As you may realize by now, prefold diapers are very simple squares of thick cotton, but don’t underestimate the variations between the many different kinds of prefold diapers out there. When you are going to make your cloth diaper purchase, know what your options are before you make that final decision.
The main choice you’ll have with prefolds is the material they’re made of. Cotton is the most common type, available in both organic and conventionally grown. These days, you do have a few other choices though.
Hemp and bamboo are more eco-friendly because they are a more renewable fiber (in terms of growing the crops). They are going to be more expensive but that is starting to become less of a difference as the costs come down due to higher demand. Hemp is more absorbent than cotton, and bamboo has a smoother feel to it. And to add to your choices, some manufacturers use blends of various fibers so you may have to try a few to see which one works best for you and your baby.
Bleached or Not
This is another option that is usually available for any of the materials just listed. Bleached ones are whiter but that is really just for looks and won’t effect their function at all. Unbleached is more environmentally-friendly though if you can find a “chlorine-free” brand, then the bleached ones aren’t so bad. But to avoid the exposure to any excess chemicals, stick with the unbleached.
And speaking of your diaper’s color, you shouldn’t expect to find any prefold diapers in colors other than white (or unbleached beige). Since they are used with a diaper cover, you never see them and they are generally not made in designs, colors or patterns.
Even though prefolds are worn inside diaper covers, you will need to take size into account to some degree. Some brands will carry a range from newborn (or even smaller preemie) up through small, medium, large and toddler. The sizing isn’t exact but if you are trying to use a huge prefold for a tiny newborn, it’s going to be bunchy inside the cover. That means an uncomfortable baby and a good chance of leaks. Nobody wants that.
A note on sizing, brand new prefolds may seem a little big when you first get them. That’s because they are intended to be washed (sometimes more than once) before using and there will be some expected shrinking. It’s normal and already taken into consideration with the sizing. After washing, they’ll be just right.
Boosters, Soakers and Extras
These are a smaller version of the standard prefold, and often is just a single narrow panel that is used along with your regular diaper. Soakers add extra absorbency during the night, meaning fewer changes or leaks when you’d rather be sleeping.
Of course, you’re also going to be looking at different brands and the kinds of prefolds they all offer. Even so, these are the only real variations from one diaper to the next that you need to know about.