baby swimming with diaper

Can babies wear diaper pools?

Swimming is a really popular activity to do with your baby, and I agree that it can be a lot of fun! That being said, getting your baby ready for the pool (and ready to go home from the pool) is something of an exercise in patience. Don’t be fooled; taking your baby swimming is a process. Gone are the days of arriving at the pool, leisurely getting ready to get in the pool, a quick shower, and then taking your time getting showered and dressed again once your swim is finished. No no. That’s not what swimming is like with a baby. Lucky for you, the process of taking a baby for a swim is something I have done more times than I can count, and I’ve learned a few things along the way! Allow me to share them with you so you can be prepared for the event that is the baby’s first swim. 

Going to the pool with your baby and not sure what to do about their diaper? The answer is to swim diapers. Swim diapers, or swim pants, are a specially-designed diaper that is meant to be used only in the pool or ocean to make sure that your little one’s bum is covered and contained. This guide will go over the types of swim diapers that are available and why swim diapers are essential for babies to wear.

When you’re getting ready to hit the pool with your not-yet-potty-trained little one, finding that you forgot to pack the swim diapers creates a dilemma. You might consider putting on a regular diaper and hoping for the best. But pools insist on swim diapers for both safety and sanitary reasons.

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Absorbing Fluid

It might seem strange to count the ability to repel urine as a plus for a diaper. But for swim diapers, non-absorbency is a positive factor in the pool. Regular disposable diapers soak up water like a sponge. That’s one of their major selling points. But when you put your child into a large body of water, you don’t want a thirsty sponge around his lower region soaking up so much water that it weighs him down. That’s why manufacturers make swim diapers with water-resistant materials to absorb less liquid. Wearing regular disposable diapers in the pool could increase your child’s drowning risk if it pulls him down in the water.

baby swimming with diaper

Falling Off or Falling Apart

A diaper only does its job if it stays on your child’s bottom — and stays in one piece. Since a regular disposable diaper absorbs fluid, it’s more likely to reach its water-holding limits quickly. At that point, it will anchor your child in place, since it weighs more than he does, fall apart completely, or fall off and slide to the bottom of the pool, where it can’t serve its basic purpose — to keep urine and stool confined. If you’re thinking about putting a regular cloth diaper on your child to avoid this, think again. Cloth diapers also soak up water and become heavy. Plus, they droop and sag — so leaking is inevitable.

Feces

While chlorine neutralizes anything nasty in urine — which is usually sterile anyway — having feces in the pool water reaches a whole other grossness level. Both regular disposable diapers and swim diapers keep feces within the diaper, as long as the pieces of the stool are fairly large and the regular diaper isn’t so saturated that it falls off. But since a regular disposable diaper will reach its saturation point fairly quickly, it’s more likely to fall off or fall apart and leave pieces of stool floating in the water as the diaper sinks to the bottom of the pool.

Diarrhea

Because regular disposable diapers retain fluid better than swim diapers, they’re less likely to leak if your child has diarrhea. However, if your child has diarrhea, he shouldn’t go in a pool wearing either a regular or a swim diaper. Neither regular diapers nor swim diapers do a good job when it comes to retaining microorganisms in the stool that can cause illness. A study published in December 2011 in the “Journal of Water and Health” found that swim diapers didn’t retain particles similar in size to cryptosporidium, a chlorine-resistant protozoan parasite and frequent cause of waterborne disease outbreaks. The swim diapers tested released between 50 to 97 per cent of the particles within 1 to 5 minutes.

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 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.

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 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 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 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 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. 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. 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 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 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.

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Purpose and Importance of Swim Diapers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all public swimming facilities require the use of swim diapers on infants and toddlers. Their reasons for this are as follows:

  • Swim diapers prevent bathroom “accidents” in the pool.
  • Swim diapers significantly decrease the spread of fecal bacterial contamination.
  • Swim diapers prevent waste from spreading bacteria like E. coli.
  • Such infection-causing bacteria can be dangerous and potentially lethal to individuals in and around the pool facility.

Many parents prefer using swim diapers as opposed to regular diapers because they:

  • Do not swell-up like normal diapers in the pool.
  • Are easy to use on a pool-day.
  • Come in easy-to-find, various sizes.
  • Keep their child healthy and safe.
  • Keep other near-by children and individuals healthy and safe.
  • Can add a cute style to the baby’s swim outfit.

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 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 colours 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 cleaning up if there is an accident.

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Disposable swim diapers vs. reusable swim diapers

Let’s start with the disposable swim diapers:

  • First of all, disposable swim diapers are designed to be worn only once. Hence the word disposable.
  • Not environmentally friendly but convenient.
  • Also, they’re designed to trap the poop, but it’s not 100% effective.
  • And just a reminder. Don’t forget to have multiple swim diapers on hand when you go to the pool just in case.

Now for the reusable swim diapers:

  • First of all, reusable swim diapers are designed to be worn over and over again.
  • So it saves you money and is environmentally friendly.
  • But it’s not very convenient when you have to clean up the poopy mess.
  • It is also designed to trap the poop, but also just like it’s the disposable counterpart, it’s not 100% effective.
  • But it’s more likely to fulfil its purpose if you choose a diaper with a snug fit.
  • And last but not least, make sure you purchase at least two pairs of reusable swim diapers. And bring along both pairs for those trips to the pool.

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, 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!

Now that we’ve covered the most important requirements for taking baby swimming let’s get to the other stuff. And there’s quite a bit of stuff. To save time (and this one will save you time), you should wear your swimsuit under your clothing on the way to the pool. This way, you need to remove your clothing, and you’re good to go. This brings me to a very important item you DO NOT want to forget to pack. Underwear. Bring a pair of underwear for yourself. Don’t forget it. If you’re breastfeeding and you’re a leaker, bring breast pads and wear some under your suit for the trip from your house to the pool. Don’t forget to take the breast pads out before your pre-swim shower.

You’ll also want a towel (hooded or not, your call) for baby, and a towel for yourself. Don’t kid yourself. You won’t get to use that towel, but it will be where you put your soaking wet baby to get them dressed after their towel is too wet to lay them on. If your baby is old enough to be standing in the shower before/after the swim, you may want to bring some sandals for him, and you want to flip flops or sandals for yourself. You can bring your lock for the locker, or rent one from the pool. If you rent one from the pool, it will come with a key attached to the largest safety pin ever. Don’t bother trying to find a spot on your swimsuit for the safety pin where your baby won’t grab at it. Instead, pin it to the towel that you’ll bring out to the pool deck. A swimsuit for baby is another great item to pack with you. It is optional though, so if you have a swim diaper and the plastic pant, a swimsuit is just icing on the cake. Don’t forget a hairbrush and hair elastic for yourself too! You’ll need somewhere to put all the wet swim gear, and for that, I recommend a reusable wet bag. The final must not forget item: a clean diaper for baby!

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