Do I Need a Pack n Play? (What You Really Need To Know)

“Do I need a pack n play” is a common question from budget-conscious and space-constraint parents. 

I certainly had that thought as it just seems so convenient to get one as it has so many uses, plus it’s dirt cheap!

But then again, what if I wanted a crib? Would I be missing a lot if I don’t get one? 

Was it really important to have a pack n play?

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Do I Need a Pack n Play?

No, you don’t need a pack n play. It’s not a newborn essential, and your baby can live without it.

However, it has many uses. And most pack ‘n plays are cheap and can last long!

Having one can make life more convenient, depending on your situation.

When Do You Need a Pack ‘N Play?

A pack n play works best for families who:

Are looking for a cheaper crib alternative

Cribs can be quite expensive. 

Yes, they can last for a few years, especially convertible cribs but most if not all, cost a few hundred bucks!

For pack and plays, you can find one that’s under $100. Or even for $50!

Some of those cheap pack n plays can even come with accessories, such as a diaper changing table and a toy mobile!

One parent even mentioned using one pack n play for all her 3 kids and they all transitioned to their rooms at 6 months.

So that’s a lot of savings for something that costs under $100! (Assuming she got a cheap one)

Wants a 2nd cheap crib

Some parents who lived in a two-story home prefer a pack n play as a 2nd crib downstairs.

So they could change their baby without having to climb back upstairs every time!

So that can be helpful in that aspect, especially if the pack n play comes with all the bells and whistles to entertain your baby when you need to get something done downstairs.

Prefer a multipurpose bed for their baby

Pack n plays can be used as a regular crib, travel crib, or playpen.

And if it comes with accessories, you can use it as a bassinet, diaper changing table, and many more!

So it’s a multipurpose crib alternative bonanza!

Wants more space in the room

Cribs can take up a lot of space. Especially cribs for tall parents!

Not pack ‘n plays though. Most tend to be smaller than cribs, giving you more space. 

And if you do need more space in the room, you simply fold up your pack-and-play and store them!

You can also use the bottom part of the pack n play, under the bassinet setting, for storing diapers, blankets, towels, and other baby essentials.

You Don’t Need a Pack ‘N Play If:

Budget is NOT an issue

If money is not a problem, then I don’t think you’d need a pack n play.

You can just get a full-sized convertible crib, or even a bassinet for a few months then a crib after.

Then you can just get a separate travel crib for vacations, or weekend visits with family and friends – if money is not a problem.

Space is NOT a problem

If you have the budget to buy a crib and other crib alternatives, I’m assuming space is also not an issue.

You prefer a permanent setup

Cribs have a more durable quality to them and can even last until your kid is fully grown! 

Convertible cribs can be converted into a full-sized bed so if you like a more long-lasting bed for your child, that will always stay in their room, then you won’t find a pack-n-play suitable.

You don’t like how it looks

Let’s face it, a pack-n-play is not the prettiest sight there is to behold.

Some brand models have loud colors and they don’t really match with any furniture.

If you’re very particular about your baby’s nursery room design, a pack n play might not be the best choice for you.

Different Ways You Can Use a Pack ‘N Play

For Nighttime Sleep

You can use a pack ‘n play as a regular crib, for everyday, overnight sleeping.

Those that carry the Children’s Product Certificate are perfectly safe to use, as they have been tested rigorously and have met federal safety standards.

Many budget-conscious parents have opted for a pack ‘n play as it also offers the same safe, sturdy quality that a crib or a bassinet has, at a cheaper price.

Plus it can last for a few years. Most can be used until your kid is aged 2 to 3 years old. 

I know a family who’ve used it for their 4-year-old!

As long as your child is within its maximum weight limit and is not attempting to climb out of it, a pack-n-play can last longer than expected.

For Napping

If they’re good for nighttime sleeping, they’re also great for napping!

Compared to cribs, they are more lightweight and can easily be dragged or carried or folded up and assembled again, to be used from one room to another.

