Cloth Diapering: Should I Use Flats or Prefolds for my Newborn?


If you like both flat diapers and prefolds but aren’t sure which style works best for a newborn, here’s a quick comparison.

Flats are more versatile when it comes to sizing. The small size can last from birth until 4 months or more, depending on your baby’s size and weight. With prefolds, you might have to buy 2 sizes to get you through the first few months (newborn and small, or small and medium).

For newborns, fold your small flats using my Mini Pad Fold. When your newborn is bigger, try the regular Pad Fold or other basic folds.

Prefolds are quicker to get on because they can be folded in thirds. If time is golden to you, go for this style. This is the main reason so many mothers choose prefolds over flats for newborns; they feel that flat diapers are just going to take too much time.

Flats are a bit cheaper, but not by much. One dozen cotton flats is about $22 and one dozen prefolds is about $24. If you use flour sack towels instead of diapers, the cost savings are more dramatic because a dozen will be from $12 to $15.

Flats dry more quickly. They are a single layer of fabric.

Flats are easier to clean. Again, being only a single layer of fabric, a flat diaper is easier to get thoroughly clean.

Prefolds are trimmer. Compare a pad folded flat and a trifolded prefold, and the latter has an edge.


At left: Diaper Rite cotton flat diaper At right: Imagine newborn prefold

Prefolds and flats can both be repurposed. You can turn those small prefolds and flats into doublers or burp cloths when your newborn outgrows them.

Flats are slightly more absorbent because newborn-sized prefolds have a bit less padding in the middle than larger sizes. They will feel thinner than other prefolds for that reason. However, if you compare a small flat and a small prefold, absorbency is about the same. You can use small prefolds on a newborn, especially if he/she is a larger baby, but you may have to fold up the front to get the length just right.

Have you used flats or prefolds on a newborn? Which did you prefer and why?

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Tags: cloth diapers, flats, newborn cloth diapering, prefolds

One Response to Cloth Diapering: Should I Use Flats or Prefolds for my Newborn?

  1. Jill says:

    I tried flats and gave up. I’d already used prefolds 2 other times and had success with them, but I do use flats inside pockets so I didn’t lose anything, just put them back for a couple of months.

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