It’s believed that most babies have an innate swimming or diving reflex that allows them to swim underwater starting from birth to six months of age.
The infant swimming reflex is a theory, though. The US Coast Guards recommend babies weigh eighteen pounds before going on a boat. Whether your infant can or can’t swim like the Nirvana baby, you want them to be safe when they go in the water.
Investing in the best infant life jacket for your baby can ensure that if you and your family are spending time by the tool or lakeside, your baby will be protected from drowning.
Keep reading to learn all about the best life jackets for infants!
Benefits of Getting Your Infant in the Water
The thought of putting a tiny infant in water is terrifying to some parents, and with good reason. Babies lack the motor skills to be competent swimmers. It will take time and monitoring, but you can train your infant to enjoy being in the water.
Exposing them to being in the water now gets them acclimated to future outdoors activities. It will help shed fear that can build up by staying on the sidelines. Also, the sooner you get your infant in water, the sooner their swimming competence can grow. They’ll be better prepared for future aquatic adventures, which will remove some worry from their parents.
Why You Need an Infant Life Jacket
Infant life jackets can keep your baby safe in water. How?
Provides Neck and Head Support
It can take a few months for babies to gain control over their neck muscles. Many times, feeding a baby can be an exercise in dodging a flying head aiming straight for your nose. As babies learn to gain control over their movements, the best infant life jackets are built with a firm headrest to support them.
This allows them to give their necks valuable support and cut down on potential head bobbing. You don’t have to worry about them whooshing their head back and accidentally submerging themselves in the water or worse, flipping over.
Keeps Baby Face Up
Another milestone for babies is their ability to roll themselves over. It’s the gateway to them becoming mobile and a sign that you need to start keeping a more watchful eye on the little one. The best infant life jackets are designed to always keep the baby face up in the water. If your infant rolls over while splashing around, the jacket will move them face up, enabling them to keep breathing.
Scary interlude time: Drowning is one of the leading causes of deaths in children. Unlike what we see in TV and movies, it’s a very quiet act and can happen without you hearing. If your baby flips over, their face submerged in the water, it could be too late by the time you notice. Having a life jacket that can keep their face clear is vital.
The life jacket may point your baby face up, and it may provide support for their head, but things can still happen in the water. Any good infant life jacket will come with a handle sticking out of the back of the life jacket. Any adult can grab the handle and easily pull the baby to safety. It’s a quick way to keep your baby close in case the water gets too choppy, they start flailing, or you just need to reign them in.
Infant Life Jacket Fit
You want to examine certain parameters when choosing the best infant life jacket for your little one.
Baby’s Current Weight
Infants grow fast, and a side effect of that is going through clothing at a rapid pace. While it’d be nice to find a life jacket you can hold onto for years, that’s likely not the reality.
Infant life jackets are segmented by baby weight, so pick a life jacket that matches your baby’s current weight. They are adjustable so your baby can grow into them, but it’s important that it fits your baby as they are today.
Infants come in different sizes, and with different motor skills, too. Is your baby walking or just crawling? Not crawling yet? Have they begun swimming? Can they hold their head up? Check to see that your life jacket fits their mobility.
If you have a baby on the active side, you want an infant life jacket with a more contoured fit that can handle their movements. If your baby isn’t even crawling yet, but still gaining control of head movements, then ensure that your life jacket includes the added neck and head support. You know your baby best, so plan accordingly.
All right, now that we’ve covered some of the life jacket basics, let’s dig into the best infant life jackets!
6 Best Infant Life Jackets
Best Infant Life Jacket: Overall
Stohlquist Infant PFD
The Stohlquist Infant PFD provides all-around protection to your infant in the water while still letting them enjoy splashing around.
Its wraparound floatation design provides 360 support to your infant in the water and will turn them face up. The dual support collars cradle the head on both sides and give needed support to the neck, protecting their developing muscles.
While some infant life jackets we saw tend to be too tight, almost choking the baby, the Stohlquist has a great fit for small bodies. The life jacket is secured via a sturdy front zipper and a quick-release buckle. The buckle can easily pop open if you need to tend to your baby immediately. There’s also a crotch strap on the bottom which adds another layer of security.
The grab handle on the back will enable you to take hold of your infant no matter what happens. The Stohlquist Infant PFD is built for little ones up to thirty pounds, making it the best infant life jacket that can last into the toddler phase.
- Wraparound flotation keeps them face up
- Dual support collars for neck and head
- Pull handle
- Secure zipper and multiple buckles
- Snug but not too tight a fit
- Buckles can be a little cumbersome
- Neck support may irritate for infants who already have neck control
Best Infant Life Jacket: With Collar
MTI Infant PFD with Collar
If your infant is on the sensitive side, the MTI Infant PFD is one of the best infant life jackets you can purchase. It’s made with soft, conforming foam that’s easier on the skin than other brands we evaluated. The foam layer provides a comfortable fit that will make it easy for your infant to navigate in the water.
