Baby, Pregnancy, and Parenting Information

Baby Sleep Options: Pack-N-Play vs. a Crib


Pack-n-play’s, also often called travel yards, are becoming very popular with new parents as an option for their baby when it comes to bedtime. This is not only true for newborns, but also as your baby gets older. How do pack-n-plays measure up for long term use and would it be a good idea for your family?

baby-sleep-options-pack-n-play-vs-crib.jpgMost pack-n-plays come with a bassinet option and several come with a changing table, making the pack-n-play a good multi-functional piece of baby gear to go in mom and dad’s room before a baby is moved to his crib in his room that might have a changing table in it. It is nice because at night diapers, wipes and a place to change baby is right there and at hand at 3am. However, the use of pack-n-plays for naps and bedtime doesn’t have to end with your baby outgrowing the bassinet or learning how to sit up.

Many people have chosen to skip over the whole idea of a crib, and use a pack-n-play as their child’s bed for the first year and beyond. This is an idea with many benefits included.

Firm/Small Sleep Area
Pack-n-play’s have a smaller sleeping area than a crib. For some babies who may be over stimulated easily, being more confined may actually be a comfort to them. The pad in a pack-n-play is also very firm and there are no “bumpers” to it that a baby could get pressed up against. There are also no bars that a baby can get their foot, arm or head through, possibly leading to injury like a crib has.

Pack Up and Go
Cribs can not be taken with you when you go to a friends’ for the afternoon or out of town for a weekend. Pack-n-plays however can be easily broken down and put back up, fitting into a small bag that can be put in the trunk or on a plane with no problem. This allows parents to literally take their baby’s bed with them if they are going to be gone for an extended amount of time. This is helpful for some babies who get used to “their space” and may have a hard time falling asleep in strange surroundings. If you have your baby’s bed with you, when he gets over stimulated, needs a nap, or it is bedtime, you can put him in his bed and let him feel safe and comfortable.

Doubles as a Play Pen
Many times while at home or on the road you need a safe place to put your baby for a few minutes while you have to do something that puts you in a position where you can not keep your eyes on him. The pack-n-play can easily double as a play pen for your baby or a time-out area for you. Your baby can’t get out and can easily be entertained for a while with a few of his favorite toys.

If you buy a crib new, including the mattress and bedding you are likely to spend $300-$400 or more on this place for your baby to sleep. You can buy a pack-n-play for as little as $59.00 or up to $170.00. You can find sheets for pack-n-plays for about $11.00 or three packs of sheets at an even better savings of $27.00.

Con: Will Out Grow Faster
One of the main cons in the debate of a pack-n-play vs. a crib is that because of the size of a pack-n-play your baby will probably outgrow the pack-n-play faster than he will his crib, or be able to crawl out of it faster. Some people will leave their babies in a crib till they are three years old, or can climb out of the crib on their own. Depending on the size of your baby and his curiosity you may only get a year or two of use from your pack-n-play when using it as a permanent sleep area for your baby. The plus side of this is when your baby does try to climb out of his crib, he has a shorter distance to fall and less chance to get hurt.

In a situation where there is no right or wrong choice regarding what your baby sleeps in, the choice is really a personal one that you need to make dependent upon what is best for your family. Look at the pros and cons, your budget and all your options before you make a decision that will be with you for the first few years of your new baby’s life.

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24 Responses to “Baby Sleep Options: Pack-N-Play vs. a Crib”

  1. 24
    Becky Says:

    I used a pack n play till after my child was 2 and switched to a toddler bed. Best choice ever! Only complain I have is that the bottom does warp after prolong use like that.

  2. 23
    Nicole Says:

    My first child slept in a pack n play from ~4 weeks until transitioning to a toddler bed. This wasn’t the original plan, but it worked well for us. I purchased a thicker more comfortable mattress for the pack n play with my second child. The three month old sleeps in the center of the pack n play without rolling over yet. The thicker mattress (1.5 inches) is still firm but seems more comfortable than the original mattress. I would recommend adding a different mattress, at least for older babies, if you are able to.

  3. 22
    Sarah Says:

    We just bought a pack and play for our first baby. I’ve been told that it is not comfortable to put baby in it to sleep. Also, the baby outgrows it very fast, is that true? Also, which part is the bassinet and which is the changer I am confused. Thanks.

  4. 21
    » How to Use a Bassinet Vs. a Crib Cribs and Bassinets Says:

    […] Babies Online: Baby Sleep Options […]

  5. 20
    D Says:

    A question for those who use a pnp instead of a crib (even for older babies). Did you add a pnp mattress pad or something to make it a bit more cusioned I know of quilted sheets, but was curious if people just used the pad that comes with it or if they added something to keep it’s firmness, yet provided a little more comfort?

  6. 19
    Diane Says:

    I did not intend to use a packnplay as primary bedding for my now 15 mo old son, but that’s what’s happened and it’s been great!. From the time he came home to the time he’s ready for a big boy bed I will probably keep him in it. With features like bassinet, changer and diaper bag, it’s a nursery in and with itself. Great option for small housing.

  7. 18
    Shayla Says:

    my 8 month old son sleeps in the pen and is loving it every minute.

  8. 17
    Tracy Says:

    Be VERY careful about the sleep positioners! They can be suffocation hazards, especially if your baby is active. My little guy had one in the bassinet, but I had to set it up so that he could not slide down and get his face planted into the side pillows.

