Can Babies Wear Regular Diapers in the Pool?

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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.

In nearly every case, babies cannot wear regular diapers in the pool because they do a poor job of keeping feces in place until a change is possible. Regular diapers just aren’t designed to be submerged in water and they will quickly fail, causing problems for everyone. A quality swim diaper is required for any baby spending time in the pool.

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!

It’s not a good idea for babies to wear regular diapers in the pool

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 back yard 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.

How regular diapers work 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.

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

There are two major categories of swim diapers to choose from, depending on your needs:

  • Disposable swim diapers – The benefit of this option is convenience. Most are designed to have a tear-away side for easy removal and you will just throw them away after they’ve been soiled. The downside is that the cost can add up and some brands include absorbent crystals inside which makes them less effective.
  • 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, they come in fun colors and patterns that resemble bathing suits more than a traditional 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 clean 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!

Related Questions

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!

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