Unlike regular flat diaper folds, newborn flat diaper folds require little adjustments to get the right fit. Folding flat diapers may seem intimidating at first, especially when folding onto a little newborn or preemie, but it doesn’t have to be! Many cloth-diapering moms enjoy trying new flat diaper folds and you can be one of them too.
Flat diapers are so versatile, easy to clean, affordable, and will fit your baby until they grow into potty training ages. It’s no wonder these old-school cloth diapers are still popular today. The beauty of flats is how accessible and simple they are – you can purchase flats or simply DIY them from receiving blankets, clothing, or more. All you need is a large square cotton piece of fabric to get started!
On this page… (JUMP TO)
- What is a flat-fold cloth diaper?
- What are the best types of flats for newborns?
- How do you put a flat diaper on a newborn?
- How do you secure flat diapers?
- Best flat diaper folds for a newborn (comparison)
- Padfold flat diaper fold for newborn
- Jo flat diaper fold (adjusted for newborns)
- The jelly roll flat diaper fold
- Origami flat diaper fold (adjusted for newborns)
- Kite flat diaper fold for newborn
- Angel wing flat diaper fold for newborn
- Neat flat diaper fold
- Tips for flat diaper folds on a newborn
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
RELATED: New to cloth diapers? Read our cloth diapers for beginners post to get a good foundation of everything you need to know to get started!
What is a flat-fold cloth diaper?
Flat diapers or “flats” are old-school cloth diapers. Flats are flat, square, 1-layer pieces of fabric that are folded into different diaper shapes and then fastened onto your baby. They need a diaper cover (although some parents like to go without a cover at home or in the backyard – just change when the diaper gets wet!)
Flats have stood the test of time and are an absorbent, affordable option that can be folded in many ways to fit any size baby and their needs.
Pros of flat cloth diapers:
- One-size flats can last you from newborn to potty training ages.
- Can be folded to best fit every baby.
- They can be used as a diaper, insert, burp cloth, nursing cover, blanket, and more.
- Certain folds can be very absorbent.
- Easy to clean and fast to dry.
Cons of flat cloth diapers:
- Folding adds time to diaper changes.
- Certain flats can be bulky on newborns and preemies.
- Requires fastening.
What are the best types of flats for newborns?
The two most common fabrics used in flat diapers are terry cloth and muslin (aka birdseye). Muslin is lightweight and trim, making it perfect for newborns and smaller babies. On the other hand, terry cloth is more absorbent but bulkier.
If you don’t mind a big bulky diaper in those first few weeks, you can skip the muslin and use the more absorbent terry cloth.
Muslin flats are more trim and lightweight, but less absorbent.
Terry cloth flats are more absorbent but bulkier.
Flats can also be made with bamboo viscose, but I would avoid using them on newborns because they are synthetic and processed with harsh chemicals.
How do you put a flat diaper on a newborn?
- Fold your flat cloth diaper into the preferred fold of your choice.
- (Optional for heavy wetters) Lay another layer of absorbency in the center of the diaper. Alternatively, you can double up the flat before folding in the previous step but this is often too much bulk for newborns.
- Place the assembled, folded diaper under your baby, pull the center up over your baby’s front, and pull the wings across your baby’s tummy.
- Secure with a Snappi, diaper pins, or, depending on the fold, simply tie the wings together.
- Cover with a diaper cover, ensuring all cloth has been tucked inside of the cover.
How do you secure flat diapers?
There are 3 main ways to secure a folded flat diaper onto your baby:
Snappi or Boingo diaper fasteners
Snappi’s and Boingo’s are diaper fasteners made of stretchy polyurethane with plastic teeth or hooks at each end. By gripping the fabric, the teeth hold folded flat diapers in place without pins. They’re simple and quick to use, plus they’re less likely to accidentally hurt you or your baby, unlike a standard safety pin.
When you think of old-school cloth diapers, you likely think of safety pins. We now have diaper pins which are essentially safety pins with caps that lock the pin closed for added safety. To use diaper pins, place two or three fingers under the diaper fabric to avoid accidentally pricking your baby when fastening the diaper. Insert the pin so it points away from your baby’s belly button, then weave it in and out of the fabric before closing. Push the locking cap down into place to prevent them from accidentally opening.
Tuck or tie the diaper
Some folds, like the origami fold, allow you to simply tuck or tie the wings of the folded diaper near the hips without the use of pins or fasteners! This is a great option when in a pinch. Covers will help keep them in place, but it becomes less reliable as your child ages and becomes more active.
