The most comprehensive Federal regulation only covers the wearing of children’s life jackets during boating sessions. In the absence of any state regulation on babies needing to wear the infant life jacket, all children below 13 should be wearing one. They may only leave them off if they are below deck or within an enclosed cabin.
However, besides boating, it is advisable for parents to keep the infant life jacket on their babies even in swimming pools and other inland waters. But at the end of the day, direct parental supervision is still the best safety measure.
The Infant Life Jacket Should Be Worn While Boating
The boats covered under Federal law include rowboats or canoes, motorboats, kayaks, and sailboats. Especially if they are below 18 feet in length and therefore are much more likely to tip over for whatever reason. Your baby should have his infant life jacket on at all times when there is even the slightest possibility that he might end up in the water, for a number of reasons.
The best reason is that babies and infants are at a higher risk of hypothermia than adults or teenagers. If your baby falls into the river or lake for whatever reason, you need to minimize the risk of hypothermia, and maximize the possibility of pulling him or her out. You can do both with the infant life jacket.
Because of the thick material of the infant life jacket and its cozy fit on the baby, it can at the very least minimize full contact of the water with the baby’s chest and head. This will slow the reach of the cold to your baby’s body.
At the same time, you need to be able to pull your baby out of the water as fast as humanly possible. You will need to be able to spot your baby at once, through the life vest’s bright colors; and be able to pull your baby out the moment you reach him or her, by the jacket’s grab loop.
Hypothermia aside, babies are prone to panicking when they are in an unfamiliar situation. Science says that babies will just roll over and swim when they hit the water, but the risk cannot be taken. An infant who cannot even hold his head up can drown face-down in at least 2 inches of water, and it will always be deeper than that on a boating trip.
The Infant Life Jacket Should Be Worn Inside And Near Swimming Pools
There is no Federal or state regulation on the use of infant life jackets in swimming pools. However, we very strongly advise you to keep your baby’s life jacket on inside or near the swimming pool. Even if you are planning to sit outside the pool without touching the water, make sure your baby is wearing the infant life jacket.
Swimming pools seem like the safest places to bring your children for recreational swimming. After all, everything seems controlled: the safety precautions, the people entering the pool grounds, the depth of water. However, that is the greatest risk inside a swimming pool: that false perception of total safety.
The leading scene of drowning for children under the age of 4 is the swimming pool. Because some parents are so assured of their children’s absolute safety in those controlled surroundings, they allow their babies to sit or swim without any protection, not even life jackets.
If you will not be holding your baby at all times or if you know that you may be distracted at one point or another, or even just as an extra precaution, make sure your baby is wearing an infant life jacket when near or inside a swimming pool.
The Infant Life Jacket Should Be Worn Near Inland Waters
Since Federal regulations do not demand babies and children to be in life jackets when they are near inland waters such as lakes and rivers, those situations might be interpreted as “not dangerous for kids.” However, the same problems exist there as the ones faced when boating. If the baby falls into the water, there will be the same need to minimize hypothermia and maximize safety from drowning. It is as simple as that.
Direct Parental Supervision: Still The Best Safety Measure
No matter what fancy gadgets are invented to keep our children safe, there will never be a substitute for parental supervision and reflexes. The safest children are those whose guardians never let them out of their sights, not for a single moment. The infant life jacket only enhances the safety that the guardian can provide for the child.