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Pack and Play vs Crib: Which is Best for Baby in 2024

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Is a crib better than a pack and play?

For new parents, it’s hard to determine what exactly you will need when that little one arrives.

Maybe you’re trying to save on money or save on space. Or both.

Maybe you just truly don’t know where to begin when reviewing all the baby items out there.

That’s okay! I’ve got you covered with this detailed guide on the pack and play vs crib: which to choose and why.

Keep reading to find out all the benefits of a pack and play vs crib and which one will suit your lifestyle the best!

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baby sleeping in a crib
Photo by Enrique Hoyos

Pack and Play vs Crib: Which is the Safe Sleep Space for Your Newborn Baby?

The most important thing of any sleep space is your baby’s safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a list of safety standards for preventing SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and should be followed each time your baby sleeps (nighttime and naps):

  • Place babies in their own beds on their backs
  • Use a crib, bassinet, or portable play yard with a firm mattress and fitted sheet
  • Avoid sleeping on couches, chairs, baby swings, or car seats (unless traveling)
  • Remove blankets, pillows, soft toys, crib bumpers, or other soft and loose items from the sleeping area

To further reduce your risk of sudden infant death syndrome, room share for the first year of life, breastfeed your baby (if possible), use a pacifier when sleeping, and avoid smoking.

Is it okay to use a pack and play as a crib?

Yes, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics a pack and play can be used as crib for a safe sleep place for a newborn.

So, when determining a pack and play vs crib, the choice really comes down to you.

Continue reading to let me help in making that choice a little easier for you.

woman holding baby in rocking chair of nursery
Photo by Vicki Yde

Pack and Play vs Crib: What Are the Differences?

What is a Pack and Play?

A Pack n’ Play is a trademarked term from Graco for their play yard product.

These days any play yard or what used to be considered a playpen (hello, 80’s babies) is referred to as a pack and play.

And the reason they are called pack and plays is that they are portable play yards. Just pack them up, and you have a safe play area (or safe sleep space) anywhere.

The standard size of a pack and play is 28 inches by 40 inches. They have breathable mesh sides and are a safe space for your newborn baby to sleep.

The weight limit of a pack and play is 25 to 30 pounds (depending on the model).

There’s also a range of prices based on the number of extra features you’re looking for:

Graco portable Pack 'n Play

1. Basic Portable Play Yard

The basic portable play yard is just that: four mesh sides and a thin mattress pad.

You can get a thicker mattress, as long as it is approved for use with a pack and play. For safety reasons, you never want to use a crib mattress in a pack and play.

Graco Pack 'n Play with bassinet insert

2. Pack and Play with Removable Bassinet

The pack and play with the removable bassinet is a great option, if you don’t want to also purchase a bassinet.

It allows your baby to sleep higher than the basic play yard, so you don’t have to bend down as far to pick him up (perfect for when you just get home from the hospital).

And you can use it in your bedroom for room sharing. Or use it in your living room, during the day, to have a safe place to put baby down for naps or while you run to the bathroom.

Graco Pack 'n Play with infant bassinet and diaper changer

3. Pack and Play with Diaper Changer

You can absolutely use the bassinet attachment of your pack and play to do quick diaper changes.

However, to ease some of your back pain from all that bending over, add a pack and play with a diaper changer to the baby gear section of your registry, and you’ll have everything you need in one great product.

What is a crib?

This may seem like a silly question. Especially for a soon-to-be-mom who’s being doing nothing but researching safe places for your newborn baby to sleep.

But there are a few different baby crib options out there:

Graco 5-in-1 convertible crib

1. Standard Crib

A standard crib is the larger of the crib options, measuring 28 inches by 52 inches. You may also see this referred to as a full-size crib.

Most standard cribs have a weight limit of 35 to 50 pounds, so you’re going to be using it for quite a while.

They’re permanent structures to be set up in your baby’s own room. They’re the beautiful piece of furniture you see in every nursery photo.

You can get a standard crib in many colors of wood and any design that will fit with the theme of your nursery.

Most full-size cribs are now convertible cribs, meaning they will convert to a toddler bed when the time comes.

A 3-in-1 convertible crib converts from a crib to a toddler bed or day bed.

A 4-in-1 convertible crib converts from a crib to a toddler bed, a daybed, and a twin bed (or a full-size bed, depending on the model).

However, you may need extra parts for those conversions, and it can get pricey.

Parenting tip: Some crib mattresses are double-sided. A harder side for newborns and a softer side for toddlers.

So, if you purchase a convertible crib, you can continue to use your crib mattress with the toddler bed, as the two are the same size.

Dream on Me portable mini crib

2. Mini Crib

The mini crib is a great option for small spaces if you still want a crib, but you just don’t have the room. They typically measure 24 inches by 38 inches.

The weight limit of a mini crib is approximately 45 pounds (which is around 4 years old).

The main difference between a mini crib and a regular crib (besides the size) is that some of them are on wheels and can fold up.

This means you can move it around your house easier than a standard crib, but it looks just as beautiful.

