A life jacket is essential when a baby is in or around water. Whether you need it for occasional visits to the pool or regular trips on the boat, you’ll need the best life jacket for your baby.
In this MomJunction post, we give you the complete guide to buying an infant life jacket, plus a list of the 11 best life jackets for babies.
Why Should A Baby Wear A Life Jacket?
Babies need to wear a life jacket in and around water bodies to prevent the risk of drowning. Children between the ages of one to four years are the most vulnerable and have the highest drowning rates (1).
Younger infants have a further risk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants can drown in as little as a couple of inches of water (2). You may avoid these risks with a life jacket. Keep reading to know why a life jacket is a good investment.
What Are The Benefits Of Wearing Life Jackets?
An infant life jacket can:
- Keep the baby afloat: The foremost benefit of a life jacket is that it keeps the baby floating in the water. A life jacket is made from materials that can stay afloat while keeping the person above water.
- Can keep head upwards: Most life jackets are designed such that they can turn the wearer to a face-up direction. It keeps the face always above water so that the baby can breathe. It is most useful in crucial situations where the wearer has lost consciousness.
- Make the baby visible: The bright colors of the jacket keep the baby visible in the water. Bright colors are also easy to spot during an emergency.
There are various types of life jacket available for babies.
Types Of Life Jacket
- Type 1: It offers the best buoyancy and can turn the wearer to the face-up position. Their high levels of safety levels make them ideal for the ocean and rough water use. Also called offshore life jacket, type 1 life jackets are available only in a couple of sizes – one for adults and one for children. It is highly unlikely to find this jacket in infant and toddler sizes.
- Type 2: Type 2 life jackets are designed for use in calm and inland waters, which are places with a high likelihood of quick rescue. It can also turn the wearer’s face upwards, but not necessarily always. Type 2 life jackets are available in a variety of sizes, including for infants and toddlers.
- Type 3: This type of jacket is only used for water sports in calm, inland water. Unlike the previous types of life jackets, it does not flip the wearer into a face-up position and thus not very helpful when the wearer is unconscious. Multiple size options are available in this type.
Infant and toddler life jackets come under type 2 and 3. Floatation rings worn by children around arms and waist are not jackets, and hence do not get counted as a type of life jacket. It is essential to pick a life jacket depending on the usage.
How To Choose The Right Life Jacket For A Baby?
Consider the following points when shopping for a life jacket for an infant:
- Place of use: The type of water body you plan to visit with the baby should determine whether you select type two or three. If you are visiting an inland body with calm water, but still vast (like a river or pond), then it is advisable to use type 2. The baby can wear type 3 jacket when playing around in a swimming pool or any other small water body.
- Weight limit: There is a limit to the amount of weight a life jacket can keep afloat. It is essential to check the weight limit of the life jacket before putting it on to your baby or toddler.
- Jacket’s color: Pick jackets that have bright and fluorescent colors. You can choose from bright orange, fluorescent yellow, or even bright red. These colors are easy to see in the blue-green background of water.
- Adequate harness straps: The life jacket should securely go around the baby’s body. There should be a sufficient number of straps that will prevent the jacket from accidentally falling off in the water.
- Grab handle: An external grab handle will allow you to quickly catch hold of the baby. It is particularly useful during emergencies.
- Approval seals: Choose life jackets that have approval from reliable agencies such as the US Coast Guard since they would have been rigorously tested for their safety.
The next section contains a list of the best life jackets that you must consider for your little one.
11 Best Life Jackets For Babies
1. Salus Bijoux Baby Vest
If your baby tends to get hot with other life jackets, then this jacket from Salus offers a good amount of temperature control.
- The jacket has a large collar, which is designed to keep the baby’s head centered and above water.
- Salus lines this infant life jacket with material that allows ventilation and thus keeps the baby cool.
- The back of the jacket has a mesh that makes it comfortable for a baby to lie down in a floating water bed.
- You can pick this life jacket in five bright colors for easy visibility in the water.
- The life jacket is not certified by the US Coast Guard.
- A few parents found it tricky to put the jacket on.
2. Stohlquist Infant and Toddler Life Jacket
Stohlquist’s life jacket offers adequate support, thus making it quite ideal for young infants.
- This life jacket has a double collar. The thicker collar at the back offers a lot of neck support, which is an especially useful feature for young infants who do not have very strong neck muscles.
- The jacket has both a zipper and buckle straps, which together provide the best fit for the child. A crotch strap at the bottom ensures a snug fit.
- The grab handle is large and strong. You can even use the grab handle to hang the jacket for drying.
- The life jacket is available in a bright yellow color, which is easy to spot.
- It is approved by the US Coast Guard.
- The double collar may come across as thick and tight around the neck for young infants.
- The jacket itself can be large and bulky for babies less than six months old.
3. O’Neill Infant Superlite Life Vest
This baby life jacket from O’Neill is a lightweight option but provides ample protection.
- The exterior shell is made from polyester for durability. The inside of the jacket is filled with polyethylene foam for good buoyancy.
- The jacket is soft and comfortable for the baby to wear for an extended duration.
- A crotch strap keeps the jacket in place while a sturdy grab handle adds extra safety.
- Some parents found the jacket to be bulky and also felt that its fitting is a bit stiff.
