Flat or prefold diapers? How about flannel to make my own? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 09-07-2013, 05:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi all,


I figured I'd start my research here.  I can see that DD will be outgrowing her size 1 Diaper Rite prefolds before long.  Because of some upcoming travels, I'm considering flats (easiest diapers to dry, right?!) for the next stage of diapering.  Note, I've never seen/touched a flat diaper.  I haven't found them where I live, but I'll be in the U.S. in another few weeks, where I'll be able to touch & feel them in person.  So, here are my questions:


1.  Are flats really going to be as absorbent as prefolds?  Should I -- or can I? -- double them up (one atop the other, then fold into the diaper shape)?


2. I have a bunch of organic flannel.  Do you think flannel would make a good flat diaper-- possibly even new-sew without a hem?  Or is there a preferred type of fabric for making one's own?


3. What's the (dis)advantage of a larger size like 33 inches, vs the 27 inches, or square vs. rectangular?


4.  Any problems with using wool covers with flats?  (Some of our covers are wool pull-ons; others are wool wraps.)


5. And, lastly, what's your favorite organic, unbleached flat diaper to use?  (And why is it better than other flats?)


Any other tips you can offer on flats will also be appreciated!


With thanks from Sweden...

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#2 of 17 Old 09-08-2013, 01:30 PM
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I love my flats. There is a learning curve to folding but its not super hard. You most certainly can double them for extra absorbency. They go great with any cover including wool. Just know you must snappi or pin if using pull on covers. I would get the largest ones you can. They will be longer lasting and more folding options. Green mountain diapers sell good square flats and has great info on folding, care, etc. Hope this helps!
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#3 of 17 Old 09-10-2013, 01:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you, Monkey Pants!

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#4 of 17 Old 09-10-2013, 04:22 AM
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When I was using flats I liked to use a birdseye flat for the outside (usually cheap Gerber one), because it works well with a Snappi, then some nice soft flannel for the inside one(s). 

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#5 of 17 Old 09-10-2013, 09:39 AM
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I think that prefolds are more absorbent than large flats.  You can double flats, but you get a lot of fluff this way.  I prefer the softness of prefolds to birdseye flats.  Imse Vimse makes a muslin flat, that is as soft as a prefold, a bit pricier than the birdseye though, and I think they are only selling them dyed green right now.  I have used flannel receiving blankets as flats, but again, they are not as absorbent and I don't like the feel of them when wet.  Once you get the folding down, I don't think there is any difference when using with wool.  

Flats do wash and dry really well.  And they can be fun.  Maybe get a few large flats and a few larger prefolds and see which you like better?

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#6 of 17 Old 09-11-2013, 10:56 AM
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All I use are flats! They are the best for many reasons: affordable, get super clean because they are only one layer thick, dry super fast, can be hand washed during travel, all natural material, one size fits most, etc etc! I highly recommend you google "flats and hand washing challenge". That's the website where I got my inspiration. I have an 18 month old and my standard dipe is a large unbleached GMD flat, which I pad-fold into a Thirsties duo wrap. Pad fold is just folding it into a simple rectangle that fits just right in the cover. At night I use a combo of three flats and use a Disana wool soaker. Flats and wool are a great combo. For nap time I use 2 flats in the "kite fold" with a snappi and a wool cover.
I have used organic osocozy flats but they are TiNy. Too small for my kiddo now but I used them until she was about 6 months. The GMD flats are not organic cotton but they are the best of the best. They are soft! Softer than any prefold I have used! If they aren't soft for you, could be your water- just try a smidge of Ecover fabric softener (I do this if mine ever feel stiff from maybe the dryer being too hot or something).
I have used flannel for dipes before but they don't work well with a snappi. So pad folding is really the only option. I liked them fine but really really prefer the GMD flats. Some ladies repurpose old receiving blankets into flat diapers!
Another option is to go to Walmart or Target and get flour sack towels from the kitchen department. They are about a dollar each and I think they measure roughly 27 inches after shrinkage. These work great as dipes and you can use fancy folds with a snappi. Not as absorbent as GMD flats but very soft and pure white.
Seriously, you get the perfect fit every time and it is really fun to use folds like the "origami" and the "kite" fold. Go for it!
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#7 of 17 Old 09-11-2013, 11:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Ooh, these are going to be fun to try. Thanks for all of this feedback!
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#8 of 17 Old 09-12-2013, 07:34 AM
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We use flats. We are frequent changers. We used flannel sheets (ripped rather than cut) and didn't even bother to sew. Now that we have big toddlers, we also use T-shirts as diapers.

