Pack N’ Play vs. Crib: Differences, Pros and Cons

Written by: Alyssa Larsen

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Time to read 10 min

There are many factors to consider when deciding on the best sleep space for your baby—and there’s no shortage of choices! If you’ve narrowed it down to a pack n’ play or a crib, this guide can give you a better look at the pros and cons of each so you can pick the best bed for your little one.

What Are the Differences Between a Crib and a Pack N’ Play?

A crib or a pack n’ play—also called a play yard or playpen—are both safe places for your baby to sleep. Although they can both serve as your baby’s first bed, there are significant differences in size, portability, and other factors that may help you determine which one is right for your family.


Some of the main differences between cribs and pack n’ plays are …

Portability

  • Cribs are stationary pieces of furniture. They can be easily moved around for redecorating or organizing your baby’s room, but you won’t be taking them apart to move them from one room to another on a daily basis.


  • Pack n’ plays are made to quickly break down and set up over and over again. Because they fold up into a small, lightweight package they’re ideal for traveling or moving to different areas of the house.

The Mattress

  • A crib mattress is larger and thicker. This gives your baby more space to spread out while sleeping on a comfortable mattress that’s most like your own.


  • The pack n’ play mattress is very thin with a solid backing to maintain the support of the bottom of the play yard. It’s slightly padded, but better suited for comfortable sitting or standing as opposed to a cozy place to sleep.
Pack N’ Play vs. Crib

Size

  • A full-size crib takes up more space but gives your baby plenty of room to move even as they grow bigger.


  • The pack n’ play is ideal for small spaces, but your little one is sure to grow out of it sooner.

Price

  • Although a crib does come at a higher price point, investing in a quality piece of furniture can save you money in the long run. The same crib you purchase for your newborn can still be used well into their toddler years without ever needing to replace it.


  • A pack n’ play may cost less than $100—if you don’t add any accessories—and can be a great short-term solution if you’re saving up for a crib.
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Versatility

  • Cribs are a safe place to put your baby down at any time, but they’re mainly used as a sleep space for naptimes and bedtime.


  • Pack n’ plays offer the versatility of being a place to sleep or play in any room of the house, at outdoor events, or while traveling. There are models that also offer a changing table and bassinet attachment.

Durability

  • A crib is generally made of natural or synthetic wood and metal hardware giving it a sturdy frame and long-lasting durability. Cribs have a higher weight capacity to hold your little one as they grow and can withstand prolonged, daily use. Even a teething baby may only leave behind minor marks that don’t affect the solidity of the frame.


  • A pack n’ play is made to fold and unfold repeatedly which can take a toll on the integrity of the materials. Usually, a play yard is constructed of a metal and plastic frame surrounded by thin cloth and mesh coverings. Along with frequent setup and breakdown, the more mobile your baby becomes, the greater the chance of rips and tears in the fabric.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Pack N’ Play?

The features that make the pack n’ play unique can present advantages and disadvantages in certain situations. Depending on how your family will use the pack n’ play, these are some of the pros and cons you might consider.

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Pros

A Contained Play Area

Once your baby is interested in toys, the pack n’ play can serve as a place to play when you need them—and their toys—to stay in one area. This is a great way to know that your baby isn’t getting into anything while you focus your attention on something else for a bit. Just make sure the toys you leave in the play yard are age-appropriate and stay close by so you can check on them frequently.

A Place to Practice Developmental Skills

Rolling, sitting up, and pulling up to stand are all safe for your baby to practice in the pack n’ play. The four-sided enclosure provides boundaries as your child learns to perfect their gross motor skills. And the mesh sides give you a front-row seat to watch all the new tricks your little one has learned.

A Safe Sleep Space

The design of a pack n’ play includes breathable mesh sides and a firm flat surface for your baby to sleep on. A play yard is approved by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) as a safe infant sleep product. To further adhere to the CPSC safety standards, pillows, blankets, and plush toys should not be in the pack n’ play while your child is sleeping.

Pack N’ Play vs. Crib

A Familiar Bed while Traveling

Some babies have a difficult time adjusting to changes in their bedtime routine. If your family plans to take overnight trips, it can be helpful to have a pack n’ play that your little one has spent some time in before. A good night’s sleep for your baby—and you—can make or break a family trip.

Cons

Lower Weight Limit

A pack n’ play generally supports a weight of 25-30 pounds. If this is your child’s everyday sleep spot, you might find yourself needing to transition them to a toddler or big kid bed sooner than you thought.

Time-Consuming Assembly

It can be frustrating when you’re trying to quickly put together a pack n’ play for a tired baby. Each model comes with its own instructions to guide you through the process, but every minute is precious when your little one needs to get to sleep. Even a slight struggle may leave you feeling that the pack n’ play is more burdensome than helpful.

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Storage

Pack n’ plays are compact when folded, but they still take up a significant amount of space length-wise. If you can’t designate part of a closet or other storage area to fit the size of the play yard, then it could be left to sit out in your way or as an eyesore in the corner of the room.

Limited Comfort

As your baby grows, he or she will take up more space. Older babies will stretch and change positions while they sleep just like adults. When your child is long enough to bump into or rub against the sides of the pack n’ play, it’s likely they’ll start waking up in the night because they’re uncomfortable. The padding on the pack n’ play mattress is minimal, but adding any extra cushion would increase the risk of suffocation.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Crib?