Best flat diaper folds for a newborn
You can use almost any flat diaper fold on a newborn, but there are some folds that work particularly well for our itty bitty newborns! So, what are the best flat diaper folds for a newborn?
|Flat folds for newborn||Layers in the wet zone||Notes|
|Padfold||12 layers with 24 towards the front||Simplest to use|
|Jo fold||12 equal layers||Great back blowout protection, absorbent|
|Jelly roll||4 equal layers||Great for stopping leg blowouts|
|Origami fold||8-10 equal layers depending on the number of folds||Full coverage + great absorption|
|Kite fold||12 equal layers||Full coverage|
|Angel wing fold||4 layers with 12 towards the front||Full coverage with extra front leak protection|
|Neat fold||8 layers with 12 towards the front and back||Trimmer fit|
RELATED: Be prepared for overnight leaks with these tried and true overnight cloth diaper combinations (some of which use flats!)
Padfold flat diaper fold for newborn
The easiest way to fold a flat diaper is known as the padfold. This fold doesn’t get wrapped and fastened around your baby like other folds but instead gets laid on top of a cover before putting it on.
This is such a versatile and effective fold. The downside is since all the layers are concentrated towards the bottom, it makes for a bulkier diaper.
Step-by-step instructions for padfold flat diaper fold (for newborns)
1. Fold your large flat into quarters to make a square. (Photos 1-3)
2. Fold the bottom edge upwards to set the desired height of the diaper. The height of the diaper should fit nicely into the diaper cover you will be using. (Photo 4)
3. Fold the diaper into thirds to form a pad shape. (Photos 5-6)
4. Insert into the diaper cover of choice and fasten around your baby. Make sure all cloth is tucked into the cover before fastening. (Last photo)
Jo flat diaper fold (adjusted for newborns)
The jo flat diaper fold is one of the best diaper folds for a newborn and their blowouts. It’s small in size and adds a bit of a blow-out catcher with its fold on the back. It’s very similar to the angel wing fold (below) but differs slightly in size and shape.
Step-by-step instructions for the jo flat diaper fold
1. Fold a large flat into quarters and create a square. (Photos 1-3)
2. Fold the diaper into thirds into a pad shape. (Photos 4-5)
3. Span out the upper folds to create “wings” on either side, keeping the bottom layers closed. (Photo 6)
4. By pulling on the corners of the wings, bring the top edge down to start a slight fold. Bring this fold down to desired height and flatten. (Photo 7-8)
5. Pull the middle section over your baby and fasten the wings over their hips using fasteners or a diaper pin. (Last photos)
The jelly roll flat diaper fold
The jelly roll fold is excellent for newborn and exclusively breastfed babies because the rolls help prevent any liquid and stool from leaking out of the diaper. This fold is very popular with prefolds but it’s also doable with a flat!
Step-by-step instructions for the jelly roll flat diaper fold
1. Fold a large flat into quarters and create a square shape. (Photos 1-3)
2. Fold the bottom edge upward to set the desired rise or height of the diaper. (Photo 4)
3. Roll the bottom edges inwards and on an angle so the bottom edges are rolled in and the back is still (mostly) flat. (Photos 5-6)
4. Fold up the middle front section over your baby, and fasten the wings over top with a diaper pin or fastener. (Last photos)
Origami flat diaper fold (adjusted for newborns)
The origami flat fold is a tricker fold but is a popular flat diaper fold because it works great for both boys and girls. It places the most layers right through the center of the diaper from front to back.
Step-by-step instructions for origami diaper fold (with photos)
1. Lay out your flat.
2. Fold the flat from top to bottom.
3. Fold the flat from left to right. You should be left with the fold on the left, with the open ends on the bottom and right.
4. Positioning the edges correctly is important for this fold!
4. Take the very top layer of the bottom right corner and drag it over all the way to the left. You will see a triangular fold form as you pull.
5. You should now see a triangle flap over the square portion of your flat.
6. Take the entire flat diaper and flip it upside down so the wide edge is facing the top.
7. Take the squared edge of the fabric and fold it towards to center in either thirds or fourths. For thicker flats, 2 folds (divided into thirds) are recommended. 3 folds (divided into fourths as pictured above) are recommended for thinner muslin or birdseye flats.
8. Second fold pictured.
6. Third fold pictured. Aim to have the final fold sitting centered within the diaper.
10. Fold down the top edge to desired diaper rise (height).
11. This part can be tricky but optional. I find that tucking the “cheeks” of the diaper fits better on newborns. I take the middle of the “cheek” and fold it under the middle panel.
12. The diaper is almost complete! It should look close to a “T” shape.
13. Finally, fold the wings towards the center of the diaper to shorten the flaps. If you plan on tieing your diaper rather than using fasteners or pins you can skip this step.
14. To put the diaper on, pull the center over the front of your baby, then pull the sides over the front of the tummy before fastening.
Kite flat diaper fold for newborn
The kite flat fold is one of the more fun yet simple flat diaper folds for a newborn. It gets its name from its shape as it’s being folded – a kite! This one is great because it’s trim yet provides all-around coverage. Many love this fold for its excellent ability to protect covers from getting soiled – so if you only have a few covers this may be your go-to fold.
