Best Infant Life Jackets to Keep Babies Safe on the Water

Keep baby safe around any body of water with these top picks for infant life vests.
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By Lynsey Eidell, Contributing Writer
Updated July 11, 2023
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When it comes to enjoying water-based activities with little ones, water safety is essential. Drowning is the single leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics—but the AAP has developed layers of protection to help parents and caregivers prevent these tragedies. One of the key prevention factors they recommend? Wearing a life jacket.

But what does this mean for children under the age of one? While most infant drowning deaths occur in bathtubs, it’s still critical to protect them when around open water—including pools, ponds, lakes and oceans. Keep reading for everything you need to know about infant life jackets, from when and how to use them to key safety features and our favorite selections.

Do Infants Have to Wear Life Jackets?

The short answer is yes, but the long answer is more complicated. Benjamin Hoffman, MD, the president-elect of the AAP, provided clarification on when an infant life jacket is necessary. “Any child on a boat on water should always be in a life jacket—no questions asked, no exceptions,” he says.

Outside of boating on open water, the need for infant life jackets becomes more nuanced. “There’s not one thing that can drown-proof a child,” says Hoffman. “When we think about drowning prevention, we think about layers of protection.” The first layer of protection, he explains, is supervision, which means having a competent, close and capable adult present when a child is in or around water. The other layers include having barriers to accessing water (such as having four-sided pool fencing, using toilet locks and emptying wading pools, bathtubs and buckets when not in use), arranging swimming lessons for children over the age of one and, of course, using life jackets. “A life jacket used in a swimming pool can be another layer to help ensure that that child will not be submerged,” says Hoffman.

It’s important to make sure you’re choosing a baby life jacket or flotation device that’s approved by the US Coast Guard—whether you’re boating on the open seas or spending time by a kiddie pool. “Anything that is not a US Coast Guard-approved flotation device is not something we would ever recommend using,” explains Hoffman. “We consider those pool toys and they are not reliable.”

It’s important to note, though, that there are four different categories of USCG-approved personal flotation devices. The best infant life jackets for boating should always be a USCG-approved Type II vest, as these help to keep your little one upright and floating face up in the water. On the other hand, a Type III jacket or vest, which includes the popular puddle jumpers, is only designed for use in calm, shallow waters such as pools.

What to Look for in an Infant Life Jacket

In addition to USCG-approval, the other key factor—particularly when it comes to infants—is fit. “If a parent is going to use a flotation device for an infant, we would urge them to make sure that it fits correctly,” says Hoffman.

Determining a proper fit starts with the life jacket’s weight range. Manufacturers must clearly label a life vest’s weight ranges, and most infant life jackets fit children who fall under the 30-pound threshold. You’ll also want to look for adjustable straps on the shoulders, waist and crotch area to help adjust the vest for a close, proper fit. When an infant life vest is worn correctly, it should be snug enough that your little one can’t slip out of the vest, and it should never rise above baby’s chin or ears.

Other important safety features for infant life vests include ample head support (to help keep their heads face-up and above water) and grab handles (to aid with rescue). Parents and caregivers should also consider the color of a baby life jacket before purchasing—brighter, more vibrant colors are easier to spot in the water.

Best Infant Life Jackets

With this information in mind, here are our picks for the best infant life jackets to shop—all of which are USCG-approved Type II vests.

Overall best infant life jacket

What We Love
  • Affordable
  • Closed-cell foam construction is reliably buoyant and water resistant
  • Parents say that even their young babies (eight weeks and up) don’t mind wearing it
Things To Consider
  • Blue colorway is less visible in water
  • Other options may be more suitable for older babies (over 9 months)

To kick off our list, we’ll start with an infant life jacket from a brand that’s been making waves in the boating and watersports industry for decades—Overton’s Infant Nylon Life Vest. Exclusively designed for children under 30 pounds, this option has everything a parent could want: an oversized collar for head support, a grab strap for easy recovery and adjustable waist and shoulder straps—with quick-release buckles—for a close and secure fit. Consider us sold!

Weight limits/measurements: Up to 30 pounds; manufacturer recommends 15" to 21" chest size | Material: Nylon

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Best comfortable infant life jacket

Stohlquist Kids Life Jacket Coast Guard Approved Life Vest for Children
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
What We Love
  • Dual support collars cradle baby’s head snugly without being too cumbersome or suffocating
  • Original blue, yellow, red and white jacket design has a cool retro vibe
  • Can be worn on babies as small as eight pounds
Things To Consider
  • Blue/green color combo isn’t as visible in the water as the original and pink/aqua colorways
  • Pricier pick

There’s lots to love about this baby life jacket from Stohlquist. The design features large arm holes, preventing uncomfortable chafing and allowing for full arm mobility as your little one learns to explore the water. Another comfort-prioritizing characteristic we love is the life jacket’s open back, which provides air flow and lets little ones sit comfortably and securely without being pushed away from the backs of their seats.

