We received a Stohlquist Infant Life Jacket as a baby shower gift from some rafting friends. Initially we laughed about how cute it is not considering actually using it. We soon realized it was a high quality product, as one would expect from Stohlquist, a long time manufacturer of whitewater rafting and kayaking gear. With 7 pounds and 6 ounces of flotation, the US Coast Guard approved vest is a high-float PFD (Personal Flotation Device) even when maxed out with a 30 pound infant. The equivalent vest for a 210 pound adult would be over 51 pounds of flotation (whereas adult vests have 16 to 22 lbs of flotation). The life jacket is also free of toxic PVC materials. Our only concern was that it said “will turn only some children to a face-up position.”
Testing the PFD on a Newborn Baby
Within weeks we were imagining rafting the Rogue River with our newborn. So we tried it on her. She was probably just over 9 lbs at the time and 22 inches long. We were surprised how well the PFD fit her (see the photo above). That being said, our daughter was not a fan of the vest since it minimized her ability to move her head.
Testing the Life Jacket on a Three-Month-Old
At around 3 months we tried it on again. Baby was now around 11 lbs and 26 inches long. She was much happier in the life jacket this time. We even lifted her by the loop on the pillow. With the crotch strap firmly attached and the side straps tightened the vest held its position well. The most amazing part was she seemed to enjoy this activity.
The loop made it easy to grab her, however we did not like the entrapment potential of the loop. We are discussing cutting it off before using it on a rafting trip. It works fine to grab the PFD by a shoulder strap as is done with adults. We also noted that there is so much flotation on the front of the vest that it was not possible for her to sit while wearing the vest.
Water Testing the Life Jacket
When she was a little over 5 months old (14.5 lbs and 27.5 inches) we moved to a new place with a bath tub! Within days we realized she loves floating around on her back in her vest. She was stable on her back and it was difficult to get her to roll onto her side. We tried having her on her stomach and the vest didn’t right her to her back effectively but we were in a shallow bath tub so we feel a test in deeper water is necessary.
It was awkward for her to try to stand since the front flotation going down to her mid-thigh. She still couldn’t sit with it on. Our daughter also did not like being placed on her stomach in the vest and she usually likes tummy time. After the float test, I would trust our baby’s life in that vest and she’d be happy floating in the vest for a long time. However, I’m not sure how long there would be smiles while in the vest outside of the water.
Fitting the PFD
The straps are well placed for comfort and function. On the back of the vest all three straps can be easily accessed to tighten or loosen the life jacket. They can adapt to a range of sizes and shapes of babies. Even as a newborn the straps had an ability to fit a much smaller infant. If for some reason the zipper broke the crotch strap and chest buckle would still hold the baby in well.
Stohlquist Infant US Coast Guard Approved Type II PFD
Floation: sea level buoyancy of 7 lbs. 6oz.
Size: up to 30 lb infants and toddlers
Type II PFDs will turn only some children to a “face-up” position.
PVC-free, built with Gaia foam
Stohlquist has been making quality whitewater products for decades. Their infant lifejacket is well made and designed. It secures tightly and floats a baby high in the water. Once an infant is on her back she will be stable. For smaller child less than a year old (less than 20 lbs) we would be concerned about the baby’s comfort riding in a raft for a long period of time with minimal ability to move in the cumbersome vest. However, once in the water we think the baby is going to love it!