The main difference is that regular disposable diapers contain water crystals (sodium polyacrylate) which are meant to absorb liquids (like pee). This is fine and dandy for regular use, but if you put one in the pool, it expands and puffs up like a puffer fish.
And then they wouldn’t hold in any of the good stuff anymore.
A common misconception is that swim diapers should contain pee. That’s simply not true, and believe me, you’re going to get peed on if you use swim diapers.
Their main function is to hold in poop solids, to avoid a “poopy in the pool” scenario, which isn’t fun for anyone. Especially the other people at the pool.
Your Options: Disposable Swim Diapers & Reusable Cloth Diapers
You really have two choices here.
Option one is disposable swim diapers. They’re basically just your typical disposable diaper, but with a few changes to make them suitable for a pool.
The downside to disposables is that you’ll end up going through a whole pack of them during a day trip at the beach. They also aren’t very useful outside of the pool for regular use, because they aren’t at all absorbent.
They will hold pee (maybe) but one little poop and they sag a lot.
They also seem to be a lot harder on baby’s tender bottom, especially when you factor in sand friction, if you’re at the beach.
Option two is reusable cloth swim diapers. This, in my opinion, is the best option.
They’re not only way more cost-effective, but they tend to be way more gentle on baby’s bottom. They don’t stretch out and chafe like plastic disposables.
If you’re into the whole green movement, reusable diapers are obviously a lot more eco-friendly, too.
On the downside, it can be a pain to haul a pile of soaking wet, possibly-poopy cloth diapers back to the hotel or home.
I still think they’re a much better option, though.
My 5 Favorite Reusable Swim Diapers
The most important thing when it comes to buying a good, dependable cloth swim diaper is that it’s tight. If you get one that’s too big, it’s just not going to work properly, and leakage will happen. Trust me.
1. i. play
The most popular brand, and one of the oldest, is i. play. (Click here to see them in all 16 designs and colors!)
They make two versions: pull-up and side-snap. Let me just say that changing a poopy diaper that has to be pulled off is just… not fun. Go with the side-snap ones if you value your sanity.
You’re supposed to air dry these, so don’t put them in the dryer. In a pinch, you can put them in the dryer once or twice, but don’t make a habit of it, because it will ruin them.
They’ll last an entire summer if you treat them properly! It’s nice because they’re not very expensive at all.
The only real downside is that they’re not as tight as some of the other diapers available on the market, because you can’t tighten them up at all. Even still, you shouldn’t experience any poop leakage, as long as you have the right size diapers.
One side note: don’t trust the size chart on Amazon’s site; it’s incorrect. The proper chart is:
2. Finis Swim Diapers
Coming in both boys and girls styles, Finis (click here to check price on Amazon) make another popular reusable swim diaper.
While they’re obviously not meant to hold in pee (like all swim diapers) they do contain a bit if necessary. But don’t expect them to function like a regular diaper, because you’re going to end up with a pee disaster everywhere if you do.
As long as you get the proper size, they should fit very tight and snug, which is exactly what you need. Some parents complain that they’re too tight, but as long as you have the right size, they shouldn’t be overly tight.
What’s confusing to me is that the packaging says it’s machine-washable, but the tag on the diaper itself says to hand wash. I tried machine washing them and it seemed fine, but it’s probably not a good idea.
On the downside, these are pull-ons, which isn’t the best to deal with in the case of a poop accident.
3. Alva Swim Diapers
These are newer on the market, and they’re really cool. Why? Because they’re adjustable; one-size-fits-all! Click here to see them all!
There is an adjustable snap you use to tighten or untighten the diaper along the sides, and another one to adjust around the groin area. While the description does say that they’ll fit even large babies, I find that they run a little small, so beware if your child is 25+ lbs.
Unlike the previously-listed diapers, these are 100% machine washable and dryable, which is convenient. Just make sure you wash/dry them alone and NOT with your other clothes.
All in all, they get the job done well and a lot of moms seem to really love them, especially compared to other diapers.
4. AppleCheeks Swim Diapers
A smaller Canadian company with a huge mommy following, AppleCheeks make a nice little swim diaper that a lot of parents love. Click here to see them in all the different designs!
What I like about these ones is that they work for smaller babies than most: size 1 is designed for 7+ pounds, but I find they run a bit small (like most swim diapers).
What’s pretty cool is that these are the only diapers in the list that have NO negative reviews online! All of the others have a few people complaining about leaks or other problems, but I couldn’t find a single complaint about the AppleCheeks diapers.
There are two sets of adjustable button snaps, which not only make it really easy to get it off and on (especially in the case of an accident) but it also means the diaper can be resized along with your child’s growth. To a point. Don’t expect it to last forever, but do expect to be able to adjust it a little bit.
I personally HUGELY prefer buttons to velcro snaps. Velcro diapers seem to cause a lot of chafing that’s hard to avoid, but that’s not an issue with button-up diapers.
As far as functionality, they seem to be a super comfortable and functional diaper. They keep the poop in, the elastic bands on the legs keep it tight enough, but don’t expect it to hold in pee.
5. Kushies Swim Diapers
These are a decent budget diaper, but not as good as the rest on the list, in my opinion. But they’re still pretty good. (Click here to see them in all 18 designs and colors!)
