BabyHow to Use Reusable Swim Diapers (The Ultimate Guide!)

How to Use Reusable Swim Diapers (The Ultimate Guide!)

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Are you about to go to the beach with baby, or planning a trip to the swimming pool, and considering using reusable swim diapers? So many parents wonder how to use reusable swim diapers and how they work compared to disposable swim diapers, so I have put together here a full guide on reusable swim diapers to answer all your questions.

I have used cloth diapers and reusable swim diapers for both my daughters from the very beginning, and never looked back. Reusable swim diaper in particular are amazing and so easy to use! Definitely one of my baby beach essentials never to forget at home.

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reusable swim diapers guide

How Do Swim Diapers Work?

First of all, it’s important to understand how swim diapers work. There’s this misconception that swim diapers do the same job as normal diapers but in the water, when the reality is that swim diapers (either reusable or disposable) have a very different job.

In fact, while normal diapers are designed to absorb the pee and hold in any poop, swim diaper are not meant to hold any pee in: they don’t have any absorbency. Their only job is to hold the poop in for long enough to give you the time to take the baby out of the water and avoid a mess in the swimming pool or the sea. 

If you are used to using cloth diapers during the day, you will then enjoy the fact that cloth swim diapers are not as bulky as cloth diapers and don’t require any insert for extra absorbency!

Disposable vs Reusable Swim Diapers

Like I mentioned above, I used both cloth diapers and non disposable swim diapers from the beginning with my two daughters, so I might be a bit biased. However, while I understand why some parents find cloth diapers to be too overwhelming, choosing reusable swim diapers over disposable when going to the beach or to the pool should really be a no brainer.

Here’s all the reasons why:

  1. Reusable swim diapers as easy as disposable swim diapers to use

Okay, I get why some people complain about cloth diapers and say they are harder to use then disposables: they say they don’t last as long, or that they are too bulky and have too many pieces (covers and inserts), etc. But with reusable swim diapers there is no excuse: they are literally as easy to use as disposable swim diapers.

This is because the absorbency part is gone – it doesn’t exist – neither in reusable swim diapers or disposables. You just have the equivalent of a cloth diaper cover to put on and change, and that’s it.

  1. Reusable swim diapers perform the same as disposable swim diapers

Again, the is no argument whether cloth diapers perform better then disposables anymore. In the water, they both perform the same. Actually, I find some of the best reusable swim diapers perform better the disposables!

  1. Reusable swim diapers are cheaper than disposable swim diapers

Reusable swim diapers will save you money compared to disposables in the long run. The amount of saving won’t be as significant as using normal cloth diapers over disposable diapers (more on that here) but, because you keep reusing the same swim diapers instead of using a new disposable every time, you will save some.

In fact, a good quality swim diaper will cost you about $15. Let’s say you need to buy at least 2, and for 4 different sizes (most of them come in different sizes, instead of 1 size fits all): that’s $30*4 = $120.

Swim diapers also come in different sizes, and are on average $1-1.5 (looking at Huggies and Pampers). That means that with $120 you can buy around 100 swim diapers.

Now, the savings will really depend on how much you are going to dip your little one in the water and if you are also going to have siblings that will inherit the diapers! We take our daughters to the pool once a week, almost every day during summer holidays, and on the week-ends throughout the year. So, you can imagine how much money we are saving by using reusable swim diapers 🙂

That said, if you are not a beach or pool person, and you only need to consider swim diapers for a one week vacation with your baby, reusable swim diapers might not be your first choice.

I should also add that reusable swim diapers last forever (maybe not literally, but for a very very long time for sure!) compared to cloth diapers that have a shorter life span. That’s mainly due to the fact that they don’t have an absorbency part, which is usually the first thing that tends to deteriorate in normal cloth diapers. So you can use them with younger sisters or brothers as well, or pass them on to someone else that needs them.

reusable swim diapers for baby
  1. You are doing something good for the planet

Let’s put aside the money for a moment, and also think at all the diapers that you are saving from going into the landfill! If you are even the tiniest bit conscious about the impact that your actions have on this planet, then you should really see the benefit of using a reusable swim diaper over a disposable one here.