They also make a great option for newborn babies to sleep in, as they are not as roomy as a full-size crib, and your baby will not be rolling about as much early on.

Being a portable crib, they’re also a nice option if you need a nursery set up at grandma’s house since they don’t have to be set up all the time.

Storkcraft 5-in-1 convertible crib and changer

3. Crib with Changing Table

Another crib option available is a crib with a changing table attached.

The crib portion (where your baby sleeps) is the same size as a standard crib, so you can purchase the same size crib mattress.

However, the crib is actually larger than a standard crib because it has a changing table attached, with extra space for storage.

If you have the room for something this large, it can be quite convenient, and you wouldn’t have to purchase a separate changing station.

They are even more expensive, however. And if you buy a convertible crib, you’ll be purchasing those extra accessories to turn it into a toddler bed later.

Related: How to Set Up The Perfect Nursery

pack and play vs crib: baby crib
Lotus travel crib

4. Travel Crib

The Lotus travel crib is the perfect solution for a safe sleep surface when away from home. It is similar to a pack and play with mesh sides.

It is recommended for babies ages 0 to 3, or until your toddler can climb out.

It even makes a good crib for everyday use since it doesn’t have a weight limit because the base sits directly on the floor.

white crib in green nursery
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Pack and Play vs Crib: How Do I Make a Decision?

There’s a lot of information when trying to make a decision between a pack and play vs crib. But now that you have an overview of each product and a better idea of each of their features, let’s dive into the pros and cons of each so you can see what the best option is for you.

Pack and Play: Pros and Cons


  • Portable
  • Cheaper
  • Easy setup
  • Perfect for small spaces
  • Travel bag for easy transportation
  • Doubles as sleep area and play area
  • Able to safely room share for first year of life
  • Extra features to provide multiple functions


  • Not made for long-term use
  • Less comfortable
  • Lower to the ground
  • Not many designs available

Crib: Pros and Cons


  • Can be used for years
  • More comfortable mattress
  • More durable
  • More room for baby
  • Different height settings to change as baby grows
  • More styles available
  • Other sizes available (mini crib, crib with changing table)


  • Stationary
  • More expensive
  • Difficult to put together
baby sleeping in white outfit and hat
Photo by Dobromir Dobrev

Pack and Play vs Crib: FAQS

Can a baby sleep in a pack and play every night?

Yes, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a pack and play offers your baby a safe sleep space every night, as long as you follow the guidelines on safe sleep: nothing soft, no loose bedding, no bumpers, baby on back to sleep. (Check out the information above on safe sleep as a refresher.)

When should I move my baby to a crib?

You should transition your baby from a pack and play to a crib when you have reached the maximum weight limit of your pack and play (at approximately 25 to 30 pounds) or when your baby starts to climb out of the pack and play.

You can raise and lower your crib mattress depending on the height of your baby (and his eagerness to climb out).

Are pack and plays the same size as a crib?

No, pack and plays are only 28 inches by 40 inches whereas a standard crib is 28 inches by 52 inches.

However, pack and plays are larger than most mini cribs which measure 24 inches by 38 inches.

Are pack and plays uncomfortable?

Since those pack and play mattresses are so thin, I can’t imagine that they are too comfortable. However, bassinet mattresses are also not very thick, and babies sleep fine on those.

And if they’ve never slept anywhere else, they do not yet know the comfort of a thick mattress. At this point, it is best to be concerned with a safe sleep space.

What is a travel crib?

A travel crib is a bed used for baby when you’re away from home; the lotus travel crib being the ideal solution for travel. And while you may find different options of travel cribs, a pack and play can also be used as a travel crib, as it is portable and can be folded into its travel bag for transportation or easy storage.

Do babies really need a pack and play?

So, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably trying to decide whether or not a pack and play vs crib is the best option for you.

But maybe, you already know you want a crib and you thinking, do I really need a pack and play too?

If you’re just looking for a safe sleep space for baby (and you’ve decided on a crib), then no, you probably don’t need a pack and play as well.

Can I use a pack and play and a crib?

If you’re looking for a play area or a safe environment to keep your baby while cooking, using the bathroom, taking a nap, or showering, then a pack and play is the best option for you, and you should get one (if you have the room).

A pack and play is also great for young babies if you decide to room share for the first year of life.

You can use a bassinet, but your little one will outgrow a bassinet faster than the pack and play. So, it’s nice to have this an option for your bedroom and can even be moved into your living room during the day, as a safe space for babies or young toddlers.

They are also a great option when traveling, even when staying at grandma’s house for a night or two. They come with their own travel bag to store everything and are easy to put together and take down.

The one other reason I decided on using both a pack and play and a crib is that with an older baby or young toddler it may be harder to distinguish a play space from a sleep space when only using a pack and play.


There you have it: the key differences of a pack and play vs crib. You can’t really go wrong with either. It just depends on your personal situation. And if you feel like you need both, that’s always an option as well.

It’s also a great idea to add either (or both) of these items to your baby registry. Although they are both pricy options, friends and family members may go in together to get you a big item on your list, if they know exactly what you’re wanting.

Let us know in the comments what you decided to use for your baby.

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