What are the Best Infant Life Jackets? This Complete Guide With Reviews has all the Answers

All parents want to keep their kids safe. Most countries require by law that children must wear life jackets on a boat. That said, accidents with babies usually happen in shallow water. So to be safe, infants should always wear life vests near the water. Keep reading to learn how to choose the best infant life jacket. 


Basics of Best Infant Life Jackets: Quick Overview For Busy Parents 

  • Child life jacket approvals are based on the child's weight. This means that you need to know the weight of your kid before buying the appropriate vest​
  • Make sure that the life vest fits appropriately and turns your baby face-up when in the water. I've explained the process thoroughly in the following paragraphs, so if you wish to know more, just scroll down
  • Other important features are: Bright color for visibility, a crotch strap & a grab strap
  • The safest life jackets are equipped with USCG labels. If you live in Europe, then look for MED/SOLAS  or ISO 12402-2 to 4 patches
  • Remember that nothing substitutes a proper supervision

DadProgress top Pick for Infants and Toddlers

I reviewed five top infant life jackets (you can see the reviews by scrolling down). They’re all excellent products, but Stoholquist in my favorite as it’s less bulky than other options. If you live in the U.S or Canada, then this infant life vest meets all the requirements.

The Best Infant Life Jacket: What Should You Look For?

Swimming aid vs Life Jacket 

First, you want to make sure that you're buying a baby life jacket. Easy, right? The problem is, the terminology can be quite confusing as many swimming aids look safe.

When I talk about a life jacket for an infant, then I mean a buoyant vest designed to keep your baby's head above water

Swimming aid vs life jacket (first is ideal for beach fun and second suitable for boating): Two pictures: Picture of a toddler with a swimming aid on the left and mommy with a toddler wearing a life jacket on a boat on the right

On the left picture, a child is wearing a swimming aid. This doesn't keep her little head above the water if something unexpected happens, and so they are not safe for boating. 

Swimming aids are also missing other crucial elements that a baby life jacket on the second picture has. They don't have a crotch strap nor a crab strap. 

This all said, swimming aids are excellent for a fun day on the beach.

The Weight Limit

When you’re looking for the best baby life jacket, then you should first weigh your kid. Child's weight tells you which life vest to buy.

Look for Safety Standards to Make Sure That the Infant Life Jacket is Safe

The most important characteristic of a life jacket is that it meets U.S.C.G (U.S Coast Guard) safety standards

In Europe you should make sure that it meets ISO 12402-2-4 standards. MED/SOLAS ( Marine Equipment Directive/Convention of Safety of Life at Sea) patch is also a clear mark on safety.

Toddler playing in a toy boat with a boat

There are many other standards and directives out there which can be good alternatives. If deciding to go with these you should always do the reading though.

If the infant life jacket meets the above-mentioned standards then you should be all good. Double checking the basics is never a bad idea though (especially after 2014...keep reading). 

3 Things That all Best Infant Life Jackets Should Have

The best infant life jacket should be colorful so it's easier to spot your baby. All proper life jackets should have a crotch strap so the vest doesn't slip off. Another essential feature is a grab strap. A grab strap allows you to quickly get a good hold of the vest (and your little one) if he falls into the water.

Inflatable life jackets are not suitable for babies and not discussed in this article.

Here's one great video provided by APS where all the important aspects are explained.

How to Test if an Infant Life Jacket Fits?

Most infant life jackets have a large weight range, thus it's unlikely that these jackets can provide a secure fit for all babies.

1) Make sure the crotch strap is attached and is snug but not too tight.

2) Pick your child up by the shoulders of the life jacket. Your infant should not slip through.

It's never a bad idea to test the life vest in a pool before you actually go boating. At the very least you should do it if your infant is smaller than 18 pounds (8 kg).

Do Infant Life Jackets Expire?

Inflatable life vests are not safe for infants. All baby life jackets use foam and this material doesn't expire. That said, if you have a very old vest, it's safer to buy a new one because even foam can lose its buoyancy.

More Information on Safety Standards if You're Interested (or scroll to Reviews)

Safety Standard in U.S

Personal floating devices (PFD) keep a wearer afloat. This term has become to imply a USCG certified equipment. So swimming aids and tractor inner tubes aren't actually included 🙂

Two babies on swimming rings without life jackets

According to the USCG, there are three types of „life jackets.“ Only type I and with reservation type II would be considered proper life jackets:

„Offshore Life Jacket“ (type I): A proper life jacket, floats you the best and turns the wearer face-up. Has all the recommended safety features.

"Near-shore Buoyant Vest" (type II): Usually turns wearers face-up. They are less bulky than type I life jackets. Most experts agree that they are the best life jackets for infants.