  1. Reusable swim diapers are way cuter!

This is a fact! You will almost never see a cloth swim diaper that’s white and bland like the disposable swim diapers. They are definitely cuter and hardly look like “diapers”.

This can be a great pro if you have an older kid who’s still in need of diapers compared to his/her peers, and could feel embarrassed if he’s the only one still wearing them. Reusable swim diapers are way more discreet and look like normal swimsuits.

  1. Some reusable swim diaper are part of the swim suit

If you are one of those moms that is always doing things in a rush (me!) and likely to leave something behind when packing things for going to the pool or to the beach with a baby, then know that there are some reusable swim diapers that are incorporated in the swimsuit. This way you reduce the chances of forgetting either the swimsuit or the diaper at home.

These diapers also make it a bit easier when having to change your baby, as it’s only one piece instead of two.

  1. Reusable swim diaper can be used for potty training

Some reusable swim diapers have a thin inner layer of absorbency that make them ideal for potty training as well. This means that you will also save more money down the line when your baby is a bit older!

How to Use Reusable Swim Diapers

If you are keen on reusable swim diapers, but have some questions on how to use them, this should be all you need to know:

  1. Reusable swim diapers need to be put on like disposable swim diapers: directly on the skin.
  2. Some reusable swim diapers are put on just like underwear, some have got snaps like some diaper covers to make it easy for diaper changes.
  3. They don’t really need to be changed throughout the day unless baby poops in them.
  4. They can be washed in the washing machine with the rest of your clothes.
  5. You don’t need to put anything else on top of the reusable swim diaper (like a swimsuit) to improve its performance or reduce leaks. Unless you have a one-piece swimsuit and you need the diaper underneath that is.
  6. To minimize the risk of accidents, you really need to pay attention to the size of the swim diapers. They usually come in different sizes so that you can achieve the right fit, but some do come in one-size fits all.

Doubling Up with Disposables

Because all swim diapers (reusable or disposables) are not meant to hold any pee, and hold poop for as long as they can the same way, you don’t need to double up on swim diapers or put a disposable underneath a reusable swim diapers. It will do nothing to increase its performance.

If the poop is a bit runny, it’s going to come out no matter what, trust me!

That said, I have heard some pools ask parents to double up on swim diapers and make it mandatory to put a reusable over a disposable. I personally think it’s nonsense, but if that’s the rule and you really want to go to that swimming pool, then I don’t think you have any choice but to adapt.

I have also seen a lot of parents using a one-piece swimsuit over a reusable swim diaper. And I often to this as well with my daughters if the water is a bit cold. There’s nothing wrong in doing this: just know that it’s got nothing to do with reducing the chances of having an accident in the water.

What Happens if your Kid Poops in the Pool?

The nightmare of any parent taking their children to the pool: what if they poop in the pool?? First of all: don’t panic!

Unless the poop is runny, you should have enough time to take your kid out the pool before it leaks and go change the diaper before going back in.

If the poop is runny, then you probably won’t have time to avoid any leak and all you can do is advise the swimming instructor or lifeguard so that they can let everyone out. Unfortunately, any solid waste contains bacteria and it’s too dangerous to have people in the same water where someone pooped. The pool needs to be closed and the water needs to be cleaned before anyone can get back in.

If that’s the case, then you’ll probably feel extremely embarrassed and guilty that everyone had to get out because of you. But, honestly, don’t beat yourself too much: it could happen to anybody, it’s just annoying that it had to happen to you this time.

