If you’re deciding between a Pack ‘n Play vs bassinet, and you have the option to buy both, I would suggest putting a Pack ‘n Play and bassinet on your baby registry.
If you’re only going to buy one, you are going to get more use out of a Pack ‘n Play and be able to use it longer.
You probably have lots of questions about Pack ‘n Plays vs. bassinets, so I will get into all of these details:
- First, what is a Pack ‘n Play? And, what is a bassinet? What are the main differences?
- Which is safer: a Pack ‘n Play or a bassinet?
- What are the age, weight, and height requirements for Pack ‘n Plays vs. bassinets?
- Are you going to get more use out of a Pack ‘n Play or a bassinet?
I’ll also explain why these are good baby essentials to have if you can get both.
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Did You Know Cribs, Bassinets, And Pack ‘N Plays Are Federally Regulated?
Before we get too far into this article, let me take a minute to explain this a little further because this information is so important for your child’s safety.
Baby sleep safety is critical in reducing the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Back in 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) gave specific requirements for something to be called a Pack ‘n Play or bassinet or crib.
This is important because the American Academy of Pediatrics states that the safest place for babies to sleep is on their backs in their parent’s room in an empty bassinet or safety-approved crib for the first 6-12 months of their life to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
If you see a product that isn’t clearly labeled as a bassinet, crib, or play yard (Pack ‘n Play), then it is not a safe place for your child to sleep.
Manufacturers will list “sleepers,” “newborn napper,” and “loungers,” in their product descriptions and show pictures of sleeping babies, but these are actually not safe for babies to sleep in. They are just meant to be resting places for your little one.
If you’re not sure if your product is safe for sleep, you can check to see if a product is certified by the CPSC.
Manufacturers provide this information on their website and in the description/details of their product listing.
Now that you know all of this–trust me I had no idea until I had my son–keep these safety concerns in mind when shopping for your bassinet or play yard.
Pro-Tip: If you’re deciding between a playard and a crib, check out my article: Playard Vs. Crib: One or Both?
What Is A Pack ‘n Play?
A pack n’ play is a portable travel crib. Or, at least that is how it started.
The Graco Pack ‘n Play has been the gold standard in baby play yards. Just like facial tissues have become known as Kleenexes over time, the play yard is now most commonly referred to as a Pack ‘n Play.
So if you hear someone talking about a play yard or a Pack ‘n Play, they are talking about the same thing.
Basically, a Pack ‘n Play is a portable crib. It has 2 long sides and 2 short sides. The frame is made of plastic or lightweight metal. The sides are made of fabric or mesh. It comes with a foldable mattress and a travel bag.
Newer Pack ‘n Plays have a lot of additional features and options that take it from something you use once in a while, to one of the most important baby essentials.
How Big Is A Pack ‘n Play?
Most Pack n’ Play mattresses are the same size, making it really easy to buy sheets that will fit. Typical measurements for a Pack ‘n Play mattress are 27 inches by 37 inches.
Even though the mattress sizes are the same (maybe different by a half-inch or so), the overall size of a Pack ‘n Play can be very different depending on the brand and additional features that come with it.
Generally, a Pack ‘n Play is going to be about 29 inches wide and 40 inches long, although you’ll want to check your product before purchasing it since these measurements can be a lot bigger.
Whether you are planning on using your Pack n’ Play as your child’s primary sleep place in your bedroom or using it as a play and nap area in the living room, you’ll want to check the dimensions of your Pack n’ Play and make sure it will fit the space.
What’s The Difference Between Pack ‘N Plays And Mini Cribs?
Pack ‘n Plays and mini cribs are typically very close in size.
A mini crib is made of wood and has all of the stability of a full-size crib.
The main difference is that the Pack ‘N Play is designed to be easily folded to travel with.
A mini-crib is a stationary piece of furniture. It is smaller than a regular full-size crib. Read more about the two types of cribs here.
Mini cribs are a great option for new parents who are dealing with a small space. Whether you are trying to fit a baby crib in your bedroom for room sharing, or the baby’s room is small, a mini crib takes up about half as much space as a standard crib.
Most full-sized cribs now convert to toddler beds, making them a piece of furniture that you will keep throughout childhood.
If you already have a toddler bed, or don’t want a toddler bed, a mini crib is something to consider.
What Features Do Pack ‘n Plays Have?
All Pack ‘n Plays are portable. This is the main difference between a Pack N’ Play vs bassinet.
Most modern Pack ‘n Plays fold down with a couple of button clicks.
The mattress is used as the traveling case.
No having to hunt through your storage to find the pesky travel bag… Pack ‘n Play mattresses have 4 hard sides that transform with a few snaps into the perfect size carrying case.
In addition to folding up for easy storage, Pack ‘n Plays are super simple to put bath together. In fact, some Pack ‘n Play models like the 4Moms Breeze can be set up with only one hand!
If you buy a basic version of a playard that is the extent of the features.
However, newer models have A LOT of different options and features that I will go over, making them a multifunctional piece of furniture for your home.
