I've had lots of people ask how cloth diapers are working out for me, so here's the post. Let me preface the post with this: We've spent nearly $250 on cloth diapers and accessories, so I'm already biased because of the investment I've made. However, I will try to be objective.
Cloth diapering is working great! I like it more the longer I do it. My short answer to "Should I cloth diaper?" is this: Yes! It's a little more hassle, but a lot higher quality and a lot less money. Plus, it's good for the environment!
My friend Lindsey and asked some good questions when she was considering cloth, so I'll answer those, and if anyone has any other/further questions, just let me know!
Increase of Laundry: We do diaper laundry every two to three days. The good news is that we can also throw in the rest of Caleb's laundry with it (and yes, it's perfectly clean and sanitary when it comes out). This is important because Caleb's clothes don't take up much room in the hamper, so it's tempting to do his laundry once a week. However, his laundry often has milk and cereal and other foods on it, which can cause mold and general grossness if not washed often enough, so it's good that we have a reason to do the laundry more often. Our water usage has increased...I think by about 15%, but that was before we bought a few extra diapers and we were washing diapers every night. The laundry is not overwhelming, simply because laundry doesn't take long to do, but the folding does take some time (15 minutes), and there are often times when I am just grabbing a diaper and an insert from the dryer to put on Caleb, and I wait until his nap to catch up on folding.
Hassle for caregivers: People who babysit have used the cloth with no problem. The BumGenius 3.0 that I use are so much like disposables; their only question is, "What do I do with it when it's dirty?" The answer is to stuff it into a little bag that I keep in the diaper bag, so it's simple to do. You can even wrap them up on themselves like a disposable and stick them back in your bag. We do switch out to disposables at church. It's a little bit of a hassle, but the disposables take up so little room, sometimes it's just easier to keep they and the cloth in the diaper bag at all times.
Poop: A breast-fed baby's poop is not really solid at all, so you don't have to deal with a poopy diaper any differently than you deal with a wet diaper. Just stick it in the wash. Once the baby starts solids, however, it's a little different. The poop is more solid, and what most people remember about cloth is having to swish them around in the toilet to get the poop off before washing. No more!! That, I have to say, would keep me away from cloth. Now there are liners that look a lot like dryer sheets. They catch the poop and let the pee pass through. When Caleb has a poopy diaper, we just carry the whole thing over to the toilet, dump out the liner with the poop, and press the magic button! Caleb loves to see it flush away, and we like that there is never poop in our house. ImseVimse liners are not very expensive and can be washed up to three times if they don't have poop on them. A friend tried Kushy Tushies from Wal-Mart, and they were much smaller than ImseVimse and did not allow for reusing. I have had more poop blowouts with disposables than I have with cloth, and I have not had a poop leak at all since I started using the liners (more because the poop is less runny than because of the liners themselves).
Diaper routine: Keep diapers, pre-stuffed with inserts, by the changing table. When Caleb's wet or dirty, change. Take off dirty diaper, fold in half and set aside. Use disposable wipe to clean Caleb up. (I tried cloth, but didn't like it.) Throw wipe in trash can. Put on new diaper. Pick baby and dirty diaper up. If the diaper was poopy, drop the poop off in the toilet and flush. Stuff dirty diaper into Diaper Genie (without the D.G. liner...we use it because it's what we have). When we're low on diapers, Jon usually does laundry duty. He pulls the diapers out one-by-one and separates the inserts from the outers as he dumps them in the washing machine. (We used to do this before we put the diapers in the Genie, but that was just too many times of touching pee. This way it's just all at once, and scrub our hands afterward.) One wash on cold with 1/4 detergent usually used. One wash on hot with 1/4 detergent. One final rinse on cold, then over to the dryer on medium. We usually have to run the dryer twice, though I've noticed that since we've included Caleb's clothes, it's only required one dry cycle. Can't figure that one out. Jon's a night-owl, so he washes diapers at night. Once he puts it on the rinse cycle, he'll go to bed. When I get up in the night, or the first wakeup in the morning, I'll move it over to the dryer, then out and stuff at Caleb's naptime. Jon has stacked the diapers in one pile and the inserts in another, and I think that might be a great arrangement, too. Just stuff when needed.
Leak-resistant: I have had fewer leaks with cloth than with disposables, especially when it comes to poop. I was really worried about that at first, but not any more. However, we do deal with pee a lot. When Caleb is wearing a onesie and it has ridden up to the crease in his leg, the prolonged direct contact with the leghole of the diaper often leads to wicking of pee onto the onesie. Not a lot of it, but it's pretty guaranteed that it will happen. This could be because Caleb is long, so his onesies aren't loose enough. It doesn't happen when he's wearing sleepers or just pants. No leaking problems at naptime. At night, we put a full-size insert and a newborn insert (both included with BumGenius 3.0) in the diaper. Many nights this is fine; many nights he wakes up wet in the morning. Right now we keep a waterproof pad on top of his sheet, so we're not changing the sheets every day. As Caleb's getting older, he's not peeing as much at night, so it's becoming less of a problem. He rarely poops at night, and I worry more about him sitting in poop than pee for prolonged periods. So yes, we change his clothes a couple times of day due to pee. I'm getting better at catching it early, but don't mind so much because there's usually other reasons (drool or cracker or something) to change his clothes.
