The cheapest cloth diapers around are probably flats and prefolds. Prefolds are diapers that have 3 rectangle panels, with the panel in the middle having more layers of cloth than the two on the outside. Flats have the same number of layers throughout. I honestly do not know anyone who uses flats by themselves. I do know a couple of people who swear by prefolds. Prefolds can run anywhere from less than $10 for a 12 pack to over $40 for a 12 pack. Cathy Cagle has an excellent article on prefolds at the Diaperpin website. I am trying to get the link on here for you, but I am having some trouble! If you don't find the link to click on, you can copy and paste this: www.diaperpin.com/clothdiapers/article_prefolds101.asp.
Basically, prefolds are what most people think of when they think of cloth diapers. These are the diapers that you fold and pin onto the baby. Here is a picture of Alaina (my daughter) in a prefold. I don't have any good ones, so this is your basic Gerber Birdseye that I received from family and used as burp cloths.
There is a new product out on the market that takes the place of pins. They are called Snappi Cloth Diaper Fasteners.
They look crazy, but I have heard only good things about them!
With prefolds, you have to have a diaper cover. Diaper covers can cost anywhere from about $2-$15 a piece, so they are a bit pricier than the diaper itself. Here are 2 pictures of Alaina in her prefold, this time with the diaper cover.
I personally love the Thirsties brand of diaper covers, but I haven't tried too many out, so I am not a good judge of what is best for your money: http://www.thirstiesbaby.com/covers.htm. As for prefolds, I don't use them unless I need them as an extra insert to help with absorbency. The main reason I don't use them is because, if I did, my husband probably wouldn't change a single diaper. Love ya babe!
Prefolds and flats can also be used as inserts or doublers. Inserts are cloth that provide extra absorbency in the middle of another diaper. For example, as I got bigger as a baby, my mother used to lay a folded prefold into another prefold for extra leak protection. A doubler is basically just a double insert, used especially for night time protection.
Best of all, prefolds are the best rags ever after baby is potty trained! I actually use some that I received and never really used as cloth paper towels for spills and the like. It saves me from throwing away a paper towel, and they are way more absorbent.
That is the quick low down on a very affordable, versatile, no-thrills diaper. Post me any questions you may have! Up next...the low down on fitted diapers!