Water activities are enjoyed by millions of people across the world each year. While parents wouldn’t consider taking their kids out on a boat without a life jacket, sometimes they forget that even their babies need a life vest to stay safe in and around the water. Whether or not an adult is holding a baby, that baby needs to wear a life jacket around water, especially when boating.
Safety is a major concern for parents. They will do anything to protect their children from danger. Unfortunately, more children die from drowning than from other deaths related to injury.
By putting your infant or older child in a life jacket, you are helping to protect your child and drastically reduce the risk of drowning. In fact, if life jackets were used correctly, half of all drowning deaths during boating could be avoided, according to the CDC.
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. 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.
- Type III is for recreational activities including swimming but not boating. These include swimming aids for children.
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.
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.
Top 15 Infant Life Jackets
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 15 best infant life jackets.
|Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket|
|Mustang Survival Infant Life Vest|
|Salus Bijoux Baby Vest|
|O'Neill Superlite Vest|
|O'Neill Waterski Vest|
|Stearns PFD 2000013194|
|Stearns Infant Classic Vest|
|Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper|
|Airhead Treasure Life Vest|
|Airhead Infant Life Vest|
|O'Brien Infant Life Vest|
|Full Throttle Life Vest|
|Connelly Nylon Vest|
|Speedo Infant Life Vest|
|Oceans 7 Life Jacket|
Best Life Vests for Babies and Toddlers
Stohlquist Toddler Life Vest
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.
Mustang Survival Infant Life Vest
If you are looking for a good toddler life jacket that won’t cause your baby to sweat, this is an excellent option. Unlike most other life vests, the Mustang Survival Infant Life Vest has a cooling panel in the back as well as mesh to provide ventilation. If your child will be in his life vest for an extended period, this is definitely a consideration.
This is one of my favorite options on this list. It is made of very high quality materials. The shaped head pillow makes it easier for little ones to relax comfortably. While providing excellent buoyancy, the Mustang also allows for good mobility.
This US Coast Guard-approved device is good for kids up to 30 pounds. The zipper, chest buckle, and center strap help keep your child well secured.
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 for non-boating use only.
O’Neill Superlite Vest
Made by the respected O’Neill brand, this infant life vest is USCG-approved for children who weigh less than 30 pounds. Its outer shell is made from a durable polyester fabric, while the inner flotation device is made from lightweight polyethylene. Designed to be minimally bulky, it is easy to put on and take off, and your infant can move freely despite its safely snug fit.
A behind-the-neck safety loop is easily accessible for purposes of adult supervision and intervention, if needed, while the dual heavy-duty straps and crotch strap allow for a customizable fit. And just for fun, the vest can be purchased in two different color schemes—navy and yellow, or pink and teal.
O’Neill Infant Waterski Life Vest
The O’Neill Waterski Infant Life Vest is another great option for infants and toddlers. It is a type II US Coast Guard-approved device. While the manufacturer recommends this vest for 0-30 pounds, we find it is better for kids 15-30 pounds.
This vest is excellent quality, as you would expect from the O’Neill brand. It is made of polyethylene foam and the shell is polyester, which will not cause chaffing. The zipper is heavy duty, and the quick-release buckles are sturdy but easy to open and close (for adults, not the kid wearing the jacket). A pull handle on the top makes it easy to pull your child out of the water if needed.
You will find this vest is supportive of little necks. It also keeps little heads and faces out of the water, which is a great comfort to parents.
Stearns Infant PFD
This is another infant life jacket approved by the US Coast Guard for infants up to 30 pounds (type II). With a basic style, this vest is good for infants. The adjustable leg strap and front straps 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 nylon cover. The bright color makes it easy to see your child if he does end up in the water.
Stearns Infant Classic Series Vest
This is your basic, classic life jacket for infants and toddlers. A type II device approved by the US Coast Guard for kids 15-30 pounds, it is made of buoyant polyethylene foam and has a nylon cover. This infant life jacket has a zipper as well as adjustable straps around the waist and between the legs.
Like with the other options on this list, the Stearns Infant Classic Series Vest is good at keeping kids floating on their backs rather than being tipped into the water face first. If you are looking for a basic jacket at a low price, this might be the right option for you.
Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper
USCG approved for infants up to 30 pounds, the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper might be a good option for your baby. It has a large head support as well as a grab handle. Two leg straps with separate buckles and adjustable straps help keep your child secure in this life jacket.
This is a cute choice for your little one. You can choose from green or pink, and each comes with a fun printed fish design.
There are a couple downsides to the Infant Puddle Jumper, however. It can be a bit tight around the neck, so this is best for a younger or smaller baby. If you have a chunky baby, this is probably not the best choice. Also, although Stearns claims this will promote face up flotation, it can roll kids onto their front.
