boating with baby

Is it safe to take an infant on a boat?

Some people are very nervous about taking a baby on a boat. For active boaters (myself included), having an infant baby should not stop you from boating.

In fact, it is almost easier to boat with a baby then it is to boat with young toddlers that are climbing and running around. And if you have a boat that you sleep on, there is nothing better than the gentle rocking of a boat to help a baby sleep.

With proper safety precautions, there is no reason why you can’t continue boating with a baby.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety states that an infant should not travel on a boat until they weigh at least 18 pounds and can wear a personal floatation device (PFD).

Most babies hit that weight between 4 and 11 months old. However, I have found several infant life jackets that fit very well – intended for under 30 lbs. An infant PFD has a built in “heads up” cushion with a loop handle at the top, along with a strap that goes between the legs (to keep the jacket from sliding up). Infant life jackets are intended to fit snug and do a great job of raising the infant’s head out of the water. To feel extra safe about how they work, you can practice holding the baby in a pool while wearing the infant life jacket.

Safe Boating with an Infant Baby

I think the key phrase is “should not travel” as opposed to “should not go on” a boat with an infant. Our infant daughter was on our boat at 2 ½ weeks old. We found a great infant life jacket that is safe and Coast Guard approved for infants less than 30 lbs. Our baby wore it every time we got on and off the boat. She also wore the safety life jacket for the few short boat rides we took while she was very young. (Note: we had a 30′ cabin crusier boat that was very smooth and handles wakes pretty well.)
It is, however, very important not to place an infant in a car seat or other non-floating device when cruising in a boat. It’s just not safe.

Safely Boarding a Boat with a Baby

Another thing to be careful about with an infant on a boat, is getting on and off the boat with the baby safely. Some people pass the baby to someone already on the boat (while wearing an infant’s life vest of course) while others prefer to not pass the baby over the edge of the water onto the boat. Personally, I always felt safer holding tightly onto our baby and climbing onto the side of the boat without risking handing off the baby to someone else while getting onto the boat.

While on the boat deck, an infant baby should always be accompanied by an adult. Proper shading and sun protection is also very important with the gentle and sensitive skin of infant babies. These are good rules for a baby or child of any age.

We kept boat rides to a minimum and took it easy our baby’s first few months on the water. But we went to our boat EVERY weekend and had a very enjoyable – and safe – summer with our new boat baby.

Best of all, the fresh air and views of nature are very enjoyable for a baby. Babies love to take in the environment around them – and boating offers a great nature experience with many things to entertain them with water, birds, ducks, fish, cool breezes and more. This Searock Marine-Grade Baby Seat & Swing (Fits Babies 6-36 Months) is a new boating accessory that is great for taking in the views while docked or anchored out. The natural movement of a boat combined with the views around the boat creates an instant nap opportunity!


Bed Options for a Newborn Infant or Baby Sleeping on a Boat

Here are my recommendations for safe and compact infant co-sleepers and baby travel beds that are perfect for a baby sleeping on board a boat.

Read more: Bed Options for a Newborn Infant or Baby Sleeping on a Boat

UPDATE:
As our baby got a bit older (2-3 years old), we found that Stearns Kids Puddle Jumper Jackets were a great life jacket alternative. They are Coast Guard approved and give kids confidence to learn how to swim faster. We use it while anchored out or at the pool.

>>Check out Boater Life Boat Shop on Amazon for more options for Baby / Infant Life Jackets.

boater babyBoaterKids.com

For more tips on boating with baby, be sure to check out BoaterKids.com!

You’ll find more helpful articles on boating with baby and a great selection of infant and baby life jackets.

Got older boat kids? We have them covered too on BoaterKids.com.

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Diane Seltzer

Founder & Editor at My Boat Life
Diane is the founder of MyBoatLife.com as well as the boating lifestyle site for kids BoaterKids.com. She is also active in the boating industry, serving as the marketing director for a marine sunshade product, SureShade, and founder of Marine Marketing Tools, a collaborative site for sharing marine marketing best practices. Diane is also the author of the children's book The Amazing Adventures of Boat Girl.

3 Comments

    1. Gayle, although I am focused on water safety and the use of life jackets (as does most of the boating industry) I would definitely agree that parents should exercise common-sense caution on boats with newborn babies in terms of noise (boat engines) and fast/sudden movements just as they would on land. Thanks for mentioning this important issue!

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