Safety For The Smallest Sailors – Best Infant Life Jackets (up to 30 lbs)

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It’s never too early to introduce your child to water-based activities, whether that means playing beside the pool or out boating. Obviously that means it’s never too early to fit them out with the right safety equipment either and the most important piece of gear is a good life jacket.

The best infant life jackets must provide excellent head support, because unlike an adult or older child, small babies can’t help to keep their own head up. Avoid simple buoyancy aid types such as baby floaties and choose a vest with a full collar.

Also look for secure fastenings and high visibility; an infant will be totally dependent on the vest to stay safely afloat. While infants and toddlers are technically in the same weight group (up to 30 lbs) as far as life jackets are concerned, we do have slightly different recommendations for toddler life vests.

See Also:  Best Life Jackets for Kids 30-50 Lbs.

And don’t forget a good kids sunscreen. It’s easy to get preoccupied with making sure the life jacket fits correctly or is comfortable on your little one that we forget the basics such as sun protection.

Our 9 Favorite Life Jackets for Infants & Babies

 ProductUSCG ApprovedSizeColors 
best-infant-life-jacketStohlquist InfantType II8-30 lbs10
baby-life-vestO'Neill Wake-WaterskiType IIUp to 30 lbs6
mustang-little-legends-reviewMustang Lil' Legends 100Type IIUp to 30 lbs1
best-newborn-life-vestSalus BijouxNo*9-25 lbs5
top-infant-personal-floatation-deviceStearns Heads-UpType IIUp to 30 lbs1
life-jacket-for-infantsO'Neil SuperliteType IIUp to 30 lbs2
baby-neoprene-life-vestAirhead WickedType IIUp to 30 lbs1
comfortable-infant-life-vestFull Throttle InfantType IIUp to 30 lbs2
coast-guard-approved-infant-life-jacketStearns ClassicType IIUp to 30 lbs2

* not officially USCG approved since there is no testing standard for children under 20 lbs.


Infant Life Jacket Reviews

#1 – Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket

best-infant-life-jacketThe Stohlquist Infant (formerly called the “Nemo”) life jacket is a unisex baby flotation device for children weighing up to 30 lb. It’s a lightweight, low profile, type 2 PFD (necessary for this age) with a nylon shell, secured by a front zipper and a backup quick release buckle at the waist.

The PFD is fully adjustable for security and comfort, should fit most children down to 3 months old, and comes with US Coast Guard approval.

stohlquist-infant-vest-1What really inspires confidence about the Stohlquist is its flotation capability, especially the large double collar. It provides excellent support to a baby’s head and neck so should ensure that the occupant floats safely with their mouth and nose well clear of the surface. Obviously, maximum floatation for babies is critical and Stohlquist will do a great job turning the infant face up if it came to that.

At the same time a large back flotation panel acts to hold the baby more upright. Judging by user comments in various online forums, the Stohlquist also seems more comfortable than most of its competitors.

A common problem with infant life jackets is the front panel riding up over the baby’s face, which is uncomfortable and can even interfere with their breathing. This model has a V-neck design to avoid this problem.

stohlquist-infant-vest-2If an infant ends up in the water, the Stohlquist will do a great job of keeping them afloat until they can be recovered. Recovery will also be easy; there’s a large, sturdy grab loop behind the collar, so a bobbing baby can be safely retrieved.

The Nemo is currently offered in 10 color options, almost all with contrasting trim. Those with yellow or red are highly visible and are preferred.

The dark blue one, however, is not recommended. It looks smart and stylish, which could attract a lot of parents. Unfortunately it doesn’t stand out well against water and could delay recovery of an infant, so we don’t recommend this color. Stick with the red or yellow; it’s a safety device, so make the most of it.

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#2 – O’Neill Wake-Waterski Infant USCG Vest

baby-life-vestThis O’Neill is another good choice for smaller babies and also has the USCG Type II designation. It’s a bit bulky but gives excellent head and neck support, and just feels really secure. The O’Neill baby flotation device has two waist buckles as well as an adjustable crotch strap.

While this or any other life vest on this page can also be used in the pool, you may want to instead consider a baby pool float. Your baby will probably be much happier.

One point that’s less good is the color options, with most of them heavily based on medium to dark colors and not as visible as they could be. Blue is fashionable, but we don’t think fashion should be a factor in safety gear. Apart from that, though, this is an excellent life jacket.

Update:  The O’Neill Wake-Waterski now comes in 6 different color combos with most of them being highly visible. The blue is still available but we suggest opting for one of the brighter color combos.

 

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#3 – Mustang Survival Lil’ Legends 100 Flotation Vest

mustang-lil-legends-reviewThe Stohlquist above is very adjustable, but for more petite babies under 6 months old, the Mustang Lil’ Legends 100 appears to be a slightly better option. Mustang Survival has been making life jackets and immersion suits for the military, Coast Guard and even NASA for nearly 50 years.

With their recently redesigned Lil’ Legends 100, this nylon type 2 PFD is quite comfortable and incorporates more mesh to keep the little ones cooler. It’s available in youth, child or infant sizes, and the infant size is ideal for babies under 20 lb.