I like how they wash and dry easily. It's possible to get a good fit on any baby. With thick flannel, I wouldn't go too big because they can get bulky.

We love our wool, too.

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#9 of 17 Old 09-12-2013, 11:25 AM
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Just wanted to add that I loved loved loved flats as well. They just seem so much easier to get clean and dry and, and I really enjoyed learning new folds. I could immediately use them with my newborn, and just adjust the fold as he got older (and I doubled them at night very successfully). I also would fold them into quarters fresh out of the dryer, then finish the fold when I put them on him. It seemed to save time for them to be folded partway (or you can just fold them all the way straight out of the dryer). Just for fun, I added a couple pictures. This is my baby boy (don't be confused by the pink snappi!) when he was just a few weeks old:


Oh, and I forgot to add that I got mine from Green Mountain Diapers here. I got the large ones, and they were honestly so cheap, that I didn't feel like I needed to make my own. If you need any links for great tutorials on how to fold them, just let me know!!



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#10 of 17 Old 09-12-2013, 01:44 PM
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We use flats but double with prefolds for older kids (we use an origami fold and tuck a tri-folded prefold into the rectangular part of the diaper)-- babies under about 9-12 months generally don't need doubling unless they STTN.  I wash all our laundry by hand, so the fact that flats are so easy to wash and fast to dry is a HUGE plus for us.  Using the prefold helps decrease bulk a little, and since it's covered by the flat, it doesn't get as gross with solid waste, so it stays pretty easy to wash.  IMO, bigger flats are better!  We generally use ones that are right around 30" square after first wash, and they fit kids from birth to age 4+, which saves a lot of money (and hassle!  no storing outgrown diapers to hand down, no remembering to pack different sizes for your 2yo and your newborn...).  I've also used extra flats as baby blankets, doll slings, changing mats, and nursing covers in a pinch-- you can't beat a big square of fabric for versatility!


Brands-wise, we always order through Green Mountain (http://www.greenmountaindiapers.com/flat-birdseye-diapers.html), but I have also used "flour sack" kitchen towels with great success, and thrifted pillowcases and t-shirts also work well.  I have some sheets set aside that I've been meaning to cut and hem to make diapers, but I haven't tried it yet.


We use exclusively wool covers, mostly homemade.  I have noticed that some wrap-style covers (Little Beetle seems to be the biggest culprit, but they are out of business now) don't have enough rise to cover flats very well, and the diaper sticks out a bit in front.  Imse Vimse wraps, by contrast, are tall enough.  Aristocrats pull-ons work beautifully, and I would expect similar styles (Diasana, etc.) to work well, too.

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#11 of 17 Old 09-12-2013, 01:54 PM
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prefolds are like flats, except they are pre folded. i like flats, they wash well, dry super fast, can be folded all sorts of ways and can fit in pretty much any cover. you can use diaper pins on them and pull on a wool cover.

i have bought them thru green mountain diapers, you get a dozen for $12, so you can load up for pretty cheep, which is nice. and when you are all done with them in a few years... they are great for cleaning around the house. :)

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#12 of 17 Old 09-12-2013, 05:47 PM
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It's been a while since I've had babes in diapers, but we utilized a whole gambit between the three kids and *lots* of travelling, plus living off grid for the first year the last one was born. That meant no running water so we hand washed and hung dry in WA. Flats do dry faster, but weren't as absorbent as my youngest needed (males can concentrate all their pee in one little spot!) So we compromised: we bought a bunch of organic washcloths and used them to line the center of the flat diaper (essentially did a trifold out of the flat with the washcloth in the center). This was the most effective thing we found. We utilized old t-shirts and any other  absorbent cotton material to make flats out of. My husbands grandmother made us babywraps that tied, wish I had a photo of them. It took me about 3 days of folding to find the fold that worked for my son, so plan on a little trial and error. In all honesty, travelling with the flats was much easier for cleaning than travelling with the prefolds with my first 2. And since most of my youngest's diapers were recycled, we never cried if we left a diaper somewhere, or if when travelling it was just better to throw away than have the stench travel with you for 8 hours.


