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Sleep Is It Safe? Gear

Can a Baby Sleep in a Playpen Instead of a Crib?

By Kayla Young

Anyone putting together a baby registry can tell you that the cost of parenting can sneak up on you pretty quickly. It’s no surprise that parents are ever the innovators when finding ways to save money wherever they can. One place folks are willing to make a few sacrifices is often in the furniture department – particularly in big ticket items like cribs.

Nowadays, there are plenty of alternatives to a traditional full-sized crib, but parents are often left wondering what meets the criteria for safe sleeping.

Is It Okay to Use a Playpen as a Crib?

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is there are several safe sleep guidelines that are essential to follow in order to prevent the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (also known as SIDS) and other dangers to your newborn. Check out this post for general tips on creating a safe sleep space for your baby.

What Exactly Is a Playpen?

Playpens go by many names and spellings, including play yard, playard, play pen, pack n play and travel crib. Technically speaking, “playpen” is an umbrella term for any furniture that creates a safe spot for you to put your baby down to sleep or play. The Graco Pack ‘N Play is a specific brand of playpen, although folks often use the term to refer to other portable cribs. Whatever you call them, these cribs share the characteristics of being lightweight, easy to fold up and move or store, and having mesh sides high enough that curious kids can’t escape.

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Playpen Over A Crib?

As mentioned before, traditional cribs can get pretty expensive, and playpens are sometimes a more cost effective option. Cribs also tend to take up a fair bit of room, which can be tricky for families with less space to work with. A playpen can be used for sleep and then folded up for storage when not in use.. They’re also easy to move from one room to another.

Does The Type of Playpen Matter?

In spite of the fact that playpens all serve the similar purpose of containing your baby in a safe place for playing, naps or nighttime sleeping, there are quite a few different models available at different price points.

Some come with extras like bassinet attachments to provide a smaller space for newborn sleep, which can be removed as your baby grows. Diaper changers, extra storage spaces and special fabrics can all take your playpen to the next level, but it’s up to you how many bells and whistles you’re looking for.

Skip anything made before 2013
The Consumer Product Safety Commission updated their safety standard for play yards in February 2013 and it was a pretty big overhaul. There was also a major recall of some mainstream play yards in 1999 so if someone offers to haul the old playpen out of the garage, you're probably better off skipping it. 

How long can a baby sleep in a Pack ‘N Play or Playard?

Most babies can sleep in a pack and play until around 2 or 3 years out. When they reach 30 pounds, 35 inches tall, OR have figured out the fine art of climbing - whichever comes first – you need to move them to something else.

What Safety Standards Should I Keep In Mind?

Regardless of the type of crib or crib alternative you choose to put your baby down to sleep in, here are some safety guidelines to remember:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions - be sure to set up your crib following all instructions. If your crib comes with a mattress, don’t substitute it for something else.
  • Firm Mattress - soft mattresses can become a suffocation hazard. As tempting as it is to make things soft and cozy for your baby, a firm sleeping surface is a non-negotiable.
  • No Extras - items like blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, extra attachments and toys are a no no in any crib.
  • Safe Location - Keep your crib away from room hazards like cords and drapery that can put babies and toddlers at risk of strangulation.
  • Do a Regular Checkup - of the playpen, that is. Check fabrics regularly for rips or tears, and keep an eye out for loose buttons or snaps.

The Verdict of Whether Your Baby Can Sleep in a Playpen Instead Of a Crib

There are lots of reasons why parents might choose a playpen over a crib, including portability, size, and price. There are also many different styles and models to choose from to meet the needs of your family.

As long as the playpen you choose takes safe sleep into consideration, you can go ahead and give yourself the green light on using a playpen for all your baby’s snoozing scenarios.

Also check out: Safe Baby Crib Alternatives

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