There are some golden rules to minimize the risk of a poop accident in the water (that’d be in the sea or the swimming pool):

  • Never EVER take your child swimming if they have diarrhea: other than the fact that you are likely to have an accident, you are also putting other people at risk of contracting the illness!
  • Avoid going to the swimming pool with a breastfed newborn: breastfed babies usually have much more liquid poop compared to formula fed babies, so the chances of a runny poop coming our are higher until they start on solids.
  • Unless you are booked in for a swimming lesson at a specific time of the day, try and go to the pool after your baby has already had a bowel movement.
how to use reusable swim diapers

Reusable Swim Diapers for Breastfed Babies

Like I mentioned above, breastfed babies pass very soft-to-runny stools compared to formula fed babies: I have personally experienced it with my two daughters, as the older one was formula fed and the younger one was exclusively breastfed.

According to Healthline, you should expect at least three bowel movements each day for the first 6 weeks with a breastfed baby. These then reduce to about one a day as your baby grows older. The stools will then become more solid once your baby starts on solids.

This means that your chances of having an accident in the water are higher when you have a newborn. So, I would personally avoid taking my baby to the pool for the first couple of months. You should also avoid taking your baby in the water at the beach for the first 2 months of life, as newborns can get too cold.

Hence my suggestion is to stay clear of the water with a your baby until he’s at least 2 months old 🙂

After that though, don’t be too scared to take your baby in the water! I have honestly never had an accident in the water with my baby, and have been in the water with them since they were 3 months old (that’s when swim lessons usually start). And I have also never seen other parents having accidents unless their babies were sick.

Reusable Swim Diapers Tips

Whether you are going to the pool or to a beach with your baby, here’s some tips to make it as easy as possible to use reusable swim diapers:

  1. Always take a spare

This is particularly true if going to the beach for a while and you don’t want to leave your little one on with a wet diaper for too long. If you are going to the pool for 30 minutes or so, one will be fine, otherwise I would recommend taking at least two reusable swim diapers with you for a change.

You shouldn’t need more than two though: just hang the wet one under the sun to dry after a change and it will be ready in no time. Reusable swim diapers are made of materials that dry super quick.

  1. Avoid going in the water if baby has runny poops or diarrhea

This is me repeating myself a little bit here, but really do not go into the water (pool or sea) if your baby has runny poops or diarrhea. You are putting yourself at risk of being responsible for a nasty accident in the water, and it wouldn’t be fair on the other people that could get exposed to the bacteria.

  1. Wait until after baby has had a poop

Unless you are going to a swimming lesson at a specific time and you don’t have a choice, wait until after baby has had a bowel motion before you dunk them. This is particularly true if you have a newborn passing stools frequently.

With older kids that only poop once a day, you can probably have a better guess about when they are going to need a bowel movement. I find babies tend to be quite regular like adults (more or less 🙂 ), so plan around that.

  1. Wear normal diapers in between swims

If you are at the beach for a while with a little baby that is not crawling or walking yet, put a normal diaper (cloth or disposable, whichever you are using) in-between swims. Because swim diapers don’t have any absorbency, if you leave them on when lying on a towel, the pee is just going to soak through the towel.

If you have an older baby that’s at crawling or walking, meaning they can move more freely around, you can leave the swim diapers on for longer while they play on the sand, and only change to a normal diaper when they are sitting on a towel or when they are having a nap.

how to use reusable swim diapers
  1. Get the right size swim diaper

With any diaper, reusable or disposable, achieving the right fit is very important to avoid any accident or diaper blowout. That’s why disposable diapers come in different sizes, and so do some of the cloth diapers. Cloth diapers that come in “one size fits all” still have snaps to adjust the diaper size as baby grows.

So make sure that your baby is wearing a reusable swim diaper that’s the right size for their age/weight. This will reduce the chances of you experiencing any blowout in the water.

Some reusable swim diapers like the Thirsties Baby Swim Diapers come in one size. However, most reusables come in different sizes. I have personally tried both types and I prefer different sizes for reusable swim diapers, but up to you: just make sure that they are fitting nicely.

