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Cloth Swim Diapers: Not Just for Cloth-Diapering Families

by onethink

IMG_257I admit it. I check out baby butts when we’re at the park. I’m always eager to meet another cloth-diapering family, so I’m always on the look out for an AppleCheeks ruffle or some BumGenius butterfly closure tabs sticking out of a pair of pants.

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Alas, I have yet to spot another fluffy butt at the playground. I had high hopes for waterpark/wading pool season: surely I’d spot some Bummis Swimmis at our local watering holes… especially since Bummis is a Montréal-based company!

Nope, the vast majority of kids at our splash pads are wearing either Little Swimmers, or really, really saggy disposable diapers.

There are a multitude of reasons why families don’t opt for cloth diapers, so this post is not about converting families to choose full-time cloth. This post is about choosing cloth swim diapers: you don’t have to use regular cloth diapers to buy a reusable swim diaper!

The savings are huge, and almost immediate.

Some people are apprehensive about cloth diapering because the initial investment of $500 or more is very overwhelming. It takes time before you see a return on this investment, knowing you can get a case of ‘sposies for $25.

But “Little Swimmers” can cost more than $1 a piece! For the price of a package of “Little Swimmers,” you can get a Bummis Swimmi to use again and again, then pass it on to a younger sibling or friend when it gets too small.

Maman Loup reader, Holly, says:

Swim diapers are what got me more into cloth actually. I was at BuyBuyBaby, about to pay $14.99 for a pack of swim diapers, when Iwalked by the iplay swim diapers and they were $9.99. Plus I had the 20% off coupon so it was only $8. I bought two and they lasted the whole summer, never bought any disposable again. And I am actually using the same two with my new son now!

Cub wore a swim diaper that once belonged to my Aunt’s two children. Now it’s been passed on to one of his buddies. The savings here are pretty self-explanatory: my Aunt paid maybe $12 for a swim diaper which has now served at least 4 children!

They reduce your family’s waste footprint.

Every single reusable item you buy to replace one-time use items makes a difference. I’m pretty militant about avoiding as many single-use items as possible, but you don’t have to be an eco-warrior to make small changes in your consumer habits. Maybe washable menstrual products are just too extreme for your tastes… so why not choose a reusable item that is so easy, and in many ways more convenient than its disposable counterpart? Cloth swim diapers for the win!

They reduce your baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals.

When I started asking my readers about their experiences with Little Swimmers, I got comments about babies getting rashes almost immediately. Disposable swim diapers, like disposable diapers, contain maintain man-made substances with names I cannot pronounce, many of which are known toxins, including carcinogens. (See Real Diaper Association)

They are super cute, and can double as swimming trunks.

I find Little Swimmers… well… pretty ugly. Cloth swim diapers, on the other hand, are adorable! I often don’t bother with swim trunks on Cub.

They work exactly the same way as disposable swim diapers.

Swim diapers, both disposable and washable, are meant to contain solids but allow the pool water to pass through (rather than absorbing the pool water, like a regular disposable diaper does). The goal is to prevent as much poop from getting into the pool water as possible until the kid can be removed from the water and changed. If your baby pees, the pee is going to get in the pool. That’s why pools are treated with chlorine. Kids, in diapers or not, pee in pools. (Some grown ups probably do, too.)

Exclusively-breastfed babies have notoriously runny poop. The diaper has to fit very well to contain that mess, and you need to get out of the water fast, regardless. EBF babies are likely in their parent’s arms while in the pool, so when there’s an eruption, Mom or Dad will feel it and can jump out of the water. As far as I know, a cloth swim diaper that fits properly will provide more protection from escaping EBF poop than a disposable swimmer, since you can get a perfect, snug fit using the velcro or snap closures.

Here, you can see the great, snug fit of our Bummis Swimmi. This is the diaper Cub wore to swimming lessons when he was wee. He never did poop while in the pool!

When your kid isn’t in the water, what happens when they pee in  their swim diaper? Well, it depends. From what my readers have told me (having not used them myself), Little Swimmers will usually absorb a bit of the pee, but this will depend on how the kid is positioned, how much pee there is and how snug the diaper fits.

Says Maman Loup reader, Krista, regarding using a Little Swimmer on the way to the pool:

I found out the hard way when my first was in her car seat on the way to lessons…. Never again! I now use a cloth one and LOVE it!!

A cloth swim diaper will likely absorb even less. Walking from our house to the wading pool, Cub has definitely peed and it’s just rolled on down his leg. However, there are some easy solutions if you want to get the swim diaper on before leaving home:

Says Lillie:

We use a cover with a pad folded flat. At the last minute I yank the flat out because he does NOT like to be changed pool side. If the flat is clean, boom I have a baby towel.

I’ve used my gDiaper disposable inserts (my go-to eco-friendly disposable option) inside a swim diaper until arriving at the pool, or, like Lillie, a cloth diaper insert. If you don’t have these things handy because you don’t regularly use cloth, you can also lay a wash cloth or tea towel in the diaper en route to the pool!

They’re easily accessible.

While finding cloth diapers in stores near you might be tricky, big-box stores like Walmart and Toys R Us carry cloth swim diapers. Kushies is a common brand you will find in most chain stores, even those that don’t specialize in baby gear.

If you’re looking to shop online, check out Well.ca, Lagoon Baby or Bumbini! (affiliate links)

They are easy to clean.

Sure, cloth diaper laundry is a major turn off for many families. But cloth swim diapers? Just wash them however you wash your kids’ swim suits. In the worst case, your kid poops in it. Technically, if your kid poops in his disposable swim diaper, you’re still supposed to flush that poop before you chuck the diaper.

Some general cloth swim diaper tips:

  • Most parents seem to prefer those with side closures, which makes it easier to change a poopy mess compared to “pull up” style;
  • You can use any cloth diaper cover or pocket diaper without the insert as a swim diaper, but since they’re waterproof, you may find your child’s diaper gets full of pool water. Also, you might not want to use your favourite diaper since the chlorine in the pool can cause wear and tear;
  • If you’re not a cloth diapering family but are ready to switch to cloth swim diapers, go all the way and also grab some wet bags! No more wet suits in plastic grocery store bags!

Here’s Cub using one of our GroVia shells as a swim diaper:

Pocket diapers and covers that are lined with athletic wicking jersey (so the PUL isn’t directly against the skin) make great swim diapers!

My two favourite swim diaper brands are Bummis and AppleCheeks. We had no issues with our Kushies, either! (In fact, there’s a little layer of terry towel inside Kushies covers to catch a bit of pee.)

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