The 7 Best Infant Life Jacket Picks
As soon as the weather warms up, kids would give everything to be near water. They love playing in it, building sandcastles, and just run around while the water soaks their feet. However, if your child is still too young to learn swimming or simply isn’t the most secure swimmer yet, it can be terrifying to a parent to just leave them unattended near a body of water. Yet, I have just the solution for you: an infant life jacket.
Even if your little cutie isn’t quite ready for swim lessons yet, there is no reason for you to guard them every step of the way or not let them anywhere near water and basically not let them have fun. They can still enjoy a day of sailing or playing in the shallow waters as long as she’s wearing the right infant life jacket.
The thing is, drowning is a genuine danger to children and while that may scare you, being out in the open in the sun playing and having fun is very healthy to a child, plus how are you able to enjoy your holiday without letting your child near water?
So, the best way to ensure their safety is by having them wear a baby life jacket.
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But with so much choice, picking one can be tricky, to say the least. And not only because of the vast infant life jacket selection on the market but because some can be bulky, some uncomfortable, and kids often may refuse to wear them as well. Nonetheless, choosing the right toddler life jacket is just one way to keep your infant safe while you’re canoeing, boating, or sailing.
Luckily, I have picked the 7 best infant life jacket models available right now. However, before we go to the list, there are few more things essential to know concerning the safety and well-being of your little one.
With that said, here’s what you need to know about buying the best infant life jacket — along with recommendations for the best, most comfortable ones on the market.
Regulations over baby life jackets
First off, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states clearly that all babies should wear a life jacket whenever they’re near a natural body of water (for example, a lake, an ocean, or a river), even if they don’t go in the water and you don’t plan on sailing, paddle board or swim with them. This is especially important when considering that the open waters can be dangerous, especially for babies and young kids who can’t swim.
Different Types of Life Jackets
Before going any further, it is vital that we make a distinction between the several different types of infant life jacket designs. As these can sometimes be confusing yet vital to the security of your child, it’s better to explain this now and get it out of the way for this article later on.
With that said, there are a few different types of children’s life jackets, and here’s what you need to know:
- Type I: These life jackets are intended for offshore ocean use, where the water tends to be rough and unpredictable. They’re very effective for flotation, but tend to be bulky and uncomfortable. It’s difficult to find Type I jackets for children.
- Type II: When purchasing a life jacket for your child, this is the type that you’re most likely to come across. Type IIs are designed for use in calmer water and used when boating or fishing. They’re less buoyant than Type I but also less bulky, making them more comfortable. They’re not suitable for rough waters.
- Type III: These are less buoyant than Type II. They’re most appropriate for well-supervised water activities where a rescue would be immediate, and they don’t flip the wearer on their back upon falling into the water. These are widely available in all children’s sizes.
- Type IV: These are throwable devices (like life rings/life preservers) that are tossed into the water to a person in distress. They’re not appropriate to rely on for children as they’d need to tread water and swim before being able to access the device.
- Type V: These are specialized jackets designed for particular water use. If you’re casually shopping around for your child, you’re not likely to purchase a Type V.
So, How To Choose the Right Infant Life Jacket?
For starters, if in the U.S., only buy baby life jackets that have been previously approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. To learn if they are, check the vest itself for a printed approval directly on it.
Additionally, here are some of the most important aspects of buying a good infant life jacket:
- Buy a “Type II” toddler life jacket. This is recommended because Type II life jackets can turn some users’ heads from a face-down position in the water into a position in which they can breathe. This way, your child has an extra head and float support.
A “Type III” life jacket, on the other hand, is recommended for children who already know how to swim and can keep their heads above water.
- Choose an infant life jacket specifically designed for your baby’s weight. Each manufacturer will have this stated on their product, but as a general rule, infant life jackets tend to be intended for babies that weigh 33 pounds or less.
However, as I said, specific weight ranges for life jackets can vary based on the manufacturer, so always check the label to make sure the vest matches up with your child’s weight.
- Make sure you check the fit of the baby life jacket. No matter the size stated on the label, it’s best to also try the fit before putting your child in water (and I will tell you all about doing a safety test before using the life jacket just below in the text).
