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Portable cribs can be a parent’s best friend. You can use them for naps around the house, take them with you on visits to Grandma’s house, or even use them for room sharing with your tiny tot. Most parents agree that this is a must-have item on every baby registry, but a common question is, “How long can my baby sleep in a pack ‘n play?”
Do you ever feel like parenting should come with an instruction manual? You’re not the only one, which is why we’ve done the research for you! We’ve gathered all the essential info you need to know about using a folding crib for your baby; keep reading for the full scoop!
*“Pack ‘n play” is a registered trademark of Graco Children’s Inc. However, unless specifically noted otherwise, this article uses the term to refer to the modern type of playpen that is designed to be easily transported.”
Pack ‘n Play Definition
New parents quickly realize that babies come with a lot of stuff! That’s why multifunctional items like these are so essential for saving space and sanity. Pack ‘n plays can be used for sleep, play, and, in some cases, even for changing diapers!
These portable, folding devices have solid and sturdy perimeters with mesh sides that are breathable and allow for easy viewing. Some have attachable bassinets for those early newborn days and/or changing stations for an all-in-one functional item. This makes them great for travel, day trips, or just to use around the house.
Which Position Is Best for the Baby to Sleep In?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), infants should always be placed on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In the US, SIDS is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other cause.
At one time, physicians recommended babies sleep on their stomachs or sides to improve conditions like reflux, but studies have confirmed that the back is the safest position for sleeping. While we aren’t entirely sure why, scientists believe that sleeping on the stomach or side may lead to obstruction of the upper airway, rebreathing carbon dioxide (decreasing oxygen levels), or overheating.
Around six months of age, many infants start rolling over and may end up sleeping on their stomachs or sides. If your baby is rolling, continue to place her on her back to sleep at night and for naps—but if she rolls over in her sleep, don’t worry about repositioning.
Pack ‘n Play Key Considerations
Playards are multi-functional and can make your life as a parent so much easier. Like every other baby item, they do come with some risks. It’s important to familiarize yourself with some key considerations for your little one’s safety and your own peace of mind.
How Long Can Babies Sleep in Pack ‘n Play?
At what age should your tiny tot stop using a portable crib for sleep and play? There’s no shortage of advice when it comes to babies and safety, but knowing who and what to trust can be confusing.
The best places to turn to for trustworthy answers are the APA and the manufacturer of the item you’ve purchased (or are considering). Each company has its own recommended weight and height limits, and even these can vary from product to product.
For the most part, playards are intended for children up to 35 inches and weighing less than 30 pounds, although it’s always important to check with the manufacturer.
Is it safe for infants to sleep in a playard all night long? According to the AAP, “A crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is recommended.”
A popular manufacturer, Graco, also recommends that parents “provide the supervision necessary for continued safety” when it comes to using its products for sleep. As long as the playard is safety approved, your little one hasn’t outgrown it, and they’re supervised, sleeping for longer periods like overnight shouldn’t be an issue.
What About Sleeping in an Attached Bassinet?
In those early newborn days when you don’t want to let your tiny bundle of joy out of sight, using an attached bassinet can be a lifesaver, especially when it comes to those midnight feeds.
The most important considerations with these attachable items are to make sure that you follow the safety recommendations (such as properly securing to the playard) and stop using once your infant has outgrown the maximum weight (usually 15 pounds).
Should I Add Extra Bedding?
Worried about keeping your little one cozy and warm? According to the APA, there should never be any blankets, pillows, or toys where your baby sleeps. All of these items can be hazardous for babies and increase the risk of SIDS.
Playards also don’t need any extra mattresses beyond what comes included. Adding a mattress could leave space for your infant to become entrapped in. Babies should always sleep on firm surfaces, such as a crib, playard, or bassinet.
If you’re worried about your little one becoming cold, you can consider using a safety-approved swaddle blanket or maybe a sleep sack. These wearable blankets can be worn over your baby’s onesie or pajamas to add an extra layer of warmth for cooler temperatures. Keep in mind that the ideal nursery temperature is between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent overheating.
Do Loose Ends Pose a Risk?
If you’re using an older model or one that has been damaged over time, be sure to check the CPSC site for any safety warnings or recalls. Damaged items can pose a risk for babies in a number of ways. Loose ends can snag buttons or snaps on pajamas, and any sharp or protruding edges could cause harm.
Another safety concern is strangulation. If there are any loose parts, discontinue use and contact the manufacturer immediately. Always be sure to place the pack ‘n play far away from hanging cords, drapery, or windows.
How Can I Avoid Entrapment of My Baby?
Updated safety standards for playards were implemented in 2013. Some of the changes to prevent injuries and entrapment include side rails that don’t form sharp V’s when folding, stronger corner brackets, and sturdier mattress attachments to the playard floor. Buying a safety-approved model and following the proper usage guidelines are the best ways to keep your baby safe.
Playards as Diaper Changing Stations
New parents are often surprised by how much time their bundle of joy spends sleeping and eating. What goes in must come out, and having a diaper changing station attached to where your baby sleeps and plays can make life a whole lot simpler. Many models even come with built-in storage for things like diapers and wipes.
If you choose to purchase an all-in-one design, just be sure to familiarize yourself with the recommended safety guidelines, like never leaving your baby unattended on the changing table and discontinuing use once your baby reaches the maximum weight and height.
For many new moms and dads, owning a pack ‘n play is like a rite of passage into parenthood. These functional items can be used for sleep, play, and even changing diapers! Being portable means they’re perfect for small spaces and families on-the-go.
Whether your baby is using his pack ‘n play for the occasional nap or for room-sharing at night, he should be safe and secure as long as you follow the recommended guidelines on weight/height and use. Be sure to check out some of our other articles on:
Author: Sleep Advisor
Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.
Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.