Pack and Play vs Crib: Which is Best for Baby?

baby in pack n play

You’re about to welcome a beautiful new baby into the world and you’re starting to shop for the best baby gear on the market.

As new parents, it may seem like there are a million things you need to buy for your baby. Fortunately, some are so versatile that they can transition from the newborn baby stage to the toddler stage.

You’ve seen friends use these “Pack and Play” contraptions but you’ve also heard your neighbor-dude bragging about this “4-in-1 convertible crib” he just bought.

What is the difference between a Pack and Play vs Crib? What do they both do? Who should get which, and why am I asking so many questions?

You probably thought shopping for a crib was going to be simple. In some ways it is. But it’s a good idea to consider whether a baby crib will be the best option for all your needs or if a pack n’ play will be a better choice.

Keep reading…and let’s take a closer look at these two popular baby items. You may be surprised to learn that you don’t even need a traditional crib at all.

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What is a Pack n’ Play?

baby standing in pack n play

A pack and play is a portable crib with mesh sides that can also double as a playpen. These are also referred to as playards.

Every baby needs a safe place to sleep. But a playard is nice to have because once your baby is mobile you need a safe place to put them to keep them out of trouble: like crawling up the stairs or crawling towards electric outlets.

This will be especially useful when you are trying to get stuff done like cooking dinner, having a bath, or doing dishes.

Crib vs Pack n’ Play: Construction

Cribs are made of slats of wood. While some are foldable, a crib is more like a piece of furniture.

Pack n’ plays are made of fabric mesh sides. They are foldable making them easy to travel with and move around from room to room. However, they are not as durable as cribs since they are not made of hard materials.

Pack and Play Features

Pack and plays have many extra features when compared to a standard crib. Here are some of them:

  • Infant bassinet – The removable bassinet attachment provides a cozy place for your newborn baby to sleep

  • Changing station – The built-in changing station works great for young babies. You won’t have to buy a separate changing station for the first 3 months. Once your baby outgrows the changing station and you will need to use another surface or purchase a changing table.

  • Safe sleeping area

  • Safe play area

  • Breathable mesh sides – This is nice because if your baby rolls into the wall it won’t hurt them. With a crib, the hard slats can hurt a baby and wake them from their sleep when they roll into the wall.

  • Smaller footprint than a standard-sized crib, making it a great option for small spaces

  • Lower to the ground than a crib, making it easier to put your baby down to sleep without waking them

  • Often lighter weight than a crib

  • Wheels to make moving from room to room easier

  • Travel bag

Pack and Play Uses

Many pack n’ plays include a changing station and bassinet for your newborn baby.

Once the baby gets bigger you can transition them to the larger playard area which can double as a safe sleep and play area.

On the other hand, a crib is really only used for sleep. So a Pack n’ play offers more functionality than a crib.

Here are some uses for pack and plays:

  • Infant bassinet

  • Infant changing station

  • Safe sleep place from infant to toddler stage

  • Extra crib for living room or grandma’s house

  • Portable play yard

  • Travel crib

Pack and Play vs Crib Size

crib specs comparison

The interior dimensions of a standard-size crib are ~28″ x 52″. This is because all full-sized cribs are designed to fit the same size mattress.

You can see from the image above, that the external dimensions of a full-size crib will be approx 54″ long x 30″ wide x 36″ tall. The heights vary quite a bit from crib to crib.

A crib with attached drawers or a changing station will be even bigger.

Pro Tip: If you are shopping for a crib, pay attention to the height. For short moms, it can be very difficult to put your baby down in the crib without waking them up. So you should look for a shorter crib.

comparison of popular pack and plays

A pack ‘n play will be approx 40″ long x 29″ wide x 29″ tall. They are shorter in length and height than a crib.

The shorter height makes it easier for short moms to put their baby down to sleep without waking them up.

Pack n Play vs Crib Cost

Cribs are much more expensive than pack n’ plays, making the pack n’ play a good choice for many families.

You can find several pack and play options for under $100. If you don’t need the bassinet or changing station, you can find a standard playard for about $50. Find one on sale and you have yourself a steal!

A budget crib will start at about $100. However, depending on design and features, a crib can cost several hundred dollars.

Pack and Play Mattress

baby surprised on bed

All pack n’ plays are sold with a mattress or mattress pad. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that only the mattress sold with the playard be used with it.

However, many people find the mattress pad that comes with it too hard and choose to buy a proper mattress. Pack-and-play mattresses are easy to find and readily available online.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines, the mattress should fit tightly in the baby’s bed and should be covered with a tightly fitted sheet.

There should be no gaps greater than 2 fingers between the mattress and the walls of the playard. This is to prevent the babies from getting trapped between the mattress and wall and suffocating.

Is it okay to use a Pack and Play as a crib?

Yes!

All cribs and playards currently sold must meet CPSC safety standards to ensure a safe sleeping environment. So rest assured a pack and play can be used as a safe crib alternative.

How Long Can A Baby Sleep In A Pack and Play?

baby with fat rolls

Similar to cribs, a pack n’ play can safely be used until a baby is 35″ tall. The weight limit for most pack n’ plays is about 25-30 lbs.

Most babies will reach the height and weight limits between 2 and 3 years of age. After outgrowing their pack n play, most kids will transition to a toddler bed.

5 Best Pack and Play Options

Here are some popular pack and play options

Graco Pack n Play

click the image to purchase

You can’t really go wrong with any Pack ‘n Play by Graco. There are plenty to choose from. Look for one that includes a detachable bassinet, changing station, and wheels. You won’t be disappointed and it’s sure to last for years to come.

4 Moms Breeze Plus

click the image to purchase

The only thing I don’t love about the 4 Moms Breeze Plus is the price tag.

This is definitely NOT a budget option. It’s a beautiful high-quality playard. It comes with a changing station and bassinet area.

It folds up much easier than the Graco Pack n Plays.

If you are looking for something a little more high-end, then this is a great option.

Lotus Travel Crib

click the image to purchase

If you are looking for something highly portable to use as a travel crib then consider the Lotus Travel Crib by Guava.

It’s extra light and comes with a travel back pack.

Dream On Me Nest

click the image to purchase

If you are looking for a simple playard at a great price point, then look no further. The Dream On Me Nest offers simplicity and reliability.

It’s a great option for your living room or to put in grandma’s house.

Pamo Babe

click the image to purchase

This Pamo Babe playard comes with everything you need and more! A bassinet, changing station, and detachable storage bag!

It comes at such a great price point that it will be hard to walk away from this one.

Final Thoughts: Is a crib better than a Pack n Play?

cute baby girls on sheet backdrop

This is a personal decision.

Remember cribs are primarily a place for your baby to sleep. They are more durable because the walls are made of wood slats. They are taller and larger than play yards.

A play yard offers a place for your baby to sleep and play from the infant to toddler stage. Many also include a bassinet area and changing station, and they fold up easily for travel.

Whether you choose one or both will be totally up to your family and your needs.

Best of luck. We wish you lots of peaceful newborn sleep hours.

Don’t forget to share your experience in the comments below.

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You may also enjoy:

Alternative To Crib: Safe Baby Sleep Options

Crib vs Mini Crib: What’s the difference?

When Is A Baby Too Big For Its Bassinet?

The Best Mini Cribs 

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