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
The Salus Bijoux Baby Vest
The Salus Bijoux Baby Vest is meant for the smallest babies on the water—those who weigh between 9 and 25 pounds. This vest is super lightweight with a mesh back, which means that you can cradle your infant in your arms or move them around without a bulky life jacket getting in the way. Because the vest is more comfortable than most, you’re more likely to keep it on baby, even when they’re napping or fussy, which increases their safety on the water. One note: this vest isn't SCG or Transport Canada approved since there are currently no testing standard to certify PFDs for kids under 20 pounds.
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.
Stearns Heads-Up Infant Life Vest
We all want our babies to be safe on the water, but some of us like every extra bit of precaution. If that’s you, you’ll love the Stearns Heads-Up Infant Vest, designed for babies up to 30 pounds. The large head rest is meant to make sure that baby turns face-up in the water, so that they’ll be able to breath even if they’re not able to turn themselves. That’s the biggest reassurance, but there are also smaller safety features: the prominent handle makes it easy to scoop baby up quickly and the bright green colors makes them easy to spot in the water.
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.
Overton's Infant Vest
This vest is both simple, yet packed with helpful features for safety-conscious parents. It's designed for babies up to 30 pounds (which actually is a pretty impressive weight range when you think about it), and has an oversized collar for better head control. Plus, the convenient grab strap makes it easy for you to rescue your little one in the event of an emergency. You'll get one waist and shoulder strap so you don't have to fumble with a million straps and the vest is USCG approved type II.
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.
West Marine Runabout Life Jacket
While most infant jackets fit up to 30 pounds, the West Marine Runabout Life Jacket fits anyone under 50 pounds, significantly increasing the time you’ll be able to use it for. If you’re only an occasional boater looking for a life jacket that can last a few seasons, this is a great, affordable option. The jacket has a looser fit, although chest and crotch straps ensure it will stay on your baby in an emergency.
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.
Liquid Force Dream Infant CGA Vest Navy
This Coast Guard-appproved life jacket is suitable for all types of water activities and can fit infants and toddlers up to 30 pounds. it's made of lightweight Flex-Span fabric that's specially made to be both soft and fast-drying, two features important for kids who will want to keep playing all day. What we love most about this vest is its clean back design that features tangle free belts and a 3rd buckle. You'll also get a grab rescue handle and a zippered front closure.
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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