I’m not a big fan of velcro, but these both velcro AND ties, so it’s pretty snug and secure. The construction is surprisingly solid for what amounts to a pretty inexpensive diaper, which is nice.
The sizing tends to run small compared to what the manufacturer suggests, so if your child is somewhere around the borderline between 2 different sizes, you should probably go with the larger size. They are somewhat adjustable, so even if they’re a tiny bit too big at first, you can tie them and make them more snug.
Some parents complain that they don’t last more than one season, but does that really matter? They’ll have long outgrown them by then, so the only real downside is if you expected to hand them down to another child.
I think these are pretty decent for a budget swim diaper!
What About Disposable Swim Diapers?
If you don’t want to go the reusable route, you have two main options in disposable swim diapers: Huggies Little Swimmers and Pampers Splashers.
I personally recommend going with the reusable ones if you plan on going to the beach or pool more than once or twice this summer, but I suppose disposables are an option if you won’t need them much.
Honestly, both the Huggies and Pampers options are just about the same. I think it comes down to personal preference, and whether you prefer one brand over the other.
Check With Your Pool’s Rules
Public pools have their own rules on babies in pools and what they need to wear. Some pools don’t allow children at all if they’re not potty trained. Others require a swim cover overtop another diaper. Just check with your pool’s specific rules.
This might be an outrage at first, but you have to understand that it’s for safety reasons. A 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 58% of the public pools they tested were contaminated with E. Coli.
How does E. coli get in the water? From poop.
If your child is sick or has diarrhea, please keep them out of the pool. Not only is it embarrassing, but a poop accident is going to ruin the day for everyone, and they’ll have to shut down the pool for everyone for a few hours to clean it up and cleanse. Don’t be that mom.
Some people might be ready to send me hatemail by now, but really, this is all for safety reasons. I’m just as annoyed as anyone by stupid, restrictive rules, but E. Coli is no joke.
Swim Diaper Tips
I have a few general tips for using swim diapers:
- Since swim diapers aren’t meant to be used outside of the water and don’t hold pee very well, it’s best to put them on right before you’re going to get in the water.
- If you put them on early, and your child ends up having a pee, it’s going to leak. Trust me.
- If you’re going to spend say, a day at the beach, and have reusable swimmers, bring a plastic bag along with you to put the wet and/or dirty diapers in. Tie it up so it doesn’t leak everywhere and you can deal with it better at home.
Summing It Up
Swim diapers are an absolute necessity if you want to take your son or daughter to the beach or pool this summer!
While I personally recommend going with reusable swim diapers, disposables are also an option that might be better suited to some people. Especially if you don’t think you’ll be going to the beach or pool very often.
If you have any questions about swim diapers, please feel free to ask me in the comments below!
Don’t Miss The Rest of My Summer Safety Series!
Summer is a fun time, but there are a lot of dangers and concerns during those hot (and sometimes wet) months.
The other articles in my Summer Safety series:
- Baby Bug Repellent: Choosing Non-Toxic & Safe Baby Bug Spray
- Baby Sunscreen: Choosing Non-Toxic & Safe Baby Sunscreen
- Baby Life Jackets: Choosing a Safe & Dependable Life Jacket For Babies
- Introducing Babies to the Water: The Safe & Fun Guide: Introducing Babies to the Water
- Stroller Fans: Keeping Cool This Summer With a Stroller Fan
Are there any plastic swim diapers that hold in pee?
Hi Denise, unfortunately there’s no such thing. :( If diapers had the same absorbent material that absorbs pee, it would also absorb water, and make the diaper balloon up.
How about swim diapers for a big 31 lb baby? We special order size 7 diapers… Any suggestions for who can accommodate his thick sumo legs?! Thanks!
Hi Denise – how many re-usable diapers do you recommend for a 3 week vacation where everyday might be spent on the beach on in or near water? Thanks.
Hello! Do the AppleCheeks reusable swim diapers require any type of insert/prefold, or do you just wear it as-is? Thank you!
Hi, Tia! They have no inserts, they’re just like a regular cloth diaper that you need to dump out and wash. I hope that helps!
Hello! This may be a silly question, but do they hold in breast fed poop? I know this kind of poop is runny, but not as viscous as urine. My baby is coming up on 3 months, but I’ve noticed that the small size of disposable swim diapers are at least 16lbs, and she’s only 13lbs, so we were thinking of using a resuable one, if it’s small enough. Any advice?
Hi Kasey! If your little one has stool that’s very watery or soft, it’s possible that a swim diaper won’t hold it all in. But having said that, I doubt that you’ll have any problem, because lots of breastfed babies use swim diapers without any issue!
Hello! This may be silly but… If swim diapers don’t hold in pee at all then what’s the use of using them? Will they leak out in the pool whenever baby pees?
Pee in the pool happens even with older kids that don’t wear diapers. It’s just an accepted thing that happens, unfortunately. But poop in the pool is an entirely different story and something that should be avoided.
That’s where the swim diapers come in.
Thanks… Also, the I play diapers on Amazon are marked in terms of age…I can’t find the sizes in terms of small, large, etc… Can you tell me if the 24 months size (which is supposed to be for 25-30lbs) would fit my 23lb 2 year old? Really confused :-|