I am learning about the benefits and drawbacks of cloth diapers.
In addition to the environmental benefits (primarily less landfill and fewer trees), using cloth diapers is frugal. Disposable diapers cost $.30 to $.40 each, so I'm throwing $2 to $3 away each day (if I factor in the cost of doing the laundry, which I'm over-estimating at $1 a day). It also cuts down on the garbage service costs. I was about ready to step up to a larger garbage bin (we're using the smallest one) because a week's worth of disposable diapers (70 to 100) takes up a lot of room, when I decided that Little Man was now big enough to fit into the stash of cloth diapers I'd picked up from an acquaintance (about $400 worth of pre-fold diapers, diaper covers, all-in-ones, and miscellaneous paraphernalia for $50).
The first time I diapered him in the cloth diapers, I did it wrong, and the clothes along his back got wet. So I went online and found this cloth diaper video from Susan at MamasLoveAtHome.com and realized that I hadn't folded the diaper over in the back so the cotton wicked the urine up where it came into contact with his onesie. Silly me.
Using cloth diapers requires a bit more forethought. Instead of everything going into the garbage pail, nothing does, really. The diaper and it's paraphernalia needs to be sorted. There is a flushable insert to catch the poop-paste (looks like a fabric softener sheet), and the baby wipes are flushable, too, so they go into the toilet. Then there is the cloth diaper, and the diaper cover/wrap. Most of the time the diaper cover can be re-used, so I have little hooks above the changing table and I hang the just-worn one there to air-out. The soiled cloth diaper (in this case Indian cotton pre-fold) goes into a washable diaper bag designed to hold soiled diapers, which I'm washing every other day.
Once washed, I try to put pre-fold diapers with the liner already on it into the diaper wrap and stack them just above the diaper changing station to make things as easy as possible. Sometimes I just don't get around to being that organized, and I'll pull them directly from the laundry basket. Little Man is very active/alert for a 5-week old.
Of course, when out and about, disposable diapers are preferred, though I've recently learned that there are disposable-diaper type bio-degradable inserts (made by Grovia, gDiapers, and flip) designed to be used with diaper wraps for people who want the convenience of disposable diapers combined with the environmental friendliness of cloth diapers, for about the same price as conventional disposable diapers. I might give them a try--it should be easier than having to buy disposables in the baby's size and worry about him out-growing them before they're all used.
The only major drawback is teaching M how to do the cloth diapers. Fortunately, I've got all-in-ones for him to use, so no need to fuss with the pre-folds.