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New to cloth diapering? Find out all you need to know in this guide: Cloth Diapering? Naturally! Cloth Diaper Basics.

I had several things in mind when I set out to find the right cloth diaper for our family: I knew we needed to find something that would work for our budget, and our lifestyle. At the time, we lived in an apartment that had temperamental, coin-hungry and notoriously inefficient laundry facilities, so I wanted to find a diaper that was relatively quick and easy to clean and dry. And, of course, a diaper that was easy to use and versatile as our son went from newborn to infant to toddler, was a must.

I was actually a little surprised when I found what we were looking for in good, old-fashioned prefolds and covers. When I say “old-fashioned,” though, I really just mean basic and simple, since these cloth diapers are still a modern and easy alternative to the diaper pins and rubber pants of yore. We went with Bummis prefolds, and Bummis Super Whisper Wraps (diaper covers). I liked that Bummis’ products are all proudly North American made. The organic cotton prefolds are affordable, so we were able to have a pretty big stash of diapers, meaning less frequent laundry loads. The fact that prefolds are simply flat squares of absorbent cotton made drying, in particular, a lot more efficient, and on nice days (or when the ever-unreliable dryer took a day off) it was quick and easy to hang them up to dry. I also liked that the covers didn’t need to be washed after a single use—as long as they stayed clear of pee and poop, they were good to use again. The covers came in adorable prints, too—a great bonus!

The most intimidating thing about prefolds, is, of course, the fact that you need to fold them. But while this fact is initially off-putting, it actually ends up being one of the best things about prefolds—they can be folded in so many different ways, and are therefore wonderfully versatile. The “newspaper fold” turned out to be a great way to hold in messy newborn poop, and to prevent the dreaded diaper blowout. As my son got older (or perhaps as I got lazier!) I found myself sticking with the very easy tri-fold, though, as shown below:

The Tri-Fold

1.     Lay the diaper flat. With the thick middle section lying cross-wise, fold one side into the middle. Fold the other side over top, so that the diaper is now three layers thick.

2. Place the folded diaper into the cover. A lot of covers have a top pocket that the diaper can be tucked into (see cover on the left) but I prefer to lay the diaper overtop of the pocket.  Otherwise, the cover gets wet when my son pees, and then needs to be changed. This way, the cover is often good for several diaper changes.

3. Once the prefold is positioned in the cover the way you like, you simply put it on your baby the same way any other diaper works: slide the back under baby’s bum, pull the front up between the legs, and fasten snuggly at the waist. Done!

4. If a little extra absorbency is needed, I fold a soaker (the Bummis Stay Dry liners or BumGenius Stay Dry Doublers work great) into the middle of the tri-fold. This system worked great for overnights for the longest time, until my now-almost-two-year-old’s bladder just outgrew it all!

We have been using prefolds with our son since he was about seven weeks old, and while he is mostly potty trained now, we still use a prefold and cover for back-up at nap time, or on extra-long car rides. We have two sizes of prefolds and covers: smalls, that worked from seven weeks to six months, and mediums, which we used from six months on, and which are still our “back-up” when we need them. If our son was still in diapers full time, though, we would definitely need to upgrade to a size large at this point—his bladder is just far too big for a medium prefold!

The only real downfall I’ve encountered with prefolds and covers is that they are intimidating. While our extended family and babysitters have all been good sports about them, I know they all cringe at the idea of having to fold the diaper and make sure it fits in the cover properly.  That aside though, I love our prefolds, and hope to start using them from day one with any future children we have. Don’t let their lack of bells and whistles fool you—prefolds and covers are still a great option in the ever-evolving cloth diaper world!

About Alison:
Aside from being a cloth diaper enthusiast, Alison Potter is the proud mommy of Jack, age 23 months. She is an Early Childhood Educator who runs a fun and busy home daycare. When not involved with diapering, mommy-hood, and the daycare, she enjoys writing, reading, and spending time with her family.

Thinking of using cloth diapers? Read about other the pros and cons of all the types:

Cloth Diapers? Naturally! Cloth Diaper Basics

All About Pocket Diapers

All About AIO/AI2 Diapers

All About Flat Diapers

All About Fitted Diapers