DISCLAIMER: Written before actually having a baby! My updated diaper information is posted here!
So the diaper information is a little farther down, I had to write some prefacing information before I delivered my research.
Because I have spent hours...probably DAYS...of my life researching cloth diapering, I thought I would lay out what I have learned from reading reviews, shopping around, feeling/handling diapers, price-comparing, talking to other moms, etc...
However, since little bear is not here yet... I can't profess to be an expert at cloth diapering. I will edit my information if anything changes, but I am pretty confident that I have supplied myself with the best options and hopefully none of my purchases will let me down. I don't like to buy CRAP and I don't like to be WRONG, so I tried to only buy the best, but most budget-friendly options; and I made every attempt to get a well-rounded opinion so that I feel completely confident. I did not go into this blindly, and I did not go with the 'fads.'
Why am I cloth diapering? Well, it's honestly a combination of being environmentally friends and also being on a pretty tight budget. First, did you know that over 18 million TONS of diapers are thrown away each year? They just sit in landfills for years and years. Gross. Secondly, did you know disposables are still supposed to be dumped out into the toilet before throwing away so that poop isn't contaminating landfills...do you know anyone that actually does that? I don't. Third, Justin is going to be the sole bread winner for our family for a good amount of time, and I am the budget lady. (Can I just say I really miss channels like E! and TLC?) Cloth diapering will save us over 1000$, with just this baby...and because cloth diapers can be used with future children, especially if I wash them with care, the potential savings is upwards of 4000$. We could save even more money by using cloth wipes...but I just can't handle that. In case you were concerned with the additional environmental strain by having to wash the diapers...please note it is so minimal. More water is used to make a package of disposables (the biggest consumption of water in America is manufacturing). Also, I plan to line dry a lot of my diapers...so that saves dryer energy.
Another fun fact: when washed properly and changed as they should be, cloth diapers don't cause diaper rashes. They can also help potty train easier (motivating to YOU and also to baby, since disposables are so "super dry" that with just pee, babies often don't know they are wet until way later).
If you don't get the Pure & Natural, or organic brands of disposable diapers, they have chemicals/ingredients that can cause serious rashes on your baby's butt...not to mention pampers drymax has been found to actually EAT AWAY at baby's skin (not all moms have noted this problem, but you can google it and find lots of news reports about this situation...I saw it on our NBC channel's "Call to Action" report and had to read more...couldn't believe it!
Okay, here's the stuff you really wanted to read:
Types of Diapers:
Flat- this is a big piece of cloth that you have to fold many MANY times to make it into the 'shape' of a diaper that will be absorbent and fit a baby (I don't recommend these, they are hard to find-people usually make them themselves, and they are way more work than just buying prefolds).
Prefold- this is basically a flat diaper that is already "prefolded" (hence the name) and sewn up before you buy it. It is thicker in the middle part, since that is where most of the absorbency needs to be. There are newborn and baby sizes. They are often 100% cotton, but many are a cotton/Hemp blend (which is more absorbent). This is one of the most economical routes to go. Prefolds are not waterproof, therefore they require the use of a cover. They are also not "disposable diaper shape", so you use a "Snappi" (rather than the old school pins).
Brands I have: Thirsties, Econobum
Don't get: Gerber, just don't, I know you can find it at Target or Wal-Mart for cheap...but there is a reason.
Fitted- these are "disposable diaper shape" and often have snaps (but some may have velcro -also called aplix). These fit babies without needing snappi's, and are sooo soft (at least the kind I have are). They are not waterproof, so you use a cover with these, but they are really easy and Dad friendly. Most are cotton/polyester blend, but some are Hemp blends.
Brands I have: Kissaluv
COVERS: You would need covers if you were using flat, prefold, or fitted diapers. Covers are what make those diapers leak proof (or leak resistant). You can chose to use those diapers without covers, but I'd really only do that around the house, where you can catch a wet baby before it leaks all over the place. Not using a cover would be good when their butt needs to "air" out. There are many different types of covers. The main two I have are wool covers and PUL (slick, waterproof material). Wool covers are nice because you don't wash them as often and they look super cute. They are also really breathable, even in summer. PUL covers are nice because they have a more fitted look and resemble disposable styling. They can be wiped off if the diaper was just pee and didn't get everywhere. You can usually go 2-3 diapers before the cover needs washed...It's advisable to switch covers at each changing, though...as in, rotate them out. An important note-don't machine wash wool covers and you must line dry both types or else they lose their waterproof-ness. Covers come in super cute prints, colors, etc. They can be pull-on type, snap, or velcro type
Brands I have: Woolybottoms, Thirsites (double gusseted), Econobum
Pocket- these are pretty popular now. They are "disposable diaper shape" and have snaps or velcro/aplix. The inside is almost always fleece and there is a space in the back (between the inside part and the cover part) where you "stuff" an insert (or two) into the pocket. The insert is either microfiber, hemp, cotton, or a blend of those. The insert is needed to make the diaper absorbent. If you used a pocket diaper without an insert, it'd be useless. All pockets come with inserts, but you usually want to buy some "doublers" (those are usually more absorbent and offer to a way to double up for nap time or heavy wetters). The outside part of a pocket diaper is waterproof, so you don't need an extra cover. Hemp doublers or inserts are thinner, so they help the diaper have a trimmer look. These are really Dad friendly, because you can "pre-stuff" them-that is-prepare them in advance, and all you have to do during changing time is put it on the baby like a disposable. You need to remember to pull out the insert before washing though. Some brands claim to have inserts that come out on their own in the wash, but that doesn't really happen very often. These are more expensive than the above options.