How to do an out-of-water test
It’s important to pick the exact fit, so strap the life jacket onto your child, and then lift the jacket at the shoulders. “If the child’s chin and ears slip through the neck opening, it might be too big. If the life jacket straps cannot be buckled, zipped, or tied, it may be too small.
Additional safety measures when buying an infant life vest
- Look for a neck collar. A neck collar will give your child some extra head support.
- Opt for life jackets with a strap between the legs. This will keep the vest from riding up.
- Make sure it has a grab strap or a “handle” that can be used to pull the child out of the water quickly.
And always remember that a life jacket isn’t a substitute for adult supervision. Most importantly, caregivers should watch children when they’re around water without being distracted.
Why Does My Child Need a Toddler Life Jacket?
Infant life jacket as a protective water gear is extremely important when we consider that drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in the world. To make things worse, drowning deaths are most common among children aged 1-4, followed by children ages 5-9.
I don’t mean to frighten you with worse case scenarios, but it is essential to know that life vests combined with adequate adult supervision when your child is in or around the water are the best protection against drowning.
Even if your little one knows how to swim, wearing a life vest while in a pool or boat is a good idea since they aren’t as experienced as swimmers yet, and they may panic more easily if something happens in the water. Additionally, if your child experiences fatigue without you noticing, a life jacket can prevent them from slipping beneath the water.
Also, while paddle boarding, kayaking, or boating with them onboard, if an emergency were to happen and you or your child were to lose consciousness, a suitable flotation device can keep them safely afloat. And as said with the Type II infant life jacket, it can even flip them face-up until help arrives.
In addition to providing life-saving protection to your child, it’s also the law.
Namely, the U.S. Coast Guard requires that all children under the age of 13 wear a jacket if they’re on a boat that is underway (an excerpt taken from the official website). Also, individual state requirements may be more stringent, so you may want to check the law in your particular state.
Even if you aren’t in the U.S., still an infant life vest will allow your child to experience all the fun and excitement the water has to offer so they can develop water confidence in a safe way.
You see, as your child grows and becomes old enough to learn to swim, you want them to be well-acquainted with water and to love it — not to be afraid of it. Wearing a life jacket in the early years will not only keep your child safe but allow them to expand their horizons safely.
How Does a Life Jacket Protect My Child?
An infant life vest can protect your child in many ways. Here are some of the most significant ones:
- Buoyancy: They’re filled with a very buoyant material (usually foam) that displaces a large amount of water concerning its size and weight, keeping the wearer afloat.
- Visibility: Depending on the color you choose, a baby life jacket can keep your child visible in the event of an emergency. You should only choose red, orange, and yellow as the colors of the PFD. Stay away from blues, grays, and other dull colors.
- Head Protection: Some infant life jacket models like the Type II are designed to flip children on their backs to keep their faces above water. These are ideal for infants or potentially dangerous water sports that could result in the user becoming unconscious and unable to flip over.
- Security: Unlike unapproved flotation devices, most infant life vest models come with a crotch strap to ensure they don’t slip off if a child falls in the water.
Alternative Infant Life Jackets and How They Work
There’s an alternative to each type of life vest, whether for children or for adults. So, in this part, I will be explaining each type of flotation device for children.
Type I – Inherently buoyant, recommended uses and features:
- When cruising, racing, and fishing offshore, when boating alone, or in stormy conditions.
- Minimum Buoyancy: 22 lbs. for adults. (11lbs. for child size
- Best for open, rough, or remote water where rescue may be slow to arrive. This life vest will turn MOST unconscious wearers face-up in water.
- The type I offers the best protection but is somewhat bulky and uncomfortable. It does the best job of retaining body heat, as it has additional foam and fabric and keeps your head higher above water.
Type II – Inherently buoyant, recommended uses and features:
- Inland day cruising, fishing, and sailing. Good for boating in light craft.
- Minimum Buoyancy: 15.5 lbs. for adult size.
Type II is good for protected, inland water near shore, where chances of immediate rescue are good. However, it isn’t suitable for extended survival in rough water.