The rules to check that you have achieved a proper fit are the same as with normal diapers:

  • The back of the diaper should be even with the baby’s belly button at the front.
  • You should be able to fit 1 finger between the diaper and your baby’s belly, legs and back.

Related: Baby Diaper Blowout (Hacks & Tips to deal with the Mess!)

  1. Consider a one piece swimsuit with a swim diaper included

Lots of parents like the idea of a one piece swimsuit that has the swim diaper included, like the I Play One Piece Swimsuit I mentioned above. This way you only have to deal with once piece instead of two.

I personally prefer to have separate pieces, so that if the diaper gets a bit dirty I don’t have to change the whole swimsuit. Plus I find the diaper change is easier with a rash top over the chest and a separate swim diaper, instead of a one-piece swimsuit.

However, this really depends on what you’d like your child to wear and what works best for you when changing the swim diaper.

  1. Consider the Happy Nappy swim diaper if you are too scared of having an accident

If you are too scared of leaks in the water, I would highly recommend having a look at the Happy Nappy swim diaper, which offers the greatest guarantee of no leaks. It’s made of soft 1 mm thick neoprene, shaped to fit snugly around baby’s bottom, whilst specialist fabric ribs around the waist and thighs to stop any leaks escaping into the water.

It’s definitely not as easy to put on and take off compared to the other swim diapers. However, if you can deal with that, you can be sure there will be no mess in the water.

How do you Clean Reusable Swim Diapers?

Washing reusable swim diaper is similar to washing cloth diapers, just a lot easier thanks to the fact that you don’t have to worry about damaging the absorbent part!

You do have to be careful not to damage the material of the swim diaper though, which is usually made of waterproof material that is either PUL (polyurethane laminate) or TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), and elastics for a tight fit. Both the covers and the elastics don’t cope very well with high heat, so avoid too many hot washes and tumble drying on a hot settings.

In general, try and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations as much as you can, as going against their advice can also void any warranty.

How to Clean Pees from Reusable Swim Diapers

If you just get pees in the diaper, they will start stinking after a little while, so just throw them in the washing machine and wash them with the rest of the clothes. You don’t even need hot water: a cold wash is enough. Easy peasy.

Also, make sure not to leave stinky diapers dirty for too long, or it’s going to get harder to get rid of the smell. I usually smell the diaper every time I change my daughter after a swimming lesson, to check whether she peed in it or not. If so, I stick the diaper in the wash when I get home.

How to Clean Poops from Reusable Swim Diapers

If your baby poops in the reusable swim diapers, what you can do really depends on the consistency of the poop:

  • If the poop is solid, simply throw it in the toilet and toss the swim diapers in the washing machine with the rest of the laundry. Again, no need to do a hot wash. If there is a bit of residue on the diaper, you can wash it off in a sink before throwing it in the washing machine.

If the poop is more liquid, whether you have a breastfed baby or a child with a tummy bug, turn the swim diaper inside out in the toilet and shake it off as you flush. Repeat the flush a couple of times if you have to. Once you’ve done that, if the child has a tummy bug, I would wash the swim diaper with a hot wash, otherwise a cold wash is enough.

This is actually what I recommend people do if they use cloth diapers but don’t have a diaper sprayer, and it’s what I have done for a long time with my cloth diapers.

Tips on How to Deal with Dirty Reusable Swim Diapers

Here’s a couple of extra tips on how to deal with dirty reusable swim diapers:

  1. Take advantage of the sun

Did you know that the sun is AMAZING at getting rid of poop stains? If you still have some stain on the diaper after washing it, just hang it under direct sunlight and watch it as it magically disappear.

This is actually my number one tip for washing normal cloth diapers as well!

If you have a neoprene reusable swim diaper though, such as the Happy Nappy swim diaper, be careful not to leave it under direct sunlight, as this can damage the material.

Related: Top 10 Tips on How to Wash Cloth Diapers

  1. Use a waterproof bag

If you are at the pool or at the beach and you have a dirty swim diaper that you need to carry back home with you, I suggest you use a dry pail or waterproof bag. These are designed to keep any odor in, so you can store the diapers in there until they are ready to be washed.

