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Swim, Baby, Swim

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

Can I be you when I grow up? No? Shoot. Well, then maybe you can help me with this other question instead.

My 10-month-old loves loves loves the bath. We are thankful for this, since we’ve had friends whose kids cried through every bath. Anyway, we decided that she might also like one of those Baby&Me swim classes. Finding one was pretty easy, so we’re getting her all signed up. She’s going with her dad, since I’ve never liked the water anyway, but we’re confused about a few things. First, I don’t understand the whole swim diaper and bathing suit thing. We use cloth diapers (prefolds with Thirsties covers mostly, plus a few pocket diapers for naps, etc.) I definitely would like to keep using cloth for the pool. Does a reusable swim diaper take the place of a bathing suit or does she wear a bathing suit over a swim diaper? Also, the mini-string-bikini-looking suits totally upset me, but is a wet baby in a one-piece bathing suit too hard to deal with?

Finally… my husband is a little nervous about (likely) being the only guy there with their baby. It’s not labeled a “mom” class, but he doesn’t want people to think he’s weird or creepy or anything. He’s really just an amazing dad who isn’t afraid of the water unlike his scaredy-cat wife (that’d be me.) What’s the story these days with dads doing baby classes – totally cute or weird intruders? I’d love to reassure him it’s the first, and that I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Non-Swimming Mom

Oh, thank you so much for the easy question. I actually read another one this morning that pretty much sent me back to bed, where I Googled social acceptability standards for drinking before 9 am. Turns out, not so much, so I put that question on hold for next week and went back into the queue for something less horrifically head-explodey.

So! Swim diapers! I’ve written a bit about cloth swim diapers before — we use Bummis Swimmis, and there was lots of love in the comment section for the Imse Vimse ones as well. As a reformed user of disposable swim diapers, I think cloth swim diapers are much, much easier and PERFECTLY suited for things like swim lessons. (Extended vacations away from proper laundry facilities, maybe not.)

I had multiple poop blow-outs and leaks with disposable swim diapers (they just lose sooo much of their elasticity once they get soaked), while the reusable cloth versions have real elastic that doesn’t budge and holds mess in. Cloth swim diapers are not designed to absorb liquids — either water or pee — but that’s really not that different from the disposables. The swim disposables are very lightly absorbent (so they’re thinner and trimmer than a regular disposable) and honestly only absorb the water. By the time your baby pees, the swim disposables are already at full capacity, so to speak. (And that’s why pool water is chlorinated and heavily treated.) (And don’t you really want to attend those swim lessons with your baby NOW?)

As for the swim diaper as swimsuit conundrum — it’s completely up to you. We did both in Jamaica, simply because we had adorable little swim trunks that I really wanted Ezra to wear. Because they were adorable. (And additional sun protection wasn’t a bad idea either.) But then again, the Bummis are also So Freaking Cute, and it was certainly easier to not deal with a second, clingingly-wet layer.

For a little girl, the cloth swim diapers are definitely trim enough to fit under a bathing suit, but obviously there’s no real NEED to keep her torso covered up, particularly in an indoor pool. And I totally prefer the diaper-only look to the creepy-as-hell triangle-top bikinis. I do not UNDERSTAND THEM. I am DISTURBED BY THEM. Or any of the suits that imply that a baby girl has boobs and needs to be covered. That’s like, the opposite of modesty.

But there are adorable bathing suits for little girls — painfully adorable, says the mother of two boys who is so so so sick of their limited clothing options. (I mean: Are. You. Kidding. Me. Gah.) Though I’ll leave it up to the commenters to weigh in on just how difficult they make post-swim diaper changes (I imagine quite a bit) and whether they’re worth it for a short little class.

Now, as for Dad going with Baby?
Tell him not to give it a second thought. Every baby-related class I’ve ever attended has had at least one father in attendance, and honestly, it’s almost kind of annoying how everybody immediately assumes he’s the Greatest Father Ever just because he showed up to sit through 45 minutes of Gymbo the Clown. I’m mean, sure, maybe he is, but for the moms it’s viewed as practically obligatory. But a dad! How novel! How awesome! Way to go! Good for you!

I’m exaggerating (a little), but the point is your husband will more likely be viewed as the resident class rockstar — if he is indeed the only father there, which he very well may not be. You never really know. The class could be attended by all dads or moms or nannies or grandparents, or a mix of all of the above. He will not be viewed as “creepy” at all, I promise.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Dawn

    April 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    When my daughter was an infant, I used regular one piece bathing suits on her (and disposable swim diapers. meh.) and found that they weren’t that hard to use. Now that she is older, I prefer to put her in swim trunks with a rash guard shirt as I, like Amy, am HORRIFIED by the thought of a baby in a bikini top because hello? Sexualize your child much? But that is just me.