This life vest will turn MOST unconscious wearers face-up in water.
- It performs poorly in rough water, and it often requires you to tread water to keep your head above water.
- More comfortable but less buoyant than Type I. It provides far less flotation than a Type I.
Type II – Inflatable Recommended uses and features:
- For serious inland and nearshore cruising.
- Minimum Buoyancy: 34 lbs. for adult size.
Additional Information: Not guaranteed to turn unconscious wearer face-up.
- Very comfortable, more buoyant than Type II Inherently Buoyant jackets.
- Pricier and may be manual or automatic.
- There are many Type V (special use) inflatable jackets (covered later in this section) that provide Type II performance characteristics.
- Inflatable PFDs are not meant for children under the age of 16.
Type III – Inherently buoyant Recommended uses and features:
- Supervised activities, such as sailing regattas, dinghy races, water skiing, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and for personal watercraft operation.
- Minimum Buoyancy: 15.5 lbs. for adult size.
Additional Information: Good for protected, inland water near shore, where the chance of immediate rescue is good. Not suitable for extended survival in rough water. They are not designed to turn unconscious people face-up in water.
Type III – Inflatable Recommended uses and features:
- For boating inshore and nearshore and for supervised activities such as sailing regattas, dinghy races, canoeing.
- Minimum Buoyancy: 22.5 lbs. for adult size.
- Additional Information: These are not guaranteed to turn an unconscious wearer face-up.
- Advantages: more comfortable than a Type III Inherently Buoyant jacket.
- Disadvantages: one manual inflation mechanism only.
- Inflatable PFDs are not meant for children under the age of 16.
Type IV – Throwable personal flotation device Recommended uses and features:
- Intended Use: Designed to be thrown to an overboard victim or to supplement the buoyancy of a person overboard. It is not to be worn.
- Minimum buoyancy: 16.5 lbs. for ring buoy or 18 lbs. for boat cushion.
This device can be a square style, or a ring buoy or horseshoe buoy mounted on the deck. A Type IV is not for unconscious persons, non-swimmers, or children. Although these devices are often referred to as seat cushions, you should never use it as such. This degrades the foam and reduces the amount of floatation that is provided.
NOTE – Type IV devices must be IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE for use. You must have one at arm’s length to throw over the side in an emergency. Having one in a locker under the driver’s seat isn’t considered “immediately available.”
Type V – Special use life jackets Recommended uses and features:
- Intended Use: Type V is restricted to the particular use for which each is designed, for example, sailboard harness, deck suit, paddling vest, commercial white water vest, or float coats.
- Minimum Buoyancy: 15.5 to 22 lbs. for adult size.
Must be worn when underway to meet minimum U.S. Coast Guard requirements. Simply having a Type V PFD on board will not meet the USCG carriage requirements.
Type V – Automatic inflation models Recommended uses and features:
- Only to be used as a belt pack, deck suit, float coat.
- Minimum Buoyancy: 22.5 to 34 lbs. depending on style.
- Must be worn to meet federal requirements.
Not guaranteed to turn an unconscious wearer face-up. Some manufacturers claim Type II performance. Some models feature a combination of CO2 inflation and built-in foam and provide 15.5 to 22 lbs. of buoyancy.
Type V – Hybrid Inflation: Recommended uses and features:
- This model is recommended for boating activities where rescue is nearby and must be worn when underway.
- Minimum Buoyancy: These have 7.5 lbs. of built-in foam buoyancy and can be inflated to 22lbs.
- More comfortable to wear than Type I or Type II, but are inadequate for unconscious overboard victims.
- Inflation Mechanism: When activated, a CO2 cartridge is pierced, releasing gas to inflate the device. Water-activated models inflate automatically when submerged in water. Manual units are activated by yanking a pull-tab. Both types of inflatables feature blow-tubes to provide a back-up method of inflation. It is essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for checking and maintaining your inflation mechanism.
Inflatable PFDs are not suitable for children under the age of 16.
Buying an infant life jacket Quick Summary
A little summary and a quick run-through of the most important things to look for when buying an infant life jacket before moving to the actual list of products.
