The two basic options are disposable and reusable diapers, and since we care about the amount of garbage we produce and want to waste as little as possible, we've decided reusable diapers are the way to go. The added benefit is that no matter which kind of cloth diapers one chooses, they're cheaper overall!
The most simple and least expensive cloth diaper is the prefold.
They used to come in one size, but some business genius figured out they could make more money if they sell different sizes for different ages. While one doesn't really need a smaller prefold for a newborn, I have no experience with cloth diapering, so I can't say they wouldn't be helpful. Maybe they would be awesome? These ones above are unbleached, which is a great option for people like us who want to avoid chemicals on our baby's skin and don't want to contribute to the environmental impact of bleach.
If we use prefolds, we'll also need diaper covers (also called wraps) so our baby doesn't drag its soggy bum all over the floor. Or our friends' floors. Or our friends' arms. Ew.
There are many different kinds of covers out there that are fitted and/or adjustable, and most are made of some kind of plastic. Again, we don't want to contribute to the amount of plastic that will outlive us by thousands of years in the landfills, so we think a more environmentally-friendly moisture barrier would be best. We prefer PUL (polyurethane laminate) that's free of PVC, phthalates, lead, and latex. Not all PUL is created equal! Covers made of polyester are also just plastic, which we want to avoid. As my 5th grade science project proved, plastic melts, and as we all know, it doesn't biodegrade. (Which reminds me, have you seen this?)
Here are a few different wraps made by companies that we like. Aren't they so cute?!
Thirsties Duo Wrap
This cover is awesome because only 2 different sizes are needed to cover the baby from birth to potty training. Some brands have 4-7 sizes, which means an investment every few pounds.
Bumkins Diaper Cover
These ones come in many fun prints!
gPants Diaper Covers
These ones work with prefolds as well as with the inserts they sell on their website. One nice feature of gPants is the snap-in nylon liner inside which allows for easy cleaning.
Another option, which may be better at night and after summer is over, is a wool soaker, which I can knit!
Paul says I have too much yarn anyway, so I might as well knit something practical for the baby. Wool is naturally water-resistant, but once it starts soaking, it can hold a LOT of liquid. Wool is breathable, natural, renewable, and I can dye it myself (because I do it all the time).
One of the cool things about the prefold + cover diapering method is that we'd only have to wash the prefolds, and switch out the wraps between changings so they can air out. Unless there's a "blowout" (another experience we're not looking forward to) we'd only need a handful of covers at any one time.
Another reusable diaper method is an all-in-one cloth diaper, which is as simple as a regular disposable, except you wash and reuse it. These are better than pocket diapers because you don't have to stuff it with an insert, and you just wash the whole thing. We think it would be nice to have some of these on hand for occasional use such as trips, or when someone else might be changing the baby.
SposoEasy All-In-One Diapers
These ones are all-cotton, and supposedly don't leak!
bumGenius One-Size All-In-One
This seems like the ultimate awesome of diapers. It's fully adjustable so one size fits all, it's all-in-one with the option of adding layers, and it's organic!
Now that we've done our research, we feel more prepared for diapering though we're still intimidated by the whole process of changing and washing diapers. Maybe someday our child will appreciate all this.
**UPDATE: We've gotten some feedback from a few friends who are cloth diapering their new babies. It seems that all the various adjustable diaper covers they've used don't work well for newborns--there's room around the skinny legs and they just don't fit well. So we're planning on getting the special extra-small size covers for the first couple of months until the baby's big enough for the duos (adjustable).
Also, I heard from a girlfriend who bought gDiapers secondhand that the waterproofing wears off after 5 months, so her secondhand purchase didn't help her out much! Also, those covers didn't leave room for the healing umbilical cord.