So if your toddler is disturbing your newborn in their bedroom, and both can’t take a nap, you can plop your toddler in a pack ‘n play in the living room and hopefully, he or she can sleep there!

As A Travel Crib

Pack n plays are like a heavier, cheaper version of a travel crib.

They are not as lightweight nor as easy to disassemble and put together, compared to a travel crib. 

But they’re portable enough to be carried from one place to another.

You can use them for sleepovers at the grandparent’s, babysitting drop-offs, beach trips, hotel staycations, and basically, any place away from your house!

As A Playpen or “Baby Jail”

You can use a pack n play as a playpen or play area and give your little one some independent playtime.

My baby then hated playing in her pack n play and would always want to crawl or cruise around.

So having one as a “baby jail” was useful.

It gave me some rest from all the entertaining, teaching, chores, work, and sleep deprivation I had to endure!

As Bassinet

If it comes with a bassinet, you can use it for your newborn.

Most come with a bassinet setting/ attachment. 

While others have a separate bassinet that’s portable and can be detached and carried in another room.

For Storing

Did you know that you can store some baby essentials in the pack-n-play while your baby is sleeping in it?

Some parents have used the bottom part for storing diapers, blankets, towels, etc., while their baby was in the raised bassinet part!

I never even thought to do that before. What a brilliant idea to save space, especially for baby clothes!

Some have also used it as a giant laundry basket after their baby has transitioned away from it!

For Changing

Some pack n plays come with a diaper changing table which can make changing diapers more convenient.

It also has some storage attachments to put in your diaper essentials, such as wet wipes, diaper cream, and of course, diapers.

Not only did I use mine for changing diapers before, but I also used it to transfer my newborn after bathing!

I used to bathe my baby on the table. 

I’d drag the pack n play next to the table then after bathing her, I’d transfer my baby to the pack n play, where her towel is all laid out and her clothes are all prepared!

Pros and Cons of Pack n Play/ Playard

PROS

  • Can be used for a newborn (if it comes with a bassinet setting/ attachment)
  • Can be used for a few years (or until your kid can climb out of it)
  • Can use regular-sized standard crib mattress sheets
  • Some come with a bassinet, wheels, bouncer, etc.
  • Some come with more accessories (eg. storage, toy mobile, diaper changing table, etc.)
  • Can turn into a travel crib
  • Can turn into a playpen
  • 0 chance of your baby’s legs getting stuck between the rails because it doesn’t have any

CONS

  • Can come with a lumpy, uncomfortable mattress
  • Sits too low when not on the bassinet setting (can hurt your back when getting your baby)
  • Heavier than a travel crib
  • Some can be as expensive as a crib

Best Pack ‘n Plays

Check out what kind of bestselling pack n plays are out there, that are also highly-rated by other parents:

Graco Pack ‘N Play On The Go Playard

4moms Breeze GO Portable Travel Playard

Graco® Pack ‘n Play® On The Go™ Playard

4moms Breeze Plus Portable Playard

Chicco Lullaby Playard

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe 2 Nursery Center

FAQ on Pack n Plays

How necessary is a pack n play?

Pack n plays are not necessary but they serve many purposes and can be a great crib alternative/ travel crib.

At what age do you stop using a pack n play?

You should stop using a pack-n play when your child reaches the maximum limit or when they’re attempting to climb out of their pack-n-play – whichever comes first.

Do I need a bassinet or can I use a pack n play?

Needing a bassinet or a pack-n-play would depend on your situation.
If you need a temporary crib and you have limited space, then it’s better to get a bassinet.
If you’re on a budget, a pack n play would be more useful for your family.

Final Thoughts on Do I Need a Pack n Play?

Again, you don’t need a pack n play and you can just make do with a crib right from the get-go. 

Or you can just get a bassinet and then transition your baby to a crib.

But, a pack-n-play is UNBEATABLE when it comes to being a MULTIPURPOSE crib and for the variety of uses you can have with it, it can be quite worth it!

Just remember to check if it’s CPSC compliant, and to always follow sleep guidelines to keep your baby safe.