Weight limits/measurements: Up to 30 pounds | Material: Nylon

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Best breathable infant life jacket

O'Brien Infant Type 2 Neoprene Life Jacket
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
What We Love
  • Slim profile and wide armholes improve mobility and let babies splash around freely
  • Easy to put on thanks to its zip closure, adjustable belt and leg loop strap
  • Neon colorways stand out in water
Things To Consider
  • Pricey

Life jackets can be super stuffy (especially for babies who are sensitive to anything that’s touching their bodies), but when brands experiment with certain proprietary materials, they can come up with uniquely breathable and comfortable designs that littles aren’t itching to get out of—literally. Enter: O’Brien’s Infant Life Jacket, boasting exclusive “BioLite” construction that’s soft, lightweight, breathable and eco-friendly. Other safety features, like a grab handle and head floatation pad, make this an all-around solid selection as one of the best infant life jackets.

Weight limits/measurements: Up to 30 pounds | Material: Neoprene alternative

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Best infant life jacket with pop-up pillow

Full Throttle Infant Nylon Life Jacket
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
What We Love
  • Slim silhouette, doesn’t overwhelm tiny bodies
  • Belt and zipper are different colors so you can make sure you’re securing both before baby goes in the water
  • Nylon is very stretchable and dries fast
Things To Consider
  • Type II approved jacket, but Amazon lists as a Type III

This is an infant life jacket that both parents and babies will love. The extra safety measures include an adjustable leg strap to keep the jacket from riding up, a pop-up pillow to promote staying above water and a grab strap, all of which will appeal to parents and caregivers alike. Baby will last all day on the water thanks to comfort features such as cushion-like foam and larger arm holes, all wrapped up in dynamic, eye-catching marbled color schemes.

Weight limits/measurements: Up to 30 pounds | Material: Nylon

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Best easy-to-see infant life jacket

Speedo Infant PFD Life Jacket Vest - Lilac
Image: Target
Buying Options
What We Love
  • Antimicrobial treatment on aquaprene prevents formation of mildew, mold and odor
  • Single leg strap tightens the fit
  • Very sweet colorways for babies
Things To Consider
  • Blue colorway (with drum-playing octopus) might not be as differentiable in pools or tropical waters

This bright and cheery infant life jacket from Speedo isn’t just super cute in its aesthetic (striped beach balls and a heart-shaped-glasses sporting sun—we’re collectively swooning); it’s also an easily recognizable colorway that can’t be missed. The ergonomic neck pillow gives baby a supportive place to nestle their head (without feeling smothered) and the 1.5 mm soft, aquaprene construction keeps kiddos warm and comfortable.

Weight limits/measurements: Up to 30 pounds (manufacturer says it should fit children 1 to 3 years old) | Material: Nylon

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Best classic infant life jacket

Infant Airhead Life Vest
Image: Kohl's
What We Love
  • Grab/rescue handle provides peace of mind
  • Cushioned headrests keep tiny heads afloat
  • Durable polyester design is long-lasting
Things To Consider
  • Some parents say that it’s too buoyant and will have their older baby rolling to their back as they try to swim

Just like yellow rain boots are classics for toddlers jumping up and down in muddy puddles, yellow infant life jackets are bonafide classics for littles braving the high seas (or taking a relaxing ride on grandpa’s pontoon boat on the lake). And this pick from renowned family watersport brand, Airhead, is a perfect fit if you’re after something iconic. It features a durable nylon construction with foam padding, ensuring reliable buoyancy and protection. The vest is equipped with three adjustable straps and a secure buckle system, which, together with the crotch strap that keeps the jacket from riding up, lock up high marks in safety. Plus, the bright yellow color and reflective panels enhance visibility in the water, so it’s a total utilitarian play too!

Weight limits/measurements: Up to 30 pounds | Material: Nylon

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Best quick-drying infant life jacket

Oceans 7 Coast Guard Approved, Infant-Child-Youth Life Jacket Vest
Image: Amazon
Buying Options
What We Love
  • Versatile as a swimming life jacket or for general boating activities
  • Comfortable, open-sided design allows for greater freedom of movement
  • Moderately priced
Things To Consider
  • No zipper, so it’s just buckle/strap closures (which may seem a bit less secure than the tandem zipper and strap fastening)
  • Blue/white colorway could prove less visible than pink/berry combination

This baby life jacket has all of the safety standards—a leg strap, grab handle and head rest—plus comfort features including a breathable and lightweight fabric that’s also super quick drying (which helps prevent your little one from being cold or uncomfortable once they’re out of the water). On top of all the safety features, we just know your kiddo will look adorable buckled up in this!

Weight limits/measurements: Up to 30 pounds (manufacturer says it should fit children 1 to 3 years old) | Material: Nylon

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How We Chose the Best Infant Life Jackets

To streamline your purchasing decisions with infant life jackets, we did the bulk of the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours scrolling through online retailers. We considered weight limits and age recommendations, durability, materials, price, color options, USCG approval status (and rating) and safety of each jacket. We read user reviews to get the lowdown on how these infant life jackets work for families, never considering anything less than an average four-star rating. We also spoke with the president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics to get expert knowledge on the safety requirements an infant needs.

Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.


Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and the president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), as well as a nationally recognized expert in child injury prevention and education. Additionally, he serves as the director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Doernbecher Children’s hospital, and as a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University. He earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1992.

American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics Identifies Children Most at Risk of Drowning and Recommends Layers of Protection to Prevent Tragedy, July 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Drowning Facts, October 2022

Healthy Children (AAP), Life Jackets & Life Preservers for Children, April 2022

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