(I may earn a small commission on the products mentioned in this post.)
You’ve decided to get some fresh air so you’re taking your newborn on a boat for a day of sailing. Or maybe you’ll just hang out at the beach. Either way, it’s important you’re prepared.
Infants can be tricky to move around with. They are completely dependent on your for comfort, food, and water. They even have trouble letting you know how they feel.
There are a number of things you should be aware of if you’re spending a day on or near the ocean, but no greater threat is water. Even if you’re planning on staying on land, an infant life jacket is a wise purchase to make to ensure your baby is protected.
In this article, we’ll review the best infant life jackets for your newborn and I’ll mention a few tips you should know when taking your baby to the beach.
You’ll know most of them because they’re common sense but a reminder never hurts.
Infant Threats On A Beach Or Boat
Let’s briefly review a few of the threats an infant could face while on a boat or beach. You’ll protect your baby, however, you could be at risk of these threats too.
Don’t be overwhelmed; threats are everywhere, not just near the water. If you’re vigilant, I’m sure you and your family will be fine.
- Other people (especially if they’re playing sports or alcohol is involved
Of these threats, the water and sun will likely be most important. Bringing your own shade will solve the sun problem and an infant life jacket will help with the water.
Can I Bring An Infant In The Ocean Or On A Boat
I’ve heard people ask if it’s legal to bring an infant on a boat. It’s a reasonable question to ask. So are these questions:
- Will people think you’re a bad mother or father?
- What if there’s an emergency?
In general, it’s wise to wait for 6-12 months before being real active with your baby. Although the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that babies weighing under 18 lbs should not travel by boat, there’s no set rule.
Moving around with an infant isn’t easy so it’s in most parent’s best interest to wait a while before heading out on the boat.
Sure, there are things that could go wrong on a boat – but problems could arise in most everyday activities (car, park, grocery store etc.). If you’re a competent swimmer, you might be confident about taking your infant on a boat after a few weeks.
What To Look For In An Infant Life Jacket
Let’s take a look at the different types of jackets and the specifics you should look for when buying an infant life jacket.
There are 3 types of life jackets:
- Type 1 life jackets are made for rough waters and high seas. These are used with cargo ships and boats that require rescues.
- Type 2 life jackets are commonly used in harbors, bays, and areas near shore. They work great for people who can’t swim because they keep people face up. These are perfect for infants because they lack the understanding or strength to keep their head afloat.
- Type 3 are generic jackets made use for near the shore. They are comfy and look good but don’t have the support that the Type 2 has.
There are a few specifics you should be aware of when looking for an infant life jacket.
- Does it have a floatation collar
- Certified USCG and type of life vest
- Straps for the body and crotch
- Handles for adults to grab when in the water
- Test in the pool to make sure it works
- Does it look cute (obviously NOT something that’s important)
6 Best Infant Life Jackets For The Beach, Sailing, and Boating
#1 O’Neill Wake Water Ski Infant USCG Vest
O’Neill is a well known and well-respected water sports brand. Who knew they made a great looking infant life jacket?
This life jacket is approved by the USCG with a Type 2 rating (to keep people upright). It will accommodate babies up to 30 lbs and uses a nylon shell over PVC marine foam.
Notice the foam around and above the head – it will keep your baby face up which is exactly what you want.
- USCG approved (Type 2)
- Up to 30 lbs
- Nylon shell and PVC marine foam
- Grap loops on the back
- Buckles and straps on the side and between legs
- 2 color choices (yellow and pink)
There are 2 click-to-fasten belts on the sides and one safety belt that goes up between the legs (this will ensure the jacket stays on, even in rough water (check O’Neill infant life jacket on Amazon).
I like the company and I like the look of this life jacket. The reviews are superb with comments ranging from “perfect for a 4-month-old” to “well-made and designed”. A few comments mention that this is not for swimming; it’s for life-saving emergencies!
#2 Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket USCG Type 2
You don’t need to be familiar with Shohlquist to see that they offer a high-quality infant life jacket. Stohlquist is based out of Colorado and are partners with AquaLung (a famous scuba company).
They’re a great company with products that can be trusted.
These life jackets come in few color options and all feature the ever-important flotation collar to keep your baby afloat.
- USCG Type 2
- Infants 8-30 lbs
- 5 color options
- Front zipper and 2 side buckles
- Grab handle in the rear
- Adjustable crotch to keep life jacket secure
This life jacket weighs 1 lb and the reviews are solid. Reviewers have wisely tested the jacket in the pool to see if keeps their baby’s head above water – it does (check Stohlquist infant life jacket on Amazon).
