by maipham

November 2, 2022

best life jackets for 1 year old

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Best Life Jackets For 1 Year Old

An angel in the pool - Image by firstview_digital_signage from Pixabay

Finding the best life jackets for 1 year old is a critical task if you want to introduce the pool to your little one. Just look at the picture.

Isn’t it just too cute? 

You can almost imagine the whole scene like a footage, when his little and short legs are kicking fast to bring him up above water. Just imagine how adorable and pleasant it would be.

Then you look at your baby. How can you possibly put this little sweetheart into water, with all the risks out there? What if he cries, what if he gets scared? You want to hold him in your arms and protect him forever.

I understand. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And I am still doing it. 

When our little ones aren’t old enough to walk, some may just start to flip and crawl, you might freak out just by thinking of taking them into the water. They might get sick, catch a cold, get eyes and ear infection, or just simply get scared when there is so much water around them (hey, they were inside our bellies for more than 9 months before they came to us!).

But there are so many good things about just getting in the pool and splashing around.

Swimming is considered as one of the best exercises, and for good reason. It helps people to lose weight, train their muscles while preventing injuries.

To our little babies, it even benefits them so much more. 

In this article, we will go through the benefits of swimming to our babies, and reviews of best life jackets for 1 year old.

Benefits of swimming to babies

According to Heathline, Wikipedia, Baby Magazine, Medical News Today, swimming has plenty of benefits on babies.

Swimming may improve cognitive functioning

When our little swimmers are in the water, they do more than just splashing the water and kicking their legs. Their brains are also working out as well. 

Here’s what they said on Healthline:

Bilateral cross-patterning movements, which use both sides of the body to carry out an action, help your baby’s brain grow.

Cross-patterning movements build neurons throughout the brain, but especially in the corpus callosum. This facilitates communication, feedback, and modulation from one side of the brain to another. Down the road, this may improve:

  • Reading skills
  • Language development
  • Academic learning
  • Spatial awareness

Heck, we should take our babies to the swimming pool more often then!

Swim time may reduce the risk of drowning

Even though babies cannot swim on their own, which actually they never should without close supervision, swimming may reduce the risk of drowning for children that are over 4 years old.

Swimming may improve confidence

Swimming gives babies an opportunity to explore their abilities and learn what they can do for the first time.

They will soon realize that they can be comfortable in a strange environment. One thing after another, and they will be more willing to explore and test their abilities in more things.

Moreover, if you take your babies to swimming sessions with other babies, they will learn to coordinate in a group and interact with others. All of these experiences will help to boost your babies’ self-esteem.

Increases quality time between parents and babies

Babies need our attention, almost 100% of the time. Sometimes it is exhausting to do that, especially when you have other things on your shoulders.

Nowadays we have found a new way to escape, to give them access to the TV or smart devices, which is also something we shouldn’t do much.

Time on the pool is a relaxing time, not just for babies but also for us adults. What’s more fun than watching your loved ones enjoy the water and explore new things? It is the best bonding time.

Builds muscle and develop motor skills

Swimming is a great exercise for cardiovascular health.

It helps strengthen your little one’s heart, lungs, joints, brain, blood vessels.

Moreover, babies need to work a lot to hold their heads up, move their arms and feet and learn to coordinate their entire bodies.

Improves coordination and balance

The NTNU research showed that baby swimmers have better balance and better coordination than non-swimmers.

The difference still persists even when babies are 5 years old.

Improves sleeping patterns and appetite

Swimming takes a lot of energy from our baby swimmers. You will notice they sleep and eat much better after a swim session. If your little one is only a few months old, you may have to rush for a nap right after swimming time. 

When I took Ethan to swim for the first time, which was only 15 minutes, after the massage, I had to nurse him and let him sleep right there in my arms, in the swimming center’s nursing room.

When should you introduce your babies to the pool?

According to Wikipedia, and Baby Magazine due to their swimming reflex and dive reflex. These reflexes allow babies to move their arms and legs in a swimming motion while holding their breath and opening their eyes when underwater. 

So actually you can take your babies into the pool quite soon, as long as the water is warm enough and the weather is good.

But if you wait until your baby gets a little older and stronger, that instinct just disappears and your little one will need to start from 0 just like adults.

Therefore, you should really think of taking your baby to the pool. But make sure your baby is always safe.

In this case, the must-have item is some best life jackets for 1 year old on the market.

How to find the best life jackets for 1 year old?

Best baby life jackets

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

With that being said, baby life jackets are must-have items before you even think of taking them to the pool, especially if your children can’t swim alone yet.

Even if you hold your baby in your arms (which you should anyway), it just takes a nanosecond for something bad to happen.

