Flat cloth diapers are the same diapers our grandmothers, and great-grandmothers used. They are usually a single layer of birdseye cotton and square in shape, although many flats are not perfectly square.
The beauty of flats is their versatility. There are 3 major folds for flats: Origami (tutorial), Kite (tutorial), and the Pad Fold (tutorial). Depending on the size of your flat you can get up to around 12 layers of cotton in the wet zone. Flats also fit virtually any size baby since you control their size by folding them. Each type of fold can be tweaked in various ways to fit your baby how you need it to. Folding flats does take practice. I do not claim to be an expert since I only recently began using them myself. However I have found that each fold has many variations and within them you can try lots of things to get the right fit and absorbency level. Remember: the diaper doesn’t have to look pretty, it just needs to function and be comfortable for the baby.
The Origami Fold has given me the most absorbency and mimics a Prefold. There are many more layers in the wet zone.
The Kite Fold is nice and trim but depending on the size of your baby and the size of your flat you may end up with only a few layers in the wet zone. I found the kite fold to be less bulky in between the legs.
The Pad Fold fold mimics the “trifold” method for Prefolds except instead of folding in thirds you will need to fold in half, then half again, then in thirds. This is useful for inserts or laying a flat inside of a cover. This requires almost no skill and no pins or a snappi.
Where to find flats:
Let’s start with your house! You know those flannel receiving blankets you received at your shower with cute prints and patterns? Chances are you hardly used them. Now is the time to pull them out and start folding! They might be more rectangular than square so you will have to fold them into a square first.
Target or Walmart carry what are called “Flour Sack Towels.” These are located in the dish towel aisle. Look for a square bundle containing 4 white towels. They will be about 3.99. These are thinner than commercial flats but do work well.
Cloth Diaper Stores:
Green Mountain Diapers sells Cloth-Eez brand flats. (shown in the video for the Kite Fold)
Diaper Junction sells the Diaper Rite brand flats. (shown in the video for the Pad and Origami Fold)
Granola Babies sells the popular OsoCozy brand of flats. (not shown)
Kelly’s Closet sells the Swaddlebees printed birdseye flats which are quite fun. (not shown)
There are other “luxe” flats that are made from cotton terry, hemp, bamboo, and so on. These are pricier than the cotton birdseye flats but are certainly available.
What Covers work with Flats?
Pretty much any cover that works for your fitteds and prefolds will work with your flats! You don’t have to use the plastic pull on pants your grandmother used. If you are looking for affordable you can either make your own wool upcycled covers or buy the inexpensive PUL covers like Pro-Wraps or the One Size Econobum (shown in video, green trim). If you would like a PUL cover that can work with a Pad folded flat the Bummis Super Lite or Flip works great and are also pretty inexpensive (both can be found at Kelly’s Closet).
Why Flats when there are so many Modern and Easy Diapers?
1. Flats are Very inexpensive. A dozen flats will cost you 12.00-30.00 a dozen, depending on size (small/large) or if they are organic.
2. They fit all babies. That huge square can be folded into a diaper small enough for a newborn, or big enough for a 3 year old. Adjustments will need to be made (for example, for a 3 year old you will have fewer layers so you may need a doubler or a flat pad folded and laid in the middle. So in theory, a dozen will last you the entire diapering life of your baby!
3. They Wash Easily. Flats can be used and abused. They don’t need special soaps, they can be bleached when needed, and you won’t have to worry so much about repelling issues since they are made from natural fibers. They can easily be handwashed in your bath tub, sink, or a bucket washer. This makes them a great option for families without a washer/dryer, for traveling, and to have around just in case.
4. They dry SUPER Fast. A flat, because it is one layer, can be hung to dry practically anywhere and it will dry in hours! If you can hang them in warm weather, in the sunshine, you could have them dry in a couple of hours. If you are drying indoors or in high humidity expect 5-9 hours. This is still short enough that you could wash your diapers before bed and have a dry clean set for morning.
Want to learn about the other many types of cloth diapers available? Check out the entire Introduction to Cloth Diaper Series.
Some links in this post are affiliates and any purchases made from them will result in a small sales percentage for me.