Paddle baby

I didn’t really look into this stuff BEFORE the baby was born on Tuesday, but now that he has been I was wondring what you all knew about infant safety and paddlesports. Are there baby PFDs? Is there any age in which “they” feel is appropriate to first take the little ones out on the water in kayaks or a canoe? Selfishly, I want to still be able to get out on the flat water with my wife this summer and I want the baby to have a “full” experience, stimulating and un-sheltered life-experieince, like I WISH I had, but I don’t want to place him in any REAL danger.


If you really want to be selfish
… and self-serving, don’t take your wife and the new baby out in a canoe. She will hate the whole experience and probably resent you and the canoe and canoeing and you’ll pay for it for a long time to come. So, be selfish and don’t take them.

my kids

– Last Updated: Jul-02-09 9:55 AM EST –

I can't remember how old my daughters were when I first had them in a canoe, but they were very young, less than 1 year old.

For very young kids you probably want the type of PFD that has a big foam doughnut around the neck to make sure the kid's head floats up out of the water.

I had one but I passed it on to someone. The problem is that you will wind up with a whole collection of youth PFDs of various sizes, just like other kid's clothing and shoes.

Googling “infant PFD” got a few that looked reasonable.

Probably a good idea to go early or late to avoid the midday sun, and start with very short trips.

it is about knowing baby pychology

– Last Updated: Jul-02-09 10:56 AM EST –

OK, just knowledge of babies. If you want the baby to be fulfilled and not be selfish, then it is best to know what fulfills babies and not get caught up in what we as adults think fulfills them.

Unless you are atypical dad, the baby is primarily care taken by your partner and thus is happiest near or being held by her. So she should not have to paddle most or any of the time for the baby to be really secure and feel interested in what is happening.

Secondly, babies need to explore. Think of how you would feel being inside your 3 million dollar new estate but never allowed outside? Just a prison. So the boat is a limited type of experience for a baby as it cannot move about or leave it.

If on the other hand what you really want is to not lose you partner as an outdoor boat person consider having the experience without the baby just you and her. Being totally child focused is a quick way to lose one's healthy happy partnership.


Safety, depends on what you mean by real danger. All of us take babies into situations of potentially lethal consequences, i.e., car travel, crossing city streets, etc. For me, I use a different calculation for non necessity life events, i.e., bicycling, water sports, hiking, backpacking, roller blading, etc. I am more conservative there, and place the safety of the baby as paramount as the baby has no consent to place itself in harm's way.

Babies are not able to keep from breathing in water on capsize. Even if you stick close to shore, go only on calm days, with a special PFD that floats the head upright, etc. I personally would not take a baby onto the water. No judgment on others here, my take on things, what is right for me.

There are only two types of paddlers, those who have not capsized unexpectedly on calm days, and those who will.

If you or anyone else knows of a method of keeping babies from ever drowning via immediate submersion or delayed drowning via intake of water and subsequent death, I would like to know about it.

do it.
My kids were in sailboats, canoes and kayaks from about 2 months on. The trick is finding an infant PFD that doesn’t make them too uncomfortable. There are really bad ones (where the foam is just in all the wrong places), and much more tolerable ones. MTI makes some good ones.

Keep it on totally flat water, close to shore, and short trips. Before you go out, go through scenarios in your mind, like how you will handle a capsize. How can you hold onto boat, paddle, and baby, and how can you get baby out of the water if you’re all in. Not trivial, and not something to figure out when it happens.

Also, I always required that the person attending the baby be wearing a PFD, even if they would not normally. You can’t help a baby in the water, if you’re using your hands to keep yourself afloat.

Just some stuff to think about so it’s safe, but go for it.

Are there any baby aquatic classes
where you live? The PFD’s a good idea, but you might want to look for swim classes too. Babies swim like fish, or so I’ve been told.

Try something tame first
This decision is probably up to your wife…

I would get one of the PFDs others have mentioned and paddle around on something like a lake and avoid the class III for now.


Adaptive Paddling Guidelines
Finally got my adaptive paddling endorsement this spring (yay!), and I think you could apply the guidelines to infants as well.

