With summertime just around the corner, my family has started preparing to let our one-year-old visit the pool and have some fun! It’s been a while since the girls were that small, so I’ve had to refresh my memory on things like pool etiquette, swim diapers, and whether or not babies can wear regular diapers in the pool.
Babies should not wear regular diapers in the pool because they are designed to absorb and retain fluids such as pee and loose stool to keep baby’s skin dry and irritation-free. If you use a regular diaper in the pool it will become saturated with water, ineffective, and fall off outside of the pool. A quality swim diaper should be used instead.
Why are regular diapers such a bad choice? How do you pick out the right swim diaper? Let’s dive into this topic and be sure that we both know what to do!
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3 Reasons why babies shouldn’t wear regular diapers in the pool while swimming
As a parent, it seems like there is always something new that you need to buy for your baby and it can be tempting to skip a few things that seem unnecessary. While there are certainly some items that aren’t a necessity for taking care of your baby (looking at you, wipe warmer!) most of those products are around because they just work, and using them can make life easier or safer.
When it comes to your baby using a regular diaper in the pool instead of a swim diaper, this is one of those times that you don’t want to try and skimp out to avoid the extra cost.
I remember when my girls were little and we had a little kiddy pool in the backyard during their first summer. We were so excited to let them jump in and play that we forgot all about the diaper situation. In a matter of minutes, their regular diapers were full to bursting and they looked ridiculous trying to move around in them. We ended up having to take the diapers off, let them play around for a few minutes, and then head back into the house. This would have been much more embarrassing if we were at a public pool.
Regular diapers work differently compared to swim diapers
The reason regular diapers don’t work well in the pool is because of how they are designed and meant to be used.
Most modern disposable diapers use a kind of superabsorbent polymer, commonly sodium polyacrylate. I’ll skip the science lesson and just tell you that these compounds are known for their incredible ability to hold water and some of these can soak up as much as 800 times their weight. Diapers just include a little of this stuff in between the layers and it’s the reason that they puff up when babies wet their diapers. It’s necessary so that it keeps your baby’s skin as dry as possible to avoid irritation.
You can imagine then what happens when you put a diaper with an ingredient like this in a pool – your baby turns into the Michelin man from the waist down.
If you don’t change a wet diaper quickly, they will just get bigger and bigger until they are sagging and falling off the baby. Eventually, they can even burst open, releasing all of the absorbent stuff into the pool and making a giant mess which nobody wants to have to deal with.
Swim diapers, on the other hand, are actually designed to repel water offer very little absorbency. While this means that they will do a horrible job of keeping your baby dry and leak free if they wet the swim diaper on dry land, they will excel in the pool because they won’t absorb all of the water in sight. It is important to point out that even in a pool, however, swim diapers aren’t going to do a perfect job keeping bodily fluids trapped inside. In fact, urine will pretty much just come right out into the water without much trouble.
The good news is that everyone else is probably just peeing in the pool anyway so your baby isn’t causing much trouble.
The bad news is that everyone else is probably just peeing in the pool anyway so it’s all gross.
As for poops, this is the real reason while you need to have a swim diaper. Because they won’t puff up, they will stay close to the body and keep any poops confined to the diaper, hopefully, until you can grab the baby out of the pool and change them. They are also designed to slide on and off easily when it comes time to change.
Do swim diapers hold urine?
Like I mentioned before, swim diapers are specifically designed NOT to absorb or retain liquids – including urine, pee, or loose stools.
Public and private facilities won’t allow babies to wear regular diapers in the pool
Of course, the people that own and manage public or private pools know all about how diapers work and have seen too many cases of parents letting their babies get into the water with a regular diaper on or even no diaper at all before they are potty trained.
Anyone that has ever been in the pool when the lifeguards signal there is a ‘Code Brown’ knows the horror and disgust that comes from one of these accidents so it is no surprise that these places have strict rules for babies and toddlers. In nearly all cases, babies will be required to wear a swim diaper if they are playing in the pool. Even if your baby is potty trained, it might be a good idea to keep them in a swim diaper for a while, especially if they are prone to accidents.