We parents like to play it safe. When it comes to our babies, we don’t take chances!

The most important thing about baby life vests is that they need to turn your babies into a face up position. There are specific life vests for specific purposes of use.

Depending on how old your children are, if they can swim, or where they will be in, you need to get the right life vest type to reduce the risk of drowning. 

There are 5 types of life vests:


Purpose of use


Safety Rank

Type I

In open water and rough conditions.

Designed to turn someone who is unconscious face-up.

Have the greatest ability to turn a child “face up”

Very bulky and generally uncomfortable


Type II

General use: waters close to the land and calm water (like in the pool).

Will turn only SOME children to a face up position.

Generally comfortable, but still more bulky than type III


Type III

General use: calm water and water close to land.

Not designed to turn a child “face up”.

Provide support to children with swimming skills.

The most comfortable jackets.

Good for sport.


Type IV

Designed to be thrown overboard to someone under the water to grab.

Not designed to be worn.


Type V

Maybe a substitute for a Type I, II or III.

Additional support


While the type I is the safest of all, it’s kinda hard to wear and likely to bother your babies.

Generally speaking, we use type II and III life vests for babies, but remember not all babies will be turned to a face up position, no matter how well it is made.

The ultimate guide to pick the best life jackets for 1 year old

There are plenty of baby life jackets are out there, and to prevent you from digging through all the websites to find the right one or going back and forth to several supermarkets, I’ve put on a list of all things you need to consider, and then a selection of baby life jackets, ranging from the best life jackets for 1 year old to best life jackets for toddlers and kids.

This is a huge list, and you might not need to read the whole thing. But this list is something you can bookmark and come back anytime you think your babies’ current life jackets aren’t good for them anymore.

So sit down, get yourself a cup of tea and scan through the list to find the right one for your precious.

What do you need to consider to find the perfect life vest?


Not all baby life jackets are made equal.

Basically the outer shell is made of nylon, straps are of nylon webbing, interior is of foam and fasteners are of metal or plastic. You need to consider all of these things to decide if the material is good for your little ones.

The outer shell is usually made of nylon or vinyl with material that keeps the life jacket afloat sewn inside. However, it has direct contact to your baby’s skin.

So it is crucial to double check if your baby is allergic to it or not, or if the sewing, threads or anything that can provoke his sensitive skin.

Pay additional attention to the material if your baby has eczema or other skin conditions. 


For the best life jackets for 1 year old, it is vital that they have a:

- Padded head support: because unlike adults or bigger kids, small babies can’t keep their heads up. Stay away from simple buoyancy aids, such as floaties. 

- Grab handle: to support with fast rescue, a grab handle assists retrieving babies out of the water

- Crotch strap: to prevent the life jacket from riding up.

For bigger kids, the design may be slightly simpler, as they are more capable of helping adults realize the danger they are facing.


Colors are not just for decoration. Of course, your little babies will look so cute in a ton-sur-ton life jacket with their blue swimming shoes, but imagine what if that color makes them blend in the ocean, and it is impossible to find them?

Sorry, but no.

Color is for safety. Pick a color that makes your babies stand out from the crowd and from the water.


All baby life jackets have weight limit printed on the inside. Choose the right one for your baby’s current weight. 

If the vest is loose, your baby can slip down into the water. So even if you already have a few life jackets of your bigger child, do not reuse them for your little ones unless they fit perfectly and the buckles, straps and everything are fresh as new. 


It is a MUST that you test your baby life jackets on him/her in the water before safely using it.

You should only consider taking your baby to the pool. But if you plan on boating with your baby, here’s the recommendation of the US Coast Guard:

“The Coast Guard does not recommend taking infants onboard a recreational boat. The PFDs (i.e, life vests) currently available for newborns up to 18 pounds may not provide a proper fit to perform as expected. Unless the parent can test their newborns out in a PFD sized for infants in a swimming pool, they won’t know if that device will float their child with his/her head out of the water. Ensure the PFD you have works for your infant. Otherwise, we recommend the child not be exposed to any risk in a boat on the water”

Best life jackets for 1 year old reviews

Are you in a hurry? Here’s our top picks




Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket for Infants

Best head support

Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Vest

Wedgie proof

Puddle Jumper Kids 2-in-1 Life Jacket and Rash Guard

Rash and UV Guard

TRC Recreation Kids Super Soft USCG Vest

Softest and most comfortable

Full Throttle Child Water Buddies Life Vest

Cutest design

Best life jackets for 1 year old  and less

Infant life jackets mentioned here are Type II PFDs, for babies less than 30 pounds. If your infant is heavier, you might want to check out the toddler size.

