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You need just as many if not more as you'd need disposable diapers because the natural cloth doesn't stay as dry against the skin as disposables. I think this is a good thing because it's weird chemical stuff that keep the sposies dry! Newborns have lots and lots of changes- I think the average is 10-12 a day? You'd want probably 2 days worth at least to keep up with laundry.
You most certainly can switch between them. We do cloth during the day and disposable at night.
Laundering is no biggie- if there is non-breastmilk poop, you wash it off either by swishing in the toilet or using a diaper sprayer on the toilet. (This sounds gross, but it's not that big a deal and really, you are SUPPOSED to toss all poop in the toilet, even though no one in sposies does.) Then you store the diapers (some do wet buckets, some put in a large wet bag with no standing liquid to be washed with the diapers) until laundry time- every to every 3ish days. You rinse, wash, and sometimes rinse again- depends on your washer. The poop residue and pee comes out in the wash. Some people get grossed out by this, but it is no different than if you have a blowout on clothes or an older kid has a bedroom accident- it all washes out and doesn't taint your washing machine. Then you dry them in the dryer- each diaper or cover has it's own instructions on how to do that. In the summer, I love hanging them on the line- it's economical and the sun bleaches out any poo stains.
There are tons of different kinds and everyone has their own preference. Lots of discussion on this board about that- look up the "fluff" thread. Our personal preference is Kissaluvs size 0 diapers with Thirsties covers for the newborn stage and then Bum Genius one size pockets through potty training. First time around I did a newborn rental service then bought the BG diapers outright. This time I'm borrowing Kissaluvs from a friend (already own the covers) and will use the same BGs for after- though I have to update the velcro as mine are beat.
You can go to various online retailers to see all the styles of diapers. I used to shop at Nell's Natural Baby. Just do a cloth diaper google search and you can dive in.
I think it is totally worth the time and money. It isn't that much more work and while the initial cost is high and there is a cost to the additional water & electricity needed to launder, it's still cheaper than all those throw away diapers. We pay for trash bags in our town, so the less we can keep out of the garbage is a cost savings for us. Additionally I like the environmental cost that we are saving- all that landfill space and gross poopy runoff in a dump is nasty and I'm happy to do my little part to help. And I think the less I can expose my kid's delicate skin to chemically processed products, the better.
Oh, and as for finding good prices, cloth diapers hold their value pretty well so you can find used ones from online vendors, online message boards, and places like Craigslist. You don't have to buy 30 diapers and all the supplies from day 1. You can start with a day's worth and go from there. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.