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The Best Baby Life Jackets

With the warm weather comes all the fun of water play. It can be so refreshing and relaxing to take the family to the pool, lake, or beach. But, being near water with the kids also brings the need to be prepared and safe at all times. Safety is absolutely paramount, especially when it comes to little ones who do not yet know water safety!

One of the most important safety items you will need to outfit your family with is a quality, coast guard approved infant life jacket. It can be particularly challenging to find a comfortable and effective life jacket for the littlest one in the family. 

After comparing and reviewing many options for baby life jackets, I have compiled a list to help you find the best baby life jacket for your little one.

The Top 6 Best Baby Life JacketsWhy It's BestMom Rating
Stohlquist Waterware Infant PFD 8-30 lbsGreat head support for the littlest of babies, not bulky, high quality♥♥♥♥♥
O'Neill Infant Superlite USCG Life VestAlways keeps baby's face out of water, flips baby to the back/face up to prevent drowning♥♥♥♥
Airhead Infant Nylon Life VestTop grab handle, foam collar for additional head and neck support♥♥♥♥
Stearns Classic Series Infant VestCoast guard approved budget-friendly option♥♥♥♥♥
Mustang Survival MV3250 255 Lil’ Legends 100 VestShaped, segmented head pillow♥♥♥♥♥
Full Throttle Infant Baby Safe VestUnique shape gives awesome head support♥♥♥♥♥

Stohlquist Unisex Nemo Infant Life Jacket

Image of the Stohlquist Infant PFD 8-30 lbs, Yellow/Blue

The Stohlquist Unisex Nemo Infant Life Jacket is my top pick for our best baby life jacket list.  It is comfortable and, of course, it’s certified by the United States Coast Guard.  The V-shape design in the front helps the infant life jacket stay in place and not in your baby’s face. For additional peace of mind, the crotch strap helps prevent the life vest from slipping over your baby’s head if the other straps are not tightly secured enough.

One of the main reasons this option stands out as one of the best life jackets for infants is that it has two foams specifically for your baby’s neck support.  A few other notable details on the Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket are the crotch strap to secure the jacket in place, a quick-release buckle and a convenient grab handle. Other experienced moms also note that this life jacket properly fits their babies as young as eight weeks old likely due to the additional foam padding that supports the smallest of babies. It fits infants from eight to thirty pounds and comes in six stylish highly visible color patterns.

O’Neill Wake Waterski Infant USCG Life Vest

Image of the O'Neill Infant Superlite USCG Life Vest, Pacific/Yellow/Black/Yellow, 0-30 lbs

This O’Neill life jacket is designed to quickly flip your baby on his or her back so to keep your baby’s face out of the water and prevent drowning if there is ever an accident. A few other safety features are the helpful handle strap at the head of the life vest and the bright pink or yellow color designs to help with quick location.

It is designed with babies and toddlers under thirty pounds in mind but some reviewers said that this life jacket was a bit bulky and did not fit their small infants well. A few parents also noted that the safety design to flip the baby over on its back makes it difficult for a toddler who may be trying to learn to swim or play in the water. But, it is an incredible safety feature for your baby.

You should be able to get a lot of life out of this life jacket with the adjustable buckle and dual-fasten zipper because you will be able to customize the needed size and proper fit for your child as he or she grows.

Many reviewers agree that their babies found this life jacket to be quite comfortable at least for a while playing in the water because of v-neck design that is a bit more spacious cut around the neck opening as compared to the Stohlquist life jacket.

Airhead Infant Nylon Life Vest

Image of the Airhead Infant Nylon Life Vest - Blue

The Airhead Infant Nylon Life Vest is rated for infants from fifteen to thirty pounds and comes in five different design options including several cute cartoon designs. The bright yellow and blue design seems to be the most highly visible option in my opinion. The adjustable buckle straps are helpful so that you can tighten to the right fit for your baby’s size.

As required by the United States Coast Guard for this type of infant life jacket, it also has a grab strap in the event you might need to pull your child from the water quickly and easily.  One of my favorite features is the foam collar that offers additional head and neck support for your baby not only in water but also on dry land.

Stearns Classic Series Infant Life Vest

Image of the Stearns Classic Series Infant Vest

The Stearns Infant Classic is Coast Guard approved which means it comes with all the typical features of an infant vest like a crotch strap as well as padding behind the head to keep your baby’s neck and head safe. The design is high quality and the price point is great for many families.

Some reviews say that this is not the most comfortable life vest for some children because it can tend to touch your baby’s face. Yet, the thick padding that is above and behind the neck keeps your baby’s head safely out of the water.  It is ideally designed for infants weighing less than thirty pounds.

The specific option is similar to the O’Neil life vest option on our list as it is designed to keep the baby floating on his or her back with the head above water. This is great to prevent accidental drowning. Some parents say it is difficult to teach your little one to swim with this type of life vest and it is perfectly intended for protecting your baby while boating and not necessarily floating vertically in the pool. If not actively learning to swim, it is great to introduce little ones to the water safely. It’s not a great toddler life jacket because of the shape.