  • MLB

    April 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    No cloth diaper perspective, but my husband did the Parent/baby swim classes with all of our kids and in our experience they were close to 50/50 dads/moms. Maybe a few more moms, but I would be shocked if he was the only dad.

  • eva

    April 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    When my daughter was a baby we started swimming lessons when she was 4 months old, at a local pool that uses ozone (so less chlorine). Because of the reduced chlorine in the pool, they set very strict requirements – all babies must wear both a disposable swim diaper and a bathing suit bottom. We started out there with the bummis swim diaper, ignoring the rules, then got caught by a lifeguard during our second lesson, and had to sit on the sidelines until they brought us a disposable swim diaper! Oh the humiliation! from then on at that pool, we just complied with their rules rather than not swim. At other pools though we never had any problem with cloth swim diapers.
    And my husband and I both alternated going to the lessons with Megan, and sometimes we both went in! There were usually half moms, half dads for the Saturday lessons, and 90% moms for the weekday morning lessons.
    Have fun! My daughter is a total fish now that she’s two and a half!

  • Crabby Apple Seed

    April 16, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    We’re on our second round of swimming lessons w/my 16 month old. We’ve always had at least one dad, and usually more than that. Definitely not weird! And I’m so w/Amalah on this one- why does everyone act like it’s such a big deal when dads do stuff with their kids? Gah, it’s like people say dads are babysitting.
    Now off to try to think of what monday’s question could POSSIBLY cover.

  • Meghan

    April 16, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    You can get two-piece girls’ bathing suits that aren’t bikinis. I received one as a gift — it has this adorable bottom with a big butterfly on the butt, and the top is a long-sleeved shirt. (Also has UVA/UVB protection, I think). I can’t remember where it is from, for the life of me, but I plan to use it for our upcoming swimming lessons.

  • Diane

    April 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I SO wouldn’t worry about the dad thing. My husband is set to take our 3-year-old to swim lessons, and I hadn’t even given it a second thought. It will be TOTALLY fine.
    As far as the swim suit goes, I love things like this for my daughters:
    Target – Swim Shirt
    Target – Infant Rashguard Set
    They have UV protection, so they are practical for a day at the beach, outdoor pool, park, whatever. I like something on my daughters’ torsos in the water, because otherwise they get SLIPPERY. This makes them a bit easier to hold onto.

  • AG

    April 16, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Old Navy and GAP usually have two-piece bathing suits that aren’t bikini’s (rashguard or tank-tops, and shorts or brief bottoms). Cute and modest (and makes diaper changes much easier than a one piece). I wish they made bathings suits like that for mom.

  • Erin

    April 16, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    At our Y, the Saturday morning baby and me class has mostly dads. My hubby and I alternate weeks….when I swim, I feel like the odd woman out! We use Imse Visme exclusively and love ’em!

  • Missy

    April 16, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I have no cloth diaper experience, but I wanted to weigh in on the bathing suit and swimming dad issues. First off, baby girl swimsuits are possibly the cutest things ever. (The one piece suits, of course – those bikinis are vile and should be burned.) And not that peer pressure should be your only concern, but you’ll be drooling over the cute suits that the other baby girls have on. Classes are usually not long enough at this age to necessitate a diaper change mid-class and you’re gonna have to strip the baby after class to get her dressed anyway, so you might as well put her in a super-cute suit. You may want to buy a couple of rashguards anyway, sometimes the pool heaters aren’t working at full capacity and you don’t want baby to get cold.
    As far as daddies in the pool, our weekend class was easily 50/50 daddies and mommies. In our case, we took turns. I’d go in one week, hubby would go in the next. Some kids only went in with their daddies, some only with mommies, and a few kids had both parents switching off like we did.
    And after 18 months of lessons when she was a baby, my three-year-old daughter is a fearless wee fishy who tries to swim across the pool without holding on to any grownups. The fact that she doesn’t know how to hold her head above water doesn’t seem to phase her.