It’s designed with a collar that will firmly support a baby’s head and neck whether they’re in the water or dozing off on the boat. The collar also acts as a floatation device that will turn the baby face up in the water.
The straps across the stomach and undercarriage provide ample support to keep him or her secure in their jacket. The bright red color of the life jacket will not only be eye candy to your baby but also make them easy to spot in the water.
The grab handle in the back will give you peace of mind knowing that you can easily pull your baby to safety if need be. The MTI is made for infants under thirty pounds and will provide lots of relief to parents everywhere.
- Soft foam is easy on baby’s skin
- Collar that supports head and neck
- Turns baby face up in the water
- Bright color that’s easily spotted in water
- Buckles only, no zipper
- Doesn’t protect against the sun
- Not best for shorter babies
Best Infant Life Jacket: Puddle Jumpers
Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper Hydroprene Life Jacket
A puddle jumper is a combination infant life jacket plus swim vest. It allows them to stay afloat while practicing to swim. It can be a good option if your baby does have some swim experience.
Your infant can learn to swim, stay safe, and have a blast in this puddle jumper infant life jacket. The bright colors and fun aquatic designs will make any infant smile and flail their arms in glee. It’s something they’ll want to wear in the water, helping you avoid pushback in the form of a crying meltdown.
But when we look past the aesthetics, the Stearns life jacket has plenty to offer in the security departments, making it one of the best infant life jackets for safety. It’s approved by the US Coast Guard for infant use. The oversized headrest will easily keep their head and neck safe, and it will turn them face up in the water.
The crosstech floatation foam is incredibly durable and can withstand heavy action in the water. The soft hyproprene shell won’t chafe against your infant’s smooth skin. The straps against the chest and crotch are adjustable so you can keep the jacket snug no matter how small your infant is.
- Aesthetically pleasing to infants
- Doesn’t hinder kids learning to swim
- US Coast Guard approved
- Hyproprene shell is soft against skin
- Some parents have reported the face-up mechanism not working
- May be tight at the neck
Best Infant Life Jacket: All Purpose
Airhead Infant General Purpose Life Jacket
Don’t let the name fool you. The Airhead is a smartly designed infant life jacket that will fit your baby snugly and securely while giving them the latitude to expand their swimming skills.
It has one of the largest head and neck rests we’ve seen in the market, making it the best infant life jacket for the tiniest babies. It’s enormous and yellow and will provide all the support needed to your little one, especially if they don’t have neck strength yet.
The wide arm slots can give your baby increased mobility as they learn to swim. It’s a very easy to use infant life jacket and thanks to its adjustable straps, it’s a great fit for infants. Many parents have reported no tantrums from their kids about wearing them.
- Large head rest for extra support
- Comfortable for infants
- Increased mobility for new swimmers
- Headrest may be cumbersome for larger babies
- May be overwhelming for newborns
Best Infant Life Jacket: Lightweight
O’Neill Infant Superlite
The O’Neill is the best infant life jacket when it comes to bulkiness. It’s sleekly designed and weighs less than one pound. It’s easy to carry around and it works great for little ones. They won’t feel the strain of a heavier infant life jacket. It’s made of lightweight polyethylene foam that provides buoyancy, but is also soft and comfortable.
It’s designed to fit your baby snugly while still giving them room to maneuver around, and the two-strap system of thick, 1-inch belts can expand the jacket as they get bigger. There’s even a mesh to help better drain the jacket and keep them afloat.
- Lightweight material
- Parental grab handle
- Strong belt and buckle system
- No enlarged headrest
- Only two straps, not three like others
Best Infant Life Jacket: On a Budget
Connelly Babysafe Nylon Vest
The Connelly is ideal for the real little ones who can’t swim, and it’s under twenty-five dollars.
It’s like a life jacket cocoon, providing extra safety for immobile infants. The life jacket covers the baby completely, save for the head, in protective, buoyant foam. It has quick-release buckles and adjustable straps to keep them snug.
At the very least, it’ll make for some adorable pictures with your infant.
- Cost efficient
- Cocoon-like design keeps baby insulated from water
- Quick release buckles
- No mobility or ability to swim
- Infant can quickly grow out of it
Make a Splash With the Best Infant Life Jackets
No matter where your infant is on the swimming spectrum, there’s a life jacket that can keep them safe and help them enjoy the water. For my money, the Stohlquist is the best infant life jacket brand that will ensure your infant is comfortable and secure. Try your infant life jacket out after reading more about lake life in Minnesota!
Need some more Minnesota gear? Trust our recommendations to guide your next shopping trip!