Looking to enjoy time on the water with your little one? Finding the right infant life jacket is just as important as finding yours. The main job of the life jacket is obviously safety for the child but there are a number of options that make it easy to find one that fits correctly too! Putting a life jacket on a baby can seem like a challenging task, so we will lay out some options for you to make purchasing one as painless as possible.
Finding the right size life jacket for a child is different than how you would for an adult. Where you want to measure chest size to determine the size for an adult PFD (Personal Floatation Device), you use weight for the kiddos. You can find the sizing information on the inside of the back. Here is typically what you will see:
Infant PFDs: up to 30 pounds
Child PFDs: 30 to 50 pounds
Youth PFDs: 50 to 90 pounds
There are five different types of PFDs in total: Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV and Type V. In children’s PFDs, there are three types: Type I, Type II or Type III. Type I has the most floatation, making it the bulkiest and not ideal for a relaxing, calm boat ride. It is for rough, open waters where rescue might take awhile. For infants and smaller children that are not competent swimmers we suggest you stick with Type II because it will turn the wearer to face-up position. Type III are more comfortable but not as buoyant and will not turn the child to the face-up position.
Here are 3 main features you want to see on your child’s life jacket:
- Padded head support to help keep the child’s head above water.
- Grab handle to assist retrieving the child out of the water.
- Crotch strap to help keep the PFD from riding up.
Let’s take a closer look at our options!
1. Stohlquist Nemo PFD
This PFD is tried and true – the most popular choice for safety and comfort. The double flotation collar provides great support for the baby’s head, ensuring their mouth and nose are above surface. Additionally there is a large, sturdy grab handle, making retrieval easy and quick. The crotch strap is important to help the life jacket stay in place and stay down when the baby is in the water.
2. MTI Infant Life Vest
Another awesome Type II option for up to 30 pounds. This will turn the baby face-up within seconds because of the supportive collar. The collar has two foam blocks, creating a crease to help baby’s be where it needs to be–in the middle of the collar. Slightly bulkier around the arms, it has both a crotch strap and belly strap for a secure fit.
3. Mustang Lil’ Legends 100 PFD
This infant life jacket does not lack in features. Along with the grab handle, waist and crotch straps, it has a Cooling-Channeled interior back panel to help prevent overheating and a cranky baby, benefiting the parent and the child! This one is high on the list because of the extra support around the baby’s head, having the two side foam squares will help protect the baby’s face.
4. Speedo Infant Life Jacket
Visually, this is your most kid-happy option because of the fun, playful graphics! It still meets all Coast Guard standards, but having a brighter color is a great way to boost visibility if they are in the water. There are two crotch straps to go around each leg which helps this PFD fit more securely, but won’t make a much bigger difference than a single strap.
5. Stearns Infant Life Jacket
Here’s another infant life jacket that gets the job done! It is not known to be the most comfortable but it does meet all the requirements being Coast Guard approved and with all the features. This style also comes in many sizes so you could get matching life jackets for the whole family!
6. O’Neill Infant Life Jacket
7. Full Throttle Infant PFD
Because of the large padded head support and the low volume at the back, this would be a comfortable option if the baby is going to be laying down majority of the time. It also has a clip for the head support making it easier to put on without too much of a fight!
8. O’Brien Baby Life Vest
This is very similar to the Full Throttle option above. It is a poly/spandex material making it softer to the skin but will take slightly longer to dry. If the plan is to not let your baby get wet, this would be the better option because it is gentler on an infant’s fragile skin.
9. HO Infant Life Jacket
Another Type II, up to 30 lbs option that comes in great, bright colors and neoprene so it is softer to the skin. It is sure to be a secure fit with the zipper and the belly and crotch straps. This has the crease in the middle of the flotation collar to help baby’s head stay where it is supposed to.
10. Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper
With a zippered back and 2 leg straps, it is sure to be a snug, secure fit. Made with Hydroprene™ Material makes it lightweight and soft, great for your baby’s sensitive skin all day long. As the name suggests, this option is only for very controlled environment, like a pool.
How do I know the Life Jacket fits correctly?
It should be pretty easy to realize if the PFD is too small if it looks very uncomfortable where they are having a hard time breathing properly. If it is too small it will not be buoyant enough and therefore unsafe. To test if it is too big, raise their arms above their head and if the life jacket touches their ears or chin, it might be too big. To really tell, try lifting them by the shoulders of the jacket, and if they slip through it, it is too big.
One more test! …
In the pool or bathtub, gently place them face-down in the water. The jacket should flip them onto their back within seconds, keeping their face out of the water. If this doesn’t happen, this is not the right life jacket! It is unsafe to use for your baby, so check out a different one on the list.
Lastly, have fun making memories with your little girl or guy on the water!