There is nothing worse than outfitting your pre-potty-trained child in a swim diaper and watching pee stream down their legs before they even get their toes wet.
It was a long journey to get them to that moment. There was the “quick” trip to the store where you looked through the shelves.
Reading all of the labels on each swim diaper package, did a cost/benefit analysis, and left the store feeling like a parenting hero only to find out that swim diapers don’t hold urine.
I can assure you that you are in good company with countless other parents who are unaware of the differences between regular diapers and swim diapers.
Continue reading for all the information you will need to outfit your little one for a swim confidently.
The Difference Between Regular Diapers and Swim Diapers
We all know the names of objects can be misleading. Unfortunately for parents, swim diapers fall into this category of not entirely living up to their name.
Rightly so, the name “swim diapers” makes you think they are diapers designed for the pool.
While swim diapers are designed to be worn in the pool, swim diapers are not a regular diaper.
Why is There Confusion?
The misconception lies within the traditional definition of the term “diaper.” Diapers are seen as a product that contains and absorbs both urine and solid waste.
Parents that have their child in a regular diaper instead of a swim diaper may have first-hand experience with the explosion of gel material, meant to absorb urine, when changing their child after.
What is Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP)?
For educational purposes only, this gelatinous material included in a regular diaper is referred to as super absorbent polymer (SAP).
Imagine SAP as soft white sand inside the inner layers of a regular diaper. They activate and coagulate when they come into contact with liquid, like urine.
Without the magic of SAP, a regular diaper would allow urine to move freely through the material.
Swim diaper descriptions proudly advertises that swim diapers protect against leaks, are designed for water, and will not swell.
They will not expand because they do not include SAP. Therefore, the diaper’s urine absorbing power is sacrificed when opting for a disposable swim diaper like Pampers swim diapers.
If They Don’t Hold Pee, Does My Child Need to Wear One?
Yes… Yes… YES! If your child is going to be swimming in a public pool or taking swim lessons, they will need a swim diaper.
Swim diapers are not a product you will find on the list of a blog post titled, “15 Baby Items You Don’t Need.” Most public pools have a swim diaper policy for children that are not potty trained.
Although not 100% effective, swim diapers help to save you from the untimely sight of solid waste entering the water.
Many parents can share a wonderful memory of the pool being “closed for cleaning” due to their child’s poopy creation. Swim diapers may not absorb pee, but they do a pretty decent job of containing solid waste.
The containment of solid waste is most important because urine is sterile, whereas solid waste can contain diarrhea-causing germs such as Cryptosporidium or E. Coli.
Considering Regular Diapers? Think Again
Maybe you have considered using a regular diaper for your little one’s swim session. After all, it is the most convenient since parents of little ones already possess an arsenal of regular diapers. Minimalism has its place, but this is not one of them for two main reasons.
First, a regular diaper will do what it does best. Meaning it will soak up all the pool water possible, just like it does with urine. Maybe someday our little ones will have smart diapers, enabling the diaper to differentiate its response depending on the type of liquid. But for now, we are stuck with regular diapers.
Second, once the regular diaper reaches its absorption threshold, good luck keeping it centered on your child’s bottom. The regular diaper will quickly weigh more than your little one, and the laws of physics will prevail.
The diaper may also fall apart and ultimately come off the child’s bottom. The worst-case scenario is that both the diaper and poop will end up in the pool.
If your child is going for a swim at home, whether or not you put your child in a swim diaper is a personal decision.
How Can I Best Protect My Child From Bacteria While Swimming?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts forth a few simple guidelines caregivers should follow to ensure that everyone can enjoy the public pool.
- Do not allow your child to swim if they have diarrhea (swim diapers only contain SOLID waste).
- Check your child’s swim apparel (swim diapers, swim pants) every hour, at the minimum, for soiling.
- Perform diaper changes in a dedicated diaper-changing area. The person changing the diaper/pants should also make sure to wash their hands with soap and water when finished before returning to the pool.
- Even potty-trained children should be reminded/encouraged to take frequent bathroom breaks while swimming to limit the amount of urine in the water.
