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Which Is Better? Pack and Play vs Crib

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Trying to make the choice between a pack and play vs a crib? Here’s everything you need to know, plus important safety tips to consider!

If you’re a first time mom, you might wonder whether you need a pack and play or a crib.

Or, maybe both?

We’re sharing the pros and cons of a pack n play compared to a regular crib to help you make that all-important decision.

We also share crucial tips for how to create a safe sleep environment for your baby and mom-tested essentials for your baby registry checklist.

Keep scrolling to learn the benefits of a pack and play vs a crib and how to know which is better for your needs!

RELATED: The Best Ever Newborn Sleep Tips For New Moms

The Benefits of a Pack and Play

Pregnant woman stands by a Graco pack and play with bassinet and changing table and holds her baby belly.

The term “Pack ‘N Play” is trademarked by Graco. But you can find similar products from other companies (often referred to as a play yard or portable crib).

These products feature a padded frame with breathable mesh sides.

And, depending on the model, they may include extra features like a removable bassinet or changing station.

They also typically include a travel bag to make them easier to carry and protect on vacations and trips.

One of the biggest benefits of a pack and play is that they double as a sleeping area and play area for babies and young toddlers.

Other benefits include that they also:

  • Fold to fit in a small storage space.
  • Take up less space than a traditional crib (sizes range from 28-41 in L x 28.5-39 in W x 29-41 in H).
  • May replace items like a changing table for small spaces.
  • Make it easy to move your baby from room to room.
  • Help keep children safe and in sight while playing.
  • Cost less than a crib.

Downsides

While a pack and play offers many benefits vs a crib, there are a few drawbacks:

  • The surface of the pack and play is very low to the ground. So, it may be more difficult to lift your baby in and out.
  • They are usually made from plastic and cloth rather than wood or metal. So, they have a lower build and design quality than a crib.
  • The pack and play surface is also less comfortable than a traditional crib mattress.
  • They’re not made for long-term use and have a lower weight limit than cribs (normally rated for a maximum limit of 30 pounds).

The Benefits of a Crib

White crib with floral crib sheets next to glider rocking chair in nursery.

Cribs are a more permanent piece of furniture for baby sleep. And they come in two main sizes.

A standard crib works for babies of any age with a sleep surface of 28 x 52 inches. And smaller mini cribs are ideal for newborns. These measure 24 x 38 inches.

Full-size cribs provide longer use, and, depending on the model, they may be able to transition into a toddler bed or twin bed. When searching online, filter by the term “convertible crib” to ensure it transitions.

Compared to a pack and play, traditional cribs are longer lasting, more durable, and more aesthetically pleasing.

Additionally:

  • Crib mattresses are much more comfortable than a pack and play.
  • There are lots of styles to choose from.

Downsides

  • Difficult to move
  • Only serve one function
  • Costlier than a Pack and Play

Which is better?

As long as you follow the safety standards from the AAP (listed below) it’s safe for your baby to sleep in a pack and play or a crib.

However, a pack and play is not the best long-term solution for baby sleep.

A crib may cost more upfront, but they are larger, and often convert to a toddler bed. So, your child can potentially use the same bed for several years.

On the other hand, the weight limit for pack and plays will only allow for about 2 years of use.

Many parents choose to have both because they are unique benefits to each.

If you choose to purchase both, you can keep your child in their pack and play by your bed until they’re ready to move into a nursery with their permanent crib.

A pack and play is also the ideal solution for traveling with a baby and packing into small spaces.

NOTE: There is one case where it might make sense to purchase a pack and play instead of a crib. And that’s if you happen to already have a stand-alone toddler bed.

In this situation, you could potentially have your baby sleep exclusively in a pack and play until they hit the weight limit and then transition them to the toddler bed.

RELATED: How To Travel With A Car Seat On A Plane [2022 Guide]

How to Ensure Your Baby’s Safety While Sleeping

A newborn baby wrapped in a swaddle sleeping on a patterned sheet in black and white.

New parents should make providing a safe environment for sleep their highest priority. Now that we’ve covered everything to know about a pack and play vs a crib, here are some important tips to safeguard your child.

AAP Guidelines

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest place for a newborn baby is in their parent’s room.

And they should stay there for at least 6 months, but ideally for the first year of life.

