Fortunately for me, cloth diapers have come a long way (I wouldn't have used the old version). Since no one in my family or friend circle chose to go that route (well, not in the past couple of decades anyway) I had to do a lot of research online. Have I mentioned how much I loathe research? I got to a point where I was doing it out of sheer determination. I had something to prove.
There are all types of diapers and wet bags and cool accessories, but I'm not going to highlight all of them. There are plenty of sites that have already conquered those lists. Instead, I'm going to give you a list of the things that worked for us. And trust me, this is a solid list. We've had our fair share of problems (leaking, rashes, nighttime issues), but we made our way to the other side and now we've got a good routine going. It should be noted that if I hadn't been so determined to prove I could use cloth diapers, I probably would've given up several times. If you choose to do cloth, make sure you are fully committed before you spend the cash to build your stash.
What Works For Jen (and E)
Pocket diapers: We knew E was going to be a big baby so we decided to only buy one-size pocket diapers. This means he should be able to wear the diapers from about 8 pounds to 30ish pounds, or hopefully until he's potty-trained. We used the disposables we got at our shower and then switched full-time to cloth. I love pocket diapers because you stuff them when they come out of the dryer and then they're ready to go - no extra hassle, just like a disposable. This makes it easy for others to put diapers on E because there's no extra work - all you do is snap it on. It also gives you the freedom to change the level of absorption. If you really want to make things easy, buy pocket diapers that open on both ends. The inserts will agitate out in the wash, which means no touching dirty inserts!
Nighttime diapers: This sucked for us. Don't even waste your time. Buy disposables for nighttime. If you use coupons, it's affordable. One package lasts an entire month for us. Trust me on this one.
Cloth wipes: If you're using cloth diapers, it only makes sense to use cloth wipes too. E has really sensitive skin so we switched early on from disposable wipes to cloth wipes and water. Just throw the wipes in with your diapers. One more way to save some cash!
Wet bags: We decided to use wet bags instead of a diaper pail and I've never regretted that decision. I recommend having at least three big bags and two or three smaller bags. For the larger bags, get two with zippers and one that's open. The zippered bags go in the bathroom (for the poop diapers) and the open bag goes wherever you plan on changing the baby (the third bag is for when the others are in the wash). The smaller bags are for your diaper bag. The beauty of the bags is that they're easy to move and easy to clean. Unzip the bag, dump the diapers in the washer, throw the bag in with them and you're done. You don't have to touch anything inside the bag - big bonus.
Tide: There are lots of cloth diaper detergents out there, but Tide works for us. It's the original powder without any extras. We have hard water so this helps get the diapers clean. It's usually not recommended by cloth diaper gurus, but it's a favorite among cloth diaper mamas. We have an HE washer so my wash routine looks like this:
First wash: Speed cycle, cold water, no spin, heavy soil, no detergent
Second wash: Bulky load, hot water, heavy soil, extra water, detergent to the one line
Third wash: Speed cycle, cold water, light soil, extra rinse
I also like to have RLR on hand (use it every six months or when your diapers feel grimy - it'll strip everything off) and bleach goes in every once in awhile (not much). Grapefruit seed extract is also handy because it kills just as much as bleach and it's not a harsh chemical. If I use GSE, I put it in the third wash (about 10 drops, plus some water in the detergent tray).
Extra inserts: E is a heavy wetter. Sigh. So I almost always double up his pocket diapers with an extra insert. My favorites are thin, but absorbent so anything with a bamboo blend usually works for us.
Diaper cream: We use coconut oil daily and California Baby diaper cream when he looks a little red. There aren't many diaper creams that are safe to use with cloth diapers so be careful when you're buying diaper cream.
Bamboo liners: These are great to have on hand. You place the liner on top of the cloth diaper and it acts as a barrier if you need to use heavy-duty diaper cream or an antibiotic. They say they're flushable, but I recommend throwing them away because they will clog your toilet. Some people use a liner all the time, but it's kind of a mess so I only use them in emergency situations.
Clothesline/pins: You can dry your diapers in the dryer, but I only dry our inserts. I hang all of E's diapers on a clothesline using clothespins. We're retro like that.
Diaper sprayer: Baby poops are gross. If you're exclusively breastfeeding you can throw the diapers in the wash without spraying them first (one more perk of breastfeeding!). However, if it was really gross, I'd always spray them off before I put them in the wet bag. I've heard horror stories about how poop changes with solids, but we've been really lucky so far and I haven't needed the sprayer in months. Still nice to know it's there if I need it.
Storage: Cloth diapers are big. They require way more storage than disposables. If you have a changing table with drawers, that works. We have a dresser with a changing pad on top so I bought a box from Target to put his diapers in. When you put the lid on, it's a bench so I figure we'll get more use out of it even after we're out of diapers.
And...I think that's it. It sounds like a lot, but if you buy it here and there, it's easy to build a stash. There are also co-ops that you can go through to get wholesale pricing and that helped me grow our diaper collection. Beware - you will get sucked into the cuteness. There are people who wait for collections to come out. Yes, they have collections. As in, I can't wait for the spring collection!
OK, cloth diaper mamas - what am I forgetting?