Is It Safe for Baby to Sleep in a Pack-n-Play Every Night?

One of the most common questions I’m asked as a sleep consultant is “Is it safe for a baby to sleep in a Pack-n-Play every night?” And, to answer briefly, yes, it is safe to let your baby sleep in a Pack-n-Play or play yard every night. Some parents prefer a Pack-n-Play over a traditional crib or bassinet.

When you choose to use a pack-n-play instead of a crib or bassinet, you need to make sure you are following all of the regular safe sleep practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This includes but is not limited to keeping a clear sleep space, which means no bumpers, pillows, positioners, or stuffed animals. Additionally, you should become familiar with your specific play yard’s safety guidelines like weight and height limits.

Here’s everything you need to know about letting your baby sleep in a pack-n- play every night:

What is a Pack-n-Play?

While pack-n-play is the most popular term, it may also be referenced as a “play yard,” “travel crib,” or “playpen.” A pack-n-play is a portable baby-safe space. 

Pack-n-plays are traditionally used while traveling thanks to their compact size and portability. Alternatively, the same features that make it great for travel make it a great choice for families that live in smaller homes and spaces. 

Safety Standards 

Some pack-and-plays vary in size, but there are specific requirements manufacturers must follow. For example, a play yard or playpen must be less than 35in high. The interior length dimension must either be greater than 55in or smaller than 49 ¾ in, or an interior width dimension greater than 30 ⅝ in or smaller than 25 ⅜ in, or both. If a pack-n-play contains a bassinet, it must meet additional safety requirements.

Play yards are also subject to additional tests on their strength, sides, accessories, latching mechanisms, and more. These guidelines are in place to prevent the risk of injury. You can read through the full CPSC requirements here.

For a pack-n-play to be considered a safe sleep space, it must:

  • pass either the federal or international safety standards for play yards: 16 CFR 1221 or ASTM F406-13
  • have been manufactured after 2013 if it comes without a bassinet, or after 2014 if it comes with a bassinet attachment 
  • if it comes with a bassinet, then it must pass federal or international safety standards for bassinets: 16 CFR 1218 or ASTM F2194

Be aware that 3rd party sellers like Amazon and retailers like Target are not required to post the correct information about a product! So please always get product information, including confirmation that it passes the relevant standards, from the manufacturer’s website or contact the manufacturer directly.

Using a Pack-n-Play Safely

How to Use a Pack n Play Safely | A Renewed Momma

All pack-and-plays state that you should stop use when your child reaches 35 inches in height or can climb out. Most also have a weight limit of 30 lbs. Check your play yard’s manual for its specific limits.

Here are a few additional instructions found in almost all pack-n-play manuals:

  • Whichever level you have your pack-n-play set to, never place your baby in the pack-n-play for awake time or sleep if the changer is attached. Yes, even though your newborn is tiny and barely moves, you must remove the changer before placing your baby in the pack-n-play for it to be safe.
  • Do not modify the pack-n-play in any way. Do not add anything to it besides the attachments that come with it or are shown as options in the manual. This includes the dozens of crib/pack-n-play tents and canopies currently sold and advertised to be used to provide shade or blackout, to prevent climbing out, or to prevent bugs or pets from getting in. 
  • Do not use a supplemental mattress and only use sheets approved by the manufacturer (more on this below)

Supervised vs Unsupervised Sleep

If you do read all the safety information in your pack-n-play’s manual (which I highly recommend), you may come across a misleading statement about “supervision.” This provokes anxiety in many parents so I want to clear up any confusion on that. 

Almost all manuals will say something along the lines of “You must provide continued supervision when used for sleeping.” Statements like this often lead parents to believe that a product is safe for naps, but not for overnight sleep. The concern here is that many products state that supervision is required for sleep because the product does not pass the standards to be a safe sleep space. Unfortunately, supervision doesn’t make an unsafe sleep space safe. This means that those products aren’t safe for any sleep. They are not safe for overnight or for naps – even while you are sitting right there! 

