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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.

Published April 16, 2010. Last updated October 29, 2017.
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 [email protected].

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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