When looking for a children’s life jacket, make sure you note the following:
- The label of approval. On the inside of any life jacket you choose, there should be an indicator that it’s approved for use by the U.S. Coast Guard and the conditions for which it is approved (recreational watercraft, personal watercraft, commercial use, etc.).
- Appropriate weight. The weight limits are also printed on the inside. Choose one for the current weight of your child; don’t be tempted to buy one for larger children with the expectation that you can use it for longer. Safety is paramount, so the jacket must meet the immediate needs of your child.
- Bright colors. If you’re planning to bring your child boating or out on the open water, visibility is critical for quick recovery in the event of an emergency. Choose brightly-colored jackets that contrast with the blue or green water. Orange, yellow, and red are good choices. Avoid grays and blues.
- Grab strap. A grab strap is a useful safety feature if you’re planning to go boating. It provides a handle to grab and quickly pull the child back into the boat if they fall into the water.
- Safety measures. The life jacket you choose should be secure. Some provide a crotch strap, which runs between the legs so the jacket can’t slip over your child’s head. If it doesn’t have a strap, you can test its security by picking your child up from the jacket’s shoulders; if it doesn’t come up above their ears, it’s snug enough.
How to Take Care Of Your Life Jacket?
The amount of time your child has and uses the infant life jacket is directly connected to how well you take care of it. Proper use, storage, and a good cleaning. However, even with all the proper care for it, it’s normal for a life jacket of any type and size to lose its buoyancy (and life-saving value) as time passes.
Still, you have to treat your life jacket as if your life depends on it. Because guess what, it really does!
What to do:
- Inspect each life jacket at the beginning of each season.
- Check that all hardware and straps are in good shape, are firmly attached, and are in working order.
- Check for leaks, mildew, lumpy or hardened buoyancy material, & oil saturation in the fabric.
- Make sure that there are no rips or tears in the fabric.
- Make sure that the label stating USCG approval is attached and that it is readable.
- Discard and replace life jackets that show signs of deterioration – tears, mildew stains, punctures, etc.
What to avoid:
- Don’t use a life vest or throwable flotation cushion as a kneeling pad or boat fender.
- Don’t use harsh detergents or gasoline to clean it.
- Don’t remove any labels, straps, or buckles.
How to Store an Infant Life Jacket
- Store the infant life jacket in an area with adequate ventilation.
- After cleaning, allow it to dry thoroughly in the open air before you store it.
- Don’t dry it in a dryer, in front of a radiator, or other sources of direct heat. This destroys the buoyancy of the baby life jacket.
The Most Popular Brands for Infant Life Jackets
Stohlquist Water ware
Stohlquist Company, based in Buena Vista, was founded by Jim Stohlquist, and ever since, it has been a family company. He himself, as an avid scuba diver, is focused heavily on this passion for paddle sports – innovation, performance, and excellence.
For each designed model, this company puts their 40+ years of experience in product innovation and refinement while using the latest and best of raw material development and manufacturing know-how in order to bring the best water ware to your door. You can learn more about the company here.
O’Neill, originally a Californian surfwear and surfboard brand, started in 1952 by Jack O’Neill. The man perfected the first wetsuit in the 1950s, and since then, O’Neill has been at the forefront of not just developing high-performance wetsuits but surfing as a whole.
Being famous for almost 70 years now, the brand has expanded towards a clothing line, but they have also perfected their water suits line for men, women, children, and plus-size models.
Combining a classic feel with groundbreaking technologies at its exclusive Area 52 facility, O’Neill is always ahead of the game when it comes to wetsuit feature possibilities. You can learn more about the company here.
For over eight decades now, Stearns manufactures car heating systems to high-quality outdoor products such as life jackets, water ski belts, and plastic boat interiors. Ever since the competition for producing solid, high-quality, and reliable life vests yet chic and good-looking began, the Stearns easily wins the race in production. You can learn more about the company here.
Connelly is a brand with 50 years of experience. Founded in the 60s, this brand occupied the water sports industry with their expertise and experience.