Whether you choose a baby crib or pack and play, they should always sleep:

  • On products specifically marketed for baby sleep that adhere to federal safety standards
  • In their own bed (not with parents)
  • On a flat surface that is firm and not on an incline
  • On their backs
  • Without loose blankets, toys, pillows, bumpers, or other soft items

Each of these practices reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

And for further protection, breastfeed if possible, offer a pacifier, and avoid smoking.

NOTE: Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS. There is no data that other commercial devices that are designed to monitor infant vital signs reduce the risk of SIDS.

Temperature Safety

You should also ensure your baby is not too hot or cold.

  • Make sure your baby’s window is properly sealed and there’s no draft.
  • Avoid head coverings.
  • Depending on the time of year, an extra layer of clothing may be all it takes to keep baby warm. As a general rule, dress your child in one more layer than how you would want to sleep at night.

If your baby is too cold they may:

  • Have a cold torso.
  • Look pale.
  • Act fussy and refuse to eat and sleep.
  • Or, have sudden sneezing.

If they’re too hot, they may:

  • Have flushed skin.
  • Exhibit a rapid heartbeat.
  • Act restless.
  • Start sweating.
  • Or have a chest that is hot to the touch.

RELATED: Here’s How To Keep Your Baby Warm At Night (AAP Safe Sleep Tips)

Other Helpful Baby Gear for Sleeping

Baby wearing a zipper swaddle sleeps in white crib with peach floral sheet.

The choice between a pack and play vs a crib is just one of many product decisions you’ll need to make for your child.

It’s hard to know what baby items you actually need and which ones are the best.

Below are some proven baby essentials to help your child sleep better, plus mom-tested items to give you peace of mind.

RELATED: How can I help my baby sleep at night?

FAQs

Is a crib more comfortable than a pack n play?


Yes. Cribs are generally more comfortable than a pack n play. Crib mattresses are more firm and padded. However, children are pretty adaptable.

How long can you use a pack n play as a crib?


The weight limit for most pack and plays is 30 pounds. This means you’ll be able to use your pack and play for about 2 years before transitioning to a toddler bed.

However, you should stop using a pack n play as soon as your child can climb out of it, even if they haven’t reached the weight limit.

What’s the difference between a pack n play and a crib?


The main difference between a pack n play and a crib is that a pack n play doubles as a play area and is easily folded.

They are also:

– More portable.
– More affordable.
– Fit into smaller spaces.
– May include a changing station and/or bassinet.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line on pack and play vs crib:

The Differences

A pack and play is a portable baby bed that doubles as a play area.

  • Pros
    • They’re lightweight, portable, and easily folded.
    • They’re a great sleep option for traveling with a baby.
    • They cost less than a traditional crib.
  • Cons
    • They only last for about 2 years or up to 30 pounds.
    • They aren’t as sturdy as a traditional crib.
    • Limited options.
    • Not as stylish.

Cribs are a permanent sleep solution for babies

  • Pros
    • Cribs are sturdy and more aesthetically pleasing with lots of design choices.
    • They’re larger than a pack and play, and can often transition to a toddler bed.
    • Generally more comfortable than a pack and play.
  • Cons
    • Cribs are expensive.
    • Difficult to move.
    • Only serve one function.

Which is Better

Cribs are the better long-term sleep solution for babies and can often be used for several years.

However, many parents choose to have both for their unique qualities.

  • If you have both a pack n’ play and a crib, you can keep the pack and play by your bed for the first year, and use your permanent crib once your baby transitions to their nursery.
  • It’s also nice to have a pack and play solely for travel and play.

Safety

Regardless of your choice, you should always follow safety guidelines for baby sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics details how to create a safe place for your child:

  • Only use products designed for sleep and that adhere to safety standards.
  • Place your child on their back to sleep.
  • Use a flat, firm, and non-inclined surface.
  • Remove loose sheets, toys, bumpers, pillows, and other soft items.
  • Babies should sleep in their parent’s room for 6-12 months, but not in the same bed
  • Offer your baby a pacifier, avoid smoking, and breastfeed if possible.

Want More?

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Your Turn

Did we answer all your questions about a pack and play vs a crib? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments!

Pinterest graphic with text and image collage with pack and play and crib.