Summer Series Part 2: Updated May 2019
A follow-up to Part 1: Best Baby and Kids Sunscreens
Heading to the pool or beach this summer? You’ll probably need some swim diapers so your kid doesn’t shut the pool down with a doodie (thank you, Caddyshack).
Swim diapers are special because they don’t contain water crystals (sodium polyacrylate) like their regular ‘sposie counterparts and therefore, do not absorb liquid. If they did, they’d puff up immediately (like a normal diaper) once they hit the water and lose their “containment” power.
Yes, my friends, the sole purpose of a swim diaper is to contain poop and prevent the spread of all the nastiness that comes with it. Contrary to what you might assume, its job is not to contain pee.*
*While your baby is wearing a swim diaper, you may get peed on. Sorry. You can always stick in a cloth insert (or “doubler“) to use while in transit to the pool – or better yet, just wait until RIGHT before you’re ready to swim to change her.
You can do whatever you please at the beach, but some pools have special rules about kiddos in diapers. Again, the main concern of pool operators is preventing the spread of illness and disease** from poop accidents. For example, pools on cruise ships completely prohibit children in diapers (of any kind). The pool at our swim school requires a double-up system: a reusable diaper OVER a disposable diaper, whereas our neighborhood pool allows either. You never know.
**A single poop accident can shut a pool down for hours or even days. I’m guessing that shutting down a pool would be one of the more embarrassing things that could happen in life.
**Always keep babies and children with diarrhea OUT of the pool completely. Far, far away.
Types of Swim Diapers
There are two kinds of swim diapers: disposable and reusable. The key to any swim diaper is that they FIT SNUGLY to prevent an embarrassing poop accident; and honestly, cloth swim diapers (reusable) that are adjustable tend to fit better than their ‘sposie counterparts.
Disposable diapers start at 16 lbs (size 3-4). The reason for this is because it’s really hard to contain the loose stools of young babies who haven’t started solid foods yet. I do not recommend anyone bring a baby less than six months old into a public swimming pool for this reason (speaking from [bad] experience…).
Disposables come in diaper sizes 3-6 (Pampers) and S, M, L (Huggies). For smaller babies, you’ll have to use reusable swim diapers (see below).
Pros: Easy to remove by tearing the sides, and soiled diapers can be tossed in the garbage without a second thought.
Cons: Don’t always contain poop very well, don’t come in smaller sizes, can cause rashes and chafing, can be very saggy.
If you don’t swim a lot, disposable swim diapers are the most economical way to go. Always bring extras with you in case your little one needs a change (they always do!).
For added protection with ‘sposies, I highly recommend adding an extra layer by using a reusable “waterproof pant” over your disposable swim diaper. About $5, they are cheap, durable, and easy to clean and reuse. Gerber makes them, as does Dappi. These are practically impossible to find in stores. Anywhere.
Reusable Swim Diapers
Reusable swim diapers seem to be preferred by most parents and pool operators — especially by frequent swimmers.
These diapers generally fit better* because they don’t stretch out and sag.
*Remember, you want the diaper to be fairly tight to contain stuff, so be sure not to order them too big because they won’t do their job as well. That said, you don’t want them so tight that they cause redness around the thighs.
Reusable swim diapers are more economical if you’re a frequent swimmer, as two or three should get you through the summer, three or four if you swim a lot. Remember, you’ll need to buy at least two to change your baby after a numero dos. I always bring two extras with me just in case there are TWO poopages to deal with because INEVITABLY, the day you take your baby swimming, she’ll have two back-to-back poops, right? Murphy’s Law.
The swim diapers that snap (or velcro) on the side are MUCH easier to change. I really dislike the pull-on style swim diapers because they make changing #2’s really hard. Not to get graphic, but pulling a wet, poopy diaper down your child’s legs and through their feet makes a HUGE, disgusting mess. This is why regular diapers have tabs on the sides. Seriously. If you take nothing else away from this article, I recommend you steer clear of the pull-up style swim diapers (the reason I don’t love Finis or Honest Co.).
