As soon as the temperature warms, I try to be on the water as much as possible, from boating to kayaking to just sitting by the pool. So, I was still pregnant when I started researching life jackets for babies and my daughter was just two weeks old when I brought her for her first day of boating on the lake.
What I discovered was that finding life jackets for babies—especially those under 20 pounds—can be challenging. You want to be sure baby is safe, but also comfortable, and stay in place. So whether you need a baby lifejacket for the pool or for boating, here’s what you should consider.
In this article:
How to Choose a Baby Life Jacket
The most important thing you can do to ensure your baby is safe on the water is to make sure that they have a life jacket that fits correctly. Infant life jackets are meant to support kids who weigh less than 33 pounds. After that, you’ll want to opt for a child-sized life jacket, which supports up to 55 pounds.
If you’re looking for a baby life jacket for boating, you’ll want one that’s approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. A type II PFD (personal flotation device) is meant to keep children floating in relatively calm waters. And while the Coast Guard approves life jackets for babies, it notes that infant life jackets may not work for the tiniest babies under 18 pounds. So, if you’re going to be taking to the water with a tiny infant be sure to check the fit of the life jacket in a pool ahead of time.
Now that you have the right size, you’ll want to focus on features:
- Head support. Many life jackets for babies have support that can hold the baby’s head out of the water if they’re unable to do so themselves.
- Leg straps. Another important safety feature is a strap that goes beneath the legs, making sure baby can’t slip out of the life jacket.
- Stay-in-place comfort. A life jacket only works when it’s being worn, so you want one that your child won’t mind wearing. For many kids, that means choosing a thinner jacket.
Truly Mama’s Top Picks for Baby Life Jacket
This life vest was the winner of the Canadian Safe Boating Award (CASB) for Best New Safety Product, which helps provide you with the peace of mind that safety is the top priority. Like most life jackets, you will have to hand wash this life jacket and be careful not to dry it in the dryer.
- For babies 9 – 25 pounds (chest size 12 to 18 inches around)
- Adjustable mesh
- Webbing harness system for security, venting, and comfort
- Three piece collar design with additional flotation on sides to cradle baby’s head in center of collar for security and comfort
- Dry-Lex Aerospacer liner for breathability, temperature control, drainage, and baby’s comfort
Keep in mind:
There are two drawbacks to the Salus Bijoux Baby Vest. First, it’s expensive. However, if you’re a family that boats frequently or spends lots of time near the pool, the extra expense is worth it to avoid frustrations with less comfortable life jackets.
The other downside is that this jacket isn’t U.S. Coast Guard approved, since the Coast Guard doesn’t test jackets for babies weighing less than 20 pounds. However, the jacket was recognized by the Canadian Safe Boating Council as a top new product.
It’s helpful to have an infant vest that’s specially-designed for infants under 30 pounds, which is exactly what this vest provides. Plus, it features two adjustable chest straps and crotch strap to ensure a tight fit. It’s made of durable nylon so it will last through whatever fun your family will have this summer.
- Encourages face-up flotation
- 1 inch wide straps
- Rescue handle
Keep in mind:
While the Stearns Heads-Up Infant Vest is great from a safety perspective, it’s fairly bulky, so smaller infants in particular might find it bothersome or hot. However, if your baby will tolerate it, this jacket is a great, affordable safety option.
I chose Overton’s Infant Vest for my own daughters because its streamlined design looked safe but comfortable, with light and soft material. I particularly loved the fabric crotch strap, which my daughters seemed to tolerate more than rope-textured straps. The shoulder clip made the jacket easy to put on and secure, while keeping the front panel slim, which was a better fit for my lean baby.
- Waist belt
- Elasticized fabric
- Oversized collar
- Grab strap
- 26″ vest length
Keep in mind:
Unfortunately, the jacket’s advantage was also its drawback: while the snug fit set my mind at ease knowing it wouldn’t come off in an emergency, my daughter became frustrated with the life jacket after an hour or so.
It’s recommended that you use this life jacket for water activities such as sailing or fishing. What makes this product really stand out is that it’s made of lightweight polyethylene foam so it provides superior buoyancy and a secure fit. Plus, it features a 210 denier nylon shell so it dries very quickly (no one wants to sit around in a wet life jacket all day, right?)
- Headrest encourages face-up in the water
- Leg strap to help keep the life jacket out of your face
- Large armholes
- Lightweight foam
Keep in mind:
While the West Marine Runabout Life Jacket will last a long time, it will be a bit bulky for smaller babies. If you opt for this jacket, make sure it’s tight enough to support your baby in the water.
This life jacket hits all of the criteria you’re looking for in a life jacket for an infant: you can use it no matter what type of water activity your family is enjoying. You’ll get a comfortable material that will dry quickly. Plus, it’s good for infants up to 30 pounds. We’re big fans of the zippered front closure for ease of use and the hidden belts so your little one won’t fight them.
- Waist and crotch straps
- 3rd buckle
- Rescue grab handle
- Squeeze-style side-release buckles
- US Coast Guard approved
Keep in mind:
There’s not much to dislike about this life vest, but if you have a little one that’s sensitive to zippers, that might be a concern for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my baby need a lifejacket if I’m holding them in the pool?
Babies should wear a lifejacket for the pool in case you suddenly lose hold of them. In addition, getting used to a lifejacket in the pool can help a baby stay calm in case of a boating emergency.
At what age does my baby need to wear a life jacket?
Any baby on the water should wear a lifejacket, and it is required that any children under 13 wear a life jacket while boating. However, the U.S. Coast Guard doesn’t test life jackets for babies that weight less than 20 pounds
What’s the difference between a life jacket and a life vest for babies?
The terms life jacket and life vest are used interchangeably. If you’re boating, your child should have a coast-guard approved personal floatation device (PFD) that is approved for a specific use. For calm water boating, a type II PFD is recommended.
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