"Flotation Aid" (type III): There are many styles and are most comfortable. As they don’t turn the wearer face-up I wouldn’t recommend them for a baby.

In 2014 USCG decided to remove references to type codes to make way for "new consensus standards that more effectively convey safety information." I'm referring to these old standards because they are still used in literature. Old standards help to explain the difference between a proper life jacket and a flotation aid. 

Soon you'll probably see labels like Level 50, Level 70, Level 100, Level 150 and Level 275 on life jackets.

These changes help to compare the life vests to European ISO standard. In the future, we can hopefully legally use the same life jackets all around the world.

Safety Standards in Europe

In Europe you could simply choose a life jacket with a MED wheel mark. It means that very high standards of SOLAS are met but they are very bulky. It's a good idea to have one in a boat though.

Solas

For general use, I suggest you buy something more comfortable for your baby. Manufacturers in Europe have to use different "easy to remember" markings like EN ISO 12402-2 to 4.  You should double check that the product has everything needed to make the best life jacket for your baby.


5 of the Best Infant Life Jackets Reviewed

USCG approved (old type II) life jacket, has everything you'd expect from a proper life vest: it's colorful, has a flotation collar, crotch strap, a grab strap and it allows good mobility.

Weight limit: Up to 30lb 

PROS

CONS

  • Segmented head pillow and shaped mobility panels allow for unrestricted movement
  • The back side is designed to be breathable
  • Lil Legends 100 is available three sizes. The infant life jacket is suitable for infants up to 30 pounds (~14 kg) and chest up to 20 inches (~51 cm)
  • Mustang Survival is a Canadian firm founded in 1967. It has made equipment for Navy Seals, offshore Ocean racers, and even NASA. The gear is made to perform well
  • It has a two-year manufacturer warranty
  • The small size of the vest may come as a surprise. Take measurements before buying

USCG approved (old type II) life jacket, has everything you'd expect from a proper life vest: it's colorful, has a flotation collar, crotch strap and a grab strap.

Weight limit: Up to 30lb 

PROS

CONS

  • Stearns was founded about 100 years ago in Minnesota. It’s now owned by Coleman. Stearns has been a significant player in PFD market since the 70’s
  • This is usually one of the cheapest options out there
  • It has a one-year manufacturer warranty
  • The padding is quite bulky. At the moment there are Type II options available that allow better mobility

USCG approved (old type II) life jacket, has everything you'd expect from a proper life vest: it's colorful, has a flotation collar, crotch strap and a grab strap.

Weight limit: Up to 30lb

PROS

CONS

  • Secondary collar is good for extra neck support
  • You can choose between 5 different colors
  • This life jacket is available in two sizes. The infant life jacket is suitable for babies up to 30 pounds (~14 kg)
  • Jim Stohlquist founded Stohlquist in 1977 in Colorado. This family firm has been doing well-performing equipment ever since
  • Stohlquist life jackets are warranted to the original purchaser for the reasonable lifetime of the product against manufacturing defects. Fit issues should be resolved before buying though
  • -

USCG approved (old type II) life jacket, has everything you'd expect from a proper life vest: it's colorful, has a flotation collar, fabric leg strap and a grab strap

Weight limit: Up To 30lb 

PROS

CONS

  • An oversized collar provides added head support
  • Full Throttle is marketed under Absolute Outdoors which was founded in 2009. Absolute Outdoors in located in Minnesota
  • It has a one-year manufacturer warranty
  • The oversized collar is good for protection. Yet, it can also be uncomfortable as it's quite bulky

USCG approved (old type II) life jacket, has everything you'd expect from a proper life vest: it's colorful, has a flotation collar, fabric leg strap and a grab strap.

Weight limit: Up To 30lb (for older children you can buy the Child Vest) 

PROS

CONS

  • There's an extra float above the neck to encourage face-up flotation
  • The crotch strap is soft to reduce chafing
  • It has a one-year manufacturer warranty
  • -

To Sum Up

We have discussed what attributes the best infant life jackets should have. I hope this article helps you to find the best infant life vest out there and safely have fun with your family.

The winner for DadProgress is Stohlquist Infant PFD "Nemo" (Check The Latest Price On Amazon) because it has everything you'd expect from an baby life vest, it's less bulky than many competitors and the secondary collar is a good idea. The terms of the warranty are also excellent.

In conclusion, I'd like to note that children may not listen to us, but they'll always imitate us. Lead by example and always wear yourself a life vest when boating.

If you’re searching for summer gear that’ll keep your little one safe, you may also be interested in the best baby sunglasses.

Boating is a fun activity for families, but if you take your infant or toddler with you, buy a life jacket for your baby boy or girl. Click to read my quick guide on safest and best infant life vests