Mustang Survival Lil’ Legends 100 Flotation Vest

Image of the Mustang Survival MV3250 255 Lil' Legends 100 Vest White/Green Infant

The Mustang Survival brand is known for making life jackets and even immersion suits for the Coast Guard and NASA for almost fifty years. Recently they redesigned the Lil’ Legends 100 life vest for infants with a breathable mess and in additional colors.  It not only available for your infants but also for your older children and teenagers. The infant version is ideally designed for babies no more than twenty pounds.

The main reason it made our list is the shaped and segmented head pillow. It is specifically designed to cradle your baby’s head to help prevent water immersion. It also keeps your baby’s head from rolling sideways into the water. Additionally, it has a large collar with good head support, a crotch strap, and a cutaway neck to keep your little one comfortable. The grab handle is also more substantial than other life vests.

Keep in mind that it is at a much higher price point when compared to the budget-friendly option on our best baby life jacket list.

It may be slightly bulkier than the Stohlquist Nemo on our list but the quality is top notch and will not disappoint safety-conscious parents.

Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Vest

Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Life Jacket

This baby life jacket has a really unique upside-down teardrop shape. The Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Vest is specifically designed to help your baby stay on their back. It keeps their head in the center of the life vest, up above water, while the rest of their body floats underneath the vest and in the water. This infant life vest works well for babies under 30 pounds. It’s a type II Coast Guard approved vest, so it’ll keep you legal while boating or doing other activities around the water.

The collar on this is oversized and does a great job in supporting the back of your baby’s head. There is an adjustable buckle strap on the side of the collar, right by baby’s neck. This makes getting your infant in and out a lot easier. Another perk is that the elasticized bottom strap isn’t just a skinny nylon strap, it’s like a thicker fabric strap that saddles in between baby’s legs and across their back. There’s a grab strap at the top of the collar if needed.

To get baby in and out, you just unbuckle the neck strap, unbuckle the chest strap, and stick baby inside the vest. Then close up the straps and get them as tight as is comfortable, and you are good to go! Many smaller babies will find this vest design to be a lot more comfortable than other choices.

I think the price is just right for a baby product with this sort of lifespan. Older babies (9 months+) with more mobility will definitely not like this life vest because it limits how much your baby could move around.  Like many life vests, this has the annoying tendency to slide up and stay right around baby’s chin and mouth, but proper fitting of the life vest should help minimize this.

Safety Consideration for the Best Baby Life Vest

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource warns that not all babies are safe in a life vest. They write:

                Some infants are too small for any life jacket, even though the label may say 0-30 lbs. In general, babies under 6 months or 16 pounds are too small for a life jacket to be effective due to the extreme size of their head in relation to their body mass. If your infant is newborn, please consider waiting until the baby is a little older before taking them boating.

Always test your selected life vest on your baby in a safe and supervised situation. Babies, toddlers, and children should never be around water without attentive adult supervision.

Considerations for Choosing the Best Baby Life Jacket

  • United States Coast Guard seal of approval
  • Neck and head support to keep your baby’s face above water at all times
  • A crotch strap to help the life vest stay in place
  • A grab handle to be able to quickly pull your baby out of the water
  • Proper fit is necessary so that the vest is not too loose. Your baby can slip too far down into the water if not tight enough. To test the fit on your baby, pull your little up by the vest shoulders to be sure his or her chin and ears will not slip out.
  • Faceup Floating Life Vest is particularly necessary for infants and toddlers to prevent drowning.

FAQ’S about Life Jackets for Babies

If I am holding my baby, do I need to provide a life jacket?

Drowning deaths are highest among children from infant to four years old. Adult supervision and life vests are your child’s best protection from accidental drowning.

“Every day, about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.”

If you are at the beach, you can use a baby beach tent while baby is on shore, and put the life jacket on for when they go into the water. And don’t forget a baby sun hat to protect their little face!

How long will an infant life jacket work effectively?

Honestly, it depends on how you take care of the life vest. More than likely, your child will outgrow the weight restrictions before it wears out. Before counting on a life vest to keep your baby above water, test it with your little one in a safe and supervised situation. Never assume the life vest is effective from season to season.

If you find your infant has outgrown the life vest, try Puddle Jumper Floatation Devices as a toddler life jacket. They’re awesome!

Conclusion for the Best Infant Life Jacket

I like each of these options that made our Best Baby Life Jacket list. Each one is certified by the United States Coast Guard so you can rest easy. You must make sure the fit is right for your baby even if weight requirements are met.

Overall, my top pick was the Stohlquist Infant PFD 8-30 lbs because parents confidently use it safely on small infants as young as eight weeks while some of the others on our list work for babies who need to be a little older and weigh a little more.

Have a blast this summer with your little one in the water! This is your only summer with him or her as a baby! Enjoy it!

Amy Sylvestre
Amy Sylvestre
Amy is a writer, mom, and southerner living in the suburbs of Chicago. She has also worked for several large non-profit organizations. Amy is married to her hunky pilot husband, and they have two sons, Graham and Hudson. Graham is a hilarious, talkative, four and half year old. After a strong fight with congenital heart disease, Hudson passed away at eight months old. Amy is also in the process of growing her family through adoption.

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