How Many Prefolds Do I Need For A Newborn?
Why Prefolds and Covers For A Cloth Diapered Newborn?
A lot of people ask what the best diaper system is! The answer: it depends on you and your baby. When someone is looking for a cloth option for their newborn, I always direct them to the prefolds and covers. It is the most economical option for a newborn and prefolds can take A LOT of abuse. They are the perfect “cloth diaper training wheels”.
What’s The Difference Between Flats and Prefolds?
Flats are just like they sound – a large, flat piece of absorbent material that you fold to go around baby’s tush. The diaper is held in place with either pins or a snappi. Snappi’s are the preferred choice as they are really easy to use and you can’t accidentally poke baby during a diaper change.
Flats are usually made from cotton or hemp.
Prefold Cloth Diapers:
Prefolded cloth diapers are usually made from cotton, hemp or bamboo.
They are “prefolded” and sewn so that they are thicker in the middle and thinner on the sides. This makes them a little easier to use than flat diapers.
If you use a simple wrap cover, you don’t really need to pin the diaper in place or use a snappi. Just lay the diaper inside the cover and close it up. Easy!
When buying prefolds, you will often see them listed as 4x8x4. What that means is that there are 4 layers on the side panels and 8 in the middle. This helps when searching for a diaper with more or less absorbency, depending on your baby’s needs. Prefolds come in 4 sizes so you can get a better fit.
A word of caution about buying prefold cloth diapers. You will find prefolds at places like Babies-R-Us or Walmart. Before you buy them there, make sure that you get diapers that are not made with polyester materials. This makes the diaper look big and fluffy, but polyester does not make the diaper very absorbent. Stick with all-natural fibers.
Pros and Cons Of Prefolds
Prefolds are simple and straightforward. With a Snappi, you don’t even need to bother with safety pins. You will be changing a newborn MANY times a day and with this system you don’t have to change the cover every time. You can stock up on prefolds for less that $50 and grab a couple of covers and you have a newborn system for less than $100! They are easy to wash and you don’t have to worry about staining as much as you would with a more expensive All-in-One. They can also be used as inserts in Pockets if you choose to switch!
You can fold your prefolds differently for different babies. Boys and girls need absorbency in different places and a prefold can accommodate that.
They are more involved than All-in-Ones. If you like the concept of changing diapers like disposables, you may find other options to be more convenient. Other than that, there are not many cons to the prefold system.
Understanding Prefold Sizes
Right before our last child moved on to toddler prefolds, just a bit before her second birthday, I took a few more pictures before our old premium and infant prefolds move on to another home. These prefolds have been washed MANY times over the past 10 years, but I think these pictures give a great representation of the size differences of infant, premium, and toddler prefolds.
This first picture shows the infant prefold (left), two different premium prefolds (center), and a toddler prefold (right). The infant prefold is much shorter than the other three, which are all practically the same length. Infant prefolds are usually thinner because they have less layers of absorbancy sewn into the middle section than premium or toddler prefolds.
The infant prefold is also noticeably narrower than the premium prefolds. Infant prefolds generally fit babies from about 8 pounds until around 15 pounds, depending on the shape of the baby. Usually they get quite difficult to Snappi around baby’s belly when they get up toward the 15 pound mark. People generally find that premium prefolds are HUGE on babies when they first transition into them, but they can be folded a bit in length, and while it is more bulky for a while, the extra width is usually greatly appreciated.
This final picture compares the two premium prefolds to the toddler prefold. The toddler prefold is approximately 1 to 1.5 inches wider but is the same length as the the premiums. I know that when my kids hit about the 30-32 pound mark, that extra width makes a huge difference in the fit and performance of the diaper. Some kids potty train right out of the premium size, but if you have big kids like me, 2 dozen toddler prefolds is a great investment! And if you’re in the same boat, check out my post on covers for gigantic toddlers.
FAQ On Cloth Diapering A Newborn
How many diapers will I need for my hospital stay?
Newborn breastfed babies will generally pee and poop one time each per day of life for the first 5 or so days. So day 1: 1 pee, 1 poop. Day 2: 2 pees, 2 poops. Day 3: 3 pees, 3 poops, and so on. Most people return home from birth centers after 1 day, so packing about 6 to 8 diapers would be appropriate in this situation. Hospital stays are generally between 2 to 3 days, so a dozen diapers diapers is generally a good amount.
If you are planning to stay longer, add diapers accordingly. It is also important to remember that the output baby will have the first few days will not be great in quantity, so your chances of experiencing a blowout is very slim.
If you are using a two part diapering system (i.e. prefolds or fitted diapers with a cover or a All in Two), you should be fine with just a couple of covers for the first few days. If you are using All in Ones or pocket diapers, you need one full diaper per change.
I plan to cloth diaper starting at the hospital. What else should I bring?
- Bring a wetbag or pail liner to store your soiled cloth diapers in until you get home. Don’t worry, it won’t smell up the room. Most people claim that breastfed baby poop has very little scent to it at all. Others describe it as “curried yogurt” or “buttery popcorn.” Either way, it will not stink up any space you might be limited to. I like my Planet Wise Large Wet Bag becuase it contains all odors and hangs nicely from the back of a door or the hooks in your bathroom.
- Prefolds require Snappis or diaper pins to hold in place.
- Pack about a dozen cloth wipes as well as a wipe solution. You can make your own wipe solution if your feeling extra nesty or you can just use plain water. I like to use a spray bottom cleaner to wipe off the stubborn sticky first poops. Throw them right into your wetbag or pail liner along with the diapers and wash them all together when you return home.
- You may want to bring a few flushable liners for the first few diaper changes. After that, you may save the rest of the roll for later when baby is introduced to solid foods.
