It is possible to take a baby on a boat, whether that’s on a sailing vacation or even for a prolonged period of travel where you might be living onboard; currently there are no age restrictions.
But what does a baby need when living on a boat, and what are the things to best prepare for any trip, even if it’s just for a one-day excursion?
Let me help you, as I’ve done this before with my own kids, all of whom have grown up around boats.
Below you can see a list of all the things my wife and I recommend parents will need when taking a baby on a boat, followed by some additional advice for safety and fun.
What does a baby need if living on a boat?
Read our tips below for what a baby needs when living on a boat, many of which will be suitable for shorter trips too.
A lot of the ideas here are available to purchase at a very low cost in our baby boat gear section. Take a look at that for some great deals.
1. Baby seat, swing or bouncer chair
Young babies can sit down unsupported, but they can of course, sit into a well-designed seat. It will mean you can free yourself up to do other things around the boat; just make sure it’s secured, and you don’t take your eye off them at any point.
We personally loved using our baby boat swing seat – you can read more about that, plus see prices in the baby boat accessories list.
2. UV shade
You can drape a UV shade over the top of the baby’s bouncing chair. It doesn’t just stop the harmful UV rays from the sun getting to them, it can also help to prevent flies landing on them too.
Baby skin is very thin and is far more susceptible to sun burn that ours is, which brings me onto sunscreen in the next tip.
3. Baby sunscreen
Before I get into this, please note, sunscreen is not suitable for babies under 6 months old, so make sure you have a UV shade recommended in the first tip.
However, for babies older than 6 months, you can buy suitable sunscreen that is developed for their skin type. You can see which we recommend in the baby boat gear page (and there are even some baby sunglasses on that list too).
4. Infant life jacket
Probably the most important piece of gear you will need if taking a baby on a boat, is an infant life jacket or PFD (personal flotation device).
In the graphic I made below, you can see what you need to look for when making a purchase.
In the baby boat gear page you can see which life jackets we recommend, all of which have been approved by the US Coast Guard.
5. Portable baby bed
They aren’t just for sleeping, but also a great place to keep them safe if you quickly need to do a boating task.
The best baby beds will have high sides and be easy to fold down and store. The Baby Delight bed on Amazon is perfect – it’s even waterproof and you can see it on the baby accessories page.
6. Safe play area
As your baby gets older, he or she will be able to sit unsupported and will start to get more mobile. You will need somewhere safe for them to play in (or just to plonk them down temporarily).
If you are living on a boat with a cabin or sleeping quarters, then this will be a lot easier – you can see how this works in the video lower down the page.
If you are on a pontoon boat or similar, with no living quarters, pay special attention to the railings and gates to ensure security. The best place to create the safe area will be underneath your pontoon boat Bimini shade.
7. Inflatable bath
This is really useful as it can be deflated and stored away. They have soft edges and will let you bathe your baby in comfort. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see the best bath product.
I would also recommend buying a pull-out shower that you can connect to the tap to fill the bath up with.
Using an inflatable bath will also help to keep your baby cool given the lack of air conditioning on most boats.
8. Small washing machine
If you are going to living on board your boat with a baby for any extended period of time, then a washing machine is going to be essential for the obvious reasons!
You can buy small washing machines that are marketed for RVs or caravans which are cheap, lightweight, and easy to stow away.
9. DVD player or media player
Anyone with young children will know how essential it is to have 10 minutes of respite. Having some form of media player, whether it’s a portable DVD machine or a tablet with pre-loaded videos on it will be a god-send.
If you need to anchor, or do some other essential task, then a media player with play area will give you that much-needed flexibility.
10. Portable Potty
You can still potty train your baby when living on a boat. And the great thing about potties is they are cheap, small, easy to clean and can be stored easily.
If you can potty train your baby to do the number twos in the potty, it will end up saving you a lot of washing and cleaning, not to mention expensive diapers.
You can see which we recommend for adults and children in our guide to boat potties.
11. Breastfeeding versus bottles
Of course, this one is very personal, but some people with babies living on a boat will opt for breast feeding over bottles.
It’s quicker, means less sterilization, less bottles, and overall should make your life easier.
That’s the theory; in practice you might find this isn’t the best option, but it sounds like a great tip according to a great video I watched on YouTube – you can see that below.
Things we learned when taking a baby on a boat
In addition to the list of things you need to take if living on a boat with a baby or just going out for the day, there are some additional tips I would like to share.
- You need the right type of PFD for a baby.
- Shade from the sun is absolutely essential.
- Newborn babies shouldn’t have sunscreen.
- Keep your baby well hydrated.
- Don’t buckle your baby into a seat on the boat.
- Your baby will sleep really well due to the motion.
- Keep an eye out for large waves, swells, and wakes.
- Plan your baby’s boat trip according to the weather.
- Take it in turns to hold your baby.
- Be prepared to cut the boat trip short.
- Take as many photos as you can you will create special memories.
To find out more about why I recommend and advise on the above, read my tips for taking a newborn on a pontoon boat.
How to keep an older baby or toddler entertained and safe onboard
If you are planning on living on a boat with your baby, entertainment is one of the key factors, particularly as they grow older.
It’s not just about what does a baby need living on a boat, but also how you can keep things fun and safe; here are some tips:
- Make sure the life vest fits properly.
- Never leave them in a portable car seat onboard (here’s why).
- Make sure you keep an eye on the them 100% of the time.
- Create a safe area on the boat for your baby to stay in.
- Keep your baby in your arms at all times.
- Bring toys and games to keep them entertained.
To read more tips (there’s 21 in total), read this guide to boating with a toddler or baby.
The last word…
I hope that this guide to what you need when taking a baby on a boat has given you some confidence in taking your child on their first trip.
I am a firm believer that the younger you introduce your baby to the joys of boating, the better. They will grow in confidence, have life-changing experiences, and become well-rounded adventurers themselves.
As your baby grows older into the toddler and young child years, never neglect safety. My wife and I have put together a safety briefing guide which we used with our own kids, which gives you examples on how to encourage them to think safe at all times.