infant life jackets boating

Selecting a Safety Life Jacket or PFD for Infants on a Boat

Keeping a young baby or infant safe on a boat or around water should be a number one priority for boaters. Although life jackets are necessary for young kids too, they are especially important for an infant or baby that has no swimming skills at all.

The important thing about selecting an infant life jacket or safety vest is that it fits the child correctly for their size. And there are many Coast Guard approved infant life jackets to choose from that are appropriately sized for the latest addition to your crew.

Choosing Coast Guard Approved Infant Life Jackets

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety, infants should not “travel on a boat” until they weigh at least 15 pounds and they should always wear a personal floatation device (PFD). But a baby can be on a boat at any age you feel comfortable boating with a baby. Just be sure that a baby wears a proper infant life jacket when on or near the water: boating, canoeing, rafting or any water sport activity.

An infant life vest or jacket should fit properly and qualify as a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) for boating safety. Youth life jackets come in size ranges noted as: “less than 30 lbs”, “30-50 lbs”, “less than 50 lbs” and “50-90 lbs”. Infant life jackets are typically marked as “infant” with a weight of less than 30 lbs or 15-30 lbs and listed as a Type II life jacket.
If you boat in Canada, U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets have a higher safety standard than the Canadian Coast Guard so you are safe to buy a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket for use in Canada.

Features in Infant Life Jackets for a Baby

Infant life jackets are intended to fit snugly like a vest. They should feature a built-in “heads up” cushion (to keep an infant’s head afloat in the water) and a loop handle on top of the head cushion (to easily pull a baby out of the water).

Another important safety feature is a leg strap that wraps through the crotch and legs and then buckles onto the vest. This safety strap keeps the vest from sliding up and off of the infant when floating in the water and is actually a requirement for young kids and toddler life jackets.

Most infant life jackets are vinyl, although you can find some in the new neoprene material. The new neoprene fabric styles are softer and may feel more comfortable, but they can be very snug to put on an infant and cost much more. Vinyl styles will dry quickly and typically have a less bulky fit for infants.


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Diane Seltzer

Founder & Editor at My Boat Life
Diane is the founder of as well as the boating lifestyle site for kids 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.

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