Diapers 101: How Do You Put on Chinese Prefolds?

Question: How many ways can you fold a diaper? Answer: Let me count the ways. . . . There’s the newspaper fold, the bikini fold—the list goes on.

But both Joy and I always just folded a Chinese prefold in thirds, placed it on the diaper cover, and used the Velcro tabs to hold everything in place. (If the previous statement was Greek to you, check out our book, the Eco-nomical Baby Guide, which includes an illustrated guide to putting cloth diapers on babies!)

When we were writing our book, we thought about including the various folding instructions for prefolds and flat diapers—and quickly decided against it. We know that some parents fold the diapers up into complicated patterns and use a Snappi or good ol’ diaper pins to fasten the diapers in place. But we have to admit, this still has us puzzled. Isn’t it more work to bring origami folds and pins into the mix?

Does anyone here do something fancier than the fold-in-thirds-and-place-on-the-cover thing for prefolds? What are the advantages of this mysterious practice? Please enlighten us!


  1. Poop containment. I did the thirds thing (called a Newspaper fold by the way) for the first year and then started working at a diaper store.
    Now in prefolds I snappi in an angel wing fold (which is super simple). It makes a nice snug leg that keeps stuff in. Bikini twist is also great for that. ‘
    I have moved into wool covers and it is worth it to keep the poop off them (though I have also moved to fitteds for that very reason).
    The only trick is making sure the prefold is wide enough for your babies hips.

  2. I always did a newspaper fold b/c it creates a pocket for poop. and because thats what my mom used. LOL. I like the snappi b/c i feel like it is more secure than when just the velcro cover is used.

  3. i snappi my prefolds, too. just plain folding did not contain messes for me. open in the back, fold front in thirds, and snappi back corners forward. (this sounds probably like the “angel wing” thing leigh describes.)

    blue prefolds always seemed huge. we’d fold them down in front for my older daughter, but when my infant sized into them as well, i had a seamstress cut two inches off and re-surge. i have both my kids in them now and am actually waiting for more snappies in the mail, because they seem to disappear on me! love snappis–i can’t imagine using prefolds without them.

  4. I love the Jellyroll fold.

    It was the only fold I use for my younger guy. It contains ALL messes.

    I have a 1 yr old and I have been using pfs since birth. There is no mess outside of the pf and that is with the fun breast fed poo.

    My toddler has the WORST messes but jellyroll is the only thing that contains them. He has even leaked out of pockets but not the Jellyroll.

    I do sometimes trifold with the oldest but I have to make sure he has a thirsties cover or a flip cover bc he leaks out of everything else.

  5. I’ve used different folds to customize the prefold to my babies’ needs.

    For my newborn I use the “angel fold” to make a pocket for all that runny poo. Using a snappi also seems to keep the poo in better.

    For my 2 yo son, who still wears diapers at nap, I just use the tri-fold with no snappi because it’s the easiest to put on a squirmy little boy. Plus, his poos are very firm now, so even if he does go during nap, it isn’t going to leak.

    When my now preschooler was starting to potty train and simultaneously outgrowing his diapers, I didn’t want to buy the next size knowing we probably would barely use them. So I used the bikini fold to give him more absorbency in the “pee area” and to accommodate his hips to make them fit longer.

  6. Oh, my goodness. I am so glad I read this post. I use prefolds but just in thirds and they definitely have not/do not contain poop explosions consistently for either of my 2 kiddos. I was considering buying fitted for my 8-month old but will now save money by trying the jelly roll inside a thirsties cover (w/o snappi or pins). We’ll see how it goes.

  7. We used prefolds for my son’s first 3 months, all Newspaper fold with Snappis. He’s so wiggly on the changing table that we couldn’t even imagine just holding the diaper on with the velcro cover. Sounds like there’s a lot more to prefolds than we knew — but we switched to fitteds because we just couldn’t keep him from leaking pee and poop every time.

  8. Hmmm. I didn’t even know I was doing the newspaper fold all that time! It sounds like there are some good reasons to deviate from the newspaper fold + cover.

    It sounds like I have some future posts to write! Keep the comments coming!

  9. Madeline says

    Wow! Thank you to these posters who are enlightening me on the various folds. We’re about to have our first baby and we’re getting prefolds, snappis, thirsties, and a few fuzzibuns. Now we have to learn how to use them. Any recommendations on good instructional videos on youtube for the jellyroll, angel, bikini and other folds? Thank you, experienced cloth diaper users!

  10. I also would like to know more prefold tricks — I found some stuff on the jellyroll and angel fold on the web through some cursory searching. Tried the jelly roll with my 8 mo. and gave up after about 30 seconds. Could I make this work with just a Thirsties cover? I am not interested in using a Snappi. How long would it take me if I were a pro? Currently I fold my prefolds the wrong way (so that they are short enough that I don’t have to fold them down in front or back) inside a Thirsties. Contains poop most of the time, but poop does usually get on the cover.

  11. I folded for poop containment and also because it was less bulky and stayed in place better — especially once she was moving. If I trifolded it always got loose and leaked. Snappis are so, so easy to use (well, until they run/crawl away from you and at that point NOTHING is going be easy).

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