Why are all major diaper brands switching the new “cloth-like” backing?

Let me try to remove any sales pitch from my answer and give you only the straight facts.  The reason why cloth-like is more popular is that there is an increased “comfort perception” among mothers … NOT THE BABY!  The mother makes the purchasing decision, not the baby.   Most of the times when the mother is holding her baby in her arms (specially during summer months, when babies do not use many clothes), the mother’s arm perspires due to the plastic back sheet that is in direct contact with her skin.  Addition of the nonwoven layer eliminates this problem. Plus it also gives the perception that the diaper is more comfortable to the baby (… the baby will not perspire either).   The fact is that all cloth-like diapers are made of plastics and nonwovens only. In other words, there is a layer of plastic film inside a layer of nonwoven – the nonwoven forms the outer layer.  So, even though it looks different, it still has the same plastic as before.  The consumers are paying extra money for just the “cloth perception”.   If you peel very carefully a cloth-like back sheet, you will discover the same plastic film inside.   This brings to my attention another issue.  The cloth like back-sheet has very little to do with your baby’s rash problem. If it does reduce rashes in some cases, it is just an unfortunate coincidence.  Believe me when somebody tells you that the cloth-like is very safe to use (“safer than” may be an overstatement), as you would agree, it is basically the same diaper as before, except that a nonwoven layer has been added outside of the liquid impervious plastic film (the same material as is used to make the nonwoven top sheet, which is in contact with the baby’s skin).   Please note that the number one reason for rashes is wetness (diaper rash is associated with humidity issues) and then chemical contaminants in the top sheet (not the back “cloth-like” sheet).  Leaving the diaper for a long period will generate some ammonia which can also add to the chemical contaminants. Of course food and medicines also have an effect but wetness is by far the biggest contributor and the number one concern.  The new breathable diapers add a very small improvement (just a marketing gimmick), basically because total evaporation is just too small in comparison to the total volume.  A typical diaper using a breathable back sheet looses less than 2% of its weight in 24 hours and no one uses a diaper for 24 hours – you know what I mean.  The only benefit of breathable diapers may be the reduced temperature inside the diaper because of the small evaporation but this may be a disadvantage also, during the winter months.  A baby may not be very comfortable with a cold diaper under the bottom, specially on a winter night.  People have the unwarranted tendency of extrapolating the benefits of breathable sports jackets to disposable diapers; in a sports jacket, the surface area is much greater and the amount of sweat is much less than urine in a diaper. Finally there is the issue of exposed convection area versus clothing outside of the diaper.    My recommendation is to switch to brands that use no perfumes, specially if they have increased surface dryness even without any added perfumes, such as most premium diapers.  Please let me know if you have any more questions.  Following is an extract from Pediatric Dermatology, Volume 18, Issue 4, August 2001, Page 282, that says that breathable diapers offer just a minor advantage; in my opinion non-detectable in most real life tests:

Effects of Breathable Disposable Diapers: Reduced Prevalence of Candida

Infants wearing breathable disposable diapers experienced significantly less diaper dermatitis (DD) compared to infants wearing standard, nonbreathable disposable diapers in a series of double-blind clinical trials. Severe DD, including confirmed infection with Candida albicans, was reduced by 38-50% among infants wearing highly breathable (HB) diapers. The prevalence of DD was inversely related to the breathability of the garments. The inhibitory effect of breathable diapers on the survival of Candida was further confirmed in controlled experiments with adult volunteers. A suspension of C. albicans cells was applied to delineated sites on the volar forearm. Each site was then covered by a full-thickness patch from either an HB or a standard diaper. Survival of Candida colonies was reduced by almost two-thirds in the breathable diaper-covered sites compared to the control sites.