If you hear "cloth diaper" and think "safety pins," girl, you are SO behind the times. Granted, some people still go that route, but not many. The cloth diapering world today is full of many, many easy-to-use varieties of cloth diapers, from prefolds with covers and all-in-ones (and all-in-twos!) to pockets and hybrids. The diapers of today are nothing like your grandma's diapers. Some work exactly like a disposable -- they're just not disposable.
But with all these options, where does a parent begin?
Well, that's what I'm going to tell you! Here's a rundown on the varieties of cloth diapers available ...
Pocket Diapers -- Since my daughter is wearing one in the photo above, I'll start here. You've got your nice, soft diaper, and it has a small opening in the back (the "pocket") where you slide in an absorbent piece of fabric. The insert can be made of hemp, cotton, microfiber, or any combination of materials. Because you can double-up or choose what you stuff the diaper with, they're extremely versatile. Two inserts for overnight? No problem. Solids come off the microfiber easily, and then you just hold the back and shake a tiny bit and the insert comes out. No reaching in.
Some types of pocket diapers include Fuzzi Bunz (shown on my daughter above is a One Size, $19.95 on Amazon, thanks to FuzziBunz for letting me try them! I bought 6 more!) and the bumGenius 4.0 (below; $19.95/Amazon).
All-In-One (AIO) or All-In-Two (AI2) -- These are the closest to disposables you can get. There's no pieces to mess with or anything to do, other than to put it on and take it off. An AI2, you can use it just like an AIO, or you can add an insert like a pocket diaper if you'd like. Some can even be used as swim diapers. Only complaint I've ever heard from these is they take forever to dry if you're line-drying.
Hybrids -- With hybrids, you can choose to use cloth or a disposable liner/insert. Usually consisting of an outside piece -- and then your lay your choice of absorbent material in the inside -- these are a great compromise. I used these for a long time and chose to use disposable inserts when going out for a bit and cloth at home.
Covers -- Not diapers all on their own, but a requirement for the next three choices, these are water/leak-proof diapers that go over the outside of something absorbent. Usually made with PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabric, which is super-thin and comes in adorable patterns and colors.
Soakers -- Also not a diaper on its own, and a lot like covers, they are made of a non-waterproof but absorbent material and go over the items that follow.
Fitted Diapers -- These diapers are a little more old-school. They're made of various cloths, often cotton, and do soak through after a little bit. Many people prefer using them at home as-is, but with a cover when out and about.
Prefolds -- Going even more old-school are prefolds. They're even more basic than fitted diapers, as it's a flat piece of fabric in various sizes with multiple layers to be absorbent. Gerber/Bird's Eye prefolds are available in lots of places, but many moms won't use them as they're not very absorbent compared to Chinese prefolds ($32 for 12/Amazon) or other types. Most moms use a product called "Snappies" ($3.95/Amazon) to hold the diaper on, as opposed to the old-school safety pins. These do require covers as well.
Flats -- Flats are what a lot of people think of when they think of cloth diapers -- a thin, single-layer piece of fabric, often cotton-gauze, that needs to be folded multiple times, etc. These can often be used like inserts or liners in pocket or hybrid diapers.
See? No safety pins in sight if you don't want them, and I promise, cloth diapers really are so much more work in theory than in practice. I'm seriously kind of lazy as a housemaker, and I find cloth a LOT easier than running to the store for disposables. Plus, we've saved tons of money, even though I've bought several and am switching the type I'm using a year after starting. If you're crafty, many women sew their own AIOs, pockets, covers, and fitteds.
If there's anything I missed, or any questions you have, there are tons of ladies I know who would love to help out in the comments!