Avoiding changing of diapers: We do not avoid changing diapers to avoid laundry. As a matter of fact, I worry about it less than when I was throwing away every diaper I was spending money on. This way, I know I'll use it again when it's clean, so no big deal. And we wash just about every other day, no matter what, so I figure we might as well give them all a chance to get clean. However, disposables are very easy to tell if they're wet or not. Cloth not so much. So sometimes I wait because I don't realize Caleb's wet, but I'm getting better at recognizing a wet diaper. Usually I change him after every nap, so he's guaranteed a new diaper every 3-4 hours during the day, more if I know he's pooped (which is easier to tell, by sight, smell, and usually sound).
When we started: Caleb was two months old when we started cloth diapering. We waited at first because we figured that having a newborn was enough of a change, and we didn't want to add figuring out cloth into the mix. Then we waited because Caleb was so small. He was in newborn diapers for quite awhile. When he moved to size 1 diapers is when we moved to cloth. I'd probably do the same with a second baby, especially when their first poops are that black, sticky stuff. I might try to start cloth earlier now that I'm more used to them.
Diapering accessories: Like I said earlier, we use the Diaper Genie as a diaper pail, because it's what we had, and it has a very small footprint, which is good for our small duplex. Other pails were just too big. We have two wet bags, one small and one large. The small stays in the diaper bag and holds 2-3 diapers. The large comes with us on trips and holds 10-15. On trips, I pack the prestuffed diapers into a large bag that folds down when empty. I stick the large wet bag, a box of wipes, and a sample size of detergent in the bag and it's good to go. When we get where we're going, I hang the wet bag on a door handle, and the clean diapers eventually get dirty and make it into the wet bag. If we're not there long enough to do laundry, I just stuff the wet bag into the other bag and bring it all back home. So I'd say the bags are the only extra things needed with cloth diapers. I got pretty ones because good design and nice colors makes a difference to me.
Sustainable: So far I see these lasting with Caleb for a while. He's not in the smallest size any more, but I think he'll still fit when he's bigger. The tabs are starting to curl and aren't as "sticky" any more, so I'm wondering how long they will last. A friend of mine is using the same BumGenius 3.0s on her 18-month old, and they fit her. In my mind, these diapers were going to work for all our children, but I've realized that they might wear out before then. Even so, it's a big savings from disposable.
How many: We started with 13 diapers and kept getting to the end of the second day with the very last diaper. We bought three more and have no such problems. I don't have to raid my diaper bag for the last two diapers any more.
Diaper rash: Caleb has not had a real diaper rash (with cloth or disposable), so I have not had to test this. He has only had a couple of minor diaper rashes I believe they were because of the pee being on his skin for an extended period of time. That was my fault, not the diaper's, and was fixed by changing his diapers more often. In the case of more serious rashes, you could do one of two things: 1) use disposable for that time, or 2) create a barrier between the cream and the diaper. I've heard using a bit of flannel (cloth wipes are generally flannel) or another absorbent material will do the trick. The cream (or lotions, too) will gunk up the diaper and keep it from being so absorbent, so you want to keep them away from the diaper.
Brand: As I've mentioned, I'm using BumGenius 3.0. It's a one-size diaper, which means it has snaps and velcro to adjust the size to fit all the way until potty training. When we first started using them at 2 months, they seemed pretty big and bulky. I felt like Caleb looked silly, but he quickly grew into them (or I got used to them). They also allowed my skinny-minny to wear pants that had otherwise been too big for him. I dried the diapers on hot once, and the velcro tabs curled a bit. That's only a problem when he's wearing just a diaper to bed, because it gets caught on the waterproof pad (probably wouldn't on the sheet, since it's smoother), and sometimes his diaper is half off in the morning. However, the velcro itself is still very strong. Some reviews have said that these diapers won't last more than a year, so maybe getting sizes would make them last longer. Of course, you spend more on sizes, so it might even out: more sizes that last two years, or one size you have to buy each year. But this is again an area that I can't really talk about because we're not there yet. So far the BumGenius are wearing very well, and I don't see them falling apart any time soon. I like the idea of only have to carry around one size diaper when I'm out with two kids. No matter which kid needs a diaper change, the diaper will fit.
Smell: Disposable diapers smell so much worse than cloth! Especially now that we never have poop in the house. Opening the Diaper Genie and putting the diapers in the wash IS a smelly business, but I still think not as smelly as disposables.
Whew! That's about all I can think of! If anyone has any questions, let me know! It's been fun, and I now know 4 other babies who are cloth diapered. I always get questions when I'm out, so hopefully here are the answers to those questions.