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Why are Swim Nappies Important?

Posted on 29th October 2019





One of the most important things to think about before you start swimming with your baby/toddler is swim nappies.

There is a huge variety available on the market and, at first, it can be a little confusing trying to decide what is the best option to go for, understanding what will be the most reliable and which will be the most cost-effective, which is precisely why we are going to explain all of the ins and outs of swim nappies to help you to get to grips with them.

Understanding Swim Nappies

Why do we need swim nappies?

Swim nappies have one main purpose: to prevent faecal matter from entering a pool. Many people do not initially realise that swim nappies do not actually hold urine but this is one thing that they are not designed for.

The reason that they cannot be absorbent is that they would also soak up the water from the pool, therefore, making the nappy heavy, altering its shape, and becoming a potential water safety issue as it will prevent your baby from moving effectively and may drag them down.

Have you ever accidentally got a regular nappy wet? If so, you will be very aware of all of these problems.

Not only is it very important to have a swim nappy for every visit but it is also important to have one that fits correctly because if a swim nappy does leak faecal matter, the pool will have to be immediately evacuated and shut down for cleaning– which will take on average 4 hours to fully disinfect. A swim nappy helps to keep the pool a clean and safe environment for everybody.

What options are there?

The swim nappy options have grown in the last few years but to put it very simply you have 3 options:

Disposable (usually required with a Neoprene Swim Nappy over the top)
Reusable with neoprene over the top
Reusable fitted neoprene Such as the Splash About Happy Nappy


The Disposable Swim Nappy

A disposable swim nappy can only be used once just as a regular disposable nappy can. Some swimming pools may allow this to be worn on its own but you will need to speak to your local establishment prior to arriving in order to discover their swim nappy policies as many now prefer a double nappy system to be on the safe side.

Most organised swimming lessons will insist on a neoprene being worn over the top as disposables are quite flimsy and can be prone to leaks.

The Reusable Swim Nappy

A reusable nappy can be used time and time again. It works in exactly the same way as a disposable but can be washed and reused. There is also a wider variety of styles and fits available to you in shops and online. Some reusable nappies look like swimming trunks and will need a neoprene over the top to ensure that any leaks are safely contained.

The reusable neoprene swim nappy like our Splash About Happy Nappy can be worn on its own. Due to its snug fit and design, it will not leak:

"Ergonomically designed to move with the baby as they kick and move about in the water, the Happy Nappy is shaped to cup baby’s bottom, whilst specialist waist and thigh ribs fit snugly to the child’s body, forming a seal that prevents any solids leaking out"

The Happy Nappy is trusted by parents worldwide and is relied upon by swim schools across 30 countries to keep their pools free from the germs that come from a swim nappy leakage. It’s patented technology gives reliable leak protection without the need for any other under nappy to be worn. The 1mm neoprene is supple and moves with the child to prevent any gaping.

What to Choose

Just like your nappy choice, your swim nappy decision will usually come down to personal taste but to help to shed a little more light on the matter, here are some facts about disposables and reusables.


Disposables are cheap to buy but in the long term, you will end up spending more on these than on a reusable swim nappy. They are readily available in all supermarkets which makes them easy to find, they come in different sizes and are usually a good fit for most children.


Reusables will cost you a little bit more to purchase upfront but once you have one it is going to last. Not only is this kind to your wallet, but it is also good for the environment.

Reusable swim nappies cause about 1.5-2.5 less CO2 production during manufacturing, use and waste processing compared to disposable swim nappies and this includes the washing of them too.

Reusable swim nappies are available in a variety of sizes from birth to toddler and even beyond, but you will need to check each brand for their own measurement and weight charts prior to buying. You can also purchase a nappy wrap or liners to help with any accidents and to make the cleaning up process easier.

Another important point to consider is taking your swim nappies on holiday. If you are going abroad for 2 weeks, you will need to take swim nappies with you.

By taking disposables you will require the space for approximately 20 nappies which can be a real inconvenience, especially with weight regulations added in. Compare that to 1 reusable swim nappy and you can start to see that this option has far more benefits for your lifestyle.

The key thing about reusables is that a style like the Happy Nappy will not leak, it will move with your child and be far more comfortable due to the materials it is made from.

Washing a Reusable

A reusable swim nappy, like the Happy Nappy, isn't difficult to look after. Neoprene nappies cannot be machine washed or tumble dried, We recommend a hand wash in warm water without conditioner. Roll in a towel and then leave to dry flat and away from direct sunlight.

Fit Check

Understanding how to fit a reusable neoprene nappy is very important. A correctly fitting nappy may feel like a bit of a struggle to get on the very first time but this is actually quite essential.

The Lycra band must sit tight against the skin on both of your baby's legs and their waist with no gaping, in order for it to work effectively.

You should be able to comfortably fit a finger against your baby’s thigh in the leg opening, but no more.

A tip to help you out with fitting the reusable neoprene and to prevent your baby from being hurt is to pull the nappy right up to the top of your baby’s legs before you attempt to pull it up over the under-nappy and then up to the waist.

The waistband should then sit quite high on the tummy and be over the belly button. If you find that the nappy keeps slipping down then either it is too big or the Lycra fibres in the waistband have deteriorated.

To test this, gently pull the waistband and let it go. It should immediately pingback to the body and stay quite tight against your baby's skin. If there is any looseness or does not retain its position on the body then it is time to purchase a new nappy.

When Should a Child Stop Wearing a Swim Nappy?

Most swim schools require your child to wear a swim nappy until 3 Years old even if your child is fully potty trained as they actually see more accidents from children who are toilet trained.

A reusable swim nappy is made from similar material to a swimming costume so it does not inhibit them in any way whilst doing the activity so there isn't any urgent rush to stop wearing swim nappies immediately.

Important Points to Remember

It is very important to remember these key points when it comes to swimming:

  • Do not go swimming if your child has or has had diarrhoea recently. Pools will have their own sickness policies on this and some will state a period of 2 weeks before swimming again. Swim nappies cannot effectively hold stools this loose.
  • Take spare swim nappies with you in case of an accident.
    The double nappy system is recommend by most UK swim schools.
  • Choose a nappy that fits snugly to the body. Do not buy a reusable nappy for them to grow into, it will not do the job required of it.
  • Check your reusable before each swim for any wear and tear.
    Encourage your child to take regular toilet breaks (age depending).
  • Check your baby's swim nappy regularly during your swim and change if you are aware of a poo.
  • However, probably one of the most important things to remember and understand about swim nappies is that it is your responsibility to be prepared prior to entering a pool.

We highly recommend trying swim nappies on before your first swim session, making sure that the fit is correct, that your child is happy and that you can easily put it on.

Understanding swim nappies is far easier once you break it all down and are made aware of all of the choices out there.

For more information take a look at our Happy Nappy range here, or our Help Centre guides to swim nappies.