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Swim Nappies - The Ultimate Guide

Swim Nappies - The Ultimate Guide

Swim nappies vs Normal nappies - what's the difference?

Maybe it's just me, but as a first time mum I had no clue what the difference was between a swim nappy and a normal nappy … That was until I took my son swimming for the first time in a normal nappy, and within a few seconds it had expanded to the size of a watermelon. It felt like I was suddenly carrying an anchor instead of a baby! Novice mistake!

full nappy

But let’s be honest - the flipside is weird too… we’re meant to put them in a nappy that doesn’t actually hold the pee in, how is that logical?!


Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the baby swim nappy!

You may be further down the knowledge trail than I was starting out but either way, our ultimate guide to swim nappies is bound to answer any questions you still have, and maybe even some you never knew you had!

We’ll cover all of the bases, from the difference between swim nappies and normal nappies, to what they do (and don’t do!), how many you need, and what sizes to choose. We’ll even finish with some of our top tips for success when swimming with your little one. We hope it helps!

Your guide to swim nappies

Swimming has so many health benefits - both physical and mental - for your infant or toddler. It helps to build muscles and to improve cognitive skills. It’s also an amazing bonding activity for you and your little one. But what about the fact that your little one isn’t potty trained? Don’t let this hold you back from taking a dip and enjoying a swim at your local pool or on holidays…all you need are baby swim nappies (and of course a baby!). [By the way, if you are going on holidays, don't miss our ultimate packing list when travelling with a 2 year old and an 8 month old here]

What are swim nappies?

baby in swim nappy

Swim nappies are specifically designed for use while swimming or playing in water. Unlike regular nappies, swim nappies do not absorb liquids and can therefore be used while submerged in water. Swim nappies help to contain solids and are therefore a great help if your little one poops while swimming.

Normal nappies are designed to be absorbent to keep your baby dry when they pee. If submerged in water, a normal diaper will quickly absorb water and become fully waterlogged. Not only will it not help, it will also weigh your baby down and eventually fall off.

waterlogged nappy

Swim nappies are non-absorbent but are often designed with a snug waistband and close-fitting legs so as to contain any accidents. 

swim nappy

Whether you think it's time for your child to try swimming lessons or you're just planning for a fun day at the beach, a swim diaper is definitely a baby care essential for you. There is a wide variety of swim nappies available for you to choose and we hope that the information provided in this article will make it easy for you to pick out what you need. There are factors such as cost, comfort, leakage protection and even environmental considerations that will inform your choice of swim nappy. 

Reusable swim nappy vs Disposable swim nappies

swim nappy reusabledisposable swim nappy

Swim nappies come in both reusable and disposable versions to suit different needs. Each of these categories has advantages and disadvantages. Understanding these differences is a good place to start when deciding what kind of swim nappy your baby needs. 

baby in disposable swim nappy

Disposable swim nappies are meant for single use after which they are to be discarded. These are often designed with adjustable tapes that can be fastened securely to ensure leakage protection and opened to allow you to easily remove the diaper. Disposable swim nappies are cheap and convenient. They are however prone to sagging which may allow leakage. When using disposables, ensure you carry several to ensure you have spares should your little one poop at the start of the swimming session. It is also important to note that reusable swim nappies are not very eco-friendly

baby in reusable swim nappy

As the name suggests, reusable swimming nappies are meant to be washed and reused making them a durable and arguably cost effective measure. Although reusable swim nappies can be expensive, they are worth it if you intend to have your little one swim regularly.  Reusable nappies often have velcro strips or snaps at the sides to ensure a snug fit. Cleaning and handling soiled reusable diapers can be an unpleasant process as you have to flush the contents and then wash it. Sometimes you might have to pack a dirty reusable and wash it at home. It is especially important to check the size when buying a reusable swim nappy to ensure your baby doesn't grow out of it too soon. 

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Do swim nappies hold wee / urine?




Weirdly, no! This is really the main difference between swim nappies and normal nappies. The design of the swim nappy that makes it usable in water also makes it impossible for it to hold in wee/urine. 

Can babies wear normal nappies when swimming?

leaky diaper waterlogged

Again, no. Or at least not unless you want your little one swimming in a heavy, swollen blimp or waddling like a duck. Normal nappies cannot be used for swimming because they absorb water and swell up when dipped. They become stretched out and they cannot hold anything in. At the same time, they may drag your baby down or even fall off. To avoid embarrassment, you should only use swim nappies when swimming

Do I put a disposable nappy under a swim nappy?

Nope, for all the reasons discussed above, it's just a swim nappy that's needed for swimming. Normal nappies and water just don't mix. Having said that, some people do choose to put a disposable swim nappy under a reusable swim nappy as a double layer.

How many swim nappies for a 2-week holiday?

