When you’re looking for a life jacket to fit your infant, you probably aren’t necessarily looking to get the cheapest option out there. When it comes to your child’s safety, you don’t want to take any chances. In fact, there aren’t as many infant life jacket options as you might think, but the ones that I have selected for this list are among the best out there. I was impressed as I was doing my research on the number of innovative designs that I saw out there to make a safe, comfortable life jacket for your infant. I will go over the 5 best baby life jackets that I found and what features I love most about them.
If you want a more in-depth look at each individual jacket, then head over to the links listed below:
Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest
The Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest ranks as one of the top basic life vests out there. It is your standard life vest that you grew up with and the design hasn’t changed much at all. This jacket is made of good quality materials, it is a well-known brand that can be trusted, and it looks pretty sharp. It might not be making any headlines, but it has several very happy customers every year.
There are two main safety straps that you want to look for when you are buying an infant life jacket. One is on the head cushion. This one is for when your child is in the water, you can retrieve them from on land or in a boat. This is absolutely necessary and is one of the features that have to be on a life jacket to be approved by the US coast guard.
The second is the crotch strap. This wraps around the bottom half of your child in some way to make sure that they cannot slip through the life jacket when they are floating in the water or when someone retrieves them with the head harness strap. This is also a very important part of the life jacket and ensures the safety of your child.
The Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest is equipped with a retrieval harness that is located on the back of the head cushion. This is brightly colored and contrasts well against the color of the life jacket. It will be easy to spot, even in tense, emergent situations.
The crotch strap is your basic one strap through the legs. If you ever wore a life jacket as a child, you may remember well the feeling of having a crotch strap between your legs. If someone ever pulled you out of the water by the head harness while having the crotch strap between your legs, it is an experience that is difficult to forget. It causes the worst wedgies possible. This used to be the only design and is still the most popular design out there for life vest crotch straps, but now there are more comfortable options. There are a few life jackets on this list that are a bit more innovative with their crotch strap design, so look for them in the coming paragraphs.
The Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest is your basic life jacket design. It has all the features you need and none that you don’t. There are not really any bells and whistles on this jacket. It is a good quality product, and it is cost-efficient, but in the area of comfort, there’s nothing to write home about.
It has a buckle front, wrap-around float, and a head cushion.
Ease of Use
This life jacket is easy to use because it is something we are all familiar with. This is the life jacket that we grew up with, and there’s no way to really mess it up.
This design isn’t exactly innovative. It is about what you would expect from any basic life jacket. That doesn’t mean that it is inefficient. A tried and true design might be just what you are looking for. At least you will know what you are getting.
Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper
The Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper is actually a pretty exciting design. It has several features that are unique to just this life jacket. So check out these neat features.
The Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper has all the necessary straps that help it pass the US coast guard test.
There is a retrieval strap on the back of the head cushion, where you will find most retrieval straps. It is a different color than the back cushion float, which makes it a bit easier to see when you are grasping at it from the water.
Now, the crotch straps are where the design stands out for me. Well, there are actually a couple of cool aspects of the design, but the crotch straps are the first unique ones. I love that the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper has opted for two straps instead of one that goes around the upper thighs instead of right between the bum crack. Wedgies are a thing of the past with this life jacket and your child will thank you!
Well, she might not thank you, but you’ll know that you did her a big favor.
Aside from the comfort that comes with having thigh straps instead of crotch straps, the Steans Infant Puddle Jumper is quite comfortable for babies! This life jacket isn’t as bulky as the kind that has a seam in front that you have to connect through a zipper or buckles. This makes your child must more comfortable while walking around on a boat or outside.
The neck is adjustable, which makes it easy to have your child safe and also not feel like the collar is bothering their neck. The back is not a floatation material, but instead, a stretchy hydroprene material that zips up. This makes the floaty fit snugly and comfortably. Instead of having a huge bulky life jacket to sit in, your child will be able to move more freely and take naps more comfortably.
Ease of Use
The Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper couldn’t be easier to use, even though it might look intimidating at first. This life jacket is a different design than you might be used to and has more straps, which might be confusing at first glance. However, once you try it out the first time, you’ll get it with no problem.
