How (and With What) Do You Stuff a Pocket Diaper? (Inserts Explained)

“Stuffing” is another one of those terms that the first time you hear it, you’re not quite sure what people are talking about. “Stuffing” a cloth diaper just means that you’re putting the inserts into a pocket diaper. As in, literally stuffing the PUL pocket shell with the absorbent inserts to make it a complete diaper that’s ready to put on.

Do you have to stuff pocket diapers? No, pocket diaper covers are really just regular diaper covers with a lining (usually of fleece or microsuede), sewn inside. It’s designed in such a way that you can stuff inserts inside it, but you can just lay the inserts on top of the lining as well.

With that said, that lining means you don’t get all the benefits of using plain diaper covers; you can read all about covers vs. pocket covers here.

How Do You Stuff a Pocket Diaper?

So, going right back to the basics, how do you do it? You stuff a pocket diaper following these simple steps:

  1. Grab the inserts you’re using at one end in the center,
  2. Hold the pocket diaper open with your other hand,
  3. Jam it in there,
  4. Snap any insert snaps if your particular brand has any (most don’t, but some, like GlowBug diapers, do),
  5. Flatten out the inserts, and make sure the inside is bump-free, and
  6. Stretch the lining over the inserts, making sure they’re covered completely, especially if you’re using microfiber as it can irritate the skin.

That’s it! Your pocket diaper is ready for baby!

Depending on the brand of pocket diaper, you may have trouble stuffing the pocket. Some brands with narrow openings or PUL (the waterproof, colourful layer) is a bit tacky on the inside making sticking your hand inside a bit of a chore.

Even with those difficulties, most inserts will fit inside most one-size pocket diapers.

Pro Tip: Having a hard time fitting your hand inside those pocket openings? Grab a pair of kitchen tongs! Preferably smooth ones like these with no sticky silicone on them.

What to Stuff Your Pocket Diaper With

Pocket diapers are usually stuffed with inserts made from microfiber, charcoal/bamboo (which usually has microfiber inside of it), cotton, bamboo, and/or hemp.

I’ll talk about what materials to choose further down this post.

Can you Stuff Pocket Diapers with Prefolds and Flats?

I get asked often if you can stuff pocket diapers with prefold diapers, flat diapers, or flour sack towels.

Of course!

There are no diaper police patrolling your area, waiting to give you a ticket for putting the wrong thing in your diaper. Prefolds, flats, flour sack towels, washcloths, and even old t-shirts have all been used to stuff pocket diapers. (If you’re interested in the t-shirt thing, check out this post on the cheapest ways to cloth diaper.)

Any material that is absorbent and clean can be used in a diaper, and so prefolds and flats are perfect.

With that said, prefolds and flats are usually bulkier than most inserts, and some pocket diapers with narrow openings may not fit them well.

Trying it out is the only way to tell if this is the case for your diaper, stuff the diaper with your prefold and flat and just make sure that it can be smoothed out inside the diaper and that the pocket is not so overstuffed that it pushes the diaper’s leg elastics out of the bikini-line crease of your baby’s legs. Diaper elastics must sit firmly in the leg creases to prevent leaks.

What’s the Best Way to Stuff Pocket Diapers?

Even if you’re diapering from birth, pretty quickly you will start needing more than one insert per diaper.If you’re using just the microfiber inserts that come inexpensive pocket diapers you’ll find yourself needing more inserts early on and no later than the 5-6 month range.

When this happens, what you stuff your pocket diapers with, and how you layer your inserts, start to become important questions.

Quickest Absorbency to Slowest

It’s best to stuff your pocket cloth diapers with enough absorbency to hold the amount of pee baby lets go in one wetting. To do that effectively, you want to layer in inserts, from the quickest absorbing on top, to the slowest absorbing (but thirstiest) inserts on the bottom.

Each type of insert has it’s own benefits and drawbacks, and combining inserts can help you customize your diaper for your baby’s needs. A heavy wetter needs a lot of absorbency, a baby that pees with a lot of pressure may need a diaper with fast absorbing material, and so on.

Here’s a handy chart to help you judge if your diapers are pairing the right inserts for your heavy, or fast wetter:

Insert TypeAbsorption AmountAbsorption Speed
Microfiber/Bamboo blend💧💧💧💧💧💧

As your baby grows and changes you may need to change your insert pairings to match baby’s output.

Special Note: If you’d like a free PDF one-page cheat sheet like this one, to show you how much each type of insert absorbs, how much it holds, and how to layer it, click here.

More Absorbency Where You Need it (the “Wet Zone”)

For some babies stuffing pocket diapers strategically can be important.

If your baby tends to wet their diaper in one spot, which is sometimes called the” wet zone” or “wetness zone” folding and moving your inserts to get more absorbency in that area may be helpful in cutting down leaks.

For little boys, the wet zone tends to be towards the front of the diaper while little girls tend to wet more towards the back of the diaper.

To place extra absorbency in one spot, start by adding a full layer of absorbency. Next, add a top layer, folding it in half and placing it in baby’s wet zone

Stuff your pocket while keeping both layers in place and this will create triple the absorbency in the wet zone (since folded in half, there are two layers created from that one insert).

What Inserts Do You Like / Recommend?

If there’s one question I get more than any others regarding inserts it’s what I recommend. I get that, there are so many options, everyone has an opinion, and the owner of a cloth diaper website must have tried a ton of them, right?

Well, yes, I guess I have. And while I’d never claim to know what will work best for everyone, everywhere, I do list all my recommended inserts and other cloth diaper products on my recommended diapers for beginners page here.

Rise First or Stuff First?

Another question I’ve been getting about stuffing pocket diapers is, “Do you set the rise first and then stuff, or vice versa?” This question is specifically for diapers on smaller children that need a small rise setting in their one-size diapers.

So which is first, the rise or the stuffing? When stuffing one-size cloth diaper you definitely want to set the rise first. In fact, there’s no reason to unsnap your rise until baby has grown enough to need resizing.

Setting the rise first can sometimes make it seem like the inserts are too big, but usually, once the diaper is stretched over baby the inserts sit inside the diaper just fine. If for some reason they do stick out the front or back a lot, simply fold them down at the front or back, again taking into account the wet zone (see above) or folding it at the back for girls, and the front for boys.


When stuffing your pocket diaper, be careful that you’re not adding too many thick inserts.

The pocket part of your pocket diapers are only made so big. Placing too many inserts inside the pocket may begin pushing the diaper up and off the body can prevent the leg elastics from sitting where they need to.

Overstuffing can also compress the inserts inside the diaper, causing compression leaks (you can read all about the different types of leaks in this post), but here’s a video explaining compression leaks:

If you’re struggling to get the diaper inside the leg crease, this is a good sign you’re overstuffing and you might want to look at thiner, but still more absorbent inserts, like hemp, to solve any absorbency needs. See above for insert types and absorbency, and don’t forget to get the free PDF one-page cheat sheet with how much each type of insert absorbs, how much it holds, and how to layer it.

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