Best Infant Life Jacket (Babies And Toddlers Too!)
When you’re taking young children out on the water, it is important that they wear life jackets and in most cases it’s the law. But finding a suitable one may not always be easy.
We know you want to keep your kids as safe as possible, so to help you find the best infant life jacket we’ve put together some information on what to look for, along with a few of our recommended PFDs.
Quick Answer: The best one is the Stohlquist Toddler
9 Best Life Jackets For Infants, Toddlers And Babies
1: Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket (best overall)
This Stohlquist toddler life jacket is a US Coast Guard approved Type II PFD that is made for infants weighing between 8 and 30 pounds. This means it can be an ideal life jacket for both babies and toddlers.
It is designed to be lightweight and durable, with polyester and nylon exterior fabric and soft foam inside.
One of the main features of this life jacket is the dual support collar. This helps to provide additional support for your baby’s head when in the water and help to keep their faces out of the water, without forcing their heads forward on dry land.
The PFD features a zippered front closure and an adjustable chest strap with a safety buckle closure, to prevent the vest riding up. There are also waist straps at either side that can be adjusted for a more secure fit.
The crotch strap features a buckle closure at the back, allowing you to adjust the fit to suit the height of your child. For added comfort, there is a small back panel that helps to keep the vest in place, which can give support and minimize discomfort.
The grab handle strap is also designed to stay open while in the water, which can make grabbing it a little easier.
2: O’Neill Infant Superlite USCG Life Vest (best extra light vest)
The O’Neill Infant Superlight life vest is a lightweight life jacket that is created for babies and infants up to 30 pounds. It comes in a choice of blue and yellow or turquoise and pink, making it more fun for kids to wear but still bright for visibility.
It is made from durable coated polyester and lightweight foam for buoyancy. The buoyancy pillow at the top is designed to support your baby’s head while helping to keep them face-up for floating. The two-piece pillow design also adds comfort, meaning your baby’s head shouldn’t be forced forward.
This life jacket has closed sides for added comfort and increased buoyancy but the back is designed for minimal bulk and features only the lightweight fabric.
It has a zipper front closure for convenience and there are dual chest straps that can be adjusted to fit snugly around your little one, with quick-release buckle closures at the front.
A crotch strap helps to keep the PFD comfortably in place, with a buckle closure on the front of the vest. There is also a grab handle strap at the top as an extra safety feature.
3: Stearns Hydro Infant PFD
This Stearns Hydro Infant PFD is a lightweight US Coast Guard approved Type II PFD designed for infants weighing up to 30 pounds.
It is made from soft and lightweight Hydroprene fabric that has antimicrobial properties to help prevent mold, mildew and odors. This also means it can be quick to dry.
The life jacket is designed to be easy to put on an infant and benefits from a zipper closure at the back for a more secure fit and added comfort. The PFD goes on one arm at a time and then the soft material wraps around your baby’s back where you can zip it up.
Video: Stearns Hydroprene Infant Life Jacket
There is a small strap at the neck that you can secure with the covered buckle. For a correct fit, there are two leg straps that can be easily adjusted and they can both be secured at the back using the buckles.
The head pillow that is crafted to sit behind your baby’s head provides additional flotation and support while in the water. The rest of the buoyancy foam is at the front of the life jacket, which can make it more comfortable with less bulk at the back. This can also help to force face-up flotation.
4: Stearns Puddle Jumper Hydroprene Infant Life Jacket
The Stearns Puddle Jumper Hydroprene PFD is a US Coast Guard approved life vest that is designed for babies and toddlers up to 30 pounds. It features multicolored fabric and a cartoon design to encourage kids to wear it.
It is made from soft Hydroprene material, which is lightweight, flexible and durable, and it features Crosstech foam for buoyancy. The foam is positioned at the front of the PFD and there is a foam buoyancy pillow at the top to provide head support and encourage face-up flotation.
The back of the life jacket is made from comfortable Hydroprene material that fits like a suit with a zip closure at the back. There are two adjustable leg straps that buckle at the back to help keep the vest in place.
To make it easier for you to put on a baby, the foam head pillow opens at the side, so once your baby’s head is in, you can secure it around their neck using the neck strap and buckle. For added safety, the neck buckle is covered with webbing to help stop it from opening.
There is also a grab handle on the top of the life jacket so that you can easily lift your child out of the water.
5: O’Brien Baby-Safe Infant Life Vest
The O’Brien Baby-Safe Infant life vest is designed for babies and infants up to 30 pounds. Because of its design it can be an ideal option for smaller babies, including newborns.