Brands I have: Rumparooz (I highly recommend, they are the only brand that has "double gussets" in the leg to contain poop better), Fuzzibunz, Kawaii (received free), Happy Heiny's
Brand I will be buying, they are just really expensive: Tots Bots (best reviews of all pocket brands I've found)
Brands I have: Little Joey's newborn's
Hybrid- These, I am not using, but what they are is an outside part (cover) that is washable/reusable, with an inside part that you typically flush down the toilet (or throw away, but that'd be silly...except at like a park or something...or if the liner is not biodegradable/you have a septic tank that might back up). It's like the name says, a blend between disposables and cloth diapers. They can be a little pricey, just because you have to buy so much of the inside parts...but it can be pretty convenient if you don't want to hassle with the messes. I don't know too much about the absorbency/leak issues with these types of diapers...so that's something you'd definitely want to look into.
Sizes of Diapers:
One Size- This sizing option applies to many brands of prefolds/covers, pockets, and all-in-ones. These are supposed to "grow with baby." They have snaps down the front that allow you to adjust how tall/wide the diapers fit. They typically last from 8-35 pounds (so usually, you need newborn sizes anyway...especially because even on the smallest snaps, they are really bulky on a little baby). It is often suggested to save these size diapers for once baby gets around 12 pounds and then continue using them thru potty training.
Perfect Size- Applies to prefolds/covers, pockets, and all-in-ones. This sizing option is like a "small, medium, large" kind of deal. Different brands have different weight/length recommendations. Usually, through 10 lbs is 'extra small,' 18 lbs is 'small', etc, etc... They only fit for that size and don't grow with your baby. They are a little cheaper than "one-size" because the company knows you'll be buying the next size up, and they don't have the extra snaps/material. Perfect Sizes fit a little snugger, so that's nice for fitting under baby clothes (rather than having to put baby in a bigger size clothes just to fit a bulky diaper - often happens with "one-size" diapers when used on little babies).
"duo"- This is mostly, from what I've seen, a "Thirsties" brand thing. It is the best of both worlds. It fits in between perfect sizes, it's like a two-for-one size. It has two size options (through the use of snap-down/ups). For instance, size 1 fits 6-18 lbs...instead of a size 1 perfect size diaper that would fit only until 12 lbs... They have duo covers and duo pockets type diapers.
Main things to note:
You have to find what works for you. The main deciding factor will often be cost versus convenience. Prefolds/Covers and then Fitteds/Covers are often the most cost-effective way to diaper your baby...but they take a bit more work, although once you get it down, it may seem easier, since they wash/dry easier and you can get a better fit on your baby. All-in-Ones and then Pocket Diapers are the more convenient ways to diaper your baby...but they take longer to wash/dry, and you may find your baby doesn't fit into certain brands as well as others.
It is suggested to try a few different types early on, so that you can see what you like best and what your baby likes best...but if you know for sure something will or won't be liked by you/husband, that's your call.
Another things to consider:
How often do you want to do laundry?
The less often you want to do laundry, the more diapers you need.
Will you only use cloth, or will you use disposables sometimes?
If you plan to use disposables more often, you won't need as many cloth diapers.
Brands to consider that I didn't mention above:
Green Mountain Diaper prefolds
BumGenius (I personally haven't read great things about them, so I didn't go with them, but they are really popular)
Motherease (variety of options)
Babykicks (I only have an insert by them, so I can't say much about it)
Accessories you'd probably need:
pail liners (I have Kissaluv brand)
diaper pail (I have a kitchen size trash can with a step-lever and a lid--don't fill it with water...my mom said that's what she did, but things in the cloth diaper world have changed and all my instructions/tags say to store dirty diapers in DRY pails)
diaper sprayer (or you could do the old-school swirl in the toilet method that I am not willing to attempt)--I have a bumGenius one after reading a million reviews, it seems to be the best. If you are exclusively breast feeding (Please DO!), you don't "technically" need a diaper sprayer because BF poop is apparently water soluble, but you'll definitely want one if you are formula feeding and once baby is eating solid food. I am going to exclusively breast feed, but just can't imagine throwing excess poop in the wash, so I'm going to spray them anyways.
Detergent/Washing: Again, this is something you have to find what works for you. Many websites/moms will tell you that you MUST use Charlie's Soap/Rockin' Green/etc...but those are kind of pricey and harder to find in some areas (order online). You can use regular brands (Tide/All/etc) but may end up having to strip your diapers due to build-up of detergent residue. Build-up is bad because it leads to less absorbent diapers and SMELLY diapers before your baby even pees/poops. You may also find that your baby gets a rash or irritation from certain ingredients in certain brands. You would need to do your own research into this, because I can't really advise you one way or the other. It is often variable based on how you do laundry/how much detergent you use/what kind of water you have/etc...
I will tell you that through a lot of research/reading/budgeting... I will be using Purex-Free & Clear.
The main thing to note: use LESS than what the bottle recommends--this helps with reducing build-up on the diaper. Unless you use a brand like Charlie's or Rockin' Green, then use what it recommends.
This is my washing diapers method, first do a cold cycle with only a little bit of detergent. Then, do a HEAVY cycle on HOT with about half the recommended amount of detergent. Then do an EXTRA rinse in WARM water. Again, you can figure out what works best for you. You really want to be sure to rinse the diapers at least 1 extra time, though, because that helps insure that excess detergent gets rinsed off because you don't want that on baby's butt.
Buy diapers: Kelly's Closet
Also: Trusty Amazon
Buy diapers in person (you can buy from her online, but prices in store are cheaper): Happy Bottomus
Detergent Chart & other good info: Diaper Jungle
Get other advice: Cloth Diaper Forum