Stearns Infant Classic Boating Vest

Editor rating

4/5 on October 23, 2015

User's rating

283 reviews

Stearns Infant Classic Boating Vest Features

Our checklist gives us a clear set of criteria by which to choose an infant life jacket. First and foremost, the criteria ensures safety for your infant. Second, it looks at the comfort of wear for the baby, and then the comfort of the parent in handling the baby while he or she is wearing the vest. Last but not least is the affordability of the life jacket.

The Stearns infant life jacket matches our safety checklist. It is USCG (United States Coast Guard) approved; is designed for infants under 30 lbs; has a flotation collar, a grab loop, and a crotch strap; is brightly colored and designed to flip the baby onto his or her back.

The bulkiness may cause some discomfort for the baby, and the foam and neck zipper may ride up on the baby’s face. Some babies don’t mind chewing the foam, but others may not like it. It is also slightly difficult for smaller babies to sit in the foam. However, the Stearns vest is an affordable option, and is proven to be a safe one.  

Safety Features Of The Stearns Infant Life Jacket

USCG approved. The first label to look for on the life jacket is the “U.S. Coast Guard Approval” number, usually below the model number and supported weight ranges of the vest. The Stearns model is USCG approved, meaning it has a minimum buoyancy of 7 lbs and the foam content is approved for recreational boating use. The vest also passed the check of the USCG on the overall condition of the model: the presence of tears, frays, or mildew and other signs of brittle foam.

Works For Infants Below 30 lbs. Unlike adult life jackets, kids’ life jackets work by overall weight. As long as your baby is below 30 lbs, the 7-lb buoyancy of the life jacket will support his or her weight. It is still recommended to wait until the baby is at least 16 lbs before he is placed into a life jacket. The jacket is more likely to fit snugly, and keep the baby safe. Do not try it on any child heavier than 30 lbs. Not only might the fit be too tight for the baby’s comfort, a larger child will do better with the 11-lb buoyancy of vests made for children 30-50 lbs heavy.

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It Has A Flotation Collar. Until they are 6 months old, babies struggle to hold their heads up for extended periods of time. Even after that time, they are only beginning to learn the other basics of supporting their bodies. The flotation collar prevents a very young or fatigued baby’s head from falling back into the water, and also keeps water from getting into his or her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.

The Stearns’ infant life jacket has a low but thick pillow positioned right behind the baby’s nape and the back of his head. The pillow is about twice the width of the baby’s head, curving up when the baby is in the water to prevent his head rolling off, and to minimize the water coming into the pillow. The thickness supports the the baby’s head, so he or she should be able to float comfortably for any length of time.

It Has A Grab Loop. The grab loop has one purpose but multiple uses. Some parents even pull their infants along by the grab loop, when inside a swimming area. That is one of its safety uses: the parent has something they can hold on to at all times, not allowing the baby to float out of sight.

The Stearns infant life jacket has a wide nylon grab loop attached to the flotation collar, so that rescuers and parents can quickly and easily hang on to the baby and move him in case of an accident. The dullness of the color may make it difficult to find, however, if the vest is blue or not bright enough to be quickly spotted.

It Has A Crotch Strap. The most snug-fitting of infant life vests is in danger of riding up upon contact with the water, because of its natural buoyancy. Upon strong impact, if the infant is thrown out of the boat by a collision or just falls off, the probability of the jacket riding up is stronger.

To prevent this, the Stearns infant life jacket has a crotch strap that passes between the infant’s legs and buckles in the front. The strap can be adjusted so that the vest is as snug as possible. The snugness makes it easier for the vest to flip the baby over on his back in case of an accident.

It Is Brightly Colored. When it comes to boating and water accidents, every second counts. Not only will the baby get farther away from help the more time that passes, he or she will also be in more danger of hypothermia, which is when the body succumbs to the shock of the water temperature.

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The grab collar will be no good at all if the rescuers cannot find the baby’s jacket. The Stearns infant life jacket comes most popularly in bright red, an ideal color to stand out against the waves. The blue versions should be avoided altogether, as they blend too well with the water. Style should definitely be sacrificed for safety in this case.

It Is Designed To Flip The Baby On His Or Her Back. To really protect an infant in the water, an infant life jacket should be designed with the front floats thick, and the back floats extremely thin or non-existent. That way, when the infant lands face first, the lighter front and heavier back will immediately turn him over so his face is out of the water.

The Stearns infant life jacket is designed with a thin nylon back, but extremely thick chest padding. The design ensures that the floats, when landed on, have enough buoyancy to push themselves out of the water. The infant’s body weight, heavier than the floats, will be pulled towards the water by gravity, and he will land on his back.

Comfort Features Of The Stearns Infant Life Jacket

Because of the two chunky foam pieces in front, the Stearns infant life jacket is not too comfortable for the baby to wear, especially out of water. The foam pieces may brush the child’s chin or ears in the water unless properly adjusted, although an even-tempered baby will not mind the slight discomfort. Others may even use it as a chew toy.

A snug fit is part of both the comfort and safety features of an infant life jacket. If the life jacket is not tightened enough, the baby will rattle uncomfortably around in it. It also might not support him properly if he falls into the water, and his weight might not be in the proper position to instantly flip him over. On the other hand, if the life jacket is tightened too much, the infant will feel the pain of the constriction. If he falls into the water, the discomfort will only intensify.

The Stearns infant life jacket is completely open at the sides, only attached at the shoulders and the hip. The baby has space to wave his arms around in, and there is less likelihood of a snugly secured life vest constricting his chest. A 1-inch thick adjustable nylon strap goes around his waist, and can be tightened and buckled. A zip-up front makes for a snug fit. The jacket should be tightened until it lies against the baby like a second skin, but no further.

The snug fit does have some disadvantages: for smaller infants, when sitting, the front pads of the chest ride up against the baby’s cheeks and face. That may definitely make it complicated for the parents, if they have to hold their baby in a standing position the whole boating trip. In pursuit of the snug fit, the neck zipper may be too high as well for some babies’ comfort.

The primary design of the Stearns Classic Infant Boating Vest is for safety rather than comfort. The bulkiness of the front is the secret to flipping the baby on his back when he falls face-first, and the snugness of the fit ensures the same thing.

The infant will not be able to float in any other position but on his back, and he may have difficulty in activities that require him to put his hands together. It is best used as a safety vest rather than a flotation or swimming aid. At the same time, the infant should be comfortable in the vest, or he won’t have any fun–which defeats the purpose.

Affordability

The Stearns infant life jacket is one of the most affordable models on the market. With tried-and-tested safety, it is definitely a good deal for families who regularly go boating, but not too frequently. If the boating sessions are frequent, weekly or twice a month, more comfort might be preferable in addition to safety.

Is The Stearns Infant Life Jacket Right For You?

The Stearns Classic Infant Boating Vest is an affordable baby life jacket with all of the necessary safety features included. If you regularly go boating inland and on calm waters, for less than an entire day, this vest is ideal for the baby’s safety in and out of the water.