This depends on whether you're using reusable swim nappies or disposable ones. Reusable swim nappies are designed with light material to ensure they dry pretty fast. So you'd only need 2 or 3. With disposables, you need to consider how many days out of the two weeks you'll spend swimming. If you'll be spending some time in the pool or at the beach daily, you need at least one disposable diaper per day and a few spares in case of accidents. We'd recommend an average of 20 nappies or about 2 packs. If you have strict weight limitations for your luggage, you might also consider buying some swim nappies when you get to your destination. If you'd like to know how this compares to how many normal nappies you need for a typical day, find out here.

How to use swim nappies

Using a swim nappy is pretty similar to using a regular nappy (which we have a complete guide to here).  You put the nappy on your baby and ensure that it is safely secured. Some swim nappies come with velcro or snaps and you should aim for a snug fit. Swim nappies might need to be a little tighter than regular nappies but not tight enough to leave marks on your little one's skin. Swim nappies can be used with additional layers on top such as a swimsuit or a reusable diaper on top of a disposable one. It is also important to check for spoiling regularly (span of about 30 minutes to one hour). With toddlers, you should also insist on frequent bathroom breaks to prevent accidents. 

Most parents warn against using a pull up swim nappy that cannot open at the sides as it gets really messy to pull it down the child's legs when it is filled with poo.

How do reusable swim nappies work?

Reusable swim nappies work pretty much the way all swim nappies do. The difference comes in terms of cleaning and aftercare. Handwashing with warm water is generally recommended for swim nappies. Special instructions such as whether or not to machine wash or tumble dry can be found on the tag, packaging or website of the specific swim nappy.  

What size swimming nappy do I need?

The sizing chart for disposable swim nappies generally matches that of regular diapers. All swim nappies will indicate a weight bracket or age range that will help you find the perfect fit for your baby. Sizes are especially important when buying reusable swim nappies since you will be using them for a longer time. If your baby grows fast, consider an option with elastic or stretchy sides so you can use it for longer. 

Do babies need to wear nappies at all when swimming?

Fecal contamination is a real threat to public swimming pools and most of them make it mandatory for infants and toddlers to be nappied so as to access the pool. Some pools even require children to have a double layer of protection. This means putting your child in a disposable swim nappy underneath and a reusable one on top to prevent leakage. Some swimsuits come with a nappy built in or attached. If it works for your little one, you might choose to trust this nappy or you could use it with a reusable swim nappy for ease of cleaning. 

When shouldn't you use a swim nappy?

As you've hopefully understood now, swim nappies do not hold in any liquid. If your baby is too young or experiencing diarrhoea, then the poo is a bit liquid and a swim nappy cannot help with that. In cases like this, it's better to keep your little one away from pools or the sea until the poo is a bit more solid or until your baby is slightly older. 

Top tips for taking your toddler swimming

  • Do some research about the pool and facilities you intend to use. Find out if the pool is heated and whether there is a designated baby pool. Some pools have baby changing areas while some have only adult changing rooms. Knowing what is available will help you prepare well. 
  • Pack a post-swimming snack or drink. Swimming makes you hungry and it does the same to your little one so make sure you have a snack ready.
  • Be prepared. Ensure you have swim nappies, a towel, sunscreen, changing mat and any other items you might need at hand. If your little one is at the wriggly phase for nappy changing, an anti-roll changing mat can be particularly helpful when swimming, not just for changing nappies but also for getting dressed before and afterwards without chasing them around the beach / changing room.
  • Carry some pool toys such as a rubber duck or ball as well as inflatable devices. These help to keep your child entertained because bobbing up and down can get boring.
  • Consider signing up your baby for swimming lessons with a qualified trainer to ensure their safety and confidence in the water. 
  • Changing out of wet clothes can be challenging especially if it's just you and your child. Wear clothes that are easy to get into and out of and dress your child in the same. Most parents find it easier to get themselves dry first to avoid dripping all over the little one. You can wrap your child in a towel as you get changed. 


So the bottom (no pun intended!) line… if you’re bringing your little one swimming, swim nappies are essential. The main thing to remember is that normal nappies aren’t suitable as they absorb not just pee but water too so expand to epic blimp-like sizes. In contrast, swim nappies don’t absorb pee but keep poo in, which is their main job to allow a fun, hygienic and comfortable experience for you and your little one.  Finding a swim nappy that suits your child's needs becomes much easier once you understand the choices that are available. Whether your focus is on cute designs, comfort or even durability, the diverse brands and designs available in the market will definitely have an option that suits your needs. With most baby products, you might have to try a few options before you find the one that works perfectly for your little one.  Reviews from other parents are often extremely helpful as they include personal experiences. We hope that this article has answered most of your questions and that it helps you understand the important factors that go into picking a swim diaper. 


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