A crib may seem like a staple piece of furniture in your baby’s nursery, but is it the best choice for your home? Weighing the pros and cons of purchasing a crib can help you decide.

Pros

High Safety Standards

You can find peace of mind knowing your baby is safe in their crib. The side rails are high and the bed is raised up off the floor making it more difficult for pets or other siblings to interfere. Cribs are rigorously tested for structural integrity and safe design features.


The Crib from Nurture& exceeds the baby crib safety standards set by ASTM International and is built to last with premium, non-toxic materials.

Encourages Independent Sleep

Room sharing is encouraged during the early newborn months, but when it’s time to move your baby into the nursery it can be helpful to have the crib set up and waiting. The transition from bassinet to crib can be tedious, but early introduction with small amounts of time awake in the crib will help your baby learn to sleep in their own space.

Long-term Use

A high-quality crib is made to withstand several years of use. Your little one can safely sleep in a crib well into their toddler years, or you can save the crib for each new sibling you bring home.

Variety of Styles and Designs

You can find a crib with a design that the rest of your nursery theme centers around or one with a simple style to match any type of room decor. The possibilities are endless and you have many color and customization options to personalize your baby’s crib.

Easy to Clean

Without fabric sides, the bare frame of most cribs only requires a quick wipe-down for drool and spit-up messes. Crib sheets can be machine-washed after a diaper blowout and a crib mattress like the Lullaby Earth Breeze Air is waterproof with a removable, washable, waterproof cover.

Large Sleeping Area

The dimensions of a standard crib give your growing baby plenty of space to move around and get comfortable while they sleep. Babies can maneuver into crunched-up positions while they’re dreaming, so room to stretch out is a necessity.

Cons

Expensive

There’s no doubt that a crib will cost you more money. This can be a problem for some families who have their finances focused on other things. The cost of a crib may be something that takes a while to save up for.

Size

A crib takes up a considerable amount of space in the room. Safely placing all of your nursery furniture in one room can feel like a game of Tetris. There can be a slight variation in sizes among different brands so check the dimensions before you buy to make sure it fits in your space.

Not Portable

A crib requires a setup of screwing large panels of side rails and end pieces together, making it impractical to take with you on the go. Even moving the crib from one room in the house to another can take a significant amount of time and energy.

Types of Cribs

The advantages of a crib tend to outweigh the negatives for most families. It can be an even easier decision to make when you find out there are several different types for you to choose from. Each style of crib has a different purpose so you can find exactly what you need in your baby’s nursery.

Pack N’ Play vs. Crib

Convertible Cribs

A convertible crib is the epitome of a long-term investment. This crib comes with the option of a guardrail that can be swapped out with the front crib rails to become a toddler bed. Although they typically come at a higher cost upfront, you’ll benefit from extended use with the convertible crib.

Combo Cribs

A crib combined with an attached changing table or shelving unit. This is most convenient during the newborn stage when you’re up changing diapers frequently in the middle of the night.


There are safety concerns as your baby gets older. Take notice of when your baby can stand and reach things up on the changing table and when they begin trying to climb. The piece attached may make it easier for your little one to escape the confines of the crib.

Mini Cribs

As the name suggests, the mini crib is a smaller version of the standard crib. This type of baby bed requires a special mattress since the mini crib can be 12-14 inches shorter in length than a regular crib. The mini crib is a great option for small spaces or room sharing.

Regular Cribs

This is the type of crib that standard-size crib mattresses, crib sheets, and mattress pads are based on. A regular crib functions only as a crib without any extra add-ons or transitioning pieces.

Can You Use a Pack N’ Play as a Crib?

Yes, a pack n’ play can be used as a crib. Meaning, it’s safe for your baby’s daily naps and bedtime.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) considers play yards, along with cribs and bassinets, to be a safe sleeping surface for babies and toddlers within the height and weight limitations of the product. The AAP recommends a baby’s sleep space consist of a firm, flat mattress covered only by a fitted sheet to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).


While a pack n’ play and crib can be used interchangeably with your newborn, it’s important to think ahead when choosing a permanent bed for your baby. Many new parents find it helpful to have both a pack n’ play and a crib.


A pack n’ play is better suited as a temporary sleep solution or as a piece of baby gear used while traveling. A crib can be designated as a permanent sleep spot from infancy through toddlerhood. The long-lasting benefits of investing in a high-quality crib ensure the safety, comfort, and overall well-being of your little one.


Ultimately, you know your family and your lifestyle better than anyone else. When you look to this list of pros and cons as your guide to buying a pack n’ play or a crib, you can make an informed decision.


Discover The Crib and other nursery furniture from Nurture& in our online store. We’re proud to offer you our premium, modern, and non-toxic nursery furniture and baby essentials made for parents, by parents.

Alyssa Larsen

Alyssa Larsen

Alyssa Larsen is a stay-at-home mom with a passion for writing. Before starting her career as a freelance writer, Alyssa devoted all of her time to her family and raising her young children. The evolution of her motherhood journey and parenting experience inspires her work. She strives to always tell a story that is helpful and relatable to the person reading it. Alyssa lives in Ohio with her husband and four hilarious kids.