Pediatrics | Published August 25, 2020

Ask the pediatrician: Neck floatation devices

Hi Dr. Collison,

I’ve recently seen social media ads for neck floatation devices designed for babies to use during bath time or while swimming. Are these safe to use?

While these videos look cute, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend the use of inflatable devices as safe swim equipment because it gives parents, and children, a false sense of safety. The neck floatation devices should never be used in place of an approved life jacket.

Babies’ neck and muscle coordination develops at an unpredictable rate and it can only take one to two inches of water to a pose as a drowning hazard. Parents should follow these tips for best water safety practices:

Bath safety

  • Always keep one hand on baby during bath time. Set up all bath supplies such as shampoo and towel beforehand so everything is in reach.
  • Use a hard plastic baby bathtub that has a sling or sloped textured back so the baby won’t slide down in the tub. You can also bathe baby in the sink.
  • Avoid the use of bath seats that are meant to be placed in adult tubs. The seats, or baby, can easily tip over.
  • Do not overfill the baby bathtub or sink with water. All you really need is 2 inches of warm water.

Swim safety

  • Always have a responsible adult that knows how to swim, watching babies and children in the pool. If there is more than one adult present, take turns being “on duty.”
  • Make sure you are within arm’s reach of babies and children under the age of five.
  • Use an approved life jacket.
  • Place a fence around the perimeter of the pool that is at least four feet high and prevents small children from climbing over or through the rails.
  • Install alarms on doors and windows leading out to the pool, making sure the batteries are replaced regularly.
  • If your child is more than one year old and seems developmentally ready, consider enrolling your child in swim classes.

Remember: if you ever need to walk away from bath time or swim time, even for a second, always take your baby with you. Keeping these tips in mind will help to keep your baby safely splashing around in the water.