Some Tips for Safe Boating with Infants
If you’ve got a new addition to your family, you have probably wondered “Can I take Junior out on the boat?”
The answer is yes. But with a few basic caveats.
Rule 1 -- PFD. No matter how small, every person on a boat should be wearing a Personal Flotation Device, or life jacket. Always. Without fail. No exceptions.
The US Coast Guard recommends waiting until your baby is at least 18 pounds (which typically happens between the ages of 4 and 11 months) before outfitting them with a PFD and going out on the water. There are life jackets specifically designed for infants, with crotch straps and head support. Buy one. Put Junior in one. Wear one yourself. Every time. Without exception.
Sunscreen and shade. Ask your pediatrician to recommend a suitable sunscreen product for baby. Very young children (under a year) may not be able to wear sunscreen due to their delicate skin. Plan B is to make sure there is always a shady spot out of the sun--under a bimini, or under an umbrella. Also, ensure the baby wear a brimmed hat, or a long-sleeved shirt.
Babyproof the boat. Check around your boat for the obvious safety hazards: fish hooks, knives, sharp objects, breakable glass. You already do this around your house, so it won’t be hard to babyproof the boat.
Start small. Babies will generally take to boating like ducks to water: they’ll love the fresh air, the sunshine, the rushing water, looking at other boats, the sound of the motor...but it may take them a bit to get used to it all. The first time you take Junior out on the water, make it a short trip of an hour or less.
Gear Up. Just like planning a trip to Grandma’s house, bring all the gear and supplies you think you might need. You’ll want to keep Junior well hydrated, so make sure you’ve got formula or Mom standing by. Bring plenty of diapers, several changes of clothes, toys and things to keep Junior’s attention, snacks, a place for napping … all the usual stuff!
All hands on deck. Obviously, you’ll want to keep a close eye on Junior during the boat trip. Bring enough people along to help. During any tricky maneuvers, like docking or anchoring, make sure someone is assigned to do just one thing: keep a close eye and two hands free for the baby.
If you want some good tips for boating with small children, and to see how others have handled it, visit www.boaterkids.com.
There’s no reason to avoid boating just because you’ve got a new baby. Instead, plan ahead, think safety, and your little bundle of joy will soon be a valuable deckhand for your future boat outings.