- I also like to have a cloth changing pad to change baby on near my bed and in my diaper bag at all times. You may or may not need it in a hospital or birth center, but I find it useful even when changing a wiggly baby on my bed.
You probably don’t *need* these, but I love Baby leg warmers on newborns. They are perfect with onesies or under gowns to add extra warmth, but make diaper changes simple. Those one piece pj’s with snaps all the way up the legs are NOT a new parent’s best friend.
It is very unlikely that your baby will develop any kind of diaper rash during this period, so don’t worry about packing any creams, ointments, or other types of baby toiletries.
How do I prep my newborn diapers?
Many people panic when they receive prefolds fresh off the shelf. And with good reason. They are rough, stiff, huge, and don’t look like anything you’d like to put near your precious baby’s bum. But don’t worry. After a few washes they will be fluffy and absorbent and ready to use. The prefolds have natural oils and waxes that will be removed after several washes. They will also shrink approximately 20-25% during the first few washes. If you have a new baby on the way, it is a good idea to prepare your prefolds before their arrival.
This is what I have done to “prep” my prefolds each time I added some to my stash, and it has worked every time:
- Put 24 infant or 18 premium prefolds (max) in the washer.
- Add 1 T of cloth diaper friendly detergent.
- Wash on hot 3 times in a row (not adding more detergent with each wash).
- Dry on medium high heat.
- Return to washer.
- Add 1 T of cloth diaper friendly detergent.
- Wash on hot 2 times in a row (not adding more detergent with each wash).
- Dry on medium high heat.
After that, they are ready to use!
If you use them before they are washed enough, it is likely that urine will repel off of them, as they will not have reached their peak absorbency. They will also not be as soft and fluffy as they should be.
How do I cloth diaper around a newborns umbilical cord stump?
Until baby’s umbilical stump falls off, it is a good idea to fold or place diapers so that the area is clear to keep it from being rubbed or becoming damp.
Will meconium poop ruin my cloth diapers?
Meconium washes out of cloth diapers easily however it can leave a light stain in the cloth diaper. To remove the stain:
- Saturate the stained area with 3% hydrogen peroxide, then blot the stain. Apply one final application, let sit for about an hour, then wash as usual.
- Try using Buncha Famrers Stain Stick
- Sunning is also a great way to brighten cloth diapers, it’s natures bleach!
How do I get my newborn’s poop off the diapers?
It’s easier than you think! If it’s newborn poop, just toss it in the pail. It’ll all come out in the wash. If it’s solid enough to roll/scrape off the diaper, put it in the toilet. There are many products that will help clean diapers – VENETIO, Diaper Duck, and assorted liners.
Rice or other paper liners lay in the diaper. You can take them out and flush most of them. It makes cleanup VERY easy. I have used rice paper liners, and if it’s not messy i’ll just throw it in the pail with the diaper. It goes through the wash and I use it again. Be sure to check the instructions with the liners you buy, some are not ok to use with septic systems.
You can also cut fleece liners to lay in the diapers. Any kind of thinner fleece will work for this, and it’s quite reasonable by cost. Fleece wicks moisture away from baby’s bottom, keeping it dry. Poop also rolls off fleece easily. These types of liners keep the messes and the stains away from your diapers, but hey, isn’t a diaper meant for that anyway? Fleece liners are great for when you need to use ointments and rash creams that are not cloth diaper friendly.
How do I wash my newborn’s prefold diapers?
** The same washing routine or detergents will not work well for everyone. A lot depends on your machine, water quality, etc. Try a few different methods and soon you’ll find what works best for your family.
Brand new diapers will usually need to be washed a few times to reach maximum absorbency, especially prefolds. (see above for how to “prep” new prefolds)
Most of us have a very easy washing routine! Lets start with the diaper change. Just toss your diaper into a dry pail. Yup, no soaking needed! If it’s a messy diaper and baby has started eating solids, shake over the toilet and what falls off (or you are daring enough to scrape off) is easily taken care of. (or use a diaper sprayer)
Put the diaper and whatever is left (even newborn and breastmilk poops) in the pail. Every 2-3 days dump the pail in the washer, and run a cold rinse with no detergent. When it’s done, switch to hot water, add about 2 Tbsp. or so of detergent (see below for what detergent to use), and let it go!
Sometimes you may want to do an extra rinse at the end, depending on if the wash/rinse cycle had clear or bubbly/cloudy water. Toss your diapers in the dryer and dry on an auto towel setting or medium – high heat. You can also hang everything to dry, and hanging in the sun naturally gets the stains out! Stubborn stains may need more work, wet the diaper with water and squirt lemon juice on it then sun it out.
I see what a prefold is…but how do I fold it?
It’s not as complicated as you may think! The easiest way to use a prefold is fold longways in thirds and lay it in the cover. There are more ways to fold, check the links below, and you can use pins or a Snappi, or just fasten the cover.
Prepare a clean, prewashed diaper. Cloth diapers usually come prefolded to 14 inches by 20 inches, but you may have to fold them more to ensure snugness. Most diaper services will provide prefolded diapers, but if you’re going to fold them yourself, read steps one and two. If not, skip to step three.
- Spread the diaper. Fold 1/3 of the width from the left edge toward the center.
- Now do the same from the right edge, leaving a strip 1/3 the width of the original cloth.The diaper should now be three layers thick.
- Fold 1/3 up from the bottom so you have a six-ply thickness. Position this area in the front for a boy; for a girl, place it under her rear.
What’s the difference between different kinds of prefolds?
Personal preference, really. Some think Indians or Europeans are softer, while Chinese absorb more. There are also hemp or bamboo.