Whether you’re taking your kiddo to the beach or a pool, regular diapers simply won’t cut it — they’re designed to absorb liquid, which means they’ll swell in the water and potentially even burst. No one wants to clean up that mess, which is why a good swim diaper is crucial.
“They’re a lot more important than people think,” says Heidi Reiss, co-owner of Aqua Beba Swim in Brooklyn. “It’s actually a health issue. If fecal matter gets in the pool, we have to shut it down for at least 24 hours to get it properly cleaned.” Chlorine is an excellent disinfectant, but some germs are resistant to it, like cryptosporidium, which causes diarrhea.
That’s why your goal should be to “keep poop in the diaper and out of the pool,” says Brendan O’Melveny, chief aquatics officer at Imagine Swimming, which has locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. “One thing to note about swim diapers, in general,” he says, “is that they’re designed to catch fecal matter, not urine. All diapers — even swim ones — are pretty water soluble. Of course, we prefer that no one pees in the pool, but you don’t have to worry about disease transmission from pee. Poop is what we’re worried about.”
To that end, it’s essential to put your kiddo in a swim diaper that fits snugly around the waist and legs, says Caitlin Boker, the director of infant and young children’s aquatic programs at the JCC Manhattan. “I always suggest a reusable swim diaper because you can make sure it fits really well,” she says. “The disposable ones get loose around the legs and waist.” Plus, reusable swim diapers are super easy to use and better for the environment than disposable. (That said, if you prefer disposable, we’ve got options there too.)
But which ones are the best? Here’s what swim instructors and parents recommend.
Best overall swim diaper
When it comes to containing poop, the Happy Nappy can’t be beat. “It’s like Fort Knox,” says Reiss. “Nothing is getting out.” Reiss is so confident in the Happy Nappy that she requires it at her swim school for children ages 0 to 3 (as does O’Melveny). Made out of neoprene (the same rubber wet suits are made from), the material is thick yet flexible around the hips and thighs so your kiddo can move easily in the water. It looks like a swimsuit and can be worn on its own in lieu of one or on top of a disposable or reusable swim diaper (having a diaper underneath makes it easier to change your child if they poop). It’s great for all ages but especially babies who don’t have solid poops yet. The only downside to this swim diaper is that it can be difficult to get on and off, but Reiss says it’s worth it.
Best (less expensive) overall swim diaper
Reusable diapers don’t have to be expensive. This pick from mom of two Raine Hahn is super affordable — $10 for two — and made to last. “We used them for five years, with both kids, and never had to purchase any other swim diaper,” she says. They also have tons of snaps so you can adjust them to fit your baby or toddler perfectly.
Best adjustable swim diaper
Joanna Stewart, a makeup artist and mom of two, loves this swim diaper, which comes in lots of cute designs. “It’s super adjustable to fit different shapes and sizes of little kids, and it stays in place on my squirmy toddler,” she says. Indeed, you can use the snaps to make three different size adjustments (between 8 and 36 pounds), which means it can grow with your baby (no need to buy a new swimsuit each year!). Made from a soft, waterproof fabric, it’s durable, machine washable, and comfortable on baby’s skin.
Best multiuse swim diaper
“Cloth diapering companies sell their waterproof ‘outers’ as swim diapers, and they’re amazing because they have a system of snaps that allows you to change the size according to your child’s shape,” says Boker. So your kid is covered, whether they have big thighs or chicken legs. Olivia Fleming, a partner at the Helm and mom of a 12-month-old, is a fan of cloth-diapering company Esembly. She uses its cloth diapers daily and the covers for swimming. “It’s like a two for one,” she says. “They’ve been amazing so far — absolutely no leaks.”
Best underwear-style swim diaper
If you find snaps annoying, go for a pull-up-style swim diaper like this one, which is recommended by O’Melveny of Imagine Swimming. “We’ve been selling Finis swim diapers for years because they’re reliable and durable,” he says. “They have elastic bands around the waist and thighs, which allows for flexible sizing and a secure fit.” They’re sold in size XS to 4T, so all ages — from newborns to preschoolers — can wear them.
Most stylish swim diaper
These diapers have tons of cool designs, from a cute cactus pattern to a fun fruit-salad print. And they’re super reliable. “We took our daughter to Spain when she was only 3 months old and swam in the ocean,” Fleming says. “She did many liquid poos and none of them leaked.” They come with either an adjustable drawstring or easy-to-use snaps — though it’s worth noting that the snaps aren’t customizable.
Best disposable swim diaper
Robbie, a product manager and dad of one kiddo, is a big fan of this diaper brand co-founded by celeb duo and parents of two Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard. “The swim diapers are super thick and strong, and easy to pull off, which is important when you take your kid out of the water and they are shivering and you just want to get them changed,” he says. Made from plant-derived fiber, they’re better for the environment than typical disposable diapers, which are derived from plastic.
Best drugstore swim diaper
For those oh-shit moments when you’re halfway to the beach and realize you forgot to pack swim diapers, parents recommend Huggies swim diapers over Pampers. “It’s hard to rip the sides of the Pampers ones in case you need to get them off quickly,” says Carly Kennedy, a fitness trainer and mom of two. Danica You-Hamilton, a lawyer and parent of two kiddos, is also a Huggies fan. “They’ve prevented the all-dreaded poop in the pool, and they’ve lasted during long shifts on the beach without expanding or being too uncomfortable for the little ones. Plus, you can pop into most stores when on vacation and find them.”
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