For a person with disabilities to paddle safely, they must be able to hold their head upright, close their mouth & hold their breath underwater, and roll themselves upright in the water. Otherwise, no go.

Tideplay, do you know at what age an infant can hold their breath underwater? I’d think that would be the minimum age to take a baby in a canoe or kayak. As you pointed out, it’s not if you’ll capsize unexpectedly, it’s when.

The collared infant/toddler PFDs are designed to hold the wearer’s face out of the water once they’re on their back, but I’ve never trusted that they will turn the wearer upright from a face-down position.

Do make sure the PFD has a crotch strap and that it’s fastened & properly adjusted.

And before you take your baby out, practice capsize recovery with them, in a safe setting - shallow, protected water, experienced rescuers to help if something goes wrong. If you feel hesitant about capsizing deliberately with a baby even in those circumstances, you should probably think twice about taking them out.

adaptive paddling is not equivalent
congrats for the adaptive paddling skills. genuinely!!!

the decision of a disabled person to practice self determination is NOT the same as a parent putting their child’s safety first and not their own needs to be out on the water.

I am not saying for anyone what to do or not, no judgment here. But these are just not the same issues.

the rule in our house
is that you can’t go out on the water until you can swim. That means about 3 or 4.

the infant PFDs
have a large, complete foam circle around the neck, not a collar that extends part way around the neck.

My hat is off to you
I hope there is some sort of PFD that will automatically keep the baby in a safe and up right position in the case of a mishap.

If not I still admire the fact that you want to keep your wife and the infant in this wonderful paddling loop.

Good luck , and I hope it all works out good for the whole family.



I canoe with all my kids
From the age of 6 week and up. They are now 5, 3 and 8 months and are practically born in the canoe (was in the bwca at 8 month pg lol). We just got back from a 6 day BWCA trip and plan on going again in 2 weeks. You can canoe with babies. If you have any question please feel free to email me

holding breath
"Tideplay, do you know at what age an infant can hold their breath underwater?"

Actually, very young babies (like 3-6 months) hold their breath very well under water. But we lose that swimming reflex sometime before a year old. So it’s not simply a matter of when a kid can hold their breath.

And if you’re waiting for a kid to regain that skill through training before you take them out in a canoe, they’re going to miss about 5 years of outdoor experience.

What this really comes down to is a matter of personal comfort with assuming some risk. The only rule I can think of is that you should carefully think through scenarios of how you would handle emergencies if they did occur, and take all reasonable measures to avoid those emergencies.

But avoiding boating altogether because your kid might go in the drink is throwing the baby out with the bilge-water.

matter of judgement
It seems I recall seeing parents with their infants at the pool in baby aquatic classes, dunking their heads under water. I don’t recall seeing any of the babies immediately aspirate and turn blue.

Obviously, taking a very young child on the water imposes some risk. Taking them in the car imposes significant risk. And I had my kids (helmeted and in an appropriate child seat) out on my bicycle all over Minneapolis and St Paul, and that imposed some risk on them as well.

If we defered subjecting out kids to any uneccesary risks until they were old enough to make that judgement for themselves, they would experience a very protected childhood indeed.

Obviously, with very young children my wife and I limited ourselves to very protected waters and stayed close to shore. As they grew a bit older, we took them out on rivers starting with Class I and eventually up to Class III in a tandem.

And I’m still waiting to have that experience of capsizing the canoe with the kids in it. Guess I’m a little too late for it now.

I agree, but :slight_smile:
I agree with you that adaptive paddling is different than taking infants on the water. To clarify, I wasn’t suggesting that AP guidelines be applied per se, only that sometimes it helps to conceptualize similar situations when trying to decide what to do.

I stand by my suggestion to practice rescues, and my opinion that if you feel uncomfortable doing a planned capsize with infants/toddlers/children, you should think twice about paddling with them.

same in my family
yes, same for us. of course then you have toddlers who like short time in boats only, cause they need to toddle and have massively short attention, so best to have them explore and roam, drain their super energies and then paddle when they are cooked and tired. : > )