4. O’Neill Wake Waterski Infant Vest
The infant life jacket provides a snug fit along with excellent safety in the water.
- There are dual straps on the waist, along with a crotch strap to provide a secure fit.
- A large grab handle on the top is easy to reach for an adult while the baby is afloat in the water.
- The large, flap-shaped collar keeps the head above water.
- Some parents found the jacket so big that it almost came to the baby’s chin and made the little one feel uncomfortable.
5. Stearns Infant Classic Series Vest
This life jacket from Stearns has multiple features for the maximum protection of the baby.
- The life jacket comes with an approval seal of the US Coast Guard, so you can be sure that it has been rigorously tested.
- The exterior shell is made from nylon, which makes it durable. The inside of the jacket is filled with polyethylene foam, which offers excellent buoyancy.
- A large grab handle lets you grab hold of the baby easily.
- The life jacket may come across as too large and heavy for young infants.
- A few parents noted that the jacket is unpredictable when it comes to rolling the baby, and some time may roll the baby face down. However, it can be due to the improper fitting of the jacket.
6. Airhead Infant Nylon Life Jacket
The simple design of this life jacket makes it easy to put it on to the baby while on the go.
- The large foam collar provides extensive support to the baby’s head when they are in the water.
- The life jacket is made from polyester that provides excellent durability.
- The adjustable crotch straps keep the jacket in place when the baby plays in water.
- The life jacket can be a bit big for young babies.
7. Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Vest
The fit of the life jacket can be customized, thanks to its design and the way you put it on.
- There is a buckled strap on the shoulder that allows you to tighten or loosen the collar, and adjust the jacket as the baby grows older.
- A single waist strap allows a snug fit and also prevents the infant jacket from sliding upwards in water.
- The large, flap-like collar keeps the baby’s head above water and afloat. The US Coast Guard approves the jacket.
- The jacket can be big for young babies and may slide upwards in such cases.
- Oversized jackets can make the baby uncomfortable.
8. Connelly Babysafe Nylon Vest
This is a secure infant life jacket that offers a decent amount of adjustability.
- The shoulder straps allow you to adjust the collar easily. It increases the life of the jacket since you can use it even as the baby grows.
- A strap on the waist allows adjusting the jacket around the torso. Optimal adjustment prevents the jacket from slipping off.
- The collar is positioned high and is well-padded. It ensures adequate support for the baby’s neck while floating in the water.
- The jacket gets US Coast Guard seal of approval.
- The life jacket may be a bit large for young babies.
9. Titop Professional Babies’ Swim Vest
The Titop life jacket keeps the baby afloat and is also easily visible while in the water.
- The bright fluorescent yellow of this infant life jacket provides maximum visibility, which is an ideal thing for emergencies.
- The zipper at the front makes it very easy to put on the jacket and remove it.
- The jacket is well-cushioned to keep the baby comfortable.
- A zipper is not adjustable like a strap. Therefore, a baby may quickly grow out of it.
- The jacket is not approved by the US Coast Guard.
10. Oceans7 Infant Life Jacket
This life vest from Oceans7 is easy for the parent to strap on while also being comfortable for the baby.
- The inside of the life jacket is filled with polyethylene foam for buoyancy while the shell is made from durable nylon.
- There are two straps with buckle at the front that keep the jacket secure even when the baby is playing in the water.
- The US Coast Guard approves the life jacket.
- Parents feel that the jacket is too small even for young infants. A few parents noticed that the baby seemed to be uncomfortable wearing the jacket.
11. Stearns Infant Hydro Life Jacket
This infant life jacket is designed to be compact and easy-to-carry when you’re traveling long distances.
- A zipper at the back of the jacket makes it easy to put on the life jacket and also remove it.
- Two leg straps allow you to secure the life jacket correctly.
- The large collar provides support to the neck and also keeps the head upwards when the baby is in water.
- The neck of the jacket may be small for young babies. The zipper limits the expandability of the jacket.
The next section contains a few tips on the safe and correct use of life jackets.
Tips For Infant Life Jacket Use
- Double check all the straps: Before getting into the water, check if all the buckles are tightly secured. Tug the straps and the zipper a little to know if they are set in place properly. A good fit is essential to prevent the jacket from accidentally coming off in the water.
- Check for wear and tear: A tear or any other damage can compromise its safety. It may reduce the buoyancy of the life jacket. So periodically inspect the jacket for any presence of damage.
- Stop use if tight: If the jacket becomes tight and uncomfortable to the baby, then it is quite likely the little one has outgrown it. Stop using it since a tight, uncomfortable jacket can constrict the neck and chest.
Infant life jackets let you make your little one a part of your family outing at the local pool or the beach. It is always best to have the baby in a life jacket even if you plan to spend only a little time in the water. Safety is paramount when a baby or a toddler is around water. Infant life jackets help take care of safety while you and your baby can focus on having fun.
Which infant life jacket did you pick for your baby? Tell us about them in the comments section below.
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- Unintentional Drowning: Get the Facts; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Infant Water Safety; American Academy of Pediatrics
- Life Jackets and Life Preservers; American Academy of Pediatrics
- The Different Types Of Life Jackets; Utah State Parks