Apart from the fact that this company produces mahogany and white cedar skis from the 60s and all the way to the ’70s and ’80s when fiberglass skis dominated production, they have also revolutionized the industry with water ware technology such as life jackets and an array of other water gear. You can learn more about the company here.
The Top Infant Life Jacket Picks of The Year
Accidents do happen even if you, as a parent, want to do everything possible to scoop your little one out of danger. But infant life vests can step in at just the right moment to save your child from a potential disaster.
So, here are the seven top-quality infant life jackets that will give you peace of mind and that your toddler will love wearing.
Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket
This model of infant life jacket provides fantastic support to babies who are just acquainting with water. The toddler life vest has two foam neck support parts, and the company recently improved on the foam flap design by adding foam pads for extra support for babies on the smaller side. This way, your little one is safe from slipping through the neck opening.
Additionally, this life vest has both an easy-to-use zipper and buckle with an adjustable strap for added security. You can also find a crotch strap that prevents the vest from slipping over your baby’s head.
What I really loved and what many people who tried it on their babies told me is that it’s much less bulky than many other life jackets, and although less, it still offers high-quality protection.
- It’s available in bright colors.
- It has dual neck support to keep your child’s face out of the water.
- It has both a buckle and strap for a snug fit.
- The grab strap is robust and easy to get to.
- The zipper can rub on the baby’s neck or face.
Laura P, a verified customer, says:
“Definitely keeps baby afloat! We tested this with our 5 month old. He was unable to turn onto his stomach and this kept him on his back with his head fully above water. Seems very safe for a baby. He weighs about 15lbs, just for reference.”
O’Neill Youth SuperLite USCG Life Vest
Designed to fit snug for your child’s safety, this Superlite provides all the quality of a Type-2 floatation device without the bulkiness or the extra weight that comes with the other PDFs. This way, your child’s mobility is enhanced, and their movements in water aren’t restrained. Plus, it’s effortless to be put on and off.
The quality of all O’Neill is unprecedented as always. This anatomically cut lightweight polyethylene foam flotation is coated with a durable polyester outer shell. Such a design makes the vest strong yet soft and comfortable. Heavy-duty 1 inch wide webbing belts with quick-release buckles allow for an adjustable fit and easy fastening.
When properly adjusted, the crotch strap will simultaneously keep your child from tugging the vest down and the collar from pushing up against their face. It is U.S. Coast Guard rated up to 50 – 90 pounds. They are recommended for approximate chest size 24 – 26 inches.
At O’Neill, they state that this infant life jacket runs small and may not fit all children in the weight range. So, please measure the child before purchase.
- This is brightly colored.
- It’s far less bulky than other models.
- It has a sturdy grab strap.
- The neck hole is a little small.
- It runs on the smaller size.
Jane, a verified customer, says:
“This was fantastic for our 5 year old who still can’t swim despite many many swim lessons. We put this on him and had him swim in the pool with the other kids that can swim. It was a game changer. Our kid was finally able to swim with all the other children in the deep end no problem.
Without this jacket, he stays on the pool steps and can’t do anything. This jacket allowed our son to enjoy the pool safely with the other kids. Great purchase. Our kid is 48″ tall and 52 pounds. The jacket made for under 90 pounds fit perfect.”
Connelly Baby Safe Nylon Life Jacket
The Connelly Baby Life Vest is designed for babies and toddlers of up to 30lbs.
This life jacket has an elasticized, fabric crotch strap for comfort with adjustable straps with side release buckles for easily securing your baby. Made of lightweight nylon over closed-cell foam, this vest features mesh drain holes and an oversized head pillow with a grab strap for added safety.
Your baby will be comfortable and happy on the boat.
- U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type II
- Adjustable straps
- Quick-release buckles
- Super soft nylon construction is softer and more comfortable on infant skin
- Collar design makes sure their head stays above water no matter what
- Side opening design for easier on and off
- May be uncomfortable for the head
- No bright color options
Logan, a verified customer, says:
“I’m so excited to use this! My first son was born in the fall so he was pretty good size by the summer when we needed to put him in a life jacket, so the neoprene infant jackets that go all the way around worked fine. However, I don’t think they did a great job for actually going in the water, more just being on the boat and being there to save him if he fell in.
