Since starting my cloth diapering adventure in February I have received lots of crazy looks and even more questions! I am really still a beginner, but I have learned a lot and would like to pass on my knowledge to those of you who have been asking. I wish I had the time to respond individually to everyone but, since everyone had pretty much the same questions I will answer the basics here.
"What do I do with the poop?"
If you are breastfeeding and have not started solids - nothing! Breastmilk poops are water soluble and the diapers and all can just be thrown in the wash. If you are using formula or your baby eats solids you simply dump the poop in the toilet. Many moms who cloth diaper use a diaper sprayer to clean off the diaper. This is a sprayer similar to the one on your kitchen sink. It attaches to your water line and comes with an attachment to hang on the wall. This makes cleaning your diapers mess free! I personally don't use one right now but may invest in one at some point.
"Is it nasty?"
Not at all. Diapers are so simple and modern now that it can be just like changing a disposable (aka- sposie, paper diaper). Again, a diaper sprayer can make changing even the nastiest diaper simple and clean.
"How do you wash them?"
You have two choices. If you live in an area that has a diaper service you can have them drop off clean diapers each week and pick up your dirty ones and wash them for you. If you would like to have your own diapers it is very easy to wash them at home. You use very little detergent (too much can affect the absorbency of your diapers) and depending on what kind you currently use, you may be able to use the same brand for your diapers. No softener or bleach is needed. You can line or machine dry. I don't have too many problems with staining, but most diapers can be hung/layed out to sun and the stains magically disappear!
Check here to see how your detergent rates.
"What size do I need?"
Many diapers are available with a one size option. The diaper snaps down to make it smaller and unsnaps to make it larger. These are intended to last from newborn to potty training. These are great if you are trying to save money and want the most bang for your buck. They are often a little bulky on newborns though.
You can also choose diapers from size extra small to large. Every diaper brand has a size guide telling you the weight range for their sizes. In general a medium size diaper will fit most babies for most of their diaper wearing stage.
"There are so many choices, which is best?"
This answer really comes down to preference. Every mom has a different answer to this question. Here are your options and the pros and cons.
All-in-One (AIO) - These diapers are just as they are named and require no additional parts or stuffing. The outside is a waterproof PUL cover and there is an absorbent insert sewn in. These come with both snap and aplix (velcro) closures.
Pros: Very simple. These are a favorite with dads and daycares. They are just like putting on and taking off a sposie.
Cons: The sewn in insert may not be enough for heavy wetters. This problem can be resolved if the diaper has a pocket for additional inserts (stuffable AIO). Because you can't take this insert out it does increase the drying time for these diapers.
Pocket diapers - This diaper also has a PUL cover and cloth inside. The top of the back side of the diaper has an opening, or a pocket, for you to put in your own insert(s). If you purchase a new diaper it will usually come with an insert, but you can also buy them separately. Inserts are made in all shapes and sizes and made out of all different types of materials. These come in both snap and velcro closures.
Pros: Pocket diapers give you the freedom to customize the absorbency of your diaper. This is great for heavy wetters and for nap/bed time.
Cons: In my opinion - none!
Prefolds - These are the kind your mom used! It is a flat cloth that you have to fold. You need a waterproof diaper cover or wrap with these.
Pros: The actual cloth is cheap and the covers can be reused for a couple diaper changes. You only change the cloth part. These are also great for newborns because you can get a trimmer fit.
Cons: The folding can be difficult until you get the hang of it. Covers are sold separately.
Fitteds - These look like a diaper but don't have the waterproof cover. Because these diapers can come in such cute prints some people don't use covers at home, but they will leak if you don't change soon enough!
Pros: Easy to put on and wash.
Cons: You do have to buy the covers separately. They usually take longer to dry.
Covers - A lot of brands make diaper covers and wraps. These go over the prefolds and fitteds. Other choices for covers are wool and fleece. There are diaper soakers, longies, shorties and even skirties! They are both wicking fabrics and are super breathable.
Pros: These can be a good choice for heavy night wetters. They don't have to be washed often.
Cons: These can be very expensive and require some special laundering care.
"How many do I need?"
This depends on how many children you have and if they are still getting changed over night, as well as how often you want to do laundry. I would suggest getting at least a two day supply or the washing may be overwhelming. For one child 15-20 diapers would probably be good. For two children 25-30 diapers.
"What about diaper rash?"
Cloth diapered babies generally get a lot less diaper rash - no harmful chemicals on their bums! But, if they do you can not use just any diaper rash cream. Check here to see what you can use.
"What do I need to get started?"
2)Diaper pail (trash can with a lid works great)
3)Pail liner (made from PUL material and can be washed with the diapers) *not absolutely necessary, but convenient
4)Wet bag (small version of a pail liner - for diaper bag) *you will not need this if you only use cloth at home
6)Diaper safe laundry detergent
Diaper sites I use/recommend-
http://www.jilliansdrawers.com/ - This site has a "try cloth" program for $10. They also have a lot of good info about cloth diapers. They sell gently used diapers at a discount each week. Sign up for their newsletter to be notified when they are posted.
http://www.clothdiaperclearance.com/ - You can get overstock and seconds here for a good price.
http://clothdiapersanonymous.com/forum/ - This is a forum where you can ask questions and talk with others who use cloth. This is a new forum, but we are all very welcoming!
http://www.diaperswappers.com/ - Another forum, but also a great place to buy and sell diapers!
There are lots of places to win cloth diapers!! Here is one that is running currently, but they also give away diapers weekly! http://www.theclothdiaperwhisperer.com/2009/05/kellys-closet-wants-to-celebrete.html
http://www.greenchicmama.com/index.php?main_page=document_general_info&cPath=5&products_id=31 - Great reasons to cloth diaper - if some of this doesn't have you convinced. I don't know what will. This site is new and run by a great mama I know. She also sells diapers, wraps and other good stuff.
My preferences - in case you care!
Right now I only use pockets and AIO's. I am thinking about trying some fitteds soon though. I love Fuzzi Bunz pocket diaper for overnight. They have NEVER leaked! I love the fit of Blueberry AIO diapers. The ones I have are stuffable so I usually put an extra little insert in to prevent leaks. I have also recently discovered Bottom Bumpers and Dreme-Eze and I love the fit of both of these diapers. Another favorite of mine, as well as many other CD mamas, is Bum Genius. I don't have a lot of experience with inserts. All but two of mine of Haute Pockets. I love them though. They are contoured instead of shaped like a rectangle. They also come with a doubler that snaps on and off. I bought these from the clearance site listed above. Haute Pocket diapers are a good trim fit but I don't like the PUL as well. It is called "breathable" and this causes it to "feel" moist although it has not actually leaked. You can purchase the inserts separately though.
Well, I think I have covered the basics! If you have additional questions feel free to ask. If I don't know I can find out!