Another reason to ban regular diapers in the pool is that they pose a safety risk in their own right. Like I mentioned before, regular diapers are going to blow up like a balloon the moment they hit the water and in addition to becoming ineffective, all of that extra water means there is a lot of extra weight being held to your baby which can anchor them down. It might not matter as much in a kiddy pool, but it could definitely be the difference between staying above water and drowning for a young swimmer that is just learning and isn’t very strong yet.
The dangers of recreational water illnesses for your baby and others
Everyone knows that most pools are filled with chlorine to minimize the growth of bacteria and other germs in the water and keep people from getting sick. While it does a great job handling most nasties, there are some things that are chlorine-resistant and can easily be spread in public pools if parents aren’t being careful with their children.
The biggest culprit for disease outbreaks in public pools in the USA is called cryptosporidium and it’s transmitted through human feces. Even if your baby is wearing a swim diaper when he poops, there is not much that can be done about these bacteria getting washed out into the pool water quickly. With this in mind, please be sure to keep your baby out of the water, even in a swim diaper, if she is having symptoms of diarrhea or any other gastrointestinal issues. Not only is it inconsiderate of others to let your baby swim with these issues, but it’s also darn right unsafe.
Nobody wants to be responsible for a local outbreak.
Finding the right swim diaper to use for your child
There are two major categories of swim diapers to choose from, depending on your needs:
- Disposable swim diapers
- Reusable swim diapers
What are disposable swim diapers?
The benefit of this option is convenience.
Most disposable swim diapers are designed to have a tear-away side for easy removal and you will just throw them away after they’ve been soiled – just like the regular diapers you use outside of the pool. Unlike regular diapers, they are specifically made not to absorb liquid so you will have to be careful whenever your baby is wearing them.
The downside is that the cost can add up and some brands include absorbent crystals inside which makes them less effective.
What are reusable swim diapers?
The benefits of this option are that you will be able to get multiple uses out of the diaper and they are more durable in general.
Typically, reusable swim diapers come in fun colors and patterns that resemble bathing suits or cloth diapers more than a traditional disposable diaper. The downsides are that the upfront cost is higher and, just like cloth diapers, there will be a higher yuck factor when it comes to changing and cleaning up if there is an accident.
In most cases, you’ll want to pick a swim diaper that is snug enough to keep any solid material inside the diaper, but big enough to last through the summer with a growing baby or toddler.
Whichever route you decide, just remember that you shouldn’t bring your baby to a pool in a regular diaper. Even if it sounds like a good idea in your head, I promise it isn’t!
Are all swim diapers reusable?
Since disposable swim diapers are so expensive you might wonder if you can use them again.
Cloth swim diapers are meant to be washed and reused over and over again. Disposable swim diapers can be reused as long as they are not soiled but they will not last through many uses.
How to use swim diapers
The good news is that if you can use a regular diaper you can use a swim diaper!
In most cases, a swim diaper will look and work just like a regular disposable diaper but they often come in the ‘pull up’ style rather than the non-pull-up. Reusable swim diapers, meanwhile, look and work very similarly to cloth diapers and will normally be fitted and snapped into place.
Reusable swim diapers can last for quite a while as they often include different snap configurations that will let you make the diaper smaller or larger depending on your needs, allowing it to grow with your child.
The best swim diapers to try
By now I’ve covered pretty much everything you need to know about swim diapers so let’s check out a couple of recommendations.
There really aren’t as many natural options when it comes to swim diapers as there are with regular diapers and typically you’ll find the shelves dominated by the big two manufacturers – Huggies and Pampers. I’ve tried and used both and, honestly, they are really both about the same.
For reusable swim diapers, there are many more options to choose from and I would recommend focusing on function and fit above all else.
When it comes to design you’ll find two basic options:
- Stretch-fit – These have elastic bands around the waist and legs and are one-size-fits-all
- Snap-fit – These will often have a variety of snap configurations to adjust the size and fit
Browse through these cute options to find something that your little one will look adorable in!
What about keeping water out of my baby’s ears?
I tackled this question in a recent post where I dove into accessories for keeping your baby’s ears dry in the pool or bath!
What about newborn swim diapers?
Just like any other baby, newborns will need to have some kind of swim diaper on if they are planning to get into a pool.
Something to point out, however, is that you should be very cautious about letting a newborn get into a pool because they could become cold very quickly. Be sure to plan ahead to keep your baby warm and only let a newborn play in the water for short periods!