This one looks so much more comfortable since it doesn’t have the pads on the back. I think it’ll be much better to get my son in the water to float around with me and I think it’s also great for smaller infants (this baby will be about 4 months old by summer).”
Stearns Infant Classic Series Vest
Simplicity is key when it comes to safety and security with life jackets. This vest has a classic design, and it is made with an array of features that makes it ideal for infants who are just starting out in the water.
As an affordable and sure choice, this toddler life vest is made of a durable nylon shell and P.E. flotation foam on the inside. It is a durable nylon shell and P.E. flotation foam on the inside, and it helps infants under 30 pounds stay afloat.
Designed with a leg strap and grab handle for extra security, you can rely on this vest in emergencies if they happen, and you can grab your child right out without worrying about anything breaking or slipping.
The head support contains flotation foam, which is super-important for little children to feel more comfortable in the water. If your child is just starting swim lessons, this vest is a great choice.
- U.S. Coast Guard-approved with nylon shell and flotation foam.
- Simple and classic vest design is easy to take on and off.
- Grab handle lets you pull baby right out of the water in emergencies.
- Sizing can be tricky when buying. This is why you have to make sure the life jacket isn’t too tight or too loose when trying out for your baby.
Chris B., a verified customer, says:
“We bought this for a six-month old so we could go out on the lake with him. We were canoeing when a sudden storm came up with such strong winds that we capsized. I think the best praise a life-vest can get is that it worked when put to the test. Of course there was a lot of crying, but the baby floated with his head above water.
The grab pull at the top was useful as he was hauled into another boat. I am very thankful he was wearing it!”
Stearns – Coleman Life Original Puddle Jumper
If your child can’t get used to their life jacket because of its bulkiness or restrictiveness, then starting with a Puddle Jumper is the solution. This way, your child will get used to the feeling of having something on for support until they transition to a toddler life vest, but will still have support in the meantime.
Its Nylon shell provides durability and lightweightness yet adds a snug fit for increased safety.
It is U.S. Coast Guard-approved (Type V with type III performance) and provides a good secure fit because it wraps around both the upper arm and around the torso.
This baby life jacket is designed to keep your child’s head well above water while keeping their torso unencumbered. Your baby will still be able to freely move their arms and legs to practice their swimming stroke.
- It’s comfortable for children to wear, so they won’t fight you to wear it.
- Tested and approved by the U.S. Coast Guard
- Meet strict requirements for use on boats, in public pools, and at water parks
- It will not float the torso so the child can maintain a natural swimming position.
- It’s not bulky.
- Colorful and playful designs make water safety fun for kids
- Safety buckle snaps in the back so kids can’t remove vests on their own (when properly tightened).
- Adjustable strap offers a secure fit to children 30 to 50 pounds and Adjustable buckle snaps in the back.
- There’s no grab strap.
- It’s not appropriate for babies under 30 pounds.
Dayana, a verified customer, says:
“He’s 10 months-old today, weighing about 8.5 kg/ 19 lbs and has decided that he is too big for a baby floatie ring. He loves the independence of the Puddle-Jumper and independently changes from feet forward to feet under to feet back, all with head out of the water.
He deliberately dips his mouth in though to taste the water! I’ve used these before for kids 15 months to 8 years, but 8 months was a first. He cries in protest if we put him in the baby ring! The Puddle Jumper gives freedom!! Big brother is the size of a 6-7 year-old and still wears the same Puddle-Jumper on a looser setting.”
STEARNS Infant Hydroprene Life Jacket
This toddler life vest is snug-fitting with a back-zipper design and a neoprene body to keep it much more trim than the other life jackets on the market. This makes it an all-around vest, even suitable for splashing in the pool and moving freely.
It has a comfortable neck flap, designed to keep your child’s head above water if they turn or fall in the water. Also, the dual crotch straps are there to keep the jacket secure without overly restricting its movement.
This is bright pink, so if you decide to go on a boat, visibility will be excellent. And since it is Type II Coast Guard approved, you are safe.
- It is brightly colored.