  9. 16
    Sara Says:

    This article and all of the comments were very helpful. My fiance and I dont have the money or space for a crib and I was worried our baby wouldnt be safe in a pack n play. But now I know that its the best option possible for our little munchkin!

  10. 15
    Missy C Says:

    Julie: Yes it is ok to let a newborn sleep in the bottom of the pack n play. The baby will be safe. I never had a bassinet for my pack n play, and my newborns took long naps in them for 4 hours. We even left the baby in the pack n play overnight if we didn’t want to disturb his sleep. But it would probably be a good idea to but a sleep positioner thing that is made for newborns. Click on the link by my name and it’ll take you to walmarts page featuring the positioner.

  11. 14
    julie Says:

    As another reader, I was wondering if it is okay for a 1 month old to sleep in the bottom of a pack n play. The one we have does not have a bassinet option. I realize it will require more bending on our part…but the would not be full time as it would only be used when our grandson is visiting from out of town. I do want to be sure it is a safe option.

  12. 13
    Bill Says:

    I have a 15 month year old. All he has ever known is the pack n play. My wife is due again next month and yes we are buying another pac n play. My son is not quite ready for his toddler’s bed but its so flexible and functional. We thought about a crib for the 2nd one but it didn’t seem worth it. We take it anywhere we want when we travel with our son..It’s been a godsend.

  13. 12
    Courtney Says:

    I have a pack and play model that says not to use a bassinet with it and I was wondering if it is okay to have newborns sleep directly on the pack and play mattress or if this is only for when they get older? Thanks

  14. 11
    Amanda Says:

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I am 28 weeks pregnant and throught the pack n play was a perfect idea. My husband and I travel a lot, and the space in our home is limited. The pack n play seems very functional and we thought it would fit our lifestyle perfectly, however we are getting a lot of grief from our friends over this. Everyone insists that a baby needs a crib. My husband and I disagree, but all of the pressure is starting to get to me. Thank you all for the information, and confirmation that this can work, and is safe.

  15. 10
    Necole Says:

    Both of my older children only had a pack and play for their bed. At the time we were moving out of the country and also did not have the money to spend on a big lavish crib. When they were still nursing, they were in bed with me, but they stayed in the pack and play until they were ready for “big” boy beds…now I have another on the way after many years…even though I now have the funds to get a crib, I like the pack and plays better and will have this lil one in one as well.

  16. 9
    Andrew Says:

    I have 1yr old grandson who sleeps in Pack & play this was helpful!

  17. 8
    amy Says:

    My daughter is 2.5 and loves her pack n play. That’s all she’s ever known. She has never tried to climb out of it. She has always loved to go to sleep and when she wakes up at 7:30 she just calls for us to get her. We just bought a bed for her (not a toddler one) Eventhough we bought a bed, she would still last in the pack n play for another 4-6 months!

  18. 7
    Rose Says:

    My 5 month sleeps in his pack n play, but I am finding it hard to keep him warm at night. Any suggestions?

  19. 6
    tina Says:

    This is one of the best ideals ever my babyies are 18 and over but know have new baby 2 months old and they are perfect and don`t take up the space a crib does easy to can be right beside you with little space used.Buy this it is the perfect baby item.

  20. 5
    andrea Says:

    Thank you guys so much, I am only 6 weeks pregnant but I really want to use a playpen rather then a crib. But I needed to know if others used it and were sucessful.

  21. 4
    Christine Says:

    My daughter has a crib in another state but we don’t have the resources to move it right now so she has slept in her pack n play for several months.

    Be sure to take them out of the bassinet part when they reach the weight limit. I thought it was okay until she could sit up on her own but I noticed that the bassinet was sagging and then read that the weight limit is 15 pounds (she was 17 pounds at the time oops).

    She seemed uncomfortable in the bottom part so I put a baby comforter on the bottom of it with a pack n play mattress pad and a play yard fitted sheet on top of that. There’s probably some who would advise against that (the bedding is not supposed to be too soft) but it really only made it a little bit softer and she seems to be much more comfortable. She is very good at moving around and holding her head up and can roll over both ways (she is over 7 months) so I am not too concerned about it.

  22. 3
    Andrea Says:

    Willow- back support is not a problem as it is reccommended to place baby on a firm surface for spine development. If yours is TOO hard, they sell quilted sheets that go over it (like a regular fitted sheet for a crib) that adds a little cushion and is safe.

    Jennifer- I used to worry about that, but no. It’s pulled way too tightly to allow any flex in the fabric for it to be pulled into baby’s airways. By the time you lower your baby to the floor part, he/she will be able to at least move head around side to side. I tried REALLY hard to suffocate myself in it once (to test it out) and it was just not possible, I could still breathe through it.

    My baby is 4 days shy of 1 year old, and has never slept in anything but his pack n play. We have TRIED AND TRIED to get him to like his crib (since birth) but he gets his arms and legs through the bars and gets angry. He moves around SO much in his sleep that it is just the best option.

    Plus, it really helped when we went on vacation. Our friends often complain that their kids can’t sleep in strange hotel rooms, etc. Ours falls asleep perfectly when we take his pack n play and sleeps with no problems. Once we forgot it and used another crib (a friends’) and he cried all night. The pack n play is a lifesaver.

  23. 2
    jennifer Says:

    Once they are on the floor of the pack and play, can babies suffocate against the side area that is not mesh?

  24. 1
    Willow Says:

    Should you worry about back support with the pack n play mattress?

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