It is made from a polyester Spandex material that is designed to be soft, flexible and lightweight. It features foam flotation at the front and behind the head to help keep your baby afloat and face-up in the water.
The life vest features a soft, stretchy material at the back, which is put on almost like a swimsuit, so that the material also doubles as a crotch strap. This can make it easier when fitting the life vest to a baby.
The waist strap allows you to tighten the life jacket for a snug but comfortable fit around your infant, with a buckle closure for added security.
There is also an adjustable strap with a buckle at the neck so that you can tighten the foam pillow section around your baby’s head and neck, while making sure the life jacket won’t ride up above their face.
There is a small strap loop at the top of the life vest, which could be used as a small grab handle but it may not be sufficient enough to rely on in an emergency situation.
6: Gnar Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex Life Vest
This Gnar Kwik-Dry Neolite Flex life jacket is a Type II US Coast Guard approved life jacket that is designed for infants weighing between 15 and 30 pounds. This can make it a good choice for babies and toddlers but may not be suitable for small babies and newborns.
The life vest is made from neoprene with NeoLite Kwik-Dry technology that can help the PFD feel lightweight, soft and easy to move in. It also features 200 denier polyester in the fabric to add durability.
For a snug fit, there is a durable zippered closure at the front. This can make it easier to do the buckles while holding the life jacket in place. There is an adjustable waist strap and a separate adjustable crotch strap, both with quick release buckles that secure at the front.
For added safety for infants, there is a head rest at the top that aims to support your baby’s head and help to keep them face up in the water.
It also features a convenient grab handle for easier rescues and has closed sides for increased comfort and protection.
The bright yellow webbing straps help increase visibility, along with the vibrant multicolored fabric on the vest.
7: Jet Pilot Infant USCG Approved Life Vest
This Jet Pilot Infant USCG Approved PFD comes in a bright yellow color for high visibility and features a zip front closure for added comfort and an improved fit.
The life jacket is designed for infants up to 30 pounds and features adjustable dual waist straps and a crotch strap for added support and to help the jacket to stay in place while worn. The front zipper adds extra security and can make it easier to put on and take off.
This Jet Pilot life vest is a Type II US Coast Guard approved PFD that features neoprene fabric for added comfort. It has closed sides for wraparound buoyancy and benefits from having improved buoyancy at the top that helps to protect your baby’s head. This pillow section is also built to encourage your baby to remain face up in the water, while helping to hold their head above the waterline.
Another useful feature of this life jacket is the handy grab strap at the top of the PFD. This can make it easier to rescue your child from the water if they fall in.
8: Stearns Heads-Up Infant Vest
The Stearns Heads-Up Infant Vest is a Type II US Coast Guard approved life jacket that is designed for infants under 30 pounds. This can make it a good option for babies and toddlers to wear for various water activities.
It comes in a bright green color with reflective material which can make it easier to see both in water and while they’re on deck.
This Stearns life jacket features adjustable dual chest straps with buckle closures for a secure fit. There is also a soft Hydroprene material on the crotch strap, which can make it more comfortable, as well as adding additional security when it comes to fitting.
It’s made from durable polyester and nylon, with PE flotation foam to provide buoyancy. Another feature found on this PFD is the additional float that sits behind the head, helping to force face-up flotation, which can be useful on infant life jackets. There is also a grab strap for easy retrieval.
This life jacket is designed to be comfortable for kids to wear, whether they’re getting used to the water at the beach or lake, or joining you on a paddling adventure. It has the benefit of closed sides to help prevent straps rubbing and to increase buoyancy, and it also has enough room for kids to move their arms freely.
9: Flowt All Sport Infant Life Vest (best budget infant PFD)
This Flowt All Sport Infant life vest is a US Coast Guard approved Type II PFD. It comes in a selection of bright colors that are designed to appeal to kids, as well as increase visibility.
It has a low price tag, making it a great budget option.
This life jacket is designed for kids up to 50 pounds and could be a good choice for kayaking or canoeing.
It features adjustable chest and waist straps, as well as a leg strap, so that you can secure it comfortably around your child. The life jacket has closed sides, which can provide additional buoyancy, as well as providing a soft cushion for the straps.
It is made from durable 200 denier polyester which also helps to give the PFD a lightweight feel so that kids can still play comfortably.
The Flowt life vest benefits from having a buoyancy pillow at the top, which is designed to help keep your child’s head out of the water. The grab strap on the top is also a useful feature, allowing you to quickly pull your child out of the water if necessary.
