Here are step-by-step instructions on how to put a cloth diaper and diaper cover on a baby.
Step 1: Prepare Diaper and Materials
For this instructable, you will need a cloth diaper, a diaper cover and a "snappi" clip.
It is important to assemble your materials so that everything is in arms reach from the start, because the faster you're able to perform the diaper change, the less likely you are to get peed on.
Cloth diapers come in different weaves, weights and sizes. If you are buying your own set of cloth diapers to wash and wear (more power to you!), it might be good to know that the flat rectangular diapers that are shown in the following instructable are called "prefolds" (not to be confused with the diapers that actually look prefolded like a disposable--those are called "all-in-ones"--or flatfolds, which are not yet folded). Prefolds are folded and stitched so that there is a triple thickness of cloth down the center of the diaper. If you use a diaper service (I use Tiny Tots in the Bay Area), your diapers are probably made of heavyweight twill. Try to make sure the diapers you are using are for the approximate age/weight range of the baby, or you will face frustration.
Diaper covers come in lots of varieties as well, but most of them have a waterproof lining on the inside that keeps the cloth diaper (which is very effective at wicking liquid!) from wetting the baby's clothes. These, too, come in different sizes for different size babies--check to make sure you're in the ball-park on size.
Finally, there are lots of ways to secure cloth diapers so that they stay on the baby. In this Instructable we use Snappi fasteners. Snappis are a stretchy "Y" band of plastic with little teeth that dig into the diaper fabric and hold everything in place. These are really convenient to use--you can put them on with one hand while the other holds the diaper in place. You can buy these from Amazon, if you can't find them anywhere else.
Step 2: Position the Baby on the Changing Table.
In this regard, changing a cloth diaper is like changing any diaper, but it bears mentioning:
It's easier to change the baby if you have him or her positioned at waist height for you. In a pinch, you can change babies anywhere you can lay them down, but long term, for the sake of your back, waist height is best.
It is also easier to put the diaper if they are lying so that their legs face your dominant hand. I am right handed, so that is what these images show; just mirror things if you are left handed.
And of course, never leave the baby unattended on a changing table. Seriously.
Step 3: Place the Diaper Under the Baby.
Put the diaper under the baby. Fold the left edge of the diaper so that about a third of the diaper is under the baby's buns. The pre-folded part of the diaper should be running left to right in front of you, so that it is optimally positioned to absorb pee and poop.
Step 4: Fold the Front of the Diaper in Thirds.
Holding the baby's feet in your left hand, use your right hand to fold the right edge of the diaper in thirds. Keep the top edge of each third lined up so that the rest of the diaper forms a rectangle. THIS IS IMPORTANT because it keeps the diaper tight around the baby's legs later.
Step 5: Tuck the Diaper Between the Legs.
Bring the folded rectangle of cloth between the baby's legs.
Now spread the top edge of the rectangle out across baby's belly.
Step 6: Wrap the Diaper Around the Baby's Legs.
Bring the back corners of the diaper under the baby around so they meet the front corners of the rectangle you just widened. Hold with your left hand.
Step 7: Fasten the Diaper.
The snappi is shaped like a "T". Hook the top part of the T to the back corners of the diaper, and the leg of the T to the front rectangle.
Ta-da! The diaper is on.
Step 8: Put the Diaper Cover On.
The diaper's job is to absorb and contain baby's poop and pee. The diaper cover's job is to make sure the diaper is isolated from the baby's clothes.
Use your left hand to hold the baby's feet and lift his or her bottom up enough to slide a diaper cover under the baby, waterproof side up.
Bring the front of the diaper cover around to cover the whole diaper.
Take care to make sure no cloth is sticking out the top in front or back! Any exposed cloth will wick liquid to any other cloth it comes in contact with.
Step 9: Fasten the Diaper Cover.
Fasten the "arms" of the diaper cover around the front. It's not important to make it super tight, it's only important that it covers all of the diaper.
Usually you will have to tuck the diaper in around the legs. Diaper covers with leg gussets make this step easier.
Step 10: Finished!
Check to make sure the diaper is snug and the diaper cover is covering all of the diaper.