Adjustable Bassinet And Bassinet Attachment
Some Pack ‘n Plays have an adjustable bassinet feature. This is a fabric covering that is placed over the Pack ‘n Play frame to raise the whole mattress.
Raising the whole mattress makes getting your baby in and out easier, especially for new moms and moms recovering from c-sections.
Adjustable bassinets can only be used until the baby is a certain weight, or is sitting up. After that, the mattress should be lowered to the normal position.
Other Pack ‘n Plays have removable bassinet attachments there are free-standing (meaning you can use them with or without the play yard).
Bassinet attachments are much smaller but are perfect for infants who want a cozier sleep environment. Bassinet attachments for Pack ‘n Plays are also great because they can be easily detached and taken anywhere you go with your baby to have a safe sleep space.
The good news is that either bassinet option (the adjustable bassinet or the bassinet attachment) is a safe option for your little one.
Warning: Most Pack ‘n Plays have adjustable bassinets with an additional napper, sleeper, chair, or lounger attachment. Make sure you understand which component of your Pack ‘n Play is the bassinet and is safe to sleep in. Remember, just because something is labeled as a napper or sleeper doesn’t mean it is safe for your child to sleep in. If you’re not sure, or the packaging is misleading, call the manufacturer to get clarification.
Changing Table Attachment
From personal experience, when I choose my Pack ‘n Play, I didn’t even consider the changing table attachment. It just so happened that the model that we purchased had a changing table attachment!
Fast-forward 18 months and the changing table attachment was by far the most-used piece of baby gear that I own 😆
We kept our Pack ‘n Play in the living room and had a bassinet upstairs. Having a second changing station attached to the Pack ‘n Play was so convenient.
If you are looking at Pack ‘n Play options and aren’t sure if you want all of the bells and whistles, trust me when I say you will be thankful for splurging on one with a changing table attachment.
Napper, Sleeper, Lounger, and Chair Attachments
Like I said, a lot of bassinets opt for the adjustable bassinet and a separate ‘bonus’ attachment.
When looking for a bonus attachment, think about what you will be using it for.
For example, my Pack n’ Play came with a Cuddle Cove attachment, but because I knew it wasn’t safe for sleeping like a bassinet, it didn’t get a lot of use.
I used the Cuddle Cove attachment as a resting place for my newborn, and it did have an awning with a mobile that my little guy liked to watch, but it wasn’t as practical as it could have been.
If I were going to do it all over again, I would look for a Pack ‘n Play with either a bassinet or bouncer attachment.
I ended up buying this very inexpensive bouncer from Fisher-Price for my son, and we used it every day.
It would have been nice if the bouncer coordinated with the Pack ‘n Play to save some space when it wasn’t in use.
Sounds, Music, Mobiles, and Vibration
You got it. These are all available features for your Pack ‘n Play.
My Pack ‘n Play had the option to play music (through an input cord) and do vibration.
I remember a few days into having my son at home from the hospital, I couldn’t get him to stop crying or sleep. I hadn’t tried the vibration on the Pack ‘n Play yet but thought I would figure it out and give it a try.
Instantly my little one stopped fussing. I wrapped him up in his swaddle and he was out like a light for hours.
The moral of the story: while none of these are must-have features like the changing table attachment, they are definitely nice to have, and might just save your sanity one day.
Most Pack ‘n Plays feature some kind of storage pouch or even come with shelves that you can attach to it.
These storage areas can be used to tuck away extra onesies, burp cloths, or bibs. You can even use a shelving station to hold your diapers and changing supplies to use with the changing table attachment.
Pros And Cons Of Pack N Plays
Pros Of Pack ‘N Plays
There are literally hundreds of Pack ‘n Play variations to choose from now.
Pack ‘n Plays range in price. You can get the simplest model Pack ‘n Play for $40, or the fanciest for $500.
In that price range, you have all of the features that I mentioned above in every combination available. So you will definitely be able to find EXACTLY what you are looking for.
You will also be able to use the Pack ‘n Play for the entire first year of life, and possibly well beyond that.
Cons of Of Pack ‘N Plays
My personal feeling is that the Pack ‘n Play mattress is not very comfortable. A regular crib mattress is a nice soft mattress that is usually between 3-5 inches tall. They can be made of dense foam or spring coils like a regular mattress.
Pack ‘n Play mattresses are usually less than an inch thick, and they have 4 seams for folding it up.
For me, Pack ‘n Plays make a great place for a baby nap, or to take on vacation for a few nights, but ultimately it isn’t going to be as comfortable as a crib for nighttime sleep.
Warning: Never add more cushioning or extra mattresses to your Pack ‘n Play as this can increase your child’s risk of suffocation.
What Is A Bassinet?
A bassinet is a very small crib that is usually portable.
Bassinets have a lightweight metal frame, mattress, and fabric or breathable mesh sides.
Unlike Pack ‘n Plays, bassinets don’t have standard dimensions. Some of them are very small (like 20 by 30 inches), and others are just as big as the Pack ‘n Plays.
Remember that your bassinet needs to be clearly labeled and certified by the CPSC to be safe for your baby.
A family heirloom like a cradle or Moses basket might not meet the high safety standards of today.
What Features Do Bassinets Have?
Some bassinets are very basic and don’t provide any additional features other than a safe place for your newborn baby to sleep in.
There are a lot of new bassinet features out there that you might want to consider when deciding on which bassinet to get.
If you want my recommendations on the best bassinets out there with all of these features, you should read my full article on the Best Bassinets of 2021.
Some bassinets are meant to be packed up just as easily as a Pack ‘n Play with a few clicks of a button. If you are traveling, you’ll want to pick a travel-ready bassinet and comes with a carrying case.
I didn’t know this was a thing until after I had my son.
Some bassinets have a changing table underneath them!!!
So when you are changing your child’s diaper in the middle of the night, you just take them out of the bassinet, click a button, and boom! You have a changing table right there.
This would have been a great feature to know about because we decided to SQUEEZE my son’s changing table into our master bedroom to make middle-of-the-night changes easier. Man, did that thing take up a lot of space?
Shades, Mobiles, Music, and Vibration
Just like the Pack ‘n Play, these are all great features to have.
My son’s bassinet didn’t have vibration, but once we saw how well he responded to the vibration of the Pack ‘n Play, we bought this after-market vibration attachment for his bassinet.
The mobile also bought us a few extra minutes of sleep each morning, as our son would wake up and peacefully coo at the dangling toys.
… This phase didn’t last very long, as he soon realized how much more exciting the world was outside of the bassinet 😆
But, to be fair, he did like to watch the mobile before falling asleep too.
The Pros And Cons Of Bassinets
Pros of Bassinets
What Are The Benefits Of Having A Bassinet?
You might have noticed that the features of bassinets vs Pack ‘n Plays are very short.
This might also lead you to wonder why do you even need a bassinet?
In short, a bassinet is a great transitional crib for your new baby. It is small and lightweight and can easily fit in your bedroom to room share.
Imagine being a newborn and going from living in 3 cubic feet of space in the womb to sleeping in a GIANT traditional crib or Pack ‘n Play… The wide-open space would be jarring.
Bassinets provide that in-between transitional period while being very convenient to fit in even the smallest master bedroom.
Cons of Bassinets
Just like with Pack ‘n Plays, some bassinets have a bassinet mattress that leaves a lot to be desired.
Keep in mind that a lot of this is because the flat surface that babies sleep on needs to be firm for safety reasons.
That being said, if you have the option of choosing a bassinet with a 3/4″ mattress vs. a 1″ mattress, definitely consider the extra mattress support.
Which Is Safer Pack ‘n Play Vs. Bassinet?
Luckily, as long as your bassinet or Pack ‘n Play is certified by the CPSC they are both equally safe options for your baby to sleep in.
So, the decision of Pack ‘n Play vs bassinet comes back to features, size, and how long you can use it.
Let’s talk about how long you can use bassinets and play yards.
Age, Size, Weight, and Height Requirements For Pack ‘n Plays Vs Bassinets
Age, Size, Weight, and Height Requirements For Pack ‘n Plays
Depending on what materials your Pack ‘n Play is made out of, the maximum weight capacity is between 25-40lb, with the average being about 30lb.
Pack ‘n Plays also have a height limit. When your child is 35 inches tall, it is time to put away the Pack ‘n Play. This is because tall toddlers can try to climb out of the Pack n’ Play, which isn’t sturdy like a wooden crib or mini-crib, and tip over and fall out causing serious injuries.
Generally, there is no specific age for when your toddler needs to stop using the Pack ‘n Play because children grow at different rates and might get to the maximum height or weight requirements at different times.
It is probably safe to say that you will get at least one full year out of the Pack ‘n Play before your child outgrows it, if not 2 or 3.
Make sure to check your user manual for the exact height and weight requirements for your particular model.
Keep in mind that Pack ‘n Play attachments like the loungers, bassinets, and changing tables are all going to have specific height and weight limits as well.
Age, Size, Weight, and Height Requirements For Bassinets
Bassinets have weight capacities of 10-20lb, with the average being about 15lb.
Some bassinets boast a much higher weight limit, but the odds are good that your baby will outgrow the bassinet developmentally long before they reach those weight requirements.
When your baby is moving on their own (rolling over, pulling themselves up, or sitting, whichever comes first) is it time to stop using the bassinet.
For most babies, this transition will happen between 4-6 months.
The reason is that the bassinet is not as stable as a crib, mini-crib, or Pack ‘n Play. They have very narrow bases and can easily tip over with the extra movement from the baby.
To Sum It All Up
The bottom line– when you’re deciding between a Pack N’ Play vs. a bassinet– is if you can get both, I would highly recommend getting a bassinet and a Pack ‘n Play.
The bassinet will serve as a transition to a full crib for your baby. The bassinet can fit easily in any bedroom for room sharing in the early months.
This frees up your Pack ‘n Play in the early months to be a secondary safe space for your little one. For example, you can have the Pack ‘n Play in the living room to serve as a safe sleep environment and a changing table.
As your baby grows, the Pack ‘n Play can grow with them. You can use the Pack ‘n Play as a portable play area when you visit friends and family, as well as a portable sleep space.