Cloth nappies, or diapers, have been a big area of research during my pregnancy. I went to a baby expo which was horrible (think fast food and Bob the Builder) but had a great range of cloth nappies being demonstrated so I could see them all side by side. It's hard to work out what's going on, especially from websites, so here's my little guide.
You've basically got the following choices, and loads of variation in between.
Old fashioned flat square nappies are what our grandparents probably used. You need something to hold them in place, like safety pins, snappi fasteners or a elastic band around the waist. You also need to buy pilchers, or waterproof covers. This is the cheapest nappy option out, but you have to learn to fold them properly or they leak.
Prefolds are still similiar to the old system in that you have nappy inserts and waterproof covers. They are fitted covers like disposables, but flat square inserts like old fashioned nappies. The advantage is that you don't need to learn any folding techniques and you don't need to use pins or other fasteners.
All in ones
All in ones are the most like disposables because the nappy lining and waterproof cover are all sewn in together. This means they are the easiest to put on the baby. The disadvantage is that you have to change the whole nappy each time, unlike pre-folds or squares where you usually only change the nappy or liner and use the pilcher or cover all day. All in ones also take the longest to dry as you can't unfold them out flat. They are the most expensive option (other than disposables) becuase you need to buy a lot more of them.
One size fits all or sized nappies
Of course you don't need to buy as many nappies if they are one size fits all, but you do risk leakage on newborns and bigger toddlers. You have to buy more sized nappies, but they will fit better.
So that's the pro's and cons, and here's my choice:
This is a sized, pre fold system invented by a mother in New Zealand. The website, as usual is totally confusing, but read through the topics under Advice to get the gist of it.
The reasons I chose this system is because the folding is very simple and their are videos on the website if you need help. The nappies are very cheap ($3.50 each) and the covers are a reasonable price at $15. The nappies are square so they will dry quickly.
I also bought a pack of flat square nappies, I'll use these round the house without covers, and generally for mopping up spills and "catching possets" and for all the other messes that baby's make.
Finally (I'll write a whole post on this later cause I'm obsessed) I want to practice EC with my baby. Which is basically a fancy modern name for what humans have been doing for years, offering their babies the use of the toilet instead of letting them sit in wet nappies. Check out this great website for more info. And in my opinion prefolds will work best with EC.