Many parents struggle to choose between a crib or a pack n play for their newborn.
As the choice is so tricky, some parents are able to get both items but that can be expensive if you are on a budget.
What's In This Article
- Main Differences Between A Crib And A Pack ‘N Play
- What Are Pack ‘N Plays?
- Pack ‘N Play Advantages
- Pack ‘N Play Disadvantages
- What Are Cribs?
- Advantages Of A Crib
- Disadvantages of A Crib
- Common Questions About Pack ‘N Plays And Cribs
- Different Kinds Of Pack ‘N Plays
- Conclusion: Should You Go For A Crib Or A Pack ‘N Play?
If you can’t decide between a crib and a pack n play for your child, this article can help!
You’ll find a comparison of both products below, including their uses, features, pros, and cons. This will all help you come to a decision on which item is better for your child and you.
Keep reading to find out more about the differences between a crib and a pack-n-play!
Main Differences Between A Crib And A Pack ‘N Play
A crib and a pack ‘n play are similar in that they’re both designed to hold an infant. However, there are several main differences between these two types of baby gear.
The main differences are their purpose and portability. Cribs aren’t portable and are mainly used for the infant to sleep in, whereas a pack ‘n play is portable and has many uses.
Pack ‘n plays are simple to put together, fold away, and store. They are also light, allowing the parent to travel with them and move them from room to room.
A pack ‘n play also transforms into a safe play area for your infant. Many models are equipped with features, like diaper changing areas and toy storage. Some higher models may even have a baby bouncer!
Cribs are different, as they act as a permanent feature within the home. These are much stronger and more durable compared to pack ‘n plays. Some models have wheels attached, allowing the parent to move them around the home easily.
Despite this, cribs aren’t portable, so they do need to remain within the home.
Some crib models have special abilities, such as transforming into a toddler’s bed. These cribs will allow you to use the fixture well after your infant has grown, saving you money in the process.
Now you understand what the main differences between pack ‘n plays and cribs are, we can cover the pros and cons of these items in more detail.
What Are Pack ‘N Plays?
The term ‘Pack ‘n Play’ is a name trademarked by Graco, but the term is often used to relate to playpens and travel cribs. Pack ‘n plays can act as portable cribs and a play yard for your baby.
Lots of pack ‘n play models have wheels attached, allowing you to move the fixture around easily. The base is raised slightly above the floor, but still low enough so it can’t be knocked over, even if a baby is inside.
Pack ‘n plays often have sides made from a breathable, lightweight mesh. This is a safety necessity as the mesh allows air to circulate, preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also known as cot death.
Several pack ‘n play models may come with an extra raised sleeping area. This looks like a detachable bassinet designed for newborns.
You can remove these from the playpen after your baby develops over the weight limit, which is usually 15 pounds.
You can also find pack ‘n plays with detachable diaper changing tables, making it easy to change diapers while you are out with your baby.
Pack ‘n plays are usually designed to handle a maximum limit of 30 pounds, though this will depend on the model in question. Some models assess their max limit by length instead of weight, which tends to be around 35 inches.
Pack ‘n plays are roughly 40 inches in length and 28 inches in width. Some of these examples are available in various shapes.
For instance, you can opt for a square-shaped model that has extra play space. This is ideal for those looking after two babies, parents with twins, and infant playdates.
Pack ‘n plays are created from lightweight materials and are usually around 15-30 pounds. This weight will depend on what it’s made from and whether it comes with extra features. Higher-quality models are usually priced at around $150.
Pack ‘N Play Advantages
- Pack n’ play’s cost less than cribs.
- They are portable, so parents can fold and carry them around with them.
- They double up as a play area for your infant.
- Very lightweight and have wheels attached, allowing you to move them to different rooms in the home.
- Saves space around the home
Pack ‘N Play Disadvantages
- Pack ‘n plays are smaller than cribs
- They aren’t as durable or strong as cribs
- The mattress isn’t as firm
- Not as aesthetically pleasing as a crib
- Won’t convert into a toddler’s bed
What Are Cribs?
Cribs are designed for a baby to sleep in. They are permanent fixtures inside your house and are much heavier compared to pack ‘n plays. Cribs are often set up inside a nursery, though some parents choose to set one up in their room.
A regular crib’s sleeping surface is roughly 28 x 52 inches, which is much larger than a pack n play. However, parents can also opt for smaller mini cribs, if they prefer.
