The Nappy Lady Ltd

How do swim nappies work?

How do swim nappies work?

Why use a swim nappy?

We all know how important it is to learn to swim and there is research to suggest the earlier the better. Whilst there are a whole host of baby swimming lessons now available for you to attend with baby, it can also be a really enjoyable experience for you and baby to spend time at the local swimming pool. However, that enjoyment can soon turn to horror if your little one is the cause of an emergency pool evacuation due to a poo escape from their swim nappy!

A normal nappy by design, should absorb wee but of course your little one does not want to be absorbing all the pool water, so swim nappies are designed for the purpose of containing poo only. Many parents expect they will absorb wee too but if they did then they’d absorb all the swimming pool water and the swim nappy would be incredibly heavy.

Many parents prepare by putting baby into their swim nappy at home and making things quicker and easier at the pool. Our ambassador Krisztina, tried this before she realised swim nappies don’t absorb wee, only to have her wee through into the car seat on the journey! But fear not, you can still be swim ready when you leave home. All you need to do is add a booster inside the swim nappy, this will absorb any little accidents and then simply remove it when you get there.

When can babies go swimming?

You can swim with babies of any age either before or after vaccinations however many parents wait until after baby has had the first set of vaccinations. They will need to wear swim nappies until they are fully and reliably potty trained which is around the age of 2-3 years old.

The best baby swim nappies & swim pants

Your little one might get nervous when you take your child or baby swimming for the first time. This is an amazing sensory experience for them as they splash in wet water and a bonding experience for you.

In addition to packing a bag to take your child swimming, baby nappies are absolutely a must. It must be an appropriate baby swimming nappy that won't become water-logged. You cannot use your regular nappies be it cloth or disposable.

At The Nappy Lady we stock a large range of different styles and brands of swim nappies, from newborn swim nappies up to adult swim nappies. We also stock a range of swim nappies that have built in wet suits to help keeping babies warmer in cool pools.

Even if you don't use reusable nappies it makes complete financial and environmental sense to use reusable swimming nappies instead of disposable swim pants.

Disposable V Reusable Swim Nappies

Now to compare the differences between a disposable swim nappy and reusable swim nappies.

Swimming nappy pants can either be disposable or reusable.

Disposable swim nappies can be purchased from most grocery stores or pharmacies, they are single used and then thrown away. Huggies little swimmers are the most well-known, these didn't exist until around 2005 as they were new on the market when I had my first child. Before then parents would always use a reusable nappy.

You must not dry and reuse disposable swim nappies. Being a disposable product, we do not stock these at The Nappy Lady. Reusable swimming nappies can be used multiple times. They dry quickly and are comfortable to wear, even when wet.

You can now find some reusable swim nappies in high street stores which is fabulous for raising awareness of reusable products but as with everything the largest choice will be online such as with us at The Nappy Lady.

Reusable swim nappies can be rinsed or machine washed, dried and used many many times making them far more cost effective than disposables. Once outgrown they can be stored ready for use by future children or passed on to others.

In terms of containment a reusable swim nappy will offer significantly higher protection against loose stools and poo leaks compared to disposables. Reusables have strong elastic and the very best are made of neoprene which is similar to wet suit material. Neoprene makes a secure snug fitting nappy. Splash About Happy Nappy is the neoprene swim nappy that many swimming pools and schools insist upon due to its superior performance.

For urine containment all swim nappies offer a very low absorbency but the chlorine in the pool is there to neutralise any urine. If a nappy offered high urine absorbency it would quickly become waterlogged and heavy.

They are designed to dry quickly so if your child comes out of the water there isn't a risk of nappy rash.

Most reusable swim nappies are designed to be worn on their own and, provided they are fitted correctly, they should be sufficient to keep any accidents contained while you get your child out of the water and to the toilet / baby changing facility.

The 3 Parts of the Happy Nappy System:

Some pools insist on a two part swim nappy system, for a 'belt and braces' approach to swim nappies. This means that they require a neoprene reusable swim nappy over the top of another swim nappy. The Splash About Happy Nappy is the most commonly used neoprene swim nappy cover and one most swim schools will insist on. Splash about make the neoprene cover on it's own and you use a separate underneath layer or also now offer the Happy Nappy Duo with a built in inner layer. There is no reason you have to use a disposable swim nappy underneath anymore.