  • Alison

    April 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    As a former swin instructor I felt compelled to comment on this question.
    When it comes to dress, I would check with the facility to see what their rules regarding diapering children are. Many of the places I worked required the use of disposable, water diapers. Also, I hate to see baby girls in bikinis, but that’s just me. I would however recommend a covering other than just the diaper – again this might be a requirement.
    As for having Dad attending the class I think its a great idea. Most of the classes I taught had at least 1 or 2 fathers in the group and some parents even seemed to trade off weeks. Nobody will think its creepy or wierd.

  • Roberta

    April 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Totally seconding or thirding or fourthing the creepiness of baby/toddler string bikinis! We did a reusable swim diaper (I think ours was iPlay brand) with a cute rash guard top. My girl is pale, pale, pale, just like her parents, so the less body you have to apply sunscreen to, the better! Plus, then she looks like a tiny little bad-ass surfer, and not beach bait. 😉

  • Doug

    April 16, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    My experience as a stay at home dad is that you can be in any crazy place with a baby, including places with almost 100% women, and there’s no chance of being seen as creepy. Random women come up to chat with you, everybody smiles and holds the door for you, it’s great. It’s a bit weird on the rare occasion when I don’t have the baby because I’m in the habit of smiling at everybody now and some percentage of the women definitely give me the “Like you have a chance” look. But add in a baby and they’d be trying to prove *they* aren’t creepy so they can check out the little one up close.
    Luckily nobody’s ever actually said I was “babysitting” or they’d get an earfull!
    Anyway, if he doesn’t already I’d definitely recommend doing activities and just plain running errands alone with the baby. It’s an interesting experience!

  • Sara

    April 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    OMG! Those girl suits are so cute (mom of 2 boys here too). I work during the day, but my husband works nights, so always takes our oldest to the classes we sign him up for–swim, art, tumbling. The swim class was about half dads–even during the week. But the other non-swim classes, he was always the only dad, but there were some grandmas with the kids. Tell him to have fun!

  • Bekki

    April 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    We’ve had great luck with the iPlay swimsuits that have a built in swim diaper. They are super cute and come in great prints, plus the diaper works well.
    I also used to teach parent/baby swim classes, and I loved it when there were dads in the class. Moms, in general, are slightly more apprehensive about “daredevil” stuff, and the kids would pick up on it and freak out a bit. Dads are usually more gung-ho about dunking the kids etc, and those babies tended to be more comfortable.

  • incognito

    April 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Granted, I spent my early childhood in Hong Kong (where maybe the beaches and pools were more Euro) but I went topless to the beach till I was five or six. (1) it was completely ordinary and (2) I hated all the pointless, stringy nonsense of a bikini top. Nobody batted an eyelash until we visited friends (with five sons my age and older) with a pool in Wisconsin and the first time I came out of the house in my swimsuit bottom the boys went nuts with the whistling and hooting. I was confused rather than embarrassed, and I actually remember thinking, “but I don’t have boobs.” Anyway, because I didn’t like calling attention to myself I wore only tank suits from then on and became hypermodest for the rest of my childhood.
    I’d like any daughters I have to feel comfortable if they just want to wear a swimsuit bottom, but I don’t want to subject them to unwanted leering either. It’s just a shame what it’s come to, is all.

  • Autumnalyssa

    April 16, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    For now I think it’s totally up to you whether to put her in an actual bathing suit. Once it becomes obligatory, I highly suggest a tankini. I have five year old twins, and they wear tankinis every year; if they try a suit on and the top is “cropped” and edging into bikini territory, back on the rack it goes. The tankini is a good solution because of the bathroom access (and once they are potty trained, this is a big deal!) and the modesty issue. Added bonus, they fit a bit longer, she might be able to wear it two years in a row (gasp!)

  • Claire

    April 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    I use cloth swim diapers, and I usually put a swimsuit over them, but mostly b/c our cloth diaper is white, and our swimsuit is very cute. So it’s for looks, really. BUT, I learned last summer that it’s much easier to dress/undress a baby after the pool if you do a two-piece swimsuit – almost like a tankini, but with super-modest bottoms (like boy shorts) and a short-sleeved swim top. A one-piece is a pain. It sounds like your pool is inside, but if you go swimming outdoors this summer, you’ll probably want a long-sleeved swimshirt for coverage (and less sunscreen application on a wriggly toddler)!

