How Do You Stuff a Pocket Diaper? (A-Z)

By April Duffy •  Updated: 05/27/24 •  7 min read

“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 your baby!

Depending on the brand of pocket diaper, you may have trouble stuffing the pocket. Some brands with narrow openings or PUL (the waterproof, colorful 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.

How Many Inserts Should I Use in a Pocket Diaper?

Though you may have the right number of cloth diapers for your baby, 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 with inexpensive pocket diapers you’ll find yourself needing more inserts early on and no later than the 5-6 month range.

So, how many inserts should you stuff in your pocket diapers? As many as you need to in order to soak everything up. Most often this is at least two or more inserts.

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

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

How to Stack Your Inserts Inside the Pocket: Quickest to Slowest Absorbency

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 most 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 its 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💧💧💧💧💧💧

What Inserts Should I Buy?

As you can see from the chart above, insert types vary greatly. If you’d like more in-depth information, check out this article I have about how to choose the right diaper inserts for your needs.


As much as adding enough absorbency to your pocket diaper is important, you do need to be careful that you’re not adding too many thick inserts, known as “overstuffing” the pocket.

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 thinner, 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.

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 a one-size cloth diaper you definitely want to set the rise first. In fact, there’s no reason to unsnap your rise until your 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.

Still Unsure?

If you’re still unsure about the whole stuffing thing and inserts, you may want to head over to the article about how to choose the right diaper inserts here. Understanding fabrics and how they can be used should help with any diaper stuffing problem you’re having.

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.