Flat Cloth Diapers: Everything You Need to Know

by Bailey Bouwman

As a parent, you're always on the lookout for the best choices when it comes to your baby's comfort and well-being. In the world of cloth diapering, where options abound, one classic choice stands out - the flat diaper. 

I know we’ve talked about fitted diapers, and all in one diapers - but this comprehensive guide will dive into the simple and classic OG diaper - the flat. We’ll explore what they are and why they're a fantastic option for many families. Whether you're a first-time parent or a seasoned cloth diapering enthusiast, this article will provide you with valuable insights to make an informed decision for your little one.

What is a Flat Diaper?

At its core, a flat diaper is a simple, yet highly effective, cloth diaper insert or absorbency. Think of it as an inner like the fitted diapers for the Esembly Baby system. Its key job is to absorb pee, or contain poop when folded. 

Unlike other types of diapers that come pre-shaped (inserts and fitted diapers), flat diapers are versatile, single-layer pieces of fabric that require folding before use. Similar to the prefold, the key differentiator for a flat diaper is that it is a single layer of material. 

This timeless approach allows you to customize the fit and absorbency based on your baby's needs. Flats come in various materials, including cotton, hemp, and bamboo, offering choices that suit your preferences and values. They also come in various sizes.

A modern take on the flat is the preflat which offers a limited 2-3 layers of fabric sewn into a flat fold. It’s a hybrid between a flat and prefold, and everyone has their own definition of it. When I think of preflats, I think of the Blythe Life Fixed Preflat, and classic shapes that have wings, and a mid section that folds into thirds - it’s a really hard product to describe. So I’ve linked the Lilly & Frank Preflat in Canada.  

Types of Flat Diapers

I alluded to the different types of flats and that’s because the world of flat cloth diapers has definitely expanded and there are a few different choices depending on your needs and preferences as a consumer, and diapering parent. Here’s some of the common types you might encounter - expanded since I originally wrote about the types of cloth diapers on my personal cloth diaper blog. 

  • Repurposed Flat Diapers (Budget): Everyday items like receiving blankets, cotton T-shirts, and even old cotton sheets can be repurposed as effective flat diapers. This budget-friendly approach offers convenience and sustainability - learn more about how to use free materials as cloth diaper inserts. 

  • Designed for Diapering (Budget to Mid-Range): These flat diapers are purpose-made for diapering, offering a range of options in terms of materials, sizes, and absorbency. Our Lunapaca Cotton Flats are a prime example of this type of product - made with birdseye cotton and a simple single layer.

  • Stretchy Flats (Mid Range): These flats are made with a stretchy material, often a knit jersey, and designed to be folded onto baby. The stretch is preferred for a snugger fit and sometimes because  of the softness. They can vary in material, size and production, but often more expensive product. A commonly found example is the Imagine Baby Stretchy Flat, or through independent makers in the cloth diaper industry. 

  • Luxury or Premium Flats & Preflats: Crafted by dedicated artisans, luxury flat diapers showcase high-quality materials and exquisite workmanship. These handcrafted gems, like those from Fruit of the Womb Cloth Diapers and Humbird, add a touch of elegance to your cloth diapering journey. 

Why Choose Flat Diapers?

Flat diapers offer many benefits that have endeared them to cloth diapering enthusiasts across Canada and the world. Many of us do think they are the best cloth diaper for new parents! Myself included. Here's some of the many great reason to use flat diapers:

  • Low Cost: One of the most budget-friendly cloth diapering options, flats allow you to build an effective stash without breaking the bank.
  • Easy-to-Wash: The simplicity of flat diapers makes them a breeze to wash, ensuring a clean and hygienic experience for your baby.
  • Quick to Dry: Unlike bulkier diapering options, flat diapers dry quickly, making them an ideal choice for families without access to a dryer.
  • Adjustable Absorbency: Customizable folding techniques enable you to tailor the absorbency of flat diapers to match your baby's needs, whether it's a heavy night or a light day.
  • Versatile: Flat diapers can be paired with a variety of covers, inserts, and systems, allowing you to create a diapering routine that suits your lifestyle.

One of the biggest downsides of flat diapers is learning to fold them - but cloth diapering is all about learning! We get scared about learning to fold a flat, but we also have to learn how to stuff a diaper, or fold an all in one diaper. Learning is on the agenda, and I promise with all my might it’s much easier than you fear. You’re going to learn a lot of things this year and flats is a simple and easy approach to diapering. 

There are great simple hacks for other caregivers like padfolds, and just patience and teaching. Many are more willing to learn than we give them credit.

How to Use Flat Diapers

Using flat diapers might seem daunting at first, but the process is simpler than it appears. Here's a basic guide to get you started:

  • Choose Your Flat: Select a flat diaper made of your preferred material.
  • Fold and Customize: Experiment with folding techniques to achieve the desired fit and absorbency. Popular folds include the padfold, kite fold, and origami fold.
  • Secure the Diaper: Fasten the folded flat using a Snappi fastener or a diaper pin, if desired. You don’t have to use a fastener, some families opt to quickly add a cover and it will hold into place. Fasteners are advantageous to ensuring the flat doesn’t droop.
  • Add a Cover: Place a waterproof or waterreistant cover over the folded and fastened flat diaper to prevent leaks. Choose from various cover options such as PUL covers, wool covers, or fleece covers. 
  • Check for Fit: Ensure the diaper fits snugly and comfortably around your baby's legs and waist. Adjust as needed for a secure fit.

Flat cloth diapers can also be padfolded, folded into a small rectangle the size of an insert, and added to a pocket cloth diaper, or other diapering system. They are versatile and can be folded many different ways to be used.