These have a smaller sleeping surface that’s better for infants to rest in. At a minimum, standard cribs tend to weigh around 30 pounds.
Cribs can cost a lot, as their minimum price starts from roughly $125. Remember, choosing a crib also means you’ll need to purchase a mattress, which adds to the cost.
Cribs can be purchased in many styles and finishes, some of which will be higher in price, e.g. mahogany cots.
Advantages Of A Crib
- Cribs are larger compared to pack ‘n plays, which lets your baby sleep more comfortably.
- They are made from strong materials designed to last a long time.
- You can choose from many beautiful styles depending on your preferences.
- Has a thicker mattress
Disadvantages of A Crib
- Permanent structures aren’t portable, they are cumbersome and hard to move around.
- Takes up more room
- Costs much more than a pack ‘n play
Common Questions About Pack ‘N Plays And Cribs
Now you know more about cribs and playpens, we can get into some common questions surrounding these two baby items.
Can Pack ‘N Plays Also Be Used As A Crib?
Pack ‘n plays are perfectly safe for your infant to sleep in, but they may not be the best choice to sleep in every day. Pack ‘n plays will never be as durable, robust, or comfy as a crib.
Despite this, pack ‘n plays are perfect for infrequent sleepovers, weekends away, and vacations. Cribs aren’t portable, but these pens give your baby a space to sleep in when you are away from home.
They can also give you peace of mind during this time. Smaller babies can be kept in the pen so you know they are safe if you have to move to a different room.
Are Pack ‘N Plays Safe For Newborns?
As long as they are used in the right way, pack ‘n plays can be harmless substitute sleeping areas. Both cribs and playpens are some of the safest napping environments for babies.
These are much more stable and durable than bassinets. Pack ‘n plays also have a mesh lining that lets air flow through the pen, lowering the risk of cot death.
When pack ‘n plays are used correctly, they are safe, but you may want to reconsider using one for your newborn to sleep in. Cribs will have a firm and thick mattress that is safer and more comfortable for your newborn to sleep on.
Traditional wooden cribs are the best sleeping area for a newborn, especially mini cribs that have a smaller sleeping area. You can also find mini cribs that can fold away for storage, though these will cost more than regular models.
Why Shouldn’t My Infant Sleep In A Pack ‘N Play Every Day?
Pack ‘n plays are safe for having a snooze, but they cannot replace a proper firm mattress. The mattresses in pack n plays are only around 3 inches deep, so they won’t be as firm or supportive as mattresses designed for cribs.
Firm mattresses aren’t just comfortable, they are a necessity for infants and young children. Firmer mattresses can help avoid suffocation, lowering the risk of cot death.
As pack ‘n play mattresses aren’t as thick, they aren’t as comfortable to sleep on. You may find that your baby’s sleep quality decreases upon sleeping in a pack n play.
Are Pack ‘N Plays And Mini Cribs Equal In Size?
The U.S government determines the size of regular, full-scale cribs. U.S legislation states that a standard crib’s inside measurements need to be 52 3⁄8 ± 5⁄8 inches long and 28 ± 5⁄8 inches wide.
Pack ‘n plays and mini cribs differ, as their measurements aren’t determined by the law. Full-scale cribs are larger than both of these, but mini cribs are slightly smaller than pack n plays.
Any crib that has smaller dimensions than a standard crib is considered to be a mini model. Most mini cribs tend to measure 38 inches x 24 inches.
Pack ‘n plays are usually around 40 inches in length and 28 inches in width. Regular cribs are larger than these, but pack ‘n plays are larger than mini cribs.
How Do The Items Rank In Terms Of Materials, Strength, And Construction?
The strength and weight of both baby items depend on what materials they are made from. The materials also affect their portability and durability, which is why crib mattresses shouldn’t be used in a pack n play.
Cribs are usually made from wood, though you can opt for acrylic and metal ones if necessary. Wood, acrylic, and metal are much stronger and heavier than the lightweight mesh that pack ‘n plays are made from.
This makes cribs stronger, durable, and more robust than playpens, but pack n plays remain more portable.
Pack ‘n plays are constructed from lightweight aluminum and plastic. These are surrounded by mesh, which is more breathable compared to slats beneath a mattress.
Breathability is always necessary as it reduces the chance of suffocation and cot death.