Why A PFD For Your Little One Is So Important
A PFD (Personal Flotation Device) is designed to save lives. Making sure your child wears one when on the water is extremely important, as it can prevent them from drowning.
Not only can a life jacket help to save your child’s life, it’s the law that your infant wears a life jacket while on a moving vessel (unless they are in an enclosed cabin).
Buyer’s Guide: How To Choose A PFD
Life jackets are generally rated by type. There are five types but only some of them are suitable to be worn by infants.
A Type I life jacket provides the most flotation and is designed to turn most people face-up in the water. These are inherently buoyant PFDs that are usually designed for rough water and open seas.
A Type II life jacket can be ideal for inland waters, for activities such as sailing or day cruising. These types provide a good level of buoyancy but are not recommended for rough waters. They are designed to turn some people face-up.
Type III PFDs are generally less bulky than Type I and Type II styles but can be less buoyant in a rescue situation. These are generally designed for canoeing and kayaking, or other supervised activities.
Infant life jackets will usually be Type II.
U.S. Coast Guard Certification
The US Coast Guard is the government department that controls marine laws and approves life jackets to meet federal regulations.
Infants are required by law to wear a USCG approved life jacket while they are on moving vessels. If your child wears a life jacket that doesn’t state on it that it’s USCG approved, this can mean it doesn’t meet regulations, which could result in a fine.
Fitting & Size
Life jackets for children are usually rated by weight rather than chest size. The infant sizes tend to be rated for children weighing up to 30 pounds.
Some infant PFDs can be suitable for very young babies as well as toddlers, although this could depend on the style and the level of adjustment for fitting very small babies.
A life jacket should fit snugly around your little one and shouldn’t rise up above their ears when it’s fitted correctly. Usually on infant life jackets there will be a crotch strap which can help to prevent this from happening. A crotch strap can often be adjusted to let you alter the height of the life vest; it also helps to keep it from twisting or moving out of place.
While the life vest should be snug, it shouldn’t be too tight. The straps and zippered sections should fit comfortably. Remember to consider the weight of your child and that the weight ratings are there for safety and include weights up to and including the maximum weight range.
If your child weighs 30 pounds, for example, they should still be able to wear infant life jackets rated for up to 30 pounds. A larger size may not be able to keep them afloat.
The Grab Handle
A grab handle can be an important part of an infant life jacket and most infant PFDs do have them as standard. This handle or strap is designed to let you grab it quickly in an emergency.
It is usually located at the top of the life vest.
Most infant PFDs will have support pillows at the top that sit behind the head. This is so that your little one’s head will be supported while they’re in the water. It can help to elevate the head and keep their faces out of the water.
Many of them are designed to force a face-up flotation, which can be vital on infant life jackets.
Infant life jackets are only available as inherently buoyant varieties and are not available in inflatable options. An inherently buoyant life jacket is designed to provide instant flotation and usually features a foam interior.
An infant life jacket will have a minimum buoyancy rating of 7 pounds, which is enough to keep a 30 pound infant afloat.
Bright colored materials can be useful on any life jacket, as this can make it easier to see in a rescue situation. As well as increasing visibility, bright colors can be attractive to kids, which could be helpful in getting your child to wear their PFD.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Life Jackets Safe For Toddlers?
Yes, as long as they are the correct size and are designed for your toddler’s weight.
At What Age Can A Baby Wear A Life Jacket?
Babies of all ages can wear a life jacket as long as the life jacket fits them securely and is approved for their weight.
Do Infant Life Jackets Expire?
Yes, infant life jackets will expire in the same way that adult ones will, roughly after 10 years with good care. However, your infant will likely grow out of the life jacket before it expires.
Are Infant PFDs Good For Kayaks?
Yes, infant PFDs are recommended for kayaking. It’s the law for infants to wear USCG approved PFDs while in a kayak.
If you’re looking for the best infant PFD, the Stohlquist Toddler life jacket can be a great choice. It’s made from durable materials and features several points of adjustment for a comfortable and secure fit. The dual pillow feature also makes it a clear winner in terms of head support.
Alternatively, another good choice can be the O’Neill Infant Superlit PFD, with its lightweight fabric and two-piece head support for added comfort.
Remember to think about the weight of your little one, as this can help to narrow down your options for a good fit. A grab handle and crotch straps can be essential features to look for, as well as being USCG approved.
If you’re heading out on the water, wearing a life jacket can be vital for your infant. As well as being the law, it could help to save your child’s life.