Airhead Treasure Life Vest
You don’t have to sacrifice style for safety with this adorable ocean-themed life vest that is also USCG approved. Designed for infants weighing between 15 and 30 pounds, this closed-sided vest is made from soft 200-denier polyester that is UV- and stain-resistant. The inside flotation is made from lightweight polyethylene.
With a front zipper, waist belt, and crotch strap, this vest is easily adjusted to fit your child snugly to provide the safest fit. A grab handle in the back allows you to tote your child around as needed, and a headrest at the top helps to further ensure your child’s safety—and comfort—by keeping her face out of the water.
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.
O’Brien Infant Neoprene Life Vest
The O’Brien Infant Neoprene Life Vest is a US Coast Guard approved type II vest for infants and toddlers up to 30 pounds. We found that is best for kids over 15 pounds.
The inside of this vest is high quality foam, and it is covered with BioLite, a good quality breathable neoprene that won’t cause irritation to a baby’s sensitive skin. It is less bulky than some of the other options on this list and doesn’t seem to ride up when worn.
This life jacket for toddlers has a zipper closure as well as two straps secured by buckles, one strap around the waist and one strap between the legs. These straps and buckles help ensure a good fit which will keep your child safe. Another safety feature of this baby life vest is that it turns kids on their backs, which keeps their heads out of the water.
Overall, this is a good option for infants and toddlers 15-30 pounds.
Full Throttle Infant Vest
The Full Throttle Infant Vest is a US Coast Guard-approved type II flotation device for infants and toddlers up to 30 pounds. It is made of foam covered in nylon fabric. The oversized collar provides extra buoyancy, but it does make this vest bulky. It is good for infants, but for busy toddlers, this vest restricts movement (which my toddlers sure don’t like).
This vest is different from others. It has a buckle at the shoulder and one around the waist. Elastic straps go around the legs. The Full Throttle Infant Vest is easy to put on and take off.
Overall, this is a pretty good vest and is the least expensive on the list.
CWB Connelly Babysafe Nylon Vest
This option, like the others on this list, is a type II baby flotation device approved by the US Coast Guard. The style of this vest is like the style of the Full Throttle. It has 2 quick-release buckles and elastic around the legs. The Connelly is pretty restrictive of movement, which most kids don’t like.
The flotation of this product is good. It is best for infants and toddlers who weigh 15-30 pounds. If your child is skinny, this probably isn’t the best option.
This baby life vest does tend to ride up and can cause chafing.
Speedo Infant Life Vest
The fact that the US Coast Guard issued a Certificate of Approval speaks volumes about the safety, effectiveness, and reliability of this life vest. Speedo, a trusted producer of swimwear, specifically designed it to be comfortable and warm for infants weighing up to 30 pounds. With adjustable chest and leg straps, you can make sure it fits your child snuggly. Since it’s not too bulky, it won’t disrupt their play at all.
While we all want our children to be safe, it doesn’t hurt if they look cute as well! This life vest has bright colors and looks darling on kids. There are two colors/patterns to choose from. You won’t be disappointed with this infant life vest!
Oceans 7 Life Jacket
Designed for infants weighing between 8 and 30 pounds, this vest has three adjustable straps—two across the chest and one between the legs—that easily buckle and adjust for the safest, most comfortable fit. In fact, the company states that it designed the chest straps to be even longer than previous versions in order to comfortably accommodate children of all sizes.
This USCG-approved life vest is made from durable, quick-drying nylon fabric on the outside and thick, buoyant expanded polyethylene foam on the inside. And to fit the preferences of your little one, it’s available for purchase in either blue or pink.
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.
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.
If you are not boating, we also recommend 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. When boating in US waters, if you use a flotation device that is not approved by the US Coast Guard, you can be ticketed. 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. When your kids are ready teach them to swim with goggles.
At what age does a child need a life vest?
All children need to wear a life vest any time they are in or around water. Since a life vest holds a child’s head out of the water it can prevent drowning. In fact, the CDC states that half of all drowning deaths could be avoided if life jackets were worn correctly.
What are some important features in an infant life jacket?
Make sure to purchase an infant life jacket that fits well and is constructed with high-quality material. Find out the recommended weight restrictions to make sure a life jacket can support your infant properly. Remember that infants need a strap between their legs to keep the vest from going over their heads. Ensuring that the material, straps, buckles, and zippers don’t irritate the child is also important.
How important is it to use a Coast Guard approved life vest?
As water safety experts, the U.S. Coast Guard understands what makes a flotation device safe enough to save a life in the water. Through several tests they asses the buoyancy of a life vest and determine what activities it is best suited for. So when they issue a stamp of approval on a life vest, you can rest assured that it will keep your child safe.