Hi J. - I'm not new anymore, but we all were once! I have a 6yr old dd and cloth diapered and bfed her the whole way. We're expecting #2 end of Jan. It was hard (both to bfeed and to c. diaper), but I really wanted to do both and we finally got into a great rythm and kept at it for 2 yrs feeding and 3 yrs diapering.
What I did. Well, I got help. Soon I had so many opinions, I was completely overwhelmed. Then I found one woman who sat down with me and helped sort out the options and the costs/benefits of each type. That really helped. We ended up with a mixture (as many families do) of styles. aio's (all in one's : so called because you do not use a separate diaper cover, they have one built in) were our all time favorite and we ended up with two different kinds. They're the only ones my husband will use, actually! They cost the most up front (about $10/diaper) and take longer to dry, but they don't require anything extra, wash and dry easily, and you can travel easily with them. Also they are somewhat more breathable than the plastic covers and somewhat trimmer, good for the learning to walk baby.
We also ended up with some regular diapers, the kind you have to use a diaper cover for. These come in a variety of styles these days: prefold (pretty much a rectangle of cloth that you fold over twice - the diaper service style) (w/ or w/out colors/patterns), shaped (ditto on colors and patterns)(hourgalss shape but not fitted), and fitted (ditto again)(gathers at the leg and waist to keep leaks in) are the most common. We didn't opt for any of the prefolds because you HAVE to use a cover with them every time. I like the babe being able to romp around the house without a cover - way better for the bum. The prefolds need either a pin or something called a snappi that is a three-pronged plastic thing that holds the diaper together just like a pin without the sharp pins. Cool, except we learned that the snappi can come off, especially for an active baby or a creeper/crawler. Ok, so then we were down to two. We did get a few of the fitteds, but found it wasn't worth the cost. They cost four times what the prefolds cost, but didn't do any more for the baby. We did buy about 24 shaped, which fit better than the prefolds but were only a little bit more expensive (about $3.50ea). Prefolds were the cheapest by far, even adding in extra wraps. Also, if you use prefolds you can sequey into a diaper service (or just call them and ask what the start-up cost is), if you think that going that way might alleviate some of the family stress you're experiencing.
We bought enough diapers to last a whole week (abot 60 diapers and about 8 wraps). I am not a big fan of laundry and dh is not terribly reliable with it - this way every sat. morn. he'd wake up and start the diaper laundry (1 load/wk) and I'd finish it. We used a watertight pail with a snug fitting lid that we filled about 1/3 - 1/2 way with water and 1/8th cup cider or white vinegar (whatever was on sale). Diapes were clean, soft and white. Also we didn't have to remember to double rinse in the wash...bonus! Aside from that, the rest is a style issue. Don't get fooled by what's best - what's best is whatever works for you.
Also you'll want to get some type pf diaper insert (can be called a doubler, too) which 1) protect the diaper from poop 2) help increase absorbancy and 3) can wick moisture away from baby's parts, depending upon the style chosen. These can be cloth, biodegradable, or funky (like the fleece ones described by Sara). You can find them in wool, hemp etc. Again, anything that works for you works. Lots of people get the disposable ones, which you just dump into the toilet with the poop.
Breastfeeding is an art. I'd suggest reading up on it - look into the b'feeding site on mothering.com. also check out a La Leche League meeting series before the baby is due. You can usually bring children to these, but not always (always b'feeding babies, not always older kids). I second the opinion that bringing b'feeding into the household and normalizing it (idolizing?) is a great thing to do for children. Some mom/babe pairs b'feed naturally well, most have a learning curve to deal with. Be prepared to have difficulties, and figure out ahead of time what you might do - where to turn for info/help/support. Get the womanly art of Breastfeeding (by La Leche League) from the library - and wherever it is there are bound to be other books, too. It's a challenging and extremely rewarding experience. Once you get going (about week 1 - 3) you can leave the house anytime, bring a litle blankie or shawl and feed the babe anywhere / everywhere! The mall, the car (parked, of course!), even at friends houses. The cover up makes it really easy. Practice practice practice! Your baby will be a most willing practice partner, no worries there!
I really do hope it goes well for you both! It's a wonderful thing to do for your baby, and you sound like you're into making informed and smart decisions as a parent.
Mama to B and O , wife to J and me to me! :