It’s summer! And that means lots of family fun around water. Whether your family enjoys the community pool, lake, boating, or a kiddie pool in your backyard; you want your children to be safe around water. One of the best water safety tips I have is to ensure that your kids are wearing a wearing a coast guard approved life jacket. But there are so many choices! Don’t fret. I’ve done all the work for you and will share three infant life jacket reviews. Best part? They’re all under $40!
Before we get to the infant life jacket reviews, it’s important to understand some infant life jacket basics.
Infant Life Jacket 101
There are three different classifications of life jackets: Type I, Type II and Type III.
Type I is designed for people stranded in rough, open water that won’t be rescued quickly. Not the kind of infant life jacket you want.
Type II is where you need to focus. These are the “classic” life vest, the ones you’ve seen most often. They’re designed for people close to land, and they’re not as bulky or expensive as Type I jackets. They also keep an unconscious person upright in the water, and the same goes for babies, who don’t have the reflex to fight and save themselves. This makes them the best choice!
Type III jackets are made for use close to shore and aren’t designed to keep an unconscious person upright. While they’re the most comfortable, they aren’t suitable for babies or young children at all.
I strongly recommend a Type II jacket for infants or small children, especially if you’re out on a boat!
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Features of Good Infant Life Jackets
Five Vital Criteria for Infant Life Jackets:
- The United States Coast Guard Seal of Approval: means it’s tested and safe. No Coast Guard logo? Don’t buy it. It means that the life jacket doesn’t meet USCG safety standards.
- A flotation collar: keeps their head above the water. These are the little pillows you see on the back of the life jackets.
- A crotch strap: to secure it tightly to their body. I know, these are annoying, and most kids hate them. They’re necessary though. They keep the life jacket from riding up over the ears when in the water and prevent the child from slipping out of the life jacket in the event you need to use the grab loop.
- A grab loop: to quickly get them out of the water if they fall in.
- Keeps child face up: all infant life jackets need to keep the child face up in the water.
Infant Life Jacket Reviews
For reference, the test baby for these reviews is 10.5months old, 24lbs, and 26in tall.
Sterns Infant Classic Boating Vest
It’s a basic lifejacket. It gets the job done and is an excellent option for infants who won’t be in and around water often. It doesn’t have a zipper on the front of the life jacket, so I wasn’t able to get it as secure around our child. The ‘v’ on the neckline also wasn’t very deep, so she had a hard time moving her head. Overall, the fit was decent, and it worked. It just wouldn’t have been comfortable for a day at the pool, and I could foresee needing to adjust the neckline often.
Retails for $15 at Walmart
Full Throttle Infant Life Jacket
This life jacket offers similar features to the Stearns Classic, but with some nice updates. The foam is less rigid and segmented, so it fit my daughter a little more snugly, and she was able to move a bit more. The outer material is hydroprene (basically a neoprene for water), so it felt a little softer, and it dried quicker than the Stearns. Overall, this was a better fit for us than the Stearns, but it still wasn’t the most comfortable option, and my daughter reminded me of BayMax from Big Hero 6 while she was wearing it. I did take her boating in it, and she had a hard time getting comfortable against me.
Retails for $40 at most sporting goods stores
Sterns Puddle Jumper Infant Life Jacket
This was by far our favorite option. The design is entirely different than most other (reasonably priced) infant life jackets on the market. I liked the zipper in the back and the contoured foam front panel. Those features made it much less bulky than the previous two we had tried, and my daughter was able to move her head and arms around comfortably.
I loved the leg straps. Instead of a single crotch strap, this infant life jacket offers two, completely adjustable, leg straps. They fit in a ‘v’ shape over the child’s butt and seemed much less ‘diggy’ than a typical crotch strap. I also noticed that when I grabbed my child by the grab loop, the life jacket did not move an inch and she did not seem uncomfortable. The same could not be said for the two life jackets I listed above.
Overall, this was our favorite life jacket. I was able to get the best fit, and my daughter enjoyed the extra movement she had. We were able to breastfeed successfully, AND she fell asleep. Big bonuses!
Retails for $25 at Walmart- that’s where I purchased it; though I have seen it listed for higher prices on Amazon and at Target.
If you’re in the market for a lifejacket, I hope these infant life jacket reviews have been helpful! Have you tried other infant life jackets? I’d love to hear your feedback and experiences! Remember, the best life jacket fits properly and is WORN.