Over the past couple months I've had 3 people ask me "I know you use cloth diapers. We are thinking of using them with our baby. Do you like them? What kind do you use?" and other questions. I thought it would be helpful to write up a little information about it so that I can include some pictures for those people, and perhaps it will prove helpful to others as well.
We have saved a lot of money compared to full-time disposable diaper use. I've spent about $250 on diapers. That includes having a small set at both sets of grandparents' houses. Even if I add in detergent and water/electric costs, I am coming out ahead. They work better; I have never had poop leak out onto his clothing, and only rarely a pee leak. I also keep the environmental and health costs of disposable diapers in mind. It just makes sense that re-useable diapers use less resources (money and natural resources), just like re-useable clothing, dishes, and towels do. We line-dry when possible and plan to save the diapers for future children, which increases our cost savings and lowers the amount of energy and resources used.
We use mostly prefolds and covers. Everyone has different preferences on what type or brand of cloth diaper works best. There are lots of amazing new types of diapers out there, many of which go on like a disposable. These pocket diapers and all-in-ones are great for on the go changes, wiggly babies, or caregivers who may not be familiar or comfortable with cloth diapers. Many people have a whole stash of these types of diapers. However, they are a bit pricey for me and I actually prefer being able to use the outer waterproof cover for several changes. You only need 4-8 covers (and 2-3 dozen diapers to put in them), whereas with pocket diapers or all-in-ones you can be spending $15+ per diaper because the waterproof outer layer is part of each diaper. The prefolds aren't as picky about what kind of detergent they're washed in (wrong detergent + synthetic fabric pocket diaper = rash for Tobias), and there is no elastic or velcro in the diaper to wear out so they are supposed to last through several kids. Another benefit of prefolds is that you can use them for other purposes in a pinch, such as a changing pad, towel, or burp cloth. There are many occasions that I have been glad to have an extra in my diaper bag.
When Toby was little, we would use a snappi fastener to hold the diaper closed, and then velcro the cover on over top. This held in the poop better. Now we just fold the diaper in thirds and lay it in the cover and velcro (or snap) it on.
For overnight I use some longer prefolds. I fold them to make them fit into the cover, and to put the extra absorbency in the front. There are other folds but I like this one because I can do it ahead of time and it stays folded up well (when I fold the second side in, I tuck it into the slot made by the first side, so it can't unfold itself).
Here (click to see it) is a picture of my changing table and the diapers on it.
In Part II, I plan to talk about wipes, washing, and short and long trips out of the house with cloth diapers. If you have other questions or things I forgot, please post and I will try to answer your questions in part II.