Before you have kids, there are all sorts of decisions to make... What kind of stroller, crib, carseat, etc. One that most people don't really think about it, what kind of diaper?
I decided on cloth diapers for a number of reasons, but I think my friend Alice had it about right when she said, "I thought you just did it to be old fashioned." I really hated the idea of spending a lot of money on something we'd just be throwing away; I didn't want my kids' refuse and a bunch of plastic to fill the landfill; and, I just thought cloth sounded more comfortable.
According to research I read, disposable diapers would cost us as least $800 a year. Before Clyde was born I bought about $300 of different kinds of cloth diapers to try them out. For the first couple of weeks, until Clyde's umbilical cord fell off we used disposable diapers. Then I slowly tried out the different diapers. After we figured out what we liked we ordered some more of those. I later tried some others, so I probably wound up spending about $800 total on cloth diapers. We also used disposables sometimes and for those we probably spent around another $750-$1000. So for two kids, I guess our savings would be around $3000. It wasn't an onerous task to wash them and overall I was happy I made the decision to use them.
The first three months, we used mostly "Chinese prefolds" which you see a lot of time as burp rags and Bummis diaper wraps. Prefolds are basically a multilayer cotton pad that you fold up and then cover with the washable cover. We used Snappi pins to hold the diapers together and they are kind of like those little claw things you use for an ace bandage.
Once Clyde got a little bigger, we switched to Bum Genius One Size Pocket Diapers. We used them on Alice from the first. They really do fit from a tiny infant all the way to a three year old. The only drawback is that the velcro closures can get pretty bad if you're not really careful about keeping lint out of them. Some other brands I tried were Kissaluvs, Fuzzibunz, Mother-Ease, Smartipants and others I can't remember. The Mother-Ease covers were great, but the pads that are next to the baby are terry cloth and they can be really coarse and hard when air dryed. The Fuzzibunz outer waterproof PUL layer didn't hold up very long with washing. The Kissaluvs were OK, but not as good as Bum Genius. Smartipants were good and very like Bum Genius only they didn't have velcro which was a plus except in the end they were smaller so they didn't last as long. The Bum Genius diapers have a really soft layer next to the baby and can be customized with the small and large inserts that come with them. In the short years since I bought diapers there are loads of new brands out there. I would go with a one size fits all pocket diaper.
For washing, I followed what's called the "dry pail" method. I washed diapers usually every day but sometimes every two or three days. With the yellow "milk poop" I just put the diapers straight in the wash. Once the kids were eating solids I scraped as much of the solids into the toilet as possible and then put the diaper in the pail. For a pail I used a Diaper Champ with a pillowcase in it instead of a plastic bag. The breathability of a cloth bag helped so the diapers didn't get as sour. I put baking soda in the bottom of the pail to control odor a little. I had purchased a Kenmore Elite HE washing machine before we used the diapers or even thought about it, but it had a "sanitary cycle" so I hoped it would work and it did. We use that cycle with an additional prewash and rinse (it's like a 2 1/2 hour wash). I used All Free and Clear detergent for HE washers (only about 1 Tablespoon, no more) and a little (maybe 1 teaspoon) Oxiclean (even though everyone says not to). It worked really well with the extra rinse. If the diapers ever still smelled like waste or like soap I ran them on a regular cycle or rinse. I tried to dry them on a clothesline most of the time, but sometimes in winter I dried them inside on a rack or in the dryer. The dryer is really hard on the PUL fabric, so if you're going to dry them in the dryer I'd do just the inserts. The sun is really a great disinfectant and I was really happy each year when it got sunny enough to take them out.
Here's one day of diapers when Alice and Clyde were both in them:
The far right is a Smartipants diaper, the velcro ones are all Bum Genius, and the one fourth from the left that's mint colored is a Fuzzibunz.
I bought diapers from cottonbabies.com and smartipants.com. Cotton Babies has great general information about cleaning and using the cloth diapers. Diaperpin.com is also a good resource with lots of reviews that I used when I got started.
I'll never love diapering because, eewww, it's disgusting, but I liked cloth diapers a lot better than disposables.