Cheers, and I hope this helped!!!

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#13 of 17 Old 09-12-2013, 08:05 PM
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We have almost exclusively used flats for our 3.  With my first two I used pins and wool, but went to mostly velcro PUL wraps for #3 because I had less time to enjoy changing diapers!   One thing that I think is much better with flats is that you can decrease the bulk between the legs for walkers (like the disposables that they make now with less bulk in that area).  Because you can fold the flats in any way that works for you, you can distribute the bulk to the sides if needed.  I've not ever found a prefold that is not super-bulky comparitively in the middle (as that is pretty much the point of prefolds).  Likewise, the prefolds that I've used/felt seem like they wouldn't be as soft on the skin as our flats.  We use a combination of birdseye and gauze.  I prefer the gauze for softness and really loved the old gauze diapers that my mom had left from 35 years ago for softness, though of course they only made it for about 1 1/2 babies!  With an 11-month-old, I tend to double the birdseye when I am folding.  The gauze are a bit more absorbant when compared with the birdseye, so I usually leave them as singles and just pick and choose single/double/type of fold depending on what I need each diaper change.

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#14 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 05:56 AM
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I loved flats. They dried way fast and were easy to clean. You can avoid that bow-legged experience to some extent with them.


I made wool soakers and just kinda tucked the folded up flat between his legs and then down so none stuck out. No fancy folds for us!


We did EC too, but it took a while for him to be dry. Once he was about 11 months, we just tucked a flat fold into some training pants undies as a backup when we went to other people's houses.


I found flats to be very versatile.


At night I used "diaper flannel" flats that my neices made for a home ec project. It was a special flannel made for making diapers, I think. It could hold a TON!

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#15 of 17 Old 09-13-2013, 06:25 AM
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I used a mix of flats and contour diapers with my kids. I like the square terry cloth nappies. I would use an "orgami fold" or sort trapazoid fold. At night I would fold only diaper into a rectangular pad to put inside at trapazoid folded diaper.  I prefered to fasten the diaper with a Snappi or pins. Almost any type of cover will work.  I had wool and nylon covers. I liked having an emergancy back nylon cover in the diaper bag because they are compact.  As my kids got older(close to a year) I cut the flats into thirds and pinned the flat to the inside of cotton underpants. This was easier to get off during a potty run.

 I had a diaper service for awhile that used prefold I found hard to pin or Snappi. I received a few flannel contour diapers as a gift and did not like them as much as terry cloth. They were soft but hard for me to pin and not as absorbant as terry. Flannel is too smoothe for a Snappi.  The flats clean well and dry fast on the clothes line or a dryer.

How about making a few and buying a few.  I also borrowed diapers from neighbors to test out other options.

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#16 of 17 Old 10-01-2013, 07:43 PM
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I hadn't thought about using flats till I read this thread, now I'm seriously considering buying some! Can someone fill me in on a couple things please?
Are they as absorbent as prefolds when folded like a prefold?
To get a good amount of absorbency, and doubling diapers, isn't that super bulky?
How many do you need to buy? 2 dozen? 3 dozen?

Mama to 5 amazing kids CJ AG
JJ SD and my UC baby HD And married to my highschool sweetheart
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#17 of 17 Old 10-06-2013, 06:17 PM
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I'm inspired! I went to my local baby store today and got some flats! Gonna practice different folds with them tomorrow! (The things I never, ever thought I'd get excited about ...)

Jamie, 35,  mom to Tykie (12.07.02) Malachi (08.09.04) and River (10.20.13), and married to Kaleb since 03.11.10 Surpise baby due 10.28.15
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