Spotlight on Prefold nappy inserts: features, usage, pros and cons


I wanted to talk about Prefolds this week because Prefolds really are the workhorses of reusable nappies with their great absorbency, durability and ease of washing. In this blog post, let's have a look at their features, how to use them, and the advantages and disadvantages they offer.


Understanding Prefold Nappy Inserts

Prefold nappy inserts (let's just say Prefolds!) are rectangular pieces of absorbent cloth designed to be used as the absorbent core of a reusable nappy system. They are usually made from layers of cotton, bamboo viscose, hemp, or a blend of these materials. The layers are sewn together, creating a thicker middle section and thinner outer sections. This design allows for better absorbency where it's needed most.

They can be folded different ways to suit different stages of baby's development and urine/poo output.

They can also be used in any type of nappy as they can be folded to any size.


Real Nappies prefolds are 100% cotton, and we also have an unbleached, organic grade cotton prefold option.



How to Use Prefold Nappy Inserts

Using prefold nappy inserts may seem a bit daunting at first, but with practice, it becomes quite simple. Here's a step-by-step guide:

1. Prepping Inserts: Before using NEW Prefolds for the first time, it's essential to wash and dry them several times to increase their absorbency. The fibres will get "fluffed up" during washing. You may notice some shrinkage with natural fibre Prefolds such as cotton and hemp but this is totally normal and will stop after the initial washes.

2. Choose the right size Prefold for your baby's age/weight: this will be shown on the label. Some babies can get away with using a Prefold either a size above or below depending on output. This is something we learn as parents. The next size up Prefold can be used for night-time use or times of the day when baby has more output.

3. Folding: There are several folding techniques to suit different stages and needs.

The most common folds for newborn and infants include the "angel wing" fold and the "jelly roll" fold.

  • Angel Wing Fold: Lay the prefold flat, fold it down lengthwise to the right length for your baby and place the folded edge under baby's bottom. At the front, fold the sides towards the middle, bring the front over baby's belly and the back sides of the prefold over the sides and secure with a Snappi nappy fastener. This fold is great for infants and babies who need more absorbency upfront.


  • Jelly Roll Fold: Lay the prefold flat, roll both sides of the insert towards the middle, place under baby and adjust the length by folding down at the front and back if needed. Secure the sides over each other with a Snappi nappy fastener. This fold is particularly effective for containing newborn and breastfed baby messes.


  • Liquid Poo Fold: this fold works great without a Snappi nappy fastener.


    Other common folds include the "boy" and "girl" folds which are simple to do and hold up well without a nappy fastener.

    4. Placing in a Cover and close: After folding the Prefold, place it inside a nappy cover such as the Real Nappies Snug Wraps. Ensure the insert is all contained within the cover to prevent leaks. Other nappy covers can be used or a great natural option are wool covers.




    Advantages of Prefolds:

    1. Cost-effective: Prefold inserts are generally more affordable than all-in-one or pocket nappies, making them an economical choice for families.
    2. Customizable absorbency: The ability to fold and layer prefolds allows you to customize the level of absorbency based on your baby's needs.
    3. More absorbency: because they provide more coverage around baby, Prefolds tend to hold more absorbency than other common types of inserts. In-house comparison tests have also shown that even our smaller Prefolds such as infant-size hold more liquid than common reusable nappy brands.
    4. No prep: they do not require prepping before putting on baby. Just fold as you are putting it on baby and pop on. For example, pocket nappies need to be assembled in advance of changing baby.
    5. Durable: Prefolds are known for their durability, lasting through multiple children as long as they are cleaned appropriately. At the end of their life they can be repurposed as cleaning cloths or composted if they are a natural fibre like cotton.
    6. Easy to wash effectively: because they have less layers when unfolded than other types of nappy inserts, it is easier to get them clean and get all the urine and poo out of the fibres.
    7. Quick drying: Prefolds tend to dry faster than other types of inserts due to their design and fewer layers.


    Disadvantages of Prefolds:

    1. Folding: Using Prefolds requires folding and securing before placing them in a cover, which can be less convenient than all-in-one nappies.
    2. Learning Curve: It may take some practice to master the folding techniques and achieve a secure fit.
    3. Will need boosting for older babies: As babies grow, they might require more absorbency than Prefolds can provide alone, necessitating additional inserts or boosters. But this is also common to other types of nappies.




    Prefolds offer a cost-effective, versatile, and environmentally-friendly approach to reusable nappies. With a bit of practice, parents can master the folding techniques and find a system that works best for their baby's needs. While prefolds may have some drawbacks, their numerous advantages make them a compelling choice for those looking to embrace a pure and simple reusable nappy solution.


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