A lot of people ask me about cloth diapering since we have used cloth diapers with our son. Some people are surprised to find out that they still make/cloth diapers ;) It's a big business, and it's all the rage now with everyone wanting to "go green" as well as wanting to save money. They make really nice ones now that are way different than the plastic pants and safety pins our moms used. I'm a full time working/nursing mom and I'm able to keep up with it and it's not bad at all. We love it. I'll share my experience so far and my advice on the issue.
Money vs. the Environment
You first have to decide if you are doing cloth diapers to save the environment, save your pocketbook, or both. We do it to save both. The amount you spend on them depends on what you are trying to save. You can easily spend more on the most amazing, most absorbant, and cutest cloth diapers than on off brand disposable diapers. We probably spent the least amount possible next to sewing them ourselves. We got g-diaper covers but use Gerber cloth inserts (3 ply with absorbant padding. We like the g-diaper covers because they come with a waterproof snap in/out liner. So if the liner gets dirty you can switch that out without switching the cover. Each cover comes with a liner ($13-15 dollars each, depending on color) and then we bought 6 extra liners which are a couple of dollars a piece. We don't use g-cloth inserts because they are expensive. We use Gerber extra absorbent inserts because they are about a dollar a piece. They aren't the best or most absorbant, but they are the cheapest. Other brands range from probably about $5 on up. Everything diaper related (cloth or disposable) has free shipping through wal-mart.com, so get them through there. We spent about $200 dollars total. When he gets bigger we will need the next size of covers but we can still use the same snap in liners and cloth inserts. I may end up sewing the covers myself since there are mock g-diaper cover patterns online that don't look too difficult.
Start with Disposables
I suggest starting with disposables when your baby is a newborn. You have no idea how big your baby will be when he/she is born and so if you buy the newborn cloth diapers they may not fit or they may grow out of them immediately. Cloth diapers will triple the size of your baby's bottom and if you try to put them on when they are a newborn it will probably swallow them and all the cute outfits people give you will not fit. Also, when they are newborns they go a million times a day and it is black and brown and green and runny. It is very messy. I suggest using disposables until they are at least a month old and you have some of your sanity back. One time my husband went through 4 diapers in one change because our son kept going. You do not want to clean diapers or do anymore laundry than you already have to when you are adjusting to a newborn and have major sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, very few stores sell cloth diapers so you have to buy them online without being able too see them and there are probably a hundred different companies that make/sell them. This was very frustrating to me. There are companies online that allow you to rent packages with different kinds so you can see what you like. You have to pay a big deposit and then you get that back when you return them. We didn't do that but it could be helpful. You could look on craigslist too and find some for cheap to try out.
Yes! You can leave the house with them too
We still use cloth diapers when we leave the house and we just bring plastic grocery sacks to put the dirty ones in. Since starting solids his diapers smell a lot worse, so we bought flushable liners. Flushable liners looks and feel like dryer sheets. They go on top of the cloth and when you have a poopy diaper you can just toss it into the toilet and not have to carry it around in your diaper bag. We bought them from Bummis because they are cheaper than the ones from g-diapers. There are about 6 cents a piece vs. 14 cents (cheapest disposable diaper I have found so far). You can buy fancy washable cloth diaper bags but we are too cheap, so we just use grocery sacs.
Covers vs. all in one vs. pocket
I have only used covers but I do know the advantages and disadvantages of the different kinds. G-diaper covers are a cheap option because you don't have to buy as many. If you buy all in one or pocket diapers than you need to buy at least 18-24 of them so that you don't have to do laundry every single day. We bought seven covers and 48 cloth inserts. We do laundry about every 3 days. All in one diapers are like disposable except cloth so you just use it and wash it. Pocket diapers have you put the insert into them but they still get dirty. Pocket or all in one diapers will run you at least 15 dollars a piece, and you have to buy a lot, so that's going to be at least 250 dollars just for those. Then you have to buy the cloth insert if you use a cover or pocket diaper. Cloth inserts are also called "pre-folds". I'm pretty sure that just means it sort of has seams/lines (not sure how to describe it) that make it easy to fold before you put it into the diaper cover.
We use cloth wipes too. It's not any more work if you are already doing cloth diapers. We cut up old t-shirts (free!) or you can buy a bunch of baby washcloths. We just use a little spray bottle and spray his bottom before wiping it with the cloth wipes. We spray them off with our diaper sprayer and then just throw them in the pail with our diapers. We just use plain water because we are lazy, but you can add baby soap or baby oil too.
Washing Cloth Diapers
We use our old trash can with a lid that opens with your foot for our diapers. We keep the pail near the back door and have little pails in his room and the bathroom that we empty into the big pail every night and morning before we leave for work. You also need a diaper sprayer (bumgenius). It hooks onto the back of your toilet and you can just spray everything into the toilet and barely have touch anything. Breastmilk diapers hardly smell at all but we still washed them before putting them in the pail. Solid food diapers you can just plop the mess into the toilet and you don't always need to spray it down. We use homemade laundry soap because it is dirt cheap and is recommended for cloth diapers to keep them absorbent. Apparenlty commercial detergent coat the diaper with residues or irritating perfumes.
Cloth Diapers are not Disposable Diapers but they have their advantages.
Cloth diapers will never be as absorbent as disposable so you can't expect that from them and you will have to change them more frequently. Supposedly the cloth inserts with hemp are very absorbant but we have not bought those yet. His cover will get wet usually once or twice a day but usually only a little bit. Once they start solid foods the poopy diapers are much less messy, just more smelly, so its actually easier to clean them after 6 months. Our baby's diaper rash went away when we started using cloth diapers and wipes. Desitin is expensive, messy, and stains so it is a big plus to not have to keep buying it. If you run out of diapers you never have to go to the store at midnight, you just do a load of laundry.
What kind should you get?
I don't think it really matters. You just need to decide how much work you want to do and how much you want to spend. You do less work with all in ones but then they are more expensive and you have to buy more. Also, decide if you want snaps or velcro. We like velcro because it is faster. If you don't want to ever switch sizes some brands are one size fits all but they have a bunch of snaps. As far as the cloth inserts go, try gerber first since they are the cheapest but if they don't work for you then buy something better as use them as burp cloths. Also, you can sign up for Amazon Mom and get free 2 day shipping on everything for at least 3 months. Believe me, when you have a newborn, the last thing you want to do is take your baby shopping.