We have a one and a half year old and a baby due in a few months. We would love to use cloth diapers for both—we hate the idea of plastic and chemicals next to their skin for so many hours a day. However, we have no experience with cloth diapers and have no idea where to start. What do we need? What is the best "system" (all-in-ones, prefolds and covers, etc.)? Also, how do you handle dirty diapers? Can they go right into the wash, do they need to soak somewhere? We are a little intimidated.
First of all, congratulations on your new little one and your choice to cloth diaper both your children! When it comes to the "best" system, remember that each system has its own positive and negative aspects. All-in-ones are easy and often very cute. They don't have to be stuffed or covered but they are a little pricey. You would need at least 12 for each child to start and at an average of $18.00 each you are looking at a large start-up cost. If you are diapering two from the start, you will be needing two separate sizes.
Prefolds and covers are economical and easy if you trifold in a wrap cover (like Bummies or Prowraps). You can also do prefolds with a Snappi to close and a pull-on or snap cover. Prefolds are a cheaper option and covers run around $10-20 each. You would need about three dozen infant sized prefolds and four to five covers per child to start.
Since you are starting our diapering two children at once, I think the easiest thing to do might be to get a whole stash of one-sized pocket diapers, like bumGenius or Haute Pocket. The start-up cost on these is a little high too, at about $17 each—but they will last a lot longer than sized diapers. One size diapers are fully adjustable and should fit both your newborn and your toddler, likely until potty training. All you have to do is snap the rise size up or down for each child. That way you don't have to worry about keeping diapers straight since both children will wear the same ones.
Dirty diapers are easier than you think! Breastmilk poo can go straight into the wash, no dumping, dunking or rinsing needed. A toddler's more solid poo can be dumped in the toilet. You can store diapers in a plain, old-style diaper pail with a lid and when diaper laundry needs to be done, dump it straight into your machine. My wash cycle looks like this; cold rinse, extra hot wash, cold rinse, extra cold rinse. That is all there is to it!