The Solution: Swim Diaper Options
There are a few options to consider when outfitting a child who is not yet potty-trained for a swim excursion.
Reusable Swim Diapers
- Similar to a cloth diaper, it can be worn multiple times. This saves money (and trips to the store) while being environmentally friendly.
- Purchase at least two reusable swim diapers, and have both on hand, in case one gets soiled
- Easier to put on and remove, due to Velcro or button snap closures
- Lacks the convenience of a disposable diaper, especially when dealing with poop
- Holds its shape well in water
- Designed to trap solid waste, but is not fool-proof.
- Invest in a wet bag or a disposable diaper sack to transport the reusable diaper(s) home for cleaning.
- Highly adjustable (more on this below).
Disposable Swim Diapers
- Single-use diapers are not environmentally friendly and need to be purchased more often
- Purchase a multi-pack of swim diapers, and take more than one with you to the pool (you will still need to change your child if they soil it)
- Easy to remove by tearing the sides
- Avoid pull-up styles- not only will the diaper be wet and soggy, but probably poopy, and you are pulling it down your child’s legs to get it off
- May get stretched out and sag in the water
- Designed to trap solid waste, but are not fool-proof
- Cause rashes or chaffing for some children
A Third Option: The Dynamic Duo
The saying “two is better than one” inspired the ultimate swim diaper solution: use both. For indecisive parents, this will hopefully alleviate the pressure of choosing between disposable or reusable swim diapers.
Simply put a disposable swim diaper on your child first. Then place the reusable swim diaper on over the disposable diaper. As a final precaution, tuck your child’s disposable diaper into their reusable one around their waist and legs to ensure a better seal.
What Earns This Combination the Title “Dynamic Duo?”
The order of the layers! Make sure you put the disposable swim diaper on first, and the reusable swim diaper on second. This layering technique works great because the disposable diaper will be the layer that gets poopy.
Then simply secure the same reusable diaper (that was on the outer layer) onto your child’s bottom, and they will be back in the pool in no time.
A single layer of protection should be enough at this point since the likelihood of your child pooping twice while in the pool is low.
However, a clean disposable swim diaper can always be added back underneath the reusable diaper if you have doubts.
Special Consideration for Infants: Baby Wetsuit
In addition to being a very stylish option for your infant, wetsuits provide some additional benefits that swim diapers (reusable, disposable, or the disposable/reusable swim diaper dynamic duo) cannot offer.
- An added layer of protection from the elements (i.e., varying water temperatures (hot and cold), UV exposure, and chlorine)
- Different options for coverage (short sleeve and long sleeve) and design.
- The poop has nowhere to go. Pretty self-explanatory. Still, make sure you remove your infant and change them the moment you notice that they have pooped.
- Some designs have a removable swim nappy, similar to the one used in a reusable cloth diaper that can be inserted into the wetsuit. This will not provide complete coverage, though, so adding a swim diaper under the wetsuit still offers the best results.
The Fit: Snug
- Regardless of the swim diapering option you choose, ensure that it fits your child snugly for optimum containment. The swim diaper should be as snug as possible, but if it leaves a red mark around their thighs, it is too tight.
- For disposable swim diapers, standard sizes to choose from include: 3-6 for Pampers and S, M, L for Huggies.
- For reusable swim diapers, the child’s age (0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months, and up) is a guide as well as the brand’s measurement guide (typically waist and thigh measurements).
- Reusable swim diapers have a 0-3 month size, while disposable swim diapers usually begin with the 3-6 month or S size depending on the brand.
In short, swim diapers do not hold urine.
The good news is that you won’t be dealing with the detonation of gelatinous materials from your child’s diaper anytime soon, as long as you use some version of a swim diaper.
Sure, some pee will be infiltrating the visually tantalizingly blue pool water you swim in with your little one until they are potty trained.
Still, hopefully no brown floaties will be interrupting your swim anytime soon.
If you find yourself in the pre-potty-trained phase of life with your child, remember that swim diapers are NOT optional. The Dynamic Duo swim diaper combo works great, and a snug fit is everyone’s best friend.