Can My Child’s Cloth Diaper Double as a Swim Diaper?

Posted by Jason Rector on

If you’re a cloth diapering parent (thank you for playing your part in saving the planet, by the way!), you might be wondering, “Can my baby’s cloth diaper double as a swim diaper?”

Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid using cloth diapers in the pool. Both cloth and swim diapers come with different designs and have different mechanisms in place to hold solids. Read on to understand what differentiates swim diapers from cloth diapers, what happens if your baby wears a cloth diaper in the pool, and whether you can use cloth diaper covers as an alternative to swim diapers.

How Do Cloth Diapers Work?

Cloth diapers are reusable diapers that are made entirely of organic or synthetic fabrics. Some of the most common fabrics used in these diapers include cotton, bamboo, hemp, and wool. A traditional cloth diaper has two main layers: the outer layer and the inner absorbent liner (also called pre-fold). The fabrics used in cloth diapers are highly absorbent. These diapers are designed to hold solids and urine when your baby is in a dry setting. As the diaper absorbs more waste, it begins to get heavier until it’s time to put on a new diaper.

How Do Swim Diapers Work?

Unlike cloth diapers that bloat up when filled with liquid, swim diapers have an entirely different mechanism.

Swim diapers are designed to let the liquid out safely when your baby enjoys their pool adventure. Cloth diaper covers are either made of fully organic fabrics or knitted polyester fabric. Swim diapers, on the other hand, are typically lined with mesh. This design allows the passage of liquids both ways, meaning the mesh acts more like a strainer to let the water pass through while holding solids in. Because there is a constant flow of water, the solids don’t leak out near the leg regions. The fabrics used in swim diapers are also safe to use in the pool, don’t react to chlorine in the water, and keep allergies at bay. 

What Happens When You Use a Cloth Diaper in the Water?

Given the highly absorbent nature of cloth diapers, the first thing that happens when your baby enters the pool is: the diaper begins to swell with all that water and gets super heavy in no time.

Cloth diapers are capable of holding a lot of liquid – with some even having the capacity to hold up to 2 pounds! Now, the average weight of a 6-month-old baby girl is just 16.1 pounds and a 6-month-old baby boy is 17.5 pounds. So, two pounds can be extremely heavy and even fatal for a baby in a swimming pool.

But what about toddlers? In this scenario, the diaper begins to soak up the water and as it gets heavier, the elastic around the leg area begins to loosen up due to the weight. This then causes the solid wastes to leak out of the diaper.

Why Cloth Diapers are Not Suitable for the Pool

Here’s why it’s best to avoid a cloth diaper in the pool:

They Soak Up Water

As discussed earlier, cloth diapers can soak up to two pounds of water and may weigh your little one down. Even if your toddler can manage the weight, they may end up feeling super uncomfortable throughout their time in the pool.

They Keep Fluid In

The external layer of a cloth diaper is not designed to withstand the pool. Unlike a swim diaper that comes with a mesh design, cloth diapers don’t let the water pass through the diaper. The absorbent fabrics used in cloth diapers also fail to withstand the chlorine in the water.

The Weight Can Make the Poop Escape

As a cloth diaper gets heavier due to water, the elastic around the leg area begins to expand, loosening the diaper up. This can cause the solids to escape the diaper and leak into the pool. Swim diapers, on the other hand, come with a design that allows the water to pass through it. This ensures the elastic around the legs remains in position and prevents the poop from escaping.

Swim Diapers and Entirely Breastfed Babies

Is your baby entirely breastfed? You want might to keep certain things in mind, even if you do use a swim diaper.

The poop of EBF babies is usually in a liquid state. Now, because a swim diaper allows the water to pass through the diaper, chances are, the liquid poop may end up leaking through the fabric as well. So, each time you take your EBF baby to a pool or a water park, make sure you pay special attention to their “I’m doing a poopie face.”

Can Cloth Diaper Covers Do the Trick?

The short answer is: Maybe.

You can use a diaper cover when your baby is not entirely in the water – for instance when playing with a sprinkler or having a fun time at a splash pad. When you use a diaper cover, however, make sure you don’t use the absorbent inserts or the diaper itself. During these scenarios, your baby is not going to be “submerged” so the diaper cover will likely not fill up and the poop will stay well within the cover.

Can the Pool Damage Your Baby’s Cloth Diaper?

Yes! The chlorine in the pool can end up damaging the waterproofing of your cloth diaper if your baby wears it repeatedly during pool time. Cloth diapers usually cost more than swim diapers because they can last you until your baby is potty trained. If damaged, you might end up shelling out a good amount to get a new one.

Moral of the Story?

Now that you know how both cloth and swim diapers work, be sure to make the right decision when you and your little one are about to hit the pool!

Cloth diapers are nothing less than magic if your toddler is not around water. From heavy-wetters to liquid poopers – cloth diapers can handle all types of waste during both day and night. However, when it's time to hit the pool, make sure you invest in a few swim diapers so your little one can have a fun, diaper-disasters-free time!

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