It has a large collar with good head support, a crotch strap and a cutaway neck for comfort. There’s also a generously sized grab handle. While it may be slightly more bulky than the Stohlquist, the quality is top notch.

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#4 – Salus Bijoux Baby Vest

best-newborn-life-vestThe Salus Bijoux Baby Vest fits infants from nine to 25 pounds with chests from 12 to 18 inches around. This infant life jacket was designed with your baby’s comfort in mind with a fully adjustable mesh and webbing harness system.

Safety features include a three-piece collar design with additional flotation that cradles your little one’s head in the center of the collar, for your peace of mind.

We love the Dry-Lex Aerospacer liner that gives this baby vest breathability, so your child will stay cool. The mesh back also allows your baby to lie back comfortably on a blanket or in a baby carrier. Parents also appreciate the vast range of adjustments, allowing you to customize the fit for baby’s comfort and security.

The design of this personal flotation device ensures that your baby floats perfectly on his or her back in the water. It doesn’t ride up in the water, and parents report that their little ones can crawl, sit up, or take a nap without experiencing discomfort. The easy to reach lift handle is an added bonus when you’re in the water.

The Salus Bijoux Baby Vest won the Canadian Safe Boating Award for Best Safety Product; however, it is not USCG approved. It’s a wonderful product for floating at the beach, lake, or pool, but it doesn’t meet legal requirements for boating. This flotation jacket comes in five adorable colors for boys and girls.

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#5 – Stearns Heads-Up Infant Life Jacket

top-infant-personal-floatation-deviceThe Stearns Heads-Up life jacket for infants under 30 pounds is a US Coast Guard approved Type II approved floatation device. Although it’s not quite as comfortable as the Salus Bijoux Baby Vest, it is rated for use when boating near shore or kayaking.

This vest is designed to turn your little one face-up when in the water, which is crucial for babies who don’t know how to swim or could become unconscious in an accident.

This flotation device for babies features two adjustable straps that go around baby’s waist and an adjustable, padded crotch strap for a custom fit. The crotch strap also performs the critical function of keeping the vest from riding up or coming off in the water. The Stearns Heads-Up PFD also features a handy grab handle which is a must at this age.

The bright, lime green color of this baby life jacket gives it excellent visibility in the water. Some parents reported that the buckles are a little stiff, but still manageable. The Stearns Heads-Up life vest is a bit bulky, but that’s to be expected in a Type 2 PFD.

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#6 – O’Neill Superlite Infant Life Vest

life-jacket-for-infantsAnother quality O’Neill product, the Superlite provides all the quality of a Type-2 floatation device without being as heavy as similar vests. The coated polyester shell is filled with a lightweight polyethylene foam for excellent front support. Three quick-release Delrin buckles make the vest both secure and easy to remove.

Designed to position toddlers on their backs, the vest features a collar that folds down when not needed and a safety strap to allow for quick retrieval when your child’s in the water. Properly adjusting the crotch strap will simultaneously keep your child from tugging the vest down and the collar from pushing up against their face.

Once properly adjusted, a few parents have found their babies are so comfortable that they fall asleep while wearing one. As a type-2 PFD, this vest is a little difficult to swim in but is great for teaching your infant how to move around on their backs.

With an affordable price and Coast Guard approval, the Superlite will provide both comfort and peace of mind from a well-known company.

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#7 – Airhead Wicked Kwik-Dry Neolite Baby Vest

baby-neoprene-life-vestAirhead’s Wicked Kwik-Dry Neolite Vest is a US Coast Guard approved Type II PFD for infants up to 30 pounds. This infant life jacket has a closed sided design, a zippered closure, and adjustable waist and crotch straps for comfort and safety. This infant PFD also features quick-release buckles for added security.

The Wicked life vest is breathable, flexible, and lightweight. It’s made from a quick-drying material that’s intended to keep your baby comfortable in or out of the water.

Parents report that the built-in crotch strap prevents the jacket from riding up or coming off in the water, and since the length is adjustable, it can be customized for smaller babies.

This life jacket for babies features a large collar that doubles as a headrest to keep baby safe and comfortable when floating in the water. A large, sturdy grab handle is also included on the back of the collar.

The Airhead life vest is mostly bright pink for extra visibility in the water, while the contrasting black and white trim makes it fun and fashionable. Some parents had difficulty choosing the correct size for their little one, so allow extra time for exchanging if necessary.

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#8 – Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Vest

comfortable-infant-life-vestThe Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Vest is a US Coast Guard Approved Type II PFD for infants up to 30 pounds. This vest has a convenient buckle opening at the collar, so it’s much easier to put it on than many other baby life jackets. It was also designed with an extra comfortable, elasticized leg strap that keeps the vest from riding up or coming off in the water.

We love the oversized collar that provides extra head support and safety. The encircling waist belt and shoulder strap are adjustable for a secure, custom fit. This design also features a convenient grab strap for easy recovery in an emergency. Parents report that their babies are comfortable enough to nap and crawl around in this PFD.