These materials make pack ‘n plays lightweight and more mobile compared to cribs, but as they are so lightweight, they aren’t as stable or strong.
How Are The Features On Pack ‘N Plays And Cribs Any Different?
Cribs are only meant to be slept in, but pack n plays are more versatile, as they can be used as a playpen. They are on the small side, but the playpen is a secure, mobile area for your child to play and sleep in.
Parents and guardians can choose between several types of cribs, as they all have different features which may be important for your needs. Pack ‘n plays are also available in different types for you to consider.
We’ll cover more about the different types of pack n plays and cribs below.
Different Kinds Of Cribs
Cribs can be bought in standard or mini sizes, but they can have various features depending on the one you go for.
These are basic cribs that won’t convert into larger beds.
These models can turn into a single or several beds for toddlers to sleep in. These may come with a security guardrail, but you will need to purchase extra components for the transition.
A 2-in-1 model can turn into an extra bed, a 3-in-1 crib into 2 beds, and so on.
Combo cribs are convertible cribs that have a changing table attached. These may be listed under different labels, though the most popular names are multifunctional or combo cribs.
Portable cribs will have wheels that allow you to move the crib throughout the house. Some models may have fold up for storage, though this ability isn’t guaranteed to work well.
Different Kinds Of Pack ‘N Plays
Regular Pack ‘N Play
Regular pack n plays will have the same interior measurements as a care station (listed below). These won’t come with extra accessories, but this makes them lighter and portable, which is ideal for traveling with.
These should fold easily and efficiently, while their components should all fit in an added carrying bag. Better models will come with a detachable bassinet to give the infant a raised sleeping area.
Care Station Playpen
Care station playards will have the same inside measurements as regular pack n plays, but their added accessories tend to add weight.
These features will vary with different models, but the most popular ones are changing tables, storage areas, crib mobiles, and soothing tools.
Ultra-Light PlayPen / Travel Crib
These lightweight pack n plays are designed for traveling. The initial two models stand on wheels or legs, but this travel pack n play rests on the ground.
These are adjusted for maximum portability. The entire unit can fold into a smaller space, while the sleeping space is slightly smaller in size.
You’ll usually be able to store these pens in a travel sack or suitcase, though this will vary depending on the model you go for.
Can You Use Crib Mattresses In Pack ‘N Plays?
You should NEVER use crib mattresses inside pack ‘n plays as it isn’t safe. Crib mattresses may be more comfortable, but placing them inside a pack n play makes suffocation more likely.
These are very dangerous for infants and newborns who cannot roll over or support themselves. Crib mattresses are too dense for these pens.
A baby may toss and turn off from the mattress, becoming trapped between the pad and surrounding mesh. This can cause injuries, and even more seriously, death.
Pack ‘n plays will usually have a suitable mattress included. If your model doesn’t have one, purchase a compatible one, making sure that it isn’t more than 3 inches dense.
Why Are Mini Cribs And Playpens Better Than Regular Cribs?
Regular cribs, in particular convertible types, will last a long time. Despite this, some people won’t have enough room for a large crib in their home. In this case, mini cribs or pack n plays are a better substitute for your living requirements.
You can purchase portable full-scale cribs, but these aren’t as small or as lightweight as playpens. Pack ‘n plays and mini cribs also allow you to travel with your baby, for example, at their grandparents’ house for an occasional night away.
Pack ‘n plays and mini cribs are also lower in price compared to standard cribs, so this may be something to think about.
Conclusion: Should You Go For A Crib Or A Pack ‘N Play?
Pack ‘n plays are a lot more affordable and versatile compared to cribs. You can use these as a sleeping area and a playpen.
Cribs are much more expensive, but their firm mattress is safe and comfortable for the baby to sleep on. They also look a lot nicer, while convertible options allow you to keep the crib until the baby grows past the toddler stage.
If you need a temporary baby bed that needs to be portable, pack ‘n plays are a great choice. They are also ideal to use in the parent’s room before moving the baby to their room.
However, if you need a permanent sleeping arrangement, cribs are the better option. These are long-term solutions that look a lot nicer within a nursery.
With a little research, you may be able to find more affordable crib options available on the market. Online ads and garage sales may harbor hidden bargains, so keep an eye out!
Carly Link, a 33-year old mother of two toddlers. She is a parent and goes through a lot of the usual parenting difficulties herself. Carly shares all her experiences and knowledge about the best baby products through this blog.