It’s been effective for 7 week-old and one customer used it for a second summer. Due to the secure fit near the zipper, it may cause some chaffing on the stomach.
#3 Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Vest
Full Throttle makes a good looking life jacket for babies. I love the look and design, which doesn’t sacrifice safety.
This infant life jacket is USCG approved and Type 2 (same as the others). It’s designed in a teardrop shape that I believe will fit an infant well.
- Oversized head pillow for comfort and flotation
- Elastic leg strap
- Lightwieght, durable foam
- Rear grab strap
- Unique design compared to other options (also uses buckles)
I really like this life jacket. There are only two color options, pink and orange. It’s best for babies under 30 lbs and, according to reviews, the elastic strap between the legs acts more like a saddle than a strap (that’s a good thing in my book) (check Full Throttle life jacket on Amazon).
It comes at an inexpensive price too. Consider this life jacket if you’re near shore or also need it for the pool. I prefer the more established brands for serious boating or sailing.
#4 Hyperlite Infant Life Jacket (Type 2)
Hyperlite offers another good-looking life jacket for people with style in mind (we always want out babies to look good right?). It’s USCG approved with a Type 2 certification.
It features one side strap and one adjustable strap through the legs. There’s also a front zipper to keep the jacket secure across the chest (check Hyperlite life jacket on Amazon).
- Fashionable (blue, orange, white, black)
- USCG certified Type 2
- Flexible and durable (shell is “biolite” – a soft fabric)
- 100% product warranty
- Hinged foam for flexibility and different body types
- Face up floating (up to 30 lbs)
A number of comments mention it was perfect for ages 3-6 months but should fit a larger range of ages up to 30 lbs. I like the look of this life jacket and the certification would put my mind at ease as a parent – be sure to practice with it in the pool before heading to the boat.
The price is reasonable for an item that saves lives. I like it!
#5 Stearns Infant Classic Series Vest
These Stearns vests aren’t lacking quality but they are quite plain compared to our last review. These life vests come in blue and red colors and are more functional than stylish.
They also come at a good price – around 20 dollars.
- USGC approved design (does not specify Type 2)
- Great for safety and for an infants first time in the water
- Durable nylon shell with flotation foam
- Let strap, grab handle and one lateral belt/buckle
- Infants up to 30 lbs
The more I consider this option the more I find it bare-bones. There’s only one lateral strap, while the #1 and #2 option have 2 side belts. This option does, however, zip up in the front (check Stearns infant series on Amazon)
I’m slightly concerned that the description doesn’t say Type 2 life jacket. A few comments mention that it actually caused their baby to go face first in the water (this is slightly confusing because it does feature a flotation collar behind the head).
Be sure before you purchase this option.
General Rules For Wearing A Life Jacket On A Boat
Your infant will be required by law to wear a life jacket. The U.S. Coast Guard requires (by national law) that children under 13 years of age, on a moving boat, must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.
And not just any life jacket; one that fits appropriately.
If States have stricter laws then they are superseded by the Coast Guard, however, the Coast Guard will enforce the law in States that do not have strong lifejacket laws.
It’s wide for kids and adult over 13 to wear life jackets and boats must have the jackets available to its passengers.
Concerns With Infant Life Jackets
The main concern with infant life jackets is the fit. Let’s be real, infants are so small that finding a life jacket that fits properly won’t be easy.
In addition, the neck strength of babies isn’t strong, so the life jacket will need to have structural support (usually in the form of a floatation collar).
A life jacket that doesn’t fit well could affect breathing. If it’s too loose, it could also come off.
Wearing a life jacket is important for people of all ages, however, it’s the law for children under 13 years old. An infant requires more attention and a more specific life jacket than an older child who can swim.
Infants not only lack the ability to stay afloat, they also lack the strength to hold their head above water. Remember, they won’t be able to communicate with you in case of an emergency.
Luckily, there are U.S. Coast Guard approved infant life jackets that can keep a babies head above water. It’s important to find an infant life jacket that fits well and works properly.
Be prepared to test the life jacket in a pool or large bathtub before trusting it in the open water.
In this article, I mentioned a few of the best infant life jacket options. I hope one or more met your expectations.
If you have specifics questions about your infant going near the ocean or on a boat, I strongly suggest speaking with a medical professional.
As always, thanks for reading another Beach Life blog post. Leave us a comment and let us know which life jacket you chose?