Boating with an Infant: To Do or Not to Do?

boating with an infant
My 4-month-old, Eva, wearing an infant life vest and sun hat – ready for boating!

Is it OK to take a baby on a boat?  More importantly, is it safe to take an infant boating? Sure!  You will have to take some precautions and be well-prepared; but when you do, you and your baby can have a great time out on the boat.  Recently, I took my 4 1/2 month old baby out on a rented boat  from Cannons Marina and I thought I was totally prepared for the situation, but I have to say, I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do when you bring an infant on a boat.  So, here’s a list of all things helpful when you go boating with a baby.

1) Made in the Shade: Do Not Put Sunscreen On A Baby Under 6 Months

According to our doctor (the awesome Dr. Lopez of Bradenton, Florida) and the Food and Drug Administration, you should not apply sunscreen to babies under six months old because their skin is so thin which means they absorb more chemicals.  There is a nice article about babies and sunscreen from the FDA here. Since you can’t use sunscreen on the baby, you need to make sure your boat has a nice shade canopy and that he or she has a good sun hat and a long-sleeved swim shirt. Also, make sure your baby is well-hydrated.  They may need extra breast milk or formula when exposed to extreme heat.

2) Buckle Up! Get the Appropriate Life Jacket for an Infant

If you are renting a boat, the marina should supply you with a life jacket for infants (as Cannons Marina so nicely did), but if you have your own boat, make sure you purchase an infant life jacket that is for children under 30 pounds.  The correct infant life vest has a head support collar that also has a handle for quick retrieval in case of emergency.  Make sure the life vest you purchase has the “U.S. Coast Guard Approved” label attached to it. Children 6 and under need to be fully buckled into their life vest while the boat is underway. If you are anchored, you can unzip the baby’s life jacket, but while the boat is in motion, make sure your little one is buckled up!

3) The More Hands, the Better!

When the baby is buckled up in a life vest, someone will need to hold him or her.  It is very important to support the baby’s head, so holding him and supporting his head in the crook of your arm is the best bet.  If you are anchored and want to put the baby down for a few minutes, the thing you DON’T want to do is strap your baby into his or her car seat on the boat. Why?  If the baby happens to fall overboard while in the car seat, the car seat is like an anchor and will go straight to the bottom.  So we found that it’s a good idea to bring extra people on board with you so you can pass the baby around when your arms get tired.

4) Keep Calm and Carry On!

Of course, you don’t want to jostle the baby’s head around, so it is very important to choose a day with good weather and calm waters. Choppy waters are not your friend!  You may want to stick to the intracoastal or canals instead of going out into the Gulf of Mexico or the ocean where it may be a little more rough.  In Florida, we tend to get thunderstorms that pop up in the afternoon, so you may want to boat in the morning to avoid any bad weather.  It is safest to go at a slow speed with the baby on board, so if you are trying to outrun a storm, now’s not the time.
Follow these tips and you and your precious cargo will have a great day boating!