- U.S. Coast Guard-approved infant life jacket
- Oversized head support encourages face-up flotation
- Made with a soft Hydroprene shell and durable Crosstech flotation foam
- Leg straps and grab handle for extra safety and security
- Designed for infants weighing less than 30 pounds
- Certified for use on boats
- It’s far less bulky than other models.
- It has a sturdy grab strap.
- It will flip your baby onto their back.
- The neck hole is a little small.
- Not expandable (zipper enclosure vs. adjustable buckles).
Bettina Slate, a verified customer, says:
“Our granddaughter was around 15 lbs the first time we took her on the boat, and it fit her well, and has some room to grow. Overall I think the vest is very good, especially in the water. The design will hold the baby on his/her back, head supported out of the water. She floated right over wakes, kicking and splashing, loving it.
However, the downside is in the boat, and she must wear a life vest by law. Even though it works great in the water, while on the boat it becomes rather awkward and uncomfortable. The reason: The “floats” on the front and head rest are very bulky. While in the water and standing up, it works fine, but an infant needs to be held a lot or sit.
That is when it all pushes up on her neck. And even though the opening around the neck keeps her in perfect position in the water, it about chokes her in the boat. There is no good way holding her on your lap or sitting in a seat. And she got hot, because of the tight fit around the neck there was no air flow. It is a constant thick neck brace.
We had to loosen it up for her to somewhat get comfortable. So for safety in the water, 5 stars. But for comfort on the boat, at the best 3 stars.”
O’Neill Wake Waterski Infant USCG Vest
The second O’Neill on the list here is an excellent choice for smaller babies as it fits toddlers up to 30lbs. It has the USCG Type II designation, but I must say it is a bit bulky. Nonetheless, it provides reliable head and neck support, and overall it feels safe and secure.
This O’Neill baby flotation device design comes with two waist buckles and an adjustable crotch strap.
Although comfortable, when in the pool, I’d suggest using a baby pool float instead as it’ll give more freedom and comfort to the baby.
- Bright color options.
- U.S. Coast Guard Approved Type II PFD for babies up to 30 lbs body weight
- Comfortable nylon shell over closed-cell PVC marine foam shaped to float baby face-up
- Adjustable safety belts with durable Delrin quick-release buckles and handy grab loop on the head cushion
- Soft and comfortable with an adjustable safety belt between the legs that keeps the vest secure.
- Durable exterior, nylon panels with PVC backing. Improved ease of entry and Ultraviolet protection.
- Limited for up to 30lbs
- You will need to upsize when the toddler grows.
- This option is expensive.
John, a verified customer, says:
“This life vest is not one you want to take with you to the pool to let your kid swim around in. If that’s what you’re looking for, I would not purchase this item. It is definitely designed to keep your child from drowning if they fall in the water. All the flotation materials are in the front, forcing them to their back, then the flap in the back keeps their head above water.
The back flap also has a handle so you can pull them out. This is one to use on the boat or other places you’re afraid they may fall in and need rescuing. This design makes it difficult to maintain their balance to swim.”
Additional SAFETY notes on buying an infant life jacket
If you’re wondering whether there’s anything else you should know, based on the “Safety first” notion, there are a few additional notes I would like to point out that might make all the difference in keeping your loved one safe in the water.
The right fit.
Life jackets, although designed to keep your baby safe in the water, only work when they are correctly fitted. “Infant” or “baby” life vests are rated for babies from 8-30 pounds, which is a considerable size range that could make it challenging to find one for the smallest of babies.
While there is no law against taking babies on boats, if you’re planning on boating with your infant, you should be aware of the U.S. Coast Guard’s recommendations. Even if you aren’t in the U.S., these recommendations are based on safety concerns and are given to ensure your child’s maximum safety in the water.
Namely, as per an excerpt from the Coast Guard, the following can be found:
“The Coast Guard does not recommend taking infants onboard a recreational boat. The PFDs currently available for newborns up to 18 pounds may not provide a proper fit to perform as expected. Unless the parent can test their newborns out in a PFD sized for infants in a swimming pool, they won’t know if that device will float their child with his/her head out of the water.