You can then chuck the waterproof bag in the washing with the reusable swim diapers.

I have two of these and always take them with me both to the beach and the pool. I use them both for the reusable swim diapers and cloth diapers, as well as wet swimsuits.

The Best Reusable Swim Diapers

If you are unsure about what reusable swim diaper to buy, I have put together a list here of the Best Reusable Swim Diapers.

I personally tried a few different brands, but then settled for the Bambino Mio reusable swim diapers, as they are so easy to put on and off, and I love all the adorable patterns.

The Happy Nappy swim diaper is possibly the best swim diaper for breastfed babies if you are scared of any accidents. But other than that, all brands listed in the link below are very good and perform very well. You just need to have a look at the features (i.e. snaps or strings, extra absorbent layer, etc.) and decide which one would suit your family best.

Related: The Best Reusable Swim Diapers


[expand title=”Are reusable swim diapers worth it?”]

Absolutely!! I really don’t get why people use disposable swim diapers: reusable ones are so effortless and so good for the environment. And you are not compromising on performance by choosing reusables over disposables.

If everything that I have written above hasn’t convinced you to use reusable swim diapers for your baby, I don’t know what will 🙂


[expand title=”Do swim diapers hold urine?”]

No, they don’t. Neither reusable or disposable swim diapers do! Swim diapers are just meant to keep the poop from leaking into the water, not hold any pee.


[expand title=”Can swim diapers hold poop?”]

Yes, both reusable and disposable swim diapers can hold poop, but not for a very long time. And they don’t prevent bacterial leakage, so if you baby poops in the pool, take them out for a diaper change straight away. Also, note that neither reusable or disposable swim diapers can hold diarrhea or the very liquid poop of a newborn. Rule #1 is do not take your child swimming if they have diarrhea.


[expand title=”Do reusable swim diapers go under swimsuit?”]

They don’t need to, but they can fit under a swimsuit if you prefer. I have seen lots of parents of little girls using a swimsuit over the reusable swim diaper. They obviously prefer to dress their little girl in a cute swimsuit that covers their daughter’s chest. However, it’s not done to increase the performance of the swim diaper.


[expand title=”Do you put a diaper under a reusable swim diaper?”]

Like I mentioned above, you don’t need to. It doesn’t do anything to increase the performance of the diaper. Actually, if anything, it’s got the potential to compromise the good fit of the reusable swim diapers. That said, some pools make it mandatory to have a disposable diaper under a reusable swim diaper: if that’s the case, you have no choice but to follow the rule.


How to Use Reusable Swim Diapers: Final Thoughts

That’s it mama, that’s all I had to share on reusable swim diapers and I honestly hope I answered all your questions on how to use them, wash them and why they are so much better than disposable swim diapers.

If you were a bit scared about some possible extra work compared to disposables, like it usually happens with cloth diapers, I think I have eased your mind about that 🙂

Reusable swim diapers are a must-have when going to the beach with a baby or to the pool. They are affordable, good for the environment, easy to use and clean, and look super cute on babies. So, don’t hesitate any further and go get some!

Are you a mom considering reusable swim diapers but have extra questions that haven’t been answered here? Or have you used them with your baby before and would like to share some feedback? Then please let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!

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how to use reusable swim diapers

Written by

Monica Greco
Monica Greco
Monica is the founder of Conquering Motherhood and a proud mom of two beautiful kids. As she says, giving birth to my second daughter was one of the most wonderful and empowering events of my life. That’s what’s inspired me to start this journey and share my story with you. Also, being a mother of a baby and a toddler, I know mom’s life is not always easy. Finding comfort in knowing you are not alone has always helped me. So, I’d like to pay it forward and share with other moms what I have learnt along the way providing tips, suggestions and recommendations on how to tackle motherhood.



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