In fact, here is a video to show you just how to put this jacket on and adjust it to your child’s needs:
I do love the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper design. You may be familiar with the puddle jumpers that are for older children about toddler age. They have a chest floatation device and connected water wings. That was an innovative design that really took over the toddler personal floatation device niche, and the infant puddle jumper could do the same. It is a design that really focuses on the problem areas for babies as far as safety is concerned and comfort.
This design remedies the issues with crotch straps and the discomfort that a back floatation device causes. It also encourages an infant to float on their back with the floatation material only on the chest area and not the back.
Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket
The Stohlquist toddler life jacket is a neat little number that has a few new features but not so many that it’s unrecognizable as a life jacket. If you’re looking for something a bit more familiar, but also slightly innovative, here’s your product.
The Stohlquist Toddler life jacket is equipped with the necessary safety straps that they need to pass inspection by the US coast guard.
This life jacket has a contrasting color retrieval hoop for easy access to children in the water. You can use this loop to pull your child in and out of boats or onto docks. It really is a necessary feature for quick retrieval, since children usually cannot pull themselves out of the water even when there are ladders.
I do like the Stohlquist toddler life jacket. There are several features about it that are new and innovative compared to the basic life jacket that you usually see. However, when compared to other life jackets like the Salus Bijoux and the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper, it falls flat in the crotch strap category.
If you’ve read this article then you know that this is a very important feature to me. It is vitally important to have the crotch strap to keep your child securely in the life jacket when it is in the water and the float fights against submerging in the water. This strap is also important for when you retrieve a child out of the water with the head harness strap. It makes sure that the life jacket stays on your child even when forces are pulling it up.
However, what is not necessary is having the strap give you a major wedgie each time. Unfortunately, the Stohlquist toddler life jacket failed to put in a more comfortable crotch strap that some of the other brands did put in. This might not be a make it or break it feature for you, but I know from personal experience how uncomfortable a single thin crotch strap is.
As mentioned above, the crotch strap leaves something to be desired, however other features of this life jacket are quite comfortable! The Stohlquist toddler life jacket has an extra headrest that just elevates the comfort for your little one. It simply has extra padding there that cushions your child’s head a bit more comfortably. Now, you might wonder if this is a necessary feature. For an older child, they might not care too much about it, but a young infant who has difficultly keeping their head secure will feel much more comfortable in it. It also is great for a child who wants to take a nap on the boat.
Speaking of naps, another feature that the Stohlquist toddler life jacket has is that similarly to the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper and the Salus Bijoux, it has the floatation device only on the head cushion and the chest, but not in the back. The back material fits snugly to your child’s body, which allows your child to be more comfortable when sitting and lounging in the life jacket. They are also more likely to fit the life jacket better at various weight ranges.
Another comfortable feature of the Stohlquist toddler life jacket is that the armholes are very large and this gives your child much more mobility in and out of the water. It can be frustrating for a child to wear a life jacket that constricts them too much. Children are often on the move and they might fight against a life jacket that feels like a straight jacket. The Stohlquist toddler life jacket is completely forgettable for your child and they will likely be happy to wear it for hours on end.
Ease of Use
Though I complained a bit before that the Stohlquist doesn’t have the most exciting crotch strap, it really is a great midpoint between a basic life jacket like the Airhead General Purpose Infant life jacket and something a bit more new like the Salus Bijoux or the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper. The latter can be a bit more confusing to put on and take off, though the Stohlquist one is much more like your basic swim vest, that it is quite obvious where all the straps and buckles go.
As mentioned, the Stohlquist is a mid-point design. It is similar to a basic life jacket with a few modifications. This life jacket has the no-float back, moveable armholes, and a comfortable headrest. It also has a zipper front, which can be much more comfortable for children, as it eliminates a bulky front.
Chriffer Kids Swim Vest
Now, the Chriffer Kid’s Swim Vest is one of the life jackets on here that is not quite like the others. It has a higher age range than some of the others on here because it is more of a playful design than the others. The other life jackets are more for life-saving devices and for use in a boat, while this one is to help children to learn to swim. This one can take children from 1 to 6 years old, so don’t think you can’t put a baby in it!