Ensure the PFD you have works for your infant. Otherwise, we recommend the child not be exposed to any risk in a boat on the water.”
Babies vary widely in size, but some are well over a year before reaching the 18-pound mark. If you plan on taking your small baby on a boat, make sure you test your life jacket (also known as a personal flotation device) per the Coast Guard recommendations.
More Safety Considerations for Baby Life Vest
Professionals warn that not all babies are safe in a life vest.
Namely, some infants are too small for any life jacket. The label may say 0-30 lbs, but this is a large range for babies, so it may be challenging to find the right fit.
In general, babies under 6 months or 16 pounds are too small for a life jacket to be effective due to the extreme size of their heads in relation to their body mass. So, if your infant is a newborn, please consider waiting until the baby is a little older before taking them with you on water.
Always test your selected life vest on your baby in a safe and supervised situation. Babies, toddlers, and children should never be around water without attentive adult supervision.
Considerations for Choosing the Best Baby Life Jacket:
- A seal of approval
- Neck and head support to keep your baby’s face above water at all times
- A crotch strap to help the life vest stay in place
- A grab handle to be able to pull your baby out of the water quickly
- Faceup Floating Life Vest is particularly necessary for infants and toddlers to prevent drowning.
Baby Life Jacket Maintenance
Before in this manual, you have read about the dos and don’ts about taking care of your baby life jacket. However, there are some additional tips and advice regarding proper maintenance.
- Inflatable life jackets require more frequent maintenance than inherently buoyant life jackets.
- Check the status of the inflator every time to be sure the cartridge is installed correctly, and the equipment is in working order.
- Check for leaks every two months; inflate life jacket orally and leave it overnight to check for leaks. If it leaks, then it should be replaced.
- Immediately replace any spent CO2 cartridges with new ones. Frequent users of inflatables should check them often, primarily if used around sharp equipment like fishing gear.
- Make sure all straps and zippers are in working order – keep your equipment in serviceable condition.
- Inflatables are NOT recommended for individuals who cannot swim (unless worn inflated) and are not for use where water impact is expected, like water skiing or riding a jet ski.
- Inflatable PFDs are not meant for children under the age of 16.
Frequently asked questions – buying an infant life jacket
By now, you know the importance of life vests for children and toddlers. So, to help you further and maybe potentially answer any questions you might have, I have comprised a list of the most commonly asked questions here on the website or offline about infant life jacket selection from people who wanted to buy this security gear for their youngest family members.
1. Do I still need a baby life jacket if I am holding my baby in water?
To answer that question, I need to know where in the water you are holding your baby. If it’s feet-deep shallow water and you aren’t going into the water at all and continuously hold your baby in your arms, then your little one might not need a life vest.
However, if your baby can walk and you let them run around and play near the water, then a combination of adult supervision and life vests are your child’s best protection from accidental drowning.
For instance, if you are at the beach, you can use a baby beach tent while the baby is onshore and put the life jacket on for when they go into the water. And don’t forget a baby sun hat to protect their little face!
2. How long do infant life jackets last and work effectively?
Here there is no definitive answer since it all depends on the initial quality of the vest plus how you take care of the baby life jacket when in use and when storing it.
Firstly, your baby will likely outgrow the jacket’s weight restrictions before it wears out since babies at that age tend to grow in size pretty quickly.
However, you should never assume that the life vest is effective from season to season without prior testing in a safe and supervised situation. So, before counting on a life vest to keep your baby above water, test it with the test described above, of course, safely.
Picking the Best Infant Life Jacket: The Bottom Line
With these 7 infant life jacket picks, I believe you can feel confident, relying on them during an emergency.
All certified by the United States Coast Guard, these life vests, when within the good range and fit, will provide your little one with the utmost safety in the water.
All in all, keep in mind that there are plenty of flashy and adorable infant life jackets available today, but you shouldn’t let looks distract you from what’s truly important. And that is quality and functionality. The essential safety features are the most important thing because, in the event of an emergency, that’s all that matters.
I’d love to connect with you on my Facebook and Instagram accounts for more cool tips and recommendations on water sports gear and wetsuits.
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