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To answer your question, you need to decide how much learning you want to do, because there is a VERY cheap way to use cloth on a newborn - flats. Flats require folding into a diaper shape to get on the baby but they always have a perfect fit, fit a very large size range (basically to potty learning) and are cheaper than prefolds.
Alternatively, you can skip a size in prefolds, like start with sized Small ones or Infant in traditional sizing, which will be bulky but will function very well.
Covers you also have a big range. Dappi nylon pull ons are like $5 each, you can get a stash of 4 for $20 and do okay. Or get Thirsties Duos which fit a larger size range and will take you to the smaller end of Medium, I think they are $12 or so. If you always fasten your flats or prefolds with pins or a snappi, it will hold in the poops better and you will not need as many covers.
You need to price out for yourself what you would be doing with the cloth route and compare that to the disposables. There is no doubt that flats and Thirsties Duos are a very economical way to go and would save you tons of money. If you went with sized Green Mountain Diaper prefolds and Bummis covers and bought it all new, it would not necessarily save you a lot. But, they do have resale value. You could also look into buying used. Sometimes mamas unload full newborn stashes for really cheap.
Figure on 12-14 diaper changes a day when figuring out how many prefolds to get. I got away with 2 dozen and 2 covers with my first. I usually started washing when I got to 2 prefolds since it take a bit longer to dry them.
I got 3 dozen infant sizes and 2 dozen premium sizes along with 4 covers for this one. (Made the covers since they are easy enough). I do have others that I can use but I know 100% that I will get 2 full days out of them and if I don't remember to throw them into the dryer, I can survive.
I agree, look for used especially if this is your first exposure to CD. I love it however both my sister and cousin have hated it. Thankfully they borrowed my stash so they didn't invest in it to see if it was for them.
Katrina, mom to 7 wonderful children on earth, and 4 guardian angels in heaven.