This will be a long and boring post to those who aren't interested in cloth diapers, so feel free to skip this one if you aren't interested...I promise I won't be offended!
We've been using cloth diapers for a little while now and I have to say that I'm glad I tried it. We were initially intending to wait until Anna was a little bigger, but she kept getting diaper rashes no matter what brand of diapers and diaper cream we tried - even the sensitive varieties. I got tired of seeing red baby booty every time I changed her, so we went ahead and made the switch. I also have to admit that I haven't really gotten much support for this venture, but I figured that I'm the one changing 99.9% of her diapers anyways so whateva, I do what I want! If you want to come over and change my baby's poopy diaper, by all means, feel free to use a disposable. Steve says he doesn't care what we use as long as he doesn't have to wash them!
We ordered everything from www.greenmountaindiapers.com. We spent right under $200 which given her rate of disposable diapers, evened out almost exactly with how much it would have cost to use disposables over the same time frame (not counting her first 5 weeks). If things continue to go well, we can hang on to these and use them for future babies. That's where the real cost savings come into play, in my opinion. Right now the main motivations are happy baby skin and environmental impact - I feel so much better not tossing 12+ diapers a day into the landfills (and yes, I've heard the word "hippie" muttered around the house).
Are cloth diapers completely as convenient as disposables? Well...no, but I would also argue that they aren't inconvenient either. All that's really required is a couple of extra loads of laundry every week. I had the diapers prepped and ready to go within a day of getting them in the mail, and after a day of practice, I could get Anna changed just as quickly as I could with disposables (and even in the dark, as my sister pointed out with amusement the other night!). We will still use disposables on trips and vacations, but given how little we travel beyond the lake house, that's okay! I find the cloth diapers a LOT cleaner too in terms of explosive baby poop- I had leaks all the time with disposables and have only had ONE with the cloth diapers.
In terms of our "stash", we went with the GMD cotton prefold diapers. Basically you fold the prefold cloth around the baby (there are a bunch of folds you can try to find one you like), hold it closed with a plastic piece called a Snappi (no pins needed!), and then put on a cover. We bought 36 prefolds, 5 cute covers, a 3 pack of Snappis, 2 pail liners, and one smaller bag to take in our diaper bag if we go out. We probably could have gotten away with 24 prefolds but getting an extra dozen does give us some more flexibility with laundry days. Overall I would say this was a pretty ideal starter stash!
As a side note, there are cloth diaper options that function a lot more like disposables, but they are more expensive. We're holding off on those until she's in the next size up and we can do a trial from JilliansDrawers.com to see which ones we like the best.
Dirty diapers go straight into a trash can lined with one of the GMD pail liners. Since Anna is exclusively breastfed, the poop is water soluble and can go straight in the washer. This part seems to be the thing that most people get hung up on and say "Ewww!" but seriously, it's no big deal. I wash the diapers on a cold wash first, then a hot wash, and then do an extra rinse. Nothing is left in the washing machine, I promise. And I don't have to touch the dirty diapers because the pail liner goes into the wash too- I just dump them in and then start the wash. The entire wash and dry cycle is done in the time that Anna is napping.
We did have one minor hiccup last week. I tried a different detergent that was supposed to be better. Well, not so much and it gave Anna a rash - sorry, baby :-(. So I promptly ditched that and re-washed everything while she hung out in disposable diapers. It's apparently pretty common to have reactions to various detergents, depending on the baby, so that made me feel better and I'll just keep trying detergents until we find one that Anna likes. I also found myself MISSING the cloth diapers while she was back in her disposables. It's all cleared up now and she's back in the cloth.
Anyways, I don't pretend to be an expert on this by any means. There's SO much more in the Cloth Diaper World that I haven't even begun to wrap my brain around yet, so there's a pretty big learning curve depending on how in depth you want to get with it. I was pretty intimidated by everything before we got started but my various motivations for trying cloth were stronger, so I forced myself to try it. The internet has been an invaluable resource in researching the best starter stashes, cloth-friendly detergents and diaper creams, and any other question I could possibly think up. Here are some of the websites that I found the most useful, but I'm not kidding when I say there are a TON of sites out there: