Last Updated on January 23, 2023 by Ines
The fact that they are not designed just for sleeping raises the question of whether Pack ‘n Plays are as safe as cribs to sleep in, especially for newborns. What about a Pack ‘n Play without a bassinet? Is it safe for a newborn baby?
Pack ‘n Plays are one of the most widely used and convenient pieces of baby equipment.
A quality Pack ‘n Play boasts excellent versatility. It is a safe sleep and play area, convenient napping space, and handy travel crib. Being full of accessories, like changing tables, storage units, toys, etc., are some even like a miniature nursery in one. And the best part? You can get all of this for a reasonable price.
Playard’s safety for newborns and babies
All Pack ‘n Plays (also called play yards, Playards, or playpens) sold today must meet federal safety standards and additional requirements set by CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission). As such, all Pack ‘n Plays on the market are considered safe for babies of many ages, including newborn infants.
It is perfectly fine to use a Pack ‘n Play instead of a crib or a bassinet! Your newborn can sleep in a Pack ‘N Play safely, but you have to follow safe sleep recommendations and the Playard manufacturer’s directions.
Best Pack ‘N Plays for Newborns
Best traditional Pack ‘n Play:
Graco Pack and Play Portable Playard
This Pack ‘n Play is great for home use and ideal for travel. It will keep your baby comfy, safe, and cozy from day one and through toddlerhood.
Although suitable for newborns, it comes without a bassinet. Meaning you will have to lay your newborn on the bottom of the unit. That is safe for your newborn, however, leaning over the rail to the Playard’s bottom may be hard for you right after delivery.
Those who want to take the Graco Pack ‘n Play Playard on the go will appreciate its signature Graco push-button fold and durable frame that stand up to many foldings and unfoldings.
Best Care Station Pack ‘n Play:
Baby Trend Retreat Nursery Center Playard
The Baby Trend Retreat Nursery Center Playard provides everything you need for a newborn and beyond. It features a removable full-size bassinet, a Rock-A-Bye bassinet, a changing table, a parent organizer, a one-hand locking mechanism, and large wheels for mobility.
The Rock-A-Bye bassinet attaches to Playard’s top or converts into a stand-alone unit with a rocking feature. You also get an electronic music center with volume control, nightlight, and vibration.
It is a great Playard for sleep and play, but you can also use it on the go. It comes with a convenient travel/storage tote bag that takes a collapsed Playard and a full-size bassinet.
Best Portable Playard:
Lotus Travel Crib
What makes the Lotus Travel Crib different from other lightweight travel cribs are its side zipper door, aluminum frame with overbuilt hinges, and a comfortable mattress.
This Playard has a mattress set on the floor. I would not use such Pack ‘n Play instead of the crib when it comes to newborns (see more about this below). However, the Lotus Travel Crib differs from similar Playards in one significant feature that changes everything. It can convert into a newborn bassinet!
The bassinet attachment sells separately, but it is great to know you have such an option.
I recommend the Lotus Travel Crib Playard to all who travel a lot and don’t want to spend money on different baby sleep equipment.
Do my newborn need a Pack ‘n Play bassinet?
No, using a full-size bassinet for a newborn is not required to ensure its safety! However, most Pack ‘n Plays include a bassinet, so I do not see a reason why you wouldn’t use it, especially for the first two weeks.
Placing an infant on the bottom of a Pack ‘n Play is not a safety issue, but it can be difficult for a mum right after delivery. She may experience pain when leaning that far down to pick up her newborn baby.
Full-size bassinets are excellent and safe for newborns, but so do the bottom of a Pack ‘n Play. Pack ‘n Play bassinets are there more for your convenience, not to ensure higher safety for a newborn.
Pack ‘N Play’s Full-Size Bassinet vs. its Newborn Bassinet
Your Pack ‘N Play may include one or both of the following bassinets; a full-size bassinet and a newborn bassinet. Both are suitable for newborns, but they are different.
Full-size Pack ‘N Play Bassinet:
A full-size bassinet is the standard model included with almost all Pack ‘n Plays. Those that do not have one are mostly lightweight units made primarily for travel. You can find more about newborn sleep in a lightweight Pack ‘n Play below.
This type of bassinet snaps on the Pack ‘n Play sides and hangs inside the unit. Most of them are surrounded by mesh that provides good infant visibility and sufficient airflow. Their surface is equal to the Playard’s bottom, meaning you will use the same mattress as in the Playard.
The full-size bassinet is light and folds to be packed in a travel bag with a collapsed Pack ‘n Play.
It is a safe sleeping area for infants up to 15 pounds or before they start to roll or move around in their sleep area, whichever comes first.
Newborn bassinet on a Pack ‘N Play:
Some Nursery center Playards may also include a newborn bassinet.
This is a smaller bassinet that snaps on the Pack ‘n Play railings vertically, not horizontally like a full-size bassinet. It takes up only half of a Pack ‘n Play surface, where the other half is usually a changing table.
It has an excellent track record for safety, but it has to be applied safely. It can hold the same weight as a full-size bassinet, but I don’t see how babies could use it as long as a full-size model.
The great thing about an infant bassinet is that it can convert into a standalone unit. When removed from a Playard, it is like any other newborn bassinet on the market; you can place it on your bed, some of them convert to a rocker, some fold for easy mobility, etc.
However, do not confuse a newborn bassinet with other Pack ‘n Play accessories, such as newborn nappers, bouncers, inclined bassinets, etc. Only a newborn bassinet with a flat and firm surface that is surrounded by breathable mesh, not by plushy materials, is safe for newborns to sleep in it unsupervised!
Are lightweight Pack ‘N Plays without the bassinet safe for a newborn?
When you decide on a Pack ‘n Play, you are left with three options:
- Lightweight Travel model
- Traditional Pack ‘n Play
- Nursery Center or Care Station Playard
While all nursery center Playards come with a full-size bassinet, there is not a fact you will get one with a traditional Pack ‘n Play. Still, most likely, you will get it. In light models, such as BabyBjorn, however, the bassinet is not included and probably does not exist.
Their lightweight frame is not strong enough to support the weight of a full-size bassinet and a baby in it. But that certainly doesn’t mean lightweight travel crib Playards are not safe for newborns!
They are certified to be safe for newborns, babies, and toddlers, but I wouldn’t use one as a crib replacement. Why? Their mattress is set on the floor, which is good for increasing stability and security; however, I don’t imagine placing my newborn on a floor mattress every night.
So, to sum it up, a lightweight Pack ‘n Play without a bassinet is safe for newborns. It is great for travel, neps, and occasional sleepovers.
However, if you are buying a Pack ‘n Play as a crib replacement, I suggest you choose a regular Pack ‘n Play, such as Graco or Ingenuity. Their mattress is raised off the ground, which is better for several reasons. You don’t have to worry if the floor is cold, air circulation under the mattress allows better breathability, etc.
Safety requirements for Pack ‘N Plays
Since February 28, 2013, all Playards sold in the US had to meet rigorous standards set by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and surpass numerous tests to be certified as safe for newborns, babies, and toddlers.
- A reliable locking/latching mechanism must prevent folding while the baby is in the Pack ‘n Play.
- They test Pack ‘n Plays’ top rail strength to ensure they won’t break or become detached from the frame, which could result in cuts, choking hazards, entrapment, strangulation, falls, or escape.
- It must be high enough to prevent climbing out.
- Mesh or fabric sides must be strong enough to prevent tears, which could lead to entrapment, strangulation, falls, or escape.
- All Pack ‘n Plays undergo a floor strength test to ensure that the structure is robust enough to be used without breaking or deforming.
- They test Pack ‘n Play mattress to ensure that it cannot be lifted easily by a child, leading to entrapment or suffocation.
- Playard’s accessories are also tested to be safe for the baby.
- Pack ‘n Play must include labels that cover all potential hazards.
Today’s Pack ‘n Plays are safe for newborns, as long as you use them according to the instructions and follow baby safe sleep recommendations. Your newborn baby can sleep either in a Playard’s bottom or in its bassinet safely!
Caution is advice for second-hand Pack ‘n Plays made before 2013 when the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued new mandatory standards for Playards.