All-In-Ones (AIO): These diapers are the most like disposable diapers. In one step, they velcro or snap on. The outer is waterproof and the inner has the absorbancy. The downsides to these is that they can take longer to dry, may not be the most absorbant option and depending on the brand you choose, may get a little stinky over time and require stripping to remove the smell.
Here is an example of an AIO. This is a one-sized option and will fit from 10 lbs until over 25 lbs, making it a very economical option in the long run. We use these when we go out, and used them at day care:
Fitted: These come in either sized or one size and require a cover to make them waterproof. This makes diapering a two step process and some shy away from fitteds because of this. However, they can be more absorbant than an AIO, and you can also let your baby go coverless around the house to let their bottoms breathe, which helps with diaper rash. We have a lot of fitted diapers and wear them coverless around the house. We can go 1-2 hours with no leaks or dampness on the outside of the diaper.
Here are two examples, the sized option on the left and the one size option on the right. The sized option has an internal soaker and the one sized option has a soaker than snaps in:
Prefolds: This is a "traditional" cloth diaper. Depending on the material you get, this is by far the most economical option for cloth diapering. Again, they require a cover to make them waterproof, and pins or a Snappi to fold and close the diaper. Because of the two step process, many do not choose these. But they are soft, absorbant and wash easily. They also come in a variety of sizes. Once you are done with them, they can be used as burpcloths or for cleaning. They will last through many, many children. I think everyone should try a prefold.
Here are two examples, a bamboo dyed one on bottom (these are more expensive), and an unbleached cotton option on top:
Pockets: Pockets are like AIOs, except the absorbant soaker can be removed. You can stuff them with whatever you like- microfiber or hemp inserts, even prefolds. You can add more inserts if you need more absorbancy, like for overnight. When you put them in the pail, you take out the inserts and wash separately. People like these because they come sized or in one sized options, and they can customize the absorbancy for their child. Downsides are stuffing the pockets after every wash, and for me personally, I didn't enjoy pulling out the insert when it was dirty.
I don't have any examples of this, but two popular brands are Fuzzi Bunz and Bum Genius.
Covers: These go over prefolds and fitted diapers to make them waterproof. They come in a variety of colors. Some people even use lanolized wool covers or wool pants/shorts that act as a cover.
Here is a cover:
Coming next: Cloth diapering accessories and extras- What else do you need? How do you wash them?