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Whether you're a boat-obsessed family or just occasionally hit the neighborhood pool, it's never too early to introduce your baby to water. Not only is it fun, but it's also a great opportunity to instill safe water habits. (Don't forget the sunscreen!)
According to The World Health Organization, drowning is actually a leading cause of death worldwide and in the United States, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years. The good news is that the proper safety equipment can help. Most important? An infant life jacket. (Note that no flotation device is disaster-proof or a replacement for keeping a constant eye on water-side babies and children.)
Like bike helmets, the best life infant life jacket is one they'll actually wear, so finding one that's comfortable is imperative. The infant life vest you choose should have plenty of head and neck support since babies are still developing that skill in and out of the water and should be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. For babies (who obviously don't know how to swim), the Coast Guard recommends a Type II PFD (personal flotation device), which can turn some wearers from a face-down position in the water to a position where it's easier to breathe. (This does not always happen in all circumstances with all wearers, so never leave them unattended!)
Most baby life jackets are designed for babies under 30 pounds, but be sure to double-check the manufacturer's specifications. The straps should all be able to buckle securely and check to make certain that the vest can't slip off over their head.
Any time your little one is near a body of water they should be wearing their life jacket. The younger you start, the more likely they'll feel naked without it!
We've rounded up the best infant life jackets for babies under 30 pounds, each of which are U.S. Coast Guard approved Type II PFDs to give you greater peace of mind on your adventures.
A version of this story was published June 13, 2021. It has been updated.