How Much Will It Cost to Use Flat Diapers?

Flat diapers shine not only in their simplicity but also in their affordability. Depending on the type of flat and your preferences, the cost can vary. From repurposed materials to designed-for-diaper options, flat diapers cater to different budgets, making them an attractive choice for families seeking economical yet effective cloth diapering solutions.

This first price break down looks at using Flats and the Lunapaca cover. The Lunapaca cover is a sized diaper and this is based on using 2 of each sizes in rotation over the course of 2-3 years. The Lunapaca diaper cover can go 2-3 weeks iwthout washing, and many families will have 2 of the current size, plus the size up. They will use hte size up as a third but with a bulkier fit. 

Diaper Brand Cost per Diaper Number Needed Total Cost
Flats $6 24 $144
Lunapaca Cover $115 6 $690
Grand Total $834


You can also use flat diapers with cloth diaper covers. The standard cloth diaper cover can vary in pricing, but if we choose the Kinder Cloth Diaper Cover at about $17 per cloth diaper, and use a full time stash the costs would be similar to the ones shown below.

Diaper Brand Cost per Diaper Number Needed Total Cost
Flats $6 24 $144
Kinder Cloth Cover $17 7 $119
Grand Total $263


How to Choose a Flat Diaper

Shopping for the right flat diaper can be a predicament. Many of the best cloth diaper shops in Canada offer a few different brands and selections - but honestly, there’s very little differentiating the different products besides the type of material and maybe the sizing. You’ll also consider budget, and maybe personal sensory preferences. 

Selecting the right flat diaper involves considering several key factors:

  • Absorbency: Determine the absorbency you need for your baby's routine, whether it's day or night diapering - if you need a higher absorbency product you may consider adding inserts, or looking for a larger, denser flat. This would often include stretchy flats, or premium flats. 
  • Materials: Choose a material that aligns with your preferences, whether it's cotton, hemp, bamboo, or a blend. Each material offers unique qualities in terms of softness, absorbency, and durability - most flats will be organic cotton. In my experience, bamboo blend can shrink a little funny over the long term. 
  • Brand Reputation: Research brands known for quality, customer support, and sustainable practices. Reading reviews and seeking recommendations can help guide your decision - what are other people saying if they are saying anything. 
  • Price: While flat diapers are generally affordable, consider your budget and the long-term value when making your choice. This might be the ultimate decision maker especially when comparing like products or if you don’t need a premium product.

Answering Common Questions about Flat Diapers

As with any cloth diapering option, questions often arise when exploring flat diapers. Here are answers to some common queries:

Question Answer
What are flat diapers? Flat diapers are simple, single-layer pieces of fabric that require folding before use. They serve as absorbent inserts in cloth diapering - typically used with cloth diaper covers, but versatile for other styles with the pad fold.
How do I fold a flat diaper? Flat diapers can be folded in various ways to achieve the desired fit and absorbency. Common folding techniques include the padfold, kite fold, and origami fold.
Do I need to use fasteners? While fasteners like Snappis or diaper pins can be used to secure folded flat diapers, many modern cloth diaper covers can hold the folded fabric in place without the need for fasteners.
What covers can I use with flat diapers? You have several cover options to choose from, including waterproof PUL covers, breathable wool covers, and cozy fleece covers. These covers help prevent leaks over the folded flat diapers and ensure pants stay dry.

For bigger folds you may want to consider gusseted cloth diaper covers. Some hybrid style diapers designed for snap in inserts may be inadequate or narrow for wrap around folds. 
Are flat diapers bulky?

No, flat diapers are thin and trim when folded, offering a less bulky diapering option compared to some other types of cloth diapers.

Seriously, they offer an incredibly trim bum, and you can maximize absorbency where you need it. Wrap around coverage also catches pee and poop that rolls over. 

How do I clean flat diapers?

Cleaning flat diapers is straightforward - you can even get away with a more lax wash routine than some of the cloth diaper wash instructions you find. A simple rinse, strong wash with detergents nd dry is sufficient. Add a few more steps depending.

They wash and dry quickly due to their single-layer design, making them a convenient choice for parents.

Can I use flat diapers overnight? Yes, with the right folding techniques and customized absorbency, flat diapers can be used effectively for overnight diapering, ensuring your baby stays comfortable and dry. 

For heavy wetters, folding two flat diapers together is a great choice, or adding cloth diaper inserts into the fold can boost absorbency. Here's how I used flat diapers overnight with my kids. 
Are flat diapers suitable for newborns?

Absolutely, flat diapers can be folded to fit newborns snugly. Their customizable design allows you to adjust the size and absorbency to cater to your newborn's needs.

They are a great grow with me choice for cloth diapering from newborn to potty training - super adaptable and customizable.

What materials are flat diapers made of? Flat diapers come in a variety of materials such as cotton, hemp, and bamboo. Each material offers unique properties, such as softness and absorbency, allowing you to choose what suits your baby best.
Are flat diapers budget-friendly? Yes, flat diapers are incredibly budget-friendly and are among the most affordable cloth diapering options available. Their cost-effectiveness makes them a popular choice for families looking for economical yet reliable diapering solutions.


Making the Best Choice for Your Baby

As you journey through the world of cloth diapering, the timeless and versatile option of flat diapers stands out as a classic choice. While we've delved into the realm of each of the different types of cloth diapers, this comprehensive guide has taken you back to the basics with the OG diaper - the flat. 

We are excited to be stocking the Lunapaca organic cotton flat as a premium 100% plastic free diapering solution to your diaper stash. 

Whether you're embarking on your parenting journey for the first time or are a seasoned cloth diapering enthusiast, this article has provided you with essential insights to help you make an informed decision for your little one.

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