  • Alissa

    April 16, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    We’ve been swimming with DS since he was about 4 months old (he’s now 14 months). He LOVES it. It took a long long time for Daddy to go in with him, but when he watched the class when I was the ONLY mom, and all the other kids had dads in with them, I think he finally decided he could do it. So we alternate, and we both have fun.
    I just a couple weeks ago started using a Bummi Swimmi diaper instead of disposable. I haven’t had a poop in the pool in a long long time, so I can’t comment on the whole “hold in the poop” aspect of them, but getting them on and off SURE is a whole lot easier!
    One suggestion – don’t make the mistake I did and put a swimmy diaper on before you leave the house, because it’ll be so much easier than changing him there. Because the swimmies DO NOT absorb pee. And you know what is not easier than changing the baby at swim class? Taking off and washing the entire pee-soaked car seat cover… Booooooo.
    Have a blast!

  • Keely

    April 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    If he’s still worried about appearing ‘creepy’, you could go for the first couple classes and cheer them on from the sidelines – like, take pictures of Baby’s First Swim Class and stuff (make sure you don’t get anybody else in the pics). Then it’s obvious that you’re both just Great Parents, one of whom doesn’t like water.

  • AJU5's Mom

    April 16, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I would totally go with the rash guard shirt path. They make cute ones that are sold separately from bottoms if you just want to do top and diaper. For my 2 year old this year, we went with the boy shorts and shirt, and we are going to get some clothe swim diapers. I had bought a package of disposables when she was 7 months old, and we finally used all of them last year.

  • Fakey

    April 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    You can totally use an insert-less pocket as a swim diaper. Holds the solids and even a little pee. Snaps hold better than velcro under water, and won’t snag the swimsuit.
    We bought my wee daughter a tankini suit. Imse Vimse has tops that match the swim diapers, even, so there’s only one layer to deal with. The tankini is easier for dressing and undressing than the tank suit, without the icky bikini effect. You can put on the top with a real dipe at home, then just switch bottoms when you’re ready for the pool.

  • Amy

    April 16, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    My 2 year old LOVES the water in any fashion and has been going to the pool frequently since she was a 6 month old. I’ve often bought her two piece swimsuits that were more along the lines of a tankini than a bikini. Her 1st & my favorite one was a rash guard style top with a plastic lined bottom! (From a Carter’s outlet store in 2008.) One pieces are fine too.
    The husband won’t be alone. I took my girl to “Mommy & Me” style lessons last summer and there was a dad (or two) at the classes. This summer, I too am sending my husband to swim class b/c I’ll have just given birth to our 2nd child & I’m guessing that over-chlorinated kid filled water is not good for stitches down there.

  • Dawn

    April 16, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Just a thought on swim suits for girls, a simple one piece suit makes it much easier to hold onto the slippery wet (possibly squirmy) baby in the pool. Also as the mother of a 5 year old girl, I have to agree about the bikinis for little girls, it’s just wrong. I am a mean mommy too because my girl wants nothing more than to wear a “kini” like her friends and I am sorry but NO!

  • Lindsey

    April 16, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    My husband takes our daughter to the baby and me swim classes, and he’s never been the only dad. Her current class is actually about 50/50 moms and dads.
    I have no suggestions about the cloth diaper – but our facility requires a disposable diaper covered by tight-fitting plastic swim pants (reusable, Gerber sells ’em for $3) covered by a suit. Why? Because if there’s a blow-out, the health dept. makes them close down the entire pool for 18 hours, 24 if it’s diarrhea. That’s a lot of angry parents right there.

  • Lori

    April 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    About the dad doing the class — in the “baby and me” swim classes my daughters were in, it was pretty much the dads in the pool with the babies, not the moms!

  • kakaty

    April 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    As a mother of a little girl I also hate the idea of 2-piece suits for little girls. So for her first swim lessons and vacation I got 2 one piece suits and OMG what a pain! Then, I discovered all the great Tankini suits for babies and girls (Lands End Overstocks is the best source, when they hit $9.99 I get 2-3 since she’s in teh water just about everyday – they wear like iron). The coverage of a one-piece and the diaper changing ease of a 2 piece. Plus, now that she’s a preschooler and doing things herself, I can’t imagine how she would handle a 1-piece in the bathroom.
    But, if the facility allows it I would go with just the swim diaper + a rashgard top, more for warmth then modesty. Even indoor pools can get cold!.
    Oh, and my husband did 50% of the baby swim lessons with her. Now she’s all grown up and does lessons on her own (sob!)