However, make sure it passes the infant life jacket design test!

Stearns Infant Classic Series Vest

Sometimes simple is the best. With zero fluff, this classic life vest is non-fancy, affordable and great for introducing little swimmers to the water.

The US Coast Guard-approved design is specially-fitted for infants under 30 lbs. 

It is made from a durable nylon shell with PE flotation foam, with leg strap and grab handle. Even if you are always next to your baby, sometimes that little swimmer has a scary moment in the water, you can easily grab him out without worrying about slipping.

I also love the 1-piece padded head support with flotation foam. Apparently, your baby can lean his head back and relax in the water. 

Speaking of color, this vest is available in blue or red. While I love the blue color, I still recommend you to pick the red ones, the brighter, the safter!

Take note, although there are many great reviews and feedback on how effective and safe this life vest is, or how this life vest turns babies on their backs, there are also some negative experiences with other people, who claim it flips their babies down to the water. Therefore, always test it with your baby before use.

What we like

  • It passes the design test for a baby life vest
  • Spacious neck support, allows baby to rest his head against it and relax
  • Simple and strong design

What we don't like

  • Doesn’t flip all babies on their backs
  • Sizing is very tricky.
  • It is quite bulky

Stearns Heads-Up Child Vest – the Infant size

With durable polyester and nylon construction and PE flotation foam, this life vest allows the youngest ones in the family to enjoy the water. It is US Coast Guard approved and well passes our infant life vest design test with head support, leg strap and grab handle.

It comes in bright green color, which can easily be spotted in the water.

The best comes with two secure straps over the chest, allows you to adjust it to fit your baby and avoid the vest rubbing your baby’s face in the water.

What we like

  • It passes the design test for a baby life vest
  • Spacious neck support, allows baby to rest his head against it and relax
  • Two secure straps over the chest
  • Available in infant, child and youth size

What we don't like

  • Doesn’t flip all babies on their backs
  • Sometimes, it prevents baby from leaning forward or sitting up.

Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket for Infants - best life jackets for 1 year old overall

One thing that makes this life jacket stand out is that it has a double collar, providing even more head support to your baby.

This is a high quality life vest built with Gaia foam, PVC-free, Soft 200 denier oxford shell and liner, which makes it very gentle on baby’s skin. 

While passing our infant life vest design test with its grab handle, straps and head support, it also offers comfort and mobility with large arm holes and open back. 

This design is much less bulky than many other vests, while still offering US Coast Guard- approved protection.

What we like

  • Double collar, more head support
  • Very comfortable and safe
  • Available in many colors

What we don't like

  • Pricy

Airhead Infant’s General Purpose Life Vest

This life vest is made of a soft woven polyester shell with lightweight Poly-E flotation inside.

It also includes three body belts and a crotch strap for securely supporting a newborn.

The accessible grab strap means you can haul your child from the water quickly and easily, and the foam collar offers additional head and neck support for your baby — both in and out of the water.

What we like

  • Three body belts for better fit
  • Quality material for sensitive skin
  • Comes with many decoration options

What we don't like

  • A little bulky
  • Pricy

Full Throttle Infant Baby-Safe Vest

A good baby life jacket is the one that your baby likes.

This life vest has a totally different design compared to others. Sometimes, being different is good. In this case, it is just that.

It has an enormous collar to provide added head support and additional safety for your baby.

 While other life vests may give your baby a wedgie, with its elasticized fabric leg strap, this one definitely should not.

 Moreover, there is no zipper near the baby's face, so even if it is pushed up in the water, it is unlikely to rub against your baby’s skin. 

What we like

  • Enormous head support
  • Won’t give baby a wedgie
  • Big fabric leg strap
  • Gentle to baby’s skin

What we don't like

  • Quite bulky
  • Sizing is tricky.

O’Neill Infant Superlite USCG Life Vest

This is also one of the top rated infant life jackets.

It has a coated polyester shell, leg strap, head support and grab handle.

However, there isn’t a big difference between this one and the Stearns.                   


What we like

  • Two secure traps over the chest
  • Great quality for the price
  • Two-piece padded collar
  • Great for boating

What we don't like

  • Bulky and hard to move in it
  • Sizing is tricky.

Best toddler life jacket 30 – 50 lbs

Generally speaking, a toddler who is between 30 to 50 lbs should be able to hold his or her head up above the water, and with some swimming skills but the list below still contains some life jackets that have padded head support, in case you want additional support for your baby.

Take note that almost all of these life jackets are type III, which means they will not turn your toddlers’ faces up. Therefore, they are only suitable for toddlers with some swimming skills and closely supervised by parents.

