CD-ing (Cloth diapering) is an art and a culture. I can tell you what has worked for me, but there are so many ways to go about it, you will just have to find what works for you.
Here is a tour of a cloth diaper. It usually has two symmetrical outside layers. One of the layers has a soaker pad sewn onto it. The elastic is sewn onto that same outside piece. Then the two outside pieces are sewn together. With a serger, this last step is really easy. Just using the sewing machine, I like to sew the outside pieces right sides together and then flip and topstitch. I just think it looks better and will last longer than simply zigzagging the outside pieces together.
The fabric used for making diapers can really be anything. Most of the websites recommend cotton flannel, fleece, or terry. I haven’t been too picky on this aspect. I have tried to use 100% cotton where possible as this is the most breathable and my little boy needs air! I don’t like terry diapers because I found they were more difficult to clean, though I have been told the opposite. I have used terry to make the soaker pads. I just used old towels. With a serger, again, this makes the process easy to serge the ends and then sew into the diaper. Another option is to buy the $4 package of washcloths at Wal-Mart and fold them into thirds and then sew that into the diaper. If you use flannel as a soaker pad, you have to use a LOT of it.
How I put a diaper on my wee one: I take the diaper (fitted or prefold), a doubler, a fleece liner, and a disposable liner and put them together in that order. It sounds like a lot–to eliminate a step, I sewed the fleece liners to the doublers so one step is eliminated. Then I put it all on my squirming little boy. Then I pull on his diaper cover.
At night, I use a prefold with two doublers, a fleece liner, and a disposable liner. I fasten the prefold with a snappi and then I cover the diaper with a wool soaker.
Doubler: I use a washcloth I have sewn into thirds. It doubles the absorbency of the diaper without adding much extra thickness to the actual diaper so that everything cleans and dries thoroughly.
Fleece liner: I used cheap fleece and cut it into rectangles 4×12 inches. (Some of them are 3×11 inches and they work fine too.) The fleece wicks away the moisture so baby’s bottom stays dry.
Disposable liner: I use Gerber EZ-liners. I like how I can wash and reuse them if they just get wet. They really make clean-up a lot easier. There isn’t much toilet swishing–if any at all. $4 at Babies R’ Us.
Soaker pad: That thick pad in all the diapers. You don’t want it too thick, or your diaper will never dry. That’s why you use a doubler if you need it.
An AIO (All-In-One) is a diaper (with a soaker pad because all diapers have a soaker pad–unless they are a pocket diaper) that has a moisture-proof fabric sewn into it so you don’t need a separate diaper cover. You can make an AIO using a regular diaper pattern just by adding barrier fabric between the layers or as the outside layer.
Diaper covers: the Alexis Featherlite was a favorite of mine. Alexis doesn’t make this cover any more, so your best bet is to find them on ebay. Wool soakers are my absolute favorite. There are many free patterns on-line to make your own.
Pocket Diapers: Diapers with usually only two external layers and an opening to insert the absorptive layers. You can add as many doublers as you need and they stay put inside the diaper.
If you’re concerned about flannel or fleece in the summer, consider this. Cotton flannel wrapping your baby’s bottom versus plastic. The cloth diaper allows for breathability. There is more air circulation (if you have the right diaper covers) and there is a lower temperature than in a disposable. Even though disposables now feel like cloth, they are plastic and they retain the moisture, increase the humidity, and get really hot. Basically, what I’m saying is–don’t worry about flannel or fleece getting too hot in the summer. Cloth will be much cooler than plastic.
To make your decision whether to use diapers and diaper covers vs. AIOs, you’ll just have to decide which works for you or whether to use both. I prefer the separate diaper with a diaper cover most of the time. The AIO’s are really nice for Dad’s and babysitters so they have less to deal with. However, AIO’s take longer to dry and don’t hold up as well with the frequent launderings.
And finally, the basics of what you need: approximately 20+ diapers, at least the same number of doublers, fleece liners (optional), disposable liners and a few diaper covers (4-6 per size). It’s also nice to have a diaper pail, a diaper pail liner, ditty bags for your diaper bag, and some wool soakers. For washing the diapers, you’ll need a gentle, clean washing detergent, baking soda, and white vinegar.
For laundering, you’ll learn to love vinegar (white). If you use a downy ball, you just fill it to the line and throw it in with the diapers so that it comes out during the rinse cycle. Do not use fabric softener or bleach on your diapers. Vinegar is a natural fabric softener, it neutralizes the pH, and it helps the detergent to completely rinse out of the diapers.
CD-ing does require a large initial investment($120+), but if you stick with it, you can save lot and lot of $$$, and you will help save the earth! I think the best way to get into CD-ing is to find out you have to for the health of your child! Without the option of going back to disposables, I had to dive into it head first! And now, I am a major cloth diapering advocate.