The Chriffer Kids Swim Vest is a bit different than the other infant life jackets on this list because it is for children who are a tad bit heavier than infant size. It also is a bit more of a swim practice vest than for life-saving purposes. This life jacket does not have safety straps at all but stays on securely with a literal vest material.
No head harness.
No crotch strap.
The Chriffer Kids Swim Vest is very comfortable for kids. It allows them the kind of mobility that they need when they are splashing around in the water and learning to swim. Their arms are free to move in all directions and the chest floatation device does not ride up in the water and causes the child to feel claustrophobic. Everything stays securely in place.
Ease of Use
Putting the Chriffer Kids Swim Vest couldn’t be any easier. It is similar to putting on a jacket, only backward. The vest buckles in the back, so your child will need help getting it on and off.
We have seen designs similar to the Chriffer Kids Swim Vest before, but I do like one aspect of this design more than others. This water wing life jacket has vest shoulder straps that some similar life jackets with wings do not. Other similar life jackets only have the wings and the chest float and it can be easy for a resistant child to pull it off. This one is much harder to pull off–in fact, it’s nearly impossible for a child to do it on their own.
Salus Bijoux Baby Vest
This life jacket has one of the most innovative designs on this list. It literally took every feature of a life jacket and made it more comfortable for children. I love the design; there was so much thought that went into it. When you read my points below, I’m sure you’ll be eager to get one of these as well!
The Salus Bijoux Baby Vest has the necessary safety straps on the head and between the legs.
This retrieval strap is a contrasting color from the head cushion, which is a great safety feature.
The Salus Bijoux Baby Vest is another one of the life jackets on this list that have a little more innovation with the crotch strap. In this particular vest, the child has a thicker than the typical strap that goes between the legs. This may cause a wedgie here and there, but it is much more difficult as the strap is so wide. It fits more like a swimsuit bottom than a thin strap and with a swim diaper, a wedgie is near impossible.
The Salus Bijoux has some pretty next-level comfort for infants. It has some similar features as the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper, but a few differences as well.
First of all, there isn’t a bulky seam in the front where the two sides come together and potentially overlap. Instead, it has a seamless front that stays nice and flat, and comfortable.
Speaking of the front flotation material, it is much shorter than other life jackets so that your child can sit comfortably in a boat. Many manufacturers don’t take the time to consider how uncomfortable it can be for a child with a short torso to sit with a stiff and bulky life jacket. This makes the life jacket that much more comfortable.
The crotch strap, as mentioned above also makes this jacket much more comfortable than the basic models out there. This is honestly a reason in itself to buy this life jacket.
Like the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper, this life jacket doesn’t have floatation material on the back. Instead, it fits snugly to your child’s back and makes it much more comfortable sitting around or even napping in. This also makes it much easier for your child to float on their back. Life jackets that have floatation material on both the front and the back can be difficult for your child to maneuver. They likely will not be able to figure out if they should be on their back or their front, or they might not be able to move from one to the other. The floatation on the front makes it easier for children to instinctively know that they should float on their backs.
Ease of Use
Though the Salus Bijoux is very easy to use, I could see how it might be confusing at first. There are much more straps than a typical life jacket and it can be easy to tangle them up. It also might not be super obvious how to use the life jacket if you’ve never seen it before. It has buckles in different places than you might be used to. However, like the Stearns Infant Puddle Jumper, once you use it one time, it’s a cinch.
The Salus Bijoux probably has the most innovative design on the entire list. It has comfortable straps, a short torso, no back floatation, and a wide neckline. All of these
Overall, all of these life jackets will do the job of keeping your child afloat in the water. They are all very safe options and they are all made out of good quality materials. They are easy to clean and they are all made with bright colors that are easy to spot in the water.
There are a few nuances between them and some of them outperform others in different categories. Here is my opinion about where each vest excels.
Best basic life jacket
Most innovative design
Best play option
No matter what life jacket you end up getting, they will all keep your child safe. One might be more comfortable than another. One might be a bit more affordable than another. There are benefits for each of them. Remember, that life jackets can be used season after season, so investing in a good one for your child to use this year could see them through several years and their siblings for several years as well.