  • natalie

    April 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    We did Bubble Blowers swimming with our 4 month old.
    Firstly, the class is only 30 minutes long so there is not enough time to change diapers during the class. So it shouldn’t matter whether she’s in a swimsuit or not.
    My son wore Bummis Swimmis reusable swim diapers, and nothing else. If we go to an outdoor pool or beach, he’ll wear a UVA/UVB tshirt with his swim diaper. I wouldn’t waste the $$ on getting a swimsuit for the little girl – she can just wear the swim diaper, and she’ll outgrow the swimsuit so quickly anyway.
    My two cents on the dad thing is that in our swimming class, which was on Saturday mornings, it was mostly the dads in the pool. My husband and I switched off week over week and when I was in the pool, I was either the only mom or one of only a couple.
    Have fun!!

  • dcfullest

    April 16, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Last week in Target I bought my daughter a two piece suit. It has a boy short bottom and rash guard top– very easy to change her diapers, but still covers her completely. (In fact, it covers her more than more one pieces.)
    Old Navy has several of the same type suits too.

  • Meghan

    April 16, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    The Imse Vimse swim diapers have matching tankini tops – which are adorable:

  • miriam

    April 16, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    I was even thinking of using her one-size-too-small thirsties… but likely will stop and check what acceptable bathing attire is before I go to my local pool!

  • Nicole

    April 17, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Okay! This is something I know! Because up here in the great white north, I teach people how to be swim instructors (side job. Also have day job. And 11 month old who LOOOOOOOVES the water).
    So swim diapers for swimming lesson. Please, please, please for all that is good and holy, put one on your child. Pee is fine in the pool – that’s what the chlorine is for; poo is another matter entirely and may involve things like shutting down the pool for a bit and putting even more chlorine in the pool (then you have to wait for it to burn off).
    And there’s not that much chlorine in the pool. Usually somewhere around 1.5 to 3 parts per million (ppm). Ozone pool have less.
    My daughter took her first lessons in a disposable swim diaper and a tshirt. Seriously. That’s all you need. I was recently given a tankini for her so we’ll use that but we’ll still use the swim diapers.
    Swimming lessons at this age are usually no more than 30 minutes. Put on the swim diaper when you’re getting her changed at the pool, and you should be good to go for that long.
    Remember: swim diapers are not meant to contain pee. They are meant to contain the solid stuff.

  • JCF

    April 17, 2010 at 10:40 am

    I’ll give another shout out for the Bummis Swimmi. Really, what you want in a cloth swim diaper is either velcro or snaps, rather than a pull-up style. Trust me. Pulling down a nasty, wet, poopy diaper at a public pool is no party.
    I wouldn’t be creeped out at all by a dad at swim lessons; in fact, we have two little ones, and my husband will probably do swim lessons with one kid while I go with the other.

  • LifegaurdSara

    April 17, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Firstly, I am commenting on this as Lifeguard and Swim instructor not a parent.
    1. Any diaper which works for you kid is fine as long as you cover them. With cloth the cover must be a plastic cover, and with swim diapers it can be either a swim suit or plastic cover. By law every time there is an accident we have to close the pool for atleast 30 min, and most of the time these accidents are preventable. Also, if a health inspector comes to the pool and the diaper is not cover the pool can be cited for a health code violation in most states.
    2. As for your husband being in a mommy and me class, depending on the time of day he may be out numbered by women, but he probably won’t be the only guy. I have had grandpas, uncles, and older brothers all take the class instead of the mother. Who ever the male expect him get his ego stroked a bit.

  • Pogita

    April 19, 2010 at 9:19 am

    I am the only MOM in swim class, so your guy should be just fine.

  • kms

    April 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I spent one summer using disposable swimmers, with multiple blowouts (thankfully, not in the pool itself.) It was hard to find her size so I stocked up on them. Since then, I’ve used nothing but cloth swimmers. I have a bunch of disposables hanging around, because I can’t bring myself to throw them away and I can’t stand using them.
    I have multiple one-piece suits, and two piece suits. Haven’t had a problem with either. I find that by the time we need a change, we’re generally done with swimming. My oldest is 3 now, and I’ve already got a rash guard and bottoms for the 3mo.
    And baby bikinis? The crunchiest, DrSearsiest, tandemnursing earthmother I know had her 5mo in one of them, and I nearly choked. Ewwww. NOTCUTE. WRONG.

  • Caitlyn

    April 19, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    to offer a bath alternative for babies who hate them – my 3mo baby hates baths but loves showers with Daddy in the mesh baby sling. We wash most of her body right through the sling and she enjoys it and then goes to sleep. Now, I don’t know how well that’ll work for when she’s making *real* messes, but right now it’s brilliant.