diaper cost less than $2 a piece!Learning Curve – it can be intimidating to learn new folds.
Easy to care for – With cotton flats you can use them pretty much however you want! They are less likely to have build-up from detergents or diaper creams, and dry quickly. Time to change a diaper – With a super wiggly baby, intricate folds can be difficult. This is when I recommend the pad fold!
Adjustability – You can adjust the absorbency by the way your fold your diaper.
Require accessories – specifically a diaper cover and possibly cloth diaper fasteners
Availability – If you can’t afford to buy flat diapers or get your hands on any in a pinch, you can make your own flat diapers from cut-up towels, sheets, t-shirts, just about anything!
Trimness – for the absorbency they offer, flat diapers are trimmer than insert-style diapers (like pockets and all-in-two diapers).

How Do You Fold a Flat Diaper?

You can fold a flat cloth diaper in a ton of different ways.

Some of the more popular folds are:

1) The Pad Fold

The pad fold is a great option if you’re in a hurry or want a super simple way to use flats! This is also a great way to make new inserts for your pocket diapers. A pad folded flat is a great alternative to microfiber inserts.

Pad Fold Steps:

  1. Fold your flat in half.
  2. Fold your flat in half again the other way, making a square.
  3. Fold this square piece in a third of the way.
  4. Fold it in the rest of the way.
  5. To fasten onto your baby, pull up the front. No pins or fasteners are needed!

2) The Origami Fold

Origami fold is probably the most popular and used folded way to use a flat. It’s super easy once you get the hang of it!

Origami Fold Steps:

  1. Fold your flat in half. 
  2. Fold in half again the other way, making a square.
  3. Grab the top layer corner and pull it over to the right until you have created a triangle in the center.
  4. Flip the whole thing over.
  5. Fold in your square piece a third of the way.
  6. Fold in the rest of the way.
  7. To fasten onto your baby, pull up the front and wrap the wings around the sides. You may need to roll in the wings around the thighs to make them come up higher on the legs. Use a cloth diaper fastener (i.e. a Snappi, Boingo, or diaper pin) to fasten it to your baby.

3) The Happy Anteater Fold

Similar to the origami fold, the happy anteater fold is a fan favorite. It’s just one step more than the origami fold but helps to get the wings in the right place on your baby’s thighs.

Happy Anteater Fold Steps:

  1. Fold your flat in half. 
  2. Fold in half again the other way, making a square.
  3. Grab the top layer corner and pull it over to the right until you have created a triangle in the center.
  4. Flip the whole thing over.
  5. Fold in your square piece a third of the way.
  6. Fold in the rest of the way.
  7. Fold up your wing making the side flush with the center. Repeat on the other side.
  8. To fasten onto your baby, pull up the front and wrap the wings around the sides. Fasten with a Snappi, Boingo, or diaper pin.

4) The Kite Fold

The kite fold is another great option and a super popular fold! The best part is that there are only a few steps!

Kite Fold Steps:

  1. Make your flat a square by folding down one of the longer sides. 
  2. Grab a corner and pull it to the middle seam, repeating on the opposite side. This should look like a kite!
  3. Fold down the top triangle.
  4. Fold up the bottom triangle.
  5. To fasten onto your baby, jelly roll the sides (roll them in to create a barrier) and pull up the front. Wrap the wings around your baby’s waist and fasten. 

5) Mini Kite Fold

Very similar to the kite fold above, but it creates a smaller version that’s perfect for newborns and preemies.

Mini Kite Fold Steps:

  1. Make your flat a square by folding down one of the longer sides. 
  2. Fold in each corner to the middle making a smaller square. 
  3. Grab a corner and pull it to the middle seam, repeating on the opposite side. This should look like a kite!
  4. Fold down the top triangle.
  5. Fold down a couple of inches at the top. This will create a blowout blocker and can help make the fit a bit smaller if needed.
  6. Fold up the bottom triangle to the size you need.
  7. To fasten onto your baby, jelly roll the sides (roll them in to create a barrier) and pull up the front. Wrap the wings around your baby’s waist and fasten.

6) The Newspaper Fold

The newspaper fold is a great fold to customize your diaper for boys because it creates more absorbency in the front!

Newspaper Fold Steps:

  1. Fold up five or so inches at the bottom. You can adjust this depending on how big or small you need your finished product to be.
  2. Fold in the two bottom corners, meeting in the middle. 
  3. Fold up the bottom triangle. 
  4. Pull up the left and right side, meeting in the middle and creating triangular peaks at the top.
  5. Tuck the top triangles down into the space between the layers.
  6. To fasten onto your baby, jelly roll the sides and pull up the front portion. Wrap the sides around your baby’s waist and fasten.

More Flat Cloth Diaper Folds

If you’re looking for even more folds, there are a lot of great fold tutorials available on YouTube. It can be a lot of fun spending an afternoon teaching yourself the various folds. 

FAQ

What Size Are Flat Cloth Diapers?

Most flat cloth diapers measure about 27″ x 27″ or 70cm x 70cm after they have been washed. Be warned, that some retailers list pre-wash dimensions that don’t account for the considerable first-wash shrinkage of most fabrics.

What Is the Difference Between a Prefold and a Flat Diaper?

Flat diapers are a large, single-layer square or rectangle that must be folded into a diaper. Prefolds, named as they’re essentially “pre-folded” flat diapers, are smaller, and several layers thick. While prefolds still require some folding to use, it’s considerably less than a flat diaper.

How Many Flat Cloth Diapers Do I Need?

The number of flats you’ll need will depend heavily on the age of your baby, how often you want to do diaper laundry, and how you store your soiled diapers. That said, 24 – 36 flat diapers, with about 12-14 diaper covers is a good amount for most folks

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