This baby safe flotation vest comes in two colors: pink and orange. It’s a bit bulkier than some PFDs, but most reviewers say it’s worth the trade off for their peace of mind. The Full Throttle Infant Vest is very affordable, making it one of the best budget baby life vests on the market.

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#9 – Stearns Classic Infant Life Jacket

coast-guard-approved-infant-life-jacketStearns has a reputation for quality which can be seen in this traditional-style PFD for infants under 30 pounds. Beginning with a durable nylon shell and PE floatation foam, this vest includes secure one-inch webbed straps and an open-sided vest design.

The chest belt and leg strap are fully adjustable to comfortably fit your child, while the rescue handle on the collar allows for easy retrieval from the water.

As with many similar vests, there are additional weight ranges so your infant can continue to use the same style once they outgrow the infant size. On some of the smallest infants, this and other vests may prove bulky even after adjustment, although properly adjusting the vest after zipping it up can minimize how far it rides up.

The Classic Series provides high quality at an affordable price and is fully Coast-Guard approved. We recommend choosing the red version over blue for easier visibility when in the water.

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16 Responses to “Safety For The Smallest Sailors – Best Infant Life Jackets (up to 30 lbs)”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Dianne says:

    every time i click find price for the Stohlquist, it brings this same page up.

    • Alex says:

      Thanks for letting me know. Links are fixed although it appears the Stohlquist is temporarily out of stock.

  2. Kerry Stephenson says:

    Is the Stearns Classic vest really ok to take our 12-month old out on the lake? I really want the Stohlquist but we’re on a budget. Thank you.

    • Alex says:

      Absolutely! The Stearns has the same US Coast Guard approval as the others. It may be a bit bulkier but does the job just as well.

  3. Nadine says:

    Is there one life jacket for babies that will turn their heads up every time if they fall in the water?

    • Alex says:

      There is no life jacket that is guaranteed to turn a baby face up in the water 100% of the time. Every life jacket on this page will do a good job of turning a baby face up in MOST cases but it’s still really important to have proper adult supervision.

  4. Pam says:

    Hi there! Talk to me about Puddle Jumpers for toddlers that are under 30 pounds but over 25. My understanding if it doesn’t fit proper it will ride up. What’s your thoughts on
    Stearns Puddle Jumper Infant Hydroprene Life Jacket.
    I’m a RN safety instructor. Thx

    • Alex says:

      Hi Pam. Just to be clear, the Puddle Jumpers most people refer to are the 30-50 lbs swim “aids” found here: https://www.lifejacketadvisor.com/best-toddler-swim-vests-floatation-devices/. Some people mistake the life jacket you linked to as a smaller version of the popular Puddle Jumper which it’s not. Not saying you did, but just wanted to point that out for our readers.

      The Puddle Jumper life jacket you linked to, I couldn’t say I recommend. Stearns is a good company but the reviews in this model are very hit or miss. The design is a bit non-traditional.

      Between 25-30 lbs is a tough range. You should be able to get away with an infant/toddler life jacket but most people think kids life jackets run a tad small. Also it depends on how the child is built.

      When one of our daughters was around 30 lbs, a toddler life jacket still fit easily since she was taller than average, but for a more stocky kid, we would have had to gone to the next size up (30-50 lbs.). If close to 30 lbs and average build, I’d personally go with the 30-50 lbs range which should still be a safe fit but you wouldn’t have to buy a new life jacket in a few months.

      Here are the ones we recommend for that weight:
      https://www.lifejacketadvisor.com/recommended-life-jackets-for-active-kids-have-fun-safely/

  5. Traci says:

    Hi!

    Thanks for all the reviews. Any thoughts on the Hyperlite child/infant lifevest? My son is 17lbs/6months? They are on sale now at Costco for 19.99. I love the price, however, safety first.

    • Alex says:

      Hyperlite makes good life vests in general but I’m not familiar with their infant size vest. Since it’s Costco, I would give it a shot at that price as they are pretty picky about which products they stock.

  6. Sandra Anderson says:

    We purchased a child’s Hyperlite vest for our granddaughters. The almost 3 year old ended up walking into a swimming pool and was face first in the water unable to right herself. I’m thinking that we need to get a vest that has the back support to not allow that to occur. What are your thoughts? Thank you

    • Alex says:

      The Hyperlite is a good vest but it’s a type 3 as far as I know. The vests with the support pillow (such as the Stohlquist or Mustang on this page) are type 2’s which do a much better job of turning the child face up. That said, there’s no guarantee it would have flipped her in your situation (you’d need a bulky type 1) but it would have kept her head slightly higher above the water.

  7. Sarah says:

    We are moving to a neighborhood with a pool. Any suggestions for my almost 2 year old that is only 16.5 lbs? I have an infant pool float, but I was hoping to find something she could wear to look and feel more like her age and not her size. Puddle Jumpers fit snug around her chest, but her arms slide right out.

    Thank you!

  8. Kay says:

    Our child is 22 lbs and 12 months old. Is the up to 30lb vest still a good choice for the next 6 months? Thanks!

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