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Can Babies Wear Regular Diapers to Go Swimming?

by Christy Ayala, studioD

Parents may wonder if their baby can wear regular cloth or disposable diapers to go swimming, instead of specially designated swim diapers. Most pools, though, in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading recreational water illnesses, specify that swim diapers must be used for little ones in diapers or who are not fully potty trained.

Recreational Water Illnesses

When fecal matter gets into swimming pool water, there is a risk for recreational water illnesses (RWIs) such as E. coli and Cryptosporidium. These bugs can make people sick if contaminated water is swallowed accidentally, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because swim diapers can delay fecal matter from getting into the water but can't prevent diarrhea-causing germs from leaking out, the CDC recommends keeping your little one out of the water if she is sick.

Regular Diapers

Regular cloth diapers soak up the water and become heavy. Because this causes drooping and sagging, matter can leak out, making cloth diapers a poor choice for use in swimming pools. Regular disposable diapers are designed to absorb moisture and hold it in, which causes this type of diaper to swell and become heavy. Regular disposable diapers are designed with thousands of tiny gel beads in the lining to absorb liquid. Water from the swimming pool can fill these little beads to the point that they burst, sending thousands of tiny gel beads, and whatever else was in the diaper, into the water. Swim diapers, whether cloth or disposable, are designed with water-resistant materials and a snug fit around the waist and legs to keep waste matter in without absorbing water from the pool.

Potty Training

When your little one is potty training, it is important to make sure he goes just before getting in the water and that he takes frequent potty breaks. Because your child may not recognize when he has to go until it's too late, it's a good idea to keep an eye out for the signs and make sure he gets to the bathroom in time. It may be necessary to help your little one with wiping or washing his bottom before getting back into the swimming pool.


Small inflatable pools and kiddie pools, especially those filled only with tap water and having no filtration systems, are especially dangerous when it comes to RWIs, explains the CDC. it's important to make sure that children with diarrhea stay out of the pool and that all children wash hands, and bottoms if necessary, before getting into the swimming pool. It's also important, CDC warns, to check swim diapers often and never to change swim diapers on the deck or next to the swimming pool to prevent contamination.

About the Author

Christy Ayala writes about recreation, sports, aquatics, healthy living, family and parenting, language development, organizational change, pets and animals. Ayala holds a master's degree in recreation administration from Aurora University’s George Williams College, a graduate certificate in organizational change from Hawaii Pacific University and a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

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