Puddle Jumper Kids 2-in-1 Life Jacket and Rash Guard

A life jacket doesn’t always offer comfort to babies.

When putting them to the water, the zipper, trap or the foam can easily rub against the baby's skin. 

It is not the case with this one.

What I love the most about this, is that its design is like a normal swimming shirt with a life vest firmly attached to it.

As long as your baby is in this vest, no worry about the zipper or anything being pushed up and bothering him or her.

It is built in rash guard, with UPF 50+ to block more than 90% of the UV. As a shirt, it keeps your baby warm, nicely covered under the sun and allows your toddlers to enjoy a full range of motion.

What we like

  • Great design, no more rubbing against the cheeks
  • Offers UV protection, keeps your toddlers warm
  • Allows a full 360-degree range of motion
  • Made from woven polyester

What we don't like

  • No grab handle

TRC Recreation Kids Super Soft USCG Vest

Its name has said it all: super soft. No zipper, no polyester, no bother.

It is made from vinyl coat foam, which offers super softness and comfort. 

Without a zipper, it comes with 2 adjustable buckles and leg strap to avoid it from slipping out.

I would definitely try this one on my baby once he is a little older.

What we like

  • Super soft material
  • Very comfortable
  • Available in different colors

What we don't like

  • No grab handle
  • Pricy: yes, it is a very fancy vest

Full Throttle Child Water Buddies Life Vest

If there is a life vest that can excite your toddler, this is the one.

It is available in some super cute designs, from dinosaur to lady bug. 

Being cute doesn’t mean it is not as safe as other vests. This type III life vest comes with a leg strap and grab handle that allows quick rescue in case of scary moments.


What we like

  • Super cute design
  • Has grab handle and leg strap

What we don't like

  • NA

Stearns Child Classic Series Vest

If you are confused with so many choices, the classic and basic life vest might be the perfect answer for you.

Without fluff or fancy factor, however, this vest provides additional support to your toddler with some swimming skills. 

With 3 adjustable chest belts, leg strap and open side design, it offers comfortable movement.


What we like

  • Available in bright color
  • Substantial without being too bulky

What we don't like

  • No grab handle

O'Neill Child Reactor USCG Life Vest

Many life vests out there are just too expensive. But this O’Neill Child Reactor USCG Life Vest is worth the investment!

It is made of neoprene, which means with the right size, it fits you and provides more and more comfort after being used a few times.

It also comes with a leg strap to avoid slipping and 2 chest buckles for better adjustment.

With segmented foam core and anatomical flex points allowing unrestricted movement, this life vest is great for water sports and activities.

What we like

  • High quality material
  • Comfortable
  • Sizing is great and not bulky

What we don't like

  • No grab handle

Oceans7 US Coast Guard Approved

This is another highly rated and affordable life vest for toddlers and children.

It is made of nylon shell with thick EPE flotation foam. It comes with 3 adjustable chest straps and 1 leg strap.

It received much good feedback because of the comfort it provides with open-side design. 

For infant size, it also comes with a padded head support, but sizing is a little tricky when the top chest strap can rub against your baby’s face.


What we like

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight

What we don't like

  • Bulky and not very comfortable

Now let your baby explore the water safely

Introducing your baby to the water is not that scary. Especially when you have some help.

What’s more fun to know that you are helping your baby to develop his skills, while he gets to enjoy it the whole time.

Make sure you select, not the most expensive life jackets out there, but the right ones for your little warrior.

Your baby will thank you later. Do your research, and introduce your baby to the world.

Hello world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top rated infant life jackets?

My top recommendation is the Stohlquist Toddler Life Jacket or Full Throttle Life Jacket.

What is the most comfortable baby life jacket?

Depending on each baby, for infant, the most comfortable baby life jacket probably is Stohlquist and for toddler is Puddle Jumper Kid Rash Guard.

What is the best swim vest for 1 year old?

You don't select best swim vest based on your baby's age. You pick the vest based on the baby's weight and chest size. 

Generally speaking, if your baby is not too heavy, an infant life vest will be good for him.

For infant life jacket, my top recommendation is the Stohlquist or the Full Throttle.

What is the best baby life jacket brand?

There are many baby life jacket brands. All the products that I reviewed above come from trustworthy and reputable brands.

About the author 

Mai Pham

Mai Pham discovered her passion for writing a few years ago and she never stop thinking about it ever since. She finally took the leap and created Live a Worthy Life to brag about her smart ass (mainly just for fun). Enjoyed the fun writing brings, now with her new interest in everything-baby-related, she created Mommy Instinct, to tell mamas that it's ok that they mess up, that they don't know what the hell they are doing, and that it's okay to sit back and relax for a while.

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