Baby Boat Gear: 10 Essentials for the Little Ones On Board

Planning a boat trip? Make sure everyone in the family is accommodated - even the littlest ones. Taking a baby on a boat might seem like a fun new way to spend time with the whole family. But there are unique considerations to be made to guarantee the safety and enjoyment of your baby onboard. Wondering what you need to prepare for baby’s day out? Here’s a list of the must-have baby boat gear for safety and fun.

Top 10 Things You Need

1. Baby Life Jacket

infant life jacket

Of course, the first thing to tick off of your list would have to be an infant life jacket. Designed specifically for babies, these jackets come in a range of designs, maximizing safety and comfort.

Designs that incorporate secure straps and rescue handles can be especially ideal for parents who want that extra facet of safety and peace of mind. Keep in mind that life jackets have age and weight ranges that cater to children at different stages in their development. Read up on specifics and make sure the jacket you’re buying will suit your child’s size and age.

Our top choice is the Infant Classic Series Vest by Stearns.

2. Sunscreen

boating with a toddler

Not all sunscreen formulations will agree with your baby’s sensitive skin. So before you slather on that run-of-the-mill sunscreen, try to check other, milder options. Choices that are formulated specifically for babies’ sensitive skin should provide protection and limit the risk of irritation.

If your child is especially sensitive to new products, you might also want to consider all natural product that do away with harsh chemicals and fragrances to reduce the risk of skin reactions.

Our pick is the Coppertone WaterBabies SPF 50 or for an organic choice we love Badger SPF 30 Baby Sunscreen.

3. Cot or Crib

baby crib for boat

Having a cot or crib at the ready can free up your arms when baby falls asleep, or give you a safe space to make a diaper change when necessary. A portable cot can offer substantial space and comfort, but inflatable options can be especially affordable and compact.

If you’ve got a toddler on your hands, a play yard or a baby crib for boat use might be necessary. Some options provide spacious interiors without the massive footprint, letting you create a safe space for your baby to play and move around while you prepare lunch for the rest of the bunch.

4. Booster Seat

having a baby on a boat

It helps to have a secure seat for your baby to sit when it’s time to eat or if you simply want to free up your hands. Designs that come complete with a tray should be perfect for babies six months or older, especially if they’re starting to explore eating on their own. It also helps if the seat can collapse for easy storage.

Keep in mind though that there aren’t a lot of baby booster seats that are designed for use on pontoons. So unless you find a way to secure the seat to your pontoon seats, it’s typically discouraged to have your baby in the seat when the boat is underway.

We recommend the Pop n Sit Booster Seat by Summer.

5. Sunhat

lightweight sunhat for your toddler

Sitting on a pontoon will expose you to lots of sunlight, and all of that heat can be difficult for babies to deal with. So aside from protecting your little one’s skin, it also helps to provide an extra layer of protection with a sunhat.

There are lots of different designs for babies, but you’re going to want something lightweight and breathable since a baby will likely try to remove anything that isn’t comfortable. Mesh panels also help make a hat more ventilated for keeping temperatures in control.

These UPF 50 sunhats by Durio and Ami & Li are great with adjustable chin straps.

6. Sunglasses

eye protection for your babies

If you’ve ever tried looking out into the open water, you should know that glare can be tough to look at. The same goes for your baby. Fortunately, baby sunglasses have become a thing, and they’re widely available.

Typically, these designs will feature a comfortable elastic strap that fits around your baby’s head to keep the lenses over the eyes. Some choices use polarized lenses to add another layer of eye protection and prevent strain and discomfort.

We love the adjustable Baby BANZ Sunglasses.

7. Floater Ring

baby floater ring

Planning to take baby out on the water? Aside from the life jacket, a floater ring is an essential piece of gear for boating with a toddler. But not just any ring will do the trick - something with a built-in shade should offer extra sun protection while your baby plays in the water.

If you want to extend the fun even more, you can consider a floater ring with added features like toys and play panels that give your baby something to tinker with while he splashes about.

We recommend the SwimWays Baby Spring Float as it's shaded with interactive toy accessories.

8. Buoyancy Belt

infant boat safety

For older toddlers learning how to swing, a buoyancy belt can be a great piece of gear. These designs are intended to keep your child floating vertically in the water so they can learn how to swim with safety. It can also be especially helpful in reducing drowning risk while you’re in the water.

Reliable and effective at keeping your tot’s head above the water, this pick can be particularly necessary if you’ve got a child who isn’t too natural when it comes to understanding body mechanics while swimming.

Our favorite choice is the Buoyancy Belt from AquaJogger.

9. Rash Guard

long sleeve rash guard for sun protection for toddlers

While your tot might look all cute in a mini bikini or a set of trunks, providing maximum skin coverage with a full body rash guard should be best for their sensitive skin. A long-sleeved swim top or a full body onesie can help keep your baby protected from harsh sunlight.

Sure, it might be your first impulse to buy something for the sake of its aesthetic, but it also helps to consider how lighter colors tend to deflect heat. To make sure your baby is as protected from high temperatures, choose suits that come in lighter, brighter colors. This can also help improve visibility when he’s out in the open water.

For sunny days, we recommend the Long Sleeve Rash Guard by grUVywear.

10. After Sun Soother

after sun soother with aloe vera

There’s no such thing as being too careful when it comes to protecting your baby’s skin from heat damage. So aside from the sunscreen, applying generous amounts of an after sun soother can curb the chances of sunburn and irritation after your day on the boat.

Formulated to hydrate and soothe skin, these formulations work to calm and moisturize baby’s skin to hasten healing and recovery after extended exposure to the sun. All natural and organic formulations stripped of harsh chemicals can be ideal for babies who tend to manifest negative reactions to stronger products.

Check out Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother or for sensitive skin we recommend the Sun Bum Bool Down Aloe Vera Gel as it's hypoallergenic.

Must-Know on Boat Safety for Babies

Although equipping your pontoon with the right gear can help make it a safer space for your baby, there are specific stipulations that should guide pontoon owners on proper boat safety when bringing along a baby.

Can All Babies Ride A Pontoon?

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, babies should not travel on a boat until they are at least 18 pounds in weight. Babies who meet this standard should also be able to wear a personal floatation device (PFD) at all times while on board.

What’s important to note here is that the regulations say that babies should not travel on a boat until a certain weight. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a newborn with you when the pontoon is docked or moving slowly (no more than six miles per hour.)

Can You Use A Car Seat In A Pontoon?

While it might seem reasonable to strap your baby to a car seat while you’re on board, it’s important to remember that car seats aren’t designed to float. That said, it’s highly discouraged for parents to place their babies in designs that aren’t intended specifically for boat use.

However the selection for boat-specific baby gear is pretty slim, so it can be tough to find designs that are developed for water safety. With that in mind, it’s always best to have your baby in their PFD at all times.

Can I Boat Alone With My Baby?

If it’s recreational boating - as in sitting in your pontoon while it’s docked - then that shouldn’t be a problem. But managing an entire boat while holding on to a baby can be a significant hazard for both you and your child.

At any given time, there should be at least one adult for every child on deck - regardless of the child’s age. This just ensures that every minor on the pontoon will have someone to look after them in case anything goes wrong.

Boating with Your Baby

Having a baby on a boat is a big responsibility and calls for significant planning and preparation. So before you board your pontoon, make sure it’s equipped with all the essentials to keep your baby safe during the trip. This way, you can guarantee not only your baby’s enjoyment and well-being, but also your peace of mind.