Step-by-step instructions for kite flat diaper fold
1. Start with a large flat folded into quarters and in a square shape. (Photos 1-3)
2. Pull the bottom left and upper right corners towards the center, lining up both folds straight down to the bottom right corner. You should now have a kite shape. (Photos 4-5)
3. Take the upper left triangle and fold it towards the line down the center of the “kite”. (Photo 6)
4. Grab the bottom right corner and fold towards the line down the center of the “kite” until you reach the desired diaper height for your baby.
5. Line up the diaper so the widest part is facing the back and pull up the front of the diaper. Pull over the wings and fasten the diaper in place.
Angel wing flat diaper fold for newborn
Another popular and simple fold that’s great on a newborn is the angel wing fold. It’s similar to the Jo fold listed above but requires one less step making its shape and size slightly differ.
Step-by-step instructions for angel wing flat diaper fold
1. Start with a large flat folded into quarters in a square shape. (Photos 1-3)
2. Fold horizontally into thirds to form a pad shape. (Photos 4-5)
3. Keeping the bottom end of the pad in place, fold open the top 2 layers to form two triangular wing shapes. The “wings” should end approximately halfway down the pad. (Photos 6-7)
4. If you need to adjust the rise/height of the diaper you can fold the bottom edge before fastening it onto your baby. Pull up the bottom edge and wrap the wings over top to fasten. (Last photos)
Neat flat diaper fold
Most flat folds are quite bulky on a newborn, but not this one! The neat fold is one of the most trim flat diaper folds on a newborn. There are only 4 layers in the wet zone. The fabric layers are more evenly spread out which makes for a very trim, neat fit. This is my go-to choice when I want a trim look with a flat.
Step-by-step instructions for the neat flat diaper fold
1. Create a square by folding your large flat in quarters. (Photos 1-3)
2. Bring the bottom right and upper left corners to meet in the middle of the square. (Photos 4-5)
3. Take one of the 2 leftover corners and pull it upwards, lining its edge up with the top folded edge. Repeat with the second corner. (Photos 6-7)
4. Pull over the middle section and fasten the wings with a Snappi or diaper pin. (Last photos)
Tips for flat diaper folds on a newborn
- Some folds like the neat and kite folds allow you to fold them ahead of time so that they’re ready for use at the time of diaper changes.
- Newborn-size flats or half flats will fit much more trim than one-size flats on newborns. If you only have the regular size it will still work well (that’s what I used with my daughter), it’s just bulky.
- Flats don’t have any built-in “stay-dry” layers, so if your little one is sensitive to moisture or you don’t want them feeling wet, you may want to place a microfleece liner between your baby’s skin and the diaper.
- You can boost the absorbency of flats as your baby grows by doubling the flat or placing a booster (bamboo, hemp, a face cloth, folded tea towel, or any absorbent item) into the wet zone of the folded diaper before fitting it to your baby.
- It’s no secret that cloth diapers are generally bulkier than disposables, so you may need to size up your baby’s pants and onesies for a better fit!
- This is the perfect time to build your inserts and booster stash! When your baby is a newborn, you have a couple of months before you’ll need boosters, so it’s the perfect few months to stock up on them at (ideally) discounted prices.
- Have fun with it! You can create your own folds or take the ones listed above and make your own adjustments to them to best fit your baby’s needs.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
How many flats do I need for my newborn?
Most answers you find for this are generic – I created an in-depth post to help you more accurately calculate how many cloth diapers you actually need. Whether you plan on cloth diapering part-time or using a wash schedule outside of just every other day – we break it all down for you!
Are you supposed to fold down the back of the diaper?
Folding down the backs of flat diapers is primarily used to set the rise or height of the diaper itself. With newborns, you’ll see this technique used more than you would with folds for toddlers since they need more height in their diapers to fit well. The benefit of folding the back down is that it also adds blow-out protection!
Which cover should I use with my folded flat diapers?
The fun part of cloth diapering is mixing and matching all the different available inserts, diapers, and cute covers to see which combo you love most! For some newborns, covers aren’t even needed until closer to 3 months old since diaper changes happen so frequently and their bladders are so tiny.
For covers, you can pick between a PUL, wool, or fleece cover. I personally love wool since it’s natural and has amazing added benefits.
What’s the difference between prefold and flat?
Prefolds and flats are similar, but prefolds are smaller and have stitching to divide them into 3 sections. The middle section has multiple layers for extra absorption. Both require some folding to fasten onto your baby, however. prefolds come in multiple sizes that need to be purchased as your baby ages.
Pictured below is a regular-sized flat with an infant-sized prefold:
Should I buy newborn-sized or half-flats for my newborn?
You absolutely can for a trimmer fit but it’s not necessary. I used full-size muslin (birdseye) flats with success and didn’t mind the bulk!
What fabric should I use when making my own flats?
The short answer is that cotton or a hemp/cotton blend would be best, but you can check out my post on cloth diaper inserts for a complete comparison of the materials used in cloth diapers!