This double nappy system system for swimming is excellent at ensuring there are no leakages. A thin inner pant to catch the poo and the neoprene swim nappy providing soft flexibility.

Outer Layer - is the Happy Nappy Pants. The Happy nappy is made of 1mm supple, stretchy neoprene and finished with super soft, close fitting, deep bands of rib fabric with a high rubber content. The Happy Nappy can be used on its own but for complete confidence and ease of cleaning up 'accidents', use with the inner wrap (described below). The Happy Nappy is the main barrier worn to prevent leaks. It comes in a range of sizes from newborn swimming nappies up to the largest xxl Happy Nappy.

Inner wrap - Is a lovely soft adjustable wrap made of traditional swimwear material. This is your first layer baby wears to protect against leaks and holds the paper liner secure inside. The wrap IS NOT suitable for baby to wear on its own, most baby swimming schools insist on the use of this layer as well. You do not need to use a disposable nappy, this layer is sufficient.

Optional Paper Liner -This is placed inside the inner wrap and is used to make removing solids easier. Bambinex Paper Liners are the only paper liners I stock which are suitable for use with a swim nappy. Customers do not always use paper liners it depends if your baby is prone to pooing in their swimming session. Just so that you are under no illusion, when little one poos whilst submerged in water, it is not going to be solid on removal! A paper liner will help you deal with the soggy, watery mess and help protect the nappy. So, you may choose to include a paper liner inside the nappy or inner closets to baby's bottom. This is not essential if you choose not to add one. Bambinex liners are the only paper liners TNL stock that are suitable with a swim nappy.

Emergency Nappy Option

If you don’t have a swim nappy available, or you need an unexpected option then you can always use an empty pocket nappy. Don’t forget that it needs to be empty so that it doesn’t absorb all the pool water. We don’t recommend this as a long-term solution as the chlorine in swimming pools will damage the pul and reduce its effectiveness over time.

Best Features

Swim pants need to keep the poo inside! If poo gets out of the swim nappy then the pool with become contaminated and will need to be closed while it is treated. Whether you use a disposable or a reusable swim nappy always use the layered system above. Private and a local pool usually insist on the layered swim nappies.

Swim Nappy Sizes

Both disposable swim nappies come in different sizes. Disposable nappies such as the Huggies Little Swimmers range are sized like standard nappies with adjustable tabs. You will buy many different ranges of nappy size as baby grows.

Reusable swim nappies are normally based on age and weight. Either with Velcro, Poppers or a pull on style. Most people start with the medium size in the Happy Nappy Swim system.

Swimming with an older child?

Don’t worry there are still options for you. Splash jammers by Splash look just like swimming shorts but are made from the same material and with the same reliability as Happy Nappy swim nappies.

What do I need?

Swimming nappies, swimwear, pool toys, buoyancy aids, swimming bag, swimming shampoo for afterwards. Don't forget a changing mat as well, much better than reusing the damp swimming towel.

Extra tips for taking baby swimming

Where you can, feed a little bit before going swimming and immediately after: wear something practical if you’re breastfeeding, make sure your swimsuit has easy access too. Take a snack for older children.

Bring lots of towels. Babies don't tend to like the change in temperature from water. Have one towel for them and don't forget about one for you too. If you can take one poolside to carry them to the changing room afterwards. The Cuddledry towel is perfect for swimming. It goes over your head and then around baby, this makes it very helpful if you have someone poolside who wants to stay dry but is there to help with baby. If you have a toddler then you’ll probably already know how much they love dropping their towel and running off. 


If your pool is a bit chilly bring a baby wetsuit to keep them warm and don’t expect your baby to stay in the water for longer than 20/30 minutes.  Splash About Wetsuits are ideal for use instead of just a baby swim nappy on their own.

Lastly don't forget to bring a couple of wet bags! Not only will you need one for the dirty nappy (if you didn’t put the swim nappy on at home) but they are also fantastic for putting wet swimwear and towels in. Saving the need to use plastic carrier bags. You could even give older children a pod each and make them carry their own.

How do I wash reusable swim nappies?

It is important to rinse and hand wash the nappies after they've been worn. Machine wash if required. They air dry quickly without the need to tumble-dry.


With thanks to our ambassador Krisztina who shared her experience and inspired this article.