Updated June 2022
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Buying guide for best infant life jackets

You love your baby, and you’d do anything to keep him or her safe. That means when you go out boating, your little one needs a life jacket. Apart from being smaller than child or adult life jackets, infant life jackets have special features designed to help support the baby’s head. This is crucial for children too young to sit up on their own.

You don’t want to take any chances with your baby’s safety, so it’s crucial that you understand how to select an appropriate infant life jacket before you buy one.

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A brightly colored infant life jacket is better than one that blends in with the water, because it will help you easily spot your baby in the water.

Key considerations

The two most important factors to consider are the type of life jacket and how it fits the infant.

Life jacket type

Choose an infant life jacket that’s U.S. Coast Guard-approved. This ensures that the life jacket meets safety standards and can be trusted to protect your child if he or she is tossed or falls into the water. If you intend to take your child out boating with you, the law requires that you have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for every passenger on board, and this includes infants.

Infant life jackets are usually Type II. These jackets have a head cushion or collar to help support the baby’s head and neck, and it will automatically turn them so they are facing upward in the water to help keep water out of their mouth and nose.


Infant life jackets are usually designed for children weighing between eight and 30 pounds. If your child weighs more than this, it’s time to upgrade to a child life jacket, which can usually support between 30 and 50 pounds. It’s crucial that you check the weight range ascribed to any infant life jacket you’re considering. If your child weighs more than the jacket allows, it may not be able to effectively keep them above the water.

It may be tempting to purchase a larger life jacket for your child because young children grow so quickly, but this isn’t a smart move. If a life jacket is too large, it could slip off the child when he or she hits the water, rendering it useless. The jacket should have adjustable straps so you can change the tightness, and many infant life jackets have a crotch strap as well to be sure it doesn’t slide over the infant’s head. You may also want to test the life jacket’s fit by attempting to pull it up over his or her head. It should not go over the child’s chin or ears.


While safety is the most important concern when selecting an infant life jacket, here are some other factors you ought to consider as well.


An uncomfortable life jacket will not only make your child’s time in the water unpleasant, it could also restrict their movement if the life jacket is too long for them. It could even cause chafing if a rough strap or zipper rubs against their bare skin.

It’s difficult to know exactly how your baby will feel about the life jacket before you try it, but you can read customer reviews to determine whether there are any major concerns about the fit or comfort of the life jacket. This will also give you a sense of how well the life jacket fits or if it tends to run large or small, so you can choose the correct size for your child the first time.

Grab loop

Some infant life jackets have a fabric handle at the top of the life jacket so that parents can quickly grab hold of the infant in the water. This isn’t an essential feature, but it may make it easier to rescue a child who has accidentally fallen into the water than it would be if the life jacket did not have a grab loop.


Infant life jackets, like child and adult life jackets, are usually solid colors, but there are some patterned life jackets if you prefer something a little more fun. Of course, this is a secondary concern to the comfort, fit, and security of the life jacket. But it may help you make your decision if you’re torn between two comparable life jackets.

Infant life jacket prices

Infant life jackets range in price from about $20 to $60, with most costing somewhere between $20 and $25.

A more expensive life jacket isn’t necessarily indicative of a better product. Most life jackets today are constructed with similar materials and in a similar way to meet safety standards, so there isn’t a huge difference amongst them.

Base your decision on how comfortable and well-fitting the life jacket is rather than on cost.


  • Always test the fit of your infant’s life jacket before taking them into the water.

  • Check with your state laws to see whether children and infants are required to wear a life jacket while on a boat. Even if they’re not, it’s smart to put them in a life jacket anyway.

  • Reassess the fit of the infant’s life jacket periodically. When it grows too small, purchase a larger life jacket.

  • Be sure that the life jacket is securely buckled and tightened every time before the infant goes into the water.

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Every time you place the life jacket on your infant, check to be sure that the buckles, straps, and zippers are all in good condition. Replace it if you notice torn or broken pieces.


Q. How do I test the fit of an infant life jacket?

A. Place the life jacket on your child on land. Buckle and tighten it as you normally would. Then, gently attempt to pull the jacket up over your infant’s head. It should not go past the chin or ears.

Q. Why can’t my infant use a larger child’s life jacket?

A. Apart from it being too large and fitting improperly, a child’s life jacket doesn’t have a head cushion or float collar like infant life jackets do to help hold their heads out of the water. Some child life jackets do not include a crotch strap either, so the jacket may slip over the infant’s head.

Q. If my child is 30 pounds, should they use an infant or child life jacket?

A. That depends. The head cushion makes the infant life jacket a better choice if the child can fit in it comfortably, and it can still support them adequately. Test the infant life jacket in the water, and if it seems like it may be starting to sink too much under your child’s weight, it may be time to upgrade to a child’s life jacket.

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