Millions of parents take their children out every year to enjoy the fun of playing in the water. You are out boating with friends and put life jackets on your older kids, but you are planning on holding your baby so he doesn’t need an infant life jacket, right? No!!
Most parents would agree that one of their main concerns is for the safety of their children. No well-meaning parent would ever knowingly put their child in danger. However, drowning is the number one cause of injury-related deaths in children.
Thankfully there are life jackets to protect infants and children and reduce the number of tragic drownings. According to the CDC, the use of life jackets could potentially eliminate half the drowning deaths associated with boating.
What is a Life Jacket?
A life jacket (AKA life vest) is a personal flotation device designed for saving lives in the water. It is not meant as a swimming aid. We’ve also written about swim floaties for young kids. So, if you’re looking for a toddler or young child go there. A life jacket is meant to hold the head up out of the water. A good jacket will cause the wearer to turn onto his or her back to keep the face out of the water. However, a life vest does not eliminate the need for adult supervision! Always stay within arms’ reach of your child when they are in or near the water.
What to Look for in an Infant Life Jacket
- US Coast Guard Approval. The US Coast Guard tests different flotation devices and determines whether or not they are capable of saving a life in the water. They Coast Guard assigns a rating depending on the buoyancy of the life vest. For infants and children, it is recommended to have a rating of Type II, which means there is an inherent buoyancy of 7 pounds. Type II is for use when sailing, fishing, or boating. It is not intended for use in rough waters. There is a rating of Type I which is more buoyant than Type II, but Type I is usually only for adult life preservers. For more information on Coast Guard Approval, visit the US Coast Guard here.
- Fit. A life jacket should be able to support the weight of the person wearing it. Check the tag in the jacket to make sure the wearer is within the recommended weight restrictions. Also, the life vest needs to be secured onto the wearer. All straps should be securely tightened. For infants and young children, a strap between the legs is important because it keeps the vest from floating up and over the head.
- Material. Look for high-quality foam and a soft covering that will not irritate the skin. Also, make sure buckles, straps, and zippers are not going to rub the baby’s skin or cause discomfort. Also, if your child is sensitive or allergic to any material, make sure it is not found in the life jacket you select.
|Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket|
|Salus Bijoux Baby Vest|
|O'Neill Wake Waterski Infant USCG|
|Airhead Infant Nylon Life Vest|
|Stearns 2000013890 Infant Hydro|
Water Safety Tips
- Always supervise children around water. It takes only a few short minutes and a small amount of water for a child to drown.
- Young children should always wear a life vest or swimming aid in the water. Until a child has proven to be an excellent independent swimmer, he or she should always be protected in the water.
- Learn CPR. Do yourself a huge favor and become certified in CPR or become re-certified if you have already received training. You never know when you might need to use this life-saving skill.
- Learn how to swim yourself. As an adult, you need to know how to swim confidently yourself so you can help (or even save) your child if needed.
- Always heed posted warnings and weather alerts. You don’t want to get caught in a scary situation so do your homework and you can avoid unwanted problems.
- Never go swimming alone. This applies to adults as well as children. Teach your children always to use the buddy system when swimming.
With something as important as your baby’s safety in the water, you don’t want to buy just any infant life jacket and hope it is capable of keeping your baby safe. We have done the hard work so you don’t have to. Here are the 5 best infant life jackets.
5 Best Infant Life Jackets
Stohlquist Toddler Life Vest for Infants
This life vest is approved by the US Coast Guard for infants 8-30 pounds (type II rating). It is one of the only life jackets approved by the Coast Guard for newborns. The double collar provides extra support for the baby’s head. Attached to the collar is a grab strap, as another safety measure.
The Stohlquist Life Vest provides a comfortable fit around the neck and an adjustable crotch harness. A zipper keeps the vest secured, and a quick release buckle is adjustable to give just the right fit.
One of the most notable things about this option is that it only allows for back flotation (it causes the baby to turn onto his back). As a mom, this is a huge selling point. The nylon outer shell is not irritating to the skin. It comes in three bright colors.
Salus Bijoux Baby Vest
The winner of the Canadian Safe Boating Award, the Salus Bijoux Baby Vest is for babies 9-25 pounds. It has a 3-piece collar that supports the baby’s head safely. Unlike other similar products, the Bijoux vest has mesh that goes around the baby’s body, which secures the flotation device and is more comfortable than a regular crotch strap.
This vest allows for more movement by the baby, unlike other products that are restrictive. It is very easy to put on and take off. Unlike other life jackets, this one doesn’t have a zipper but still keeps the baby securely instead.
Note: This vest is not US Coast Guard approved. The Coast Guard only approves life vests that have a capacity of 30 pounds and this one only rates to 25 pounds. We still highly recommend the Salus
Bijoux, even above most of the Coast Guard approved vests for non-boating use.
O’Neill Wake Waterski Infant USCG Vest
This is another life jacket approved by the US Coast Guard for infants 30 pounds and under (type II rating). It has a lightweight nylon outer shell which will not irritate a baby’s skin, and it doesn’t ride up.
An adjustable safety belt, zipper, and dual safety buckles ensure that the baby is secure in the O’Neill Wake Waterski Vest. The headrest can double as flotation as well as a pillow for naps on the boat or the shore. This comes in two different bright colors.
Airhead Classic Infant Life Vest
The Airhead Classic Infant Life Vest is for infants under 30 pounds. It is made of buoyant foam covered in a UV resistant polyester shell. Three straps with buckles go around the waist, and a strap fastens between the legs to keep the vest in place.
Attached to the headrest is a grab strap, which allows you to pull the baby out of the water easily if needed. The Airhead Classic comes in several different colors and designs. It is approved by the US Coast Guard as a type II buoyancy rating. We do not recommend this for younger and smaller infants under 15 pounds.
Stearns 2000013890 Infant Hydro PFD
This is another infant life jacket approved by the US Coast Guard for infants 15-30 pounds (type II). One nice feature is that it has a zipper on the back instead of the front so the baby’s neck and chin don’t get irritated. It also has buckles on the shoulders. The two adjustable leg straps and front strap ensure a proper fit and keep it from riding up.
The large head support on this life jacket keeps the baby floating on his back and with his face out of the water. Attached to the head support is a rescue handle. The Infant Hydro PFD is made with high-quality flotation foam and a soft Hydroprene cover. The bright color makes it easy to see your child if he does end up in the water.
As a mom, you want to protect your children from every possible danger. Enjoy the fun of the water without the worry by choosing a good life vest and following water safety rules. Although all of the options on this list are good, we most highly recommend the Stohlquist Toddler Life Vest for Infants and the Salus Bijoux Baby Vest. Although the Bijoux is not approved by the US Coast Guard, we feel it has proven itself and is an excellent option which will keep your baby safe in and around the water. For more information on water safety visit the Red Cross Water Safety Page. For more information on how to choose a life jacket you can visit the USCG.