In the spirit of the recent Earth Day and some folks' desire to grow evermore "green", I wanted to pass along some personal cloth diapering insights... I wrote these to a friend who was considering the switch awhile back. The description below provides the Gasperini-Ville approach to cloth. Feel free to add your ideas in the comments! Also, I'd love to hear from users of other brands of cloth so as to have full representation across the board. Do yours leak? Are they user-friendly? Are they comfy for the kiddos?
First of all, it is totally normal to feel overwhelmed and over-informationalized about these crazy cloth diapers. There is tons of info out there on the WWW and yet, I found very little of it to be really informative. I also hated that cloth diaper discussion pages were laden with acronyms and fancy terms! I never had any idea WHAT I was reading! Better to ask friends with tried-and-true experience!
Secondly, leaking is a possibility, especially if you don't have the right kind of diaper and insert for your little one. Cloth definitely requires a greater frequency of changes since you don't have the chemical polymers for absorption. We have found success with Fuzzi Bunz, a very popular brand of cloth diapers. I've found the cotton next to the skin makes the babies feel pretty dry. They are expensive, but in the end save you $$ if you use them long enough and for more than one child. We had friends who were ditching the cloth thing (she couldn't handle the smells and excessive laundry, but is now thinking of going back!) and we bought their used stash of smalls, med. and large fuzzi bunz along with their Hemparoo inserts. Joey Bunz Hemparoos are awesome organic hemp cotton inserts that are 7 layers thick and great for absorbing LOTs of pee. The FB are pocket diapers, so I usually place one of the Hemparoos in it and away we go. I also like them because the inserts are relatively thin. FB will come with their own inserts that can be used as doublers, but don't hold nearly as much liquid and are thicker. The diaper will definitely leak if you only use the inserts provided by FuzziBunz. Once the kiddo starts walking, the thinner the insert, the better. Even two Hemparoos is pretty thin when all is said and done.
I use the FB/Hemparoo combos during the day and a disposable at nighttime. We used to go 24/7 with cloth, but would drive the kids and us crazy, stuffing 3 hemparoos into the nighttime diaper and making them look like little Sumo wrestlers. It wasn't worth my sanity! Now, I just buy a box of disposables and use them for our diaper bag, trips, and nighttimes.
As for storage of the Bunz between washings, I found a Rubbermaid flip top garbage can that seals well and holds in the wonderful cloth aroma! I have it right by the changing table and toss both the FB and the Hemparoo together into the bin (after separating them). Then, when it comes time for washing, I just dump the whole bin into the machine, run a cold rinse cycle and then a High Power Wash cycle with Tide Free on Hot. This seems to be enough to remove everything and the smells. We finish with a Warm dryer cycle and extra towel, which dramatically reduces drying time. I used to air dry my FB covers, but found that the dryer did little harm to them.
We also use disposable wipes and I have a separate garbage can for those. I just change it regularly and we usually keep the smell way down. GG is pretty particular and hasn't minded it at all.
As for how many diapers you should initially buy--I would start with 10 as you can usually get through 2 days with such a supply, though you could always add a few if you needed more. You'll go through more diapers with a little one, so you might want to start out with 12 or so. All in all, though, I think cloth diapering babies 6mos and younger is a no-brainer and the BEST way to go. Everything is completely organic and requires LITTLE work. You can just dump in the hamper and go! When he starts on solids, you'll have to do a little toilet dumping, but overall, I make my washing machine do the heavy-duty work!!
Check out eBay if you want to find some used FB diapers. I actually bought a bunch of my Hemparoos from there--I'm going to wash the inserts anyway, so I didn't mind getting them if they'd already been used. The Hemparoo inventor sometimes lists ones with defects (like a missed stitch) and they are a wonderful bidding item. I have a few of those and they were sig. cheaper. Hemparoos run around $4/ea.
There you have it--probably more information than you ever wanted, but enjoy!