The cost for reusables varies, from $8 to $25, averaging somewhere in the teens. You may have noticed that some children’s swimsuits have a reinforced swim diaper-like bottom, but I wouldn’t rely on this alone. I prefer to use a snug-fitting reusable swim diaper under a lined swimsuit for added protection (and for easier changing).
The big downside to reusables is that you’ll have to wash them well after a #2 (this is par for the course for cloth diapering moms; the rest of you may find it a little icky). To wash a poopy swim diaper, simply flush the solids down the potty, then (at home!) rinse the diaper with a diaper sprayer or in the sink or potty, then wash in the machine as instructed. Be sure to bring some disposable diaper sacks or a wet bag along to contain the mess until you get home because pools and public restrooms do NOT want people washing poopy diapers in their sink. This is where disposables have an definite advantage.
Favorite Swim Diapers
iPlay ~ $7+
Cute, cheap and easy to find. They don’t fit as snugly as others on the list because they can’t be cinched or tightened. They make two kinds: one that snaps on the side and one that pulls up like underwear. Please opt for the ones with snaps.
All in all, this is a cute, economical diaper that’s also very comfortable. It performs reasonably well, but note this brand is quite bulky under your child’s swimsuit.
Alva Baby Washable Swim Diaper — 2 pack ~ $14 for 2, ECONOMY PICK
Love, love, love the Alva Baby 2-pack. Because, yes, you will need at least two of them anyway. These diapers are a great value ($14 for 2!) and perform well.
These diapers have a variety of snap positions (I prefer snaps over velcro because they don’t snag in the wash) and perform pretty darn well. The interior has mesh for easy clean up and the exteior is a polyester laminate. Fits babies starting at 10lbs (with snaps on smallest setting) up to a 2 year old. If you’re looking for a diaper for a 2+ year old, look elsewhere; these are not meant for older toddlers and preschoolers.
A favorite among cloth diapering moms, this reusable swim diaper has Velcro (sorry, “hook and loop”) closures on the sides, which allow for total adjustability (read: as tight as possible). They start at 9 pounds, so they can be used for (almost) the smallest of babes.
The inside of the diaper is made of polyester mesh for easy cleaning, and has a coated nylon layer sandwiched inside that contains the mess. We are big fans of the Swimmi!
AMP Swim Diaper ~ $16
A lesser-known but amazing swim diaper from Canada is the AMP. The beauty of this diaper is that it’s also highly adjustable, with multiple rows of snaps that allow it to fit snugly at the thigh and in the back, which is exactly what you want. Ships easily to Canada or the U.S.
*Available at (very) select stores in the US and online at their store.
AppleCheeks Washable Swim Diaper ~ $20 — EDITOR’S PICK
Another mom favorite, the AppleCheeks swim diaper has two layers of 100% Canadian-milled mesh that permit water to move through the diaper while still containing solids. This diaper has two rows of snaps to choose from, so use them on the tighter setting if at all possible.
The AppleCheeks diaper is a bit thinner than the Bummis Swimmi, but otherwise a nicely designed swim diaper that lasts forever. The snaps don’t snag on other clothing in the washing machine, like the Velcro on the Bummis, which is why I prefer it. This is my favorite swim diaper, though it is a little spendy.
AppleCheeks comes in two sizes: Size 1 (7-20 lbs) and Size 2 (20-40 lbs).
REMEMBER, folks, there are NO guarantees that a swim diaper – disposable or reusable – will contain your baby’s poo in every scenario. Many frequent-swimming parents have a horror story (or two) to share. Honestly? Your job is to pray to God that your kid doesn’t poop while swimming and if he does – get to it right away before, you know… just get to it as soon as you can. Once you see the red, scrunched-up poop-face, declare a Code Brown and evacuate the premises, stat!
*** For babies younger than 6 months old who have not started solids, I would be extra cautious. Not to get too graphic, but the loose-stool situation of a young baby is dicey in a pool. Try the beach instead. 😉 There’s more… water… out there. Know what I’m saying? Okay good.
Happy summer, everyone!
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