So a product either is safe for all sleep or it isn’t safe for any sleep. This is determined by whether or not it passes standards, not by any statements from the company/manufacturer. If a play yard does pass standards, then why does the manual specify that you need to supervise your baby while sleeping in it? It’s just a CYA statement. If you have verified that your pack-n-play passes the safety standard for a play yard, then it is safe to use for any and all sleep. 

What Mattress is Best for a Pack n-Play?

Although a pack-and-play may look uncomfortable, it’s a completely safe and and secure place for babies to sleep. Infant mattresses must be firm, so the mat in a pack-n-play isn’t that much different than a crib mattress. Nonetheless, parents are often concerned that their baby will be uncomfortable or not sleep well in a pack-n-play. This has led to a large market of “supplemental” mattresses. These are designed to be used instead of or on top of the pack-n-play mat. 

A supplemental mattress is unnecessary and unsafe. Adding a mattress to a pack-and-play can create gaps and ill-fitting corners which can cause suffocation and potential entrapment. So even if the mattress itself is considered safe for sleep, it is not safe when added to a pack-and-play for use. 

What about sheets? Most pack-and-plays will allow sheets. Some manufacturers, such as Graco, only allow their own brand of sheets to be used. Others allow any fitted crib/pack-n-play sheet as long as it is the right dimensions and tucks far enough under the mat.  

For parents still concerned that the pack-n-play mat isn’t comfortable, a safe option is to use a fitted “quilted” sheet. These sheets are thicker but not padded. This makes it a little comfier without sacrificing the firmness needed for safe sleep.

Should I Use a Pack-and-Play or a Crib?

Since it is completely safe to use either, it’s a personal choice. Cribs offer a long-term solution for sleep. Most cribs are convertible, meaning that they grow with your child. You can convert them to a toddler bed and ultimately to a full bed frame. Even cribs that are not convertible have a higher weight limit than most pack-n-plays (usually 50 lbs instead of 30 lbs). All cribs still have a height limit of 35in.


You can use the same mattress from your crib when your child progresses to a toddler bed. The downside is that cribs and their mattress are typically more expensive in comparison to a play yard. So pack-n-plays are an affordable option for your baby’s primary sleep space as well as a secondary sleep space if you want somewhere the baby can sleep in another room or on another floor of your home.


Pack-and-plays or play yards are also smaller than regular-size cribs. If you want the higher weight limit of a crib that is also convertible to grow with your child but is the size of a pack-n-play, you could go with a mini-crib. 


A final piece to consider is that while a crib is bulky and unmovable (or at least not easily moveable), a pack-and-play can be placed and moved easily. With a pack-n-play, this means you also have the ability to take your baby’s sleep space with you! Families often use pack-n-plays when traveling. This ensures they have a safe sleep space whether they are staying in hotels, at grandma’s house, or even when camping!

What to Consider When Purchasing a Pack-n-Play

Even with governmental guidelines, not all pack-n-plays are made equally. While uncommon for a pack-n-play, unsafe sleep spaces are promoted online. It can be hard to distinguish when shopping – particularly on platforms like Amazon or Walmart which allow 3rd-party sellers. 

To ensure that you are purchasing a safe pack-n-play, be sure to read the product details. Here are a few things you should do before buying:

  • Verify on the manufacturer’s website that the product meets the standards listed above 
  • Even if a product meets safety standards, you can check to see if any specific issues have been reported for that model at
  • If purchasing used, visually inspect the pack-n-play for any rips, tears, or other damage. Find and download the product manual online to check that you have all the necessary parts.

Recommended Options

With so many different pack-n-plays out there, it can be overwhelming to choose! Here are two that I recommend that pass safety standards: 

  • Guava Family Lotus Travel Crib: this is the priciest option at $249, but if it works with your budget, this is my top pick!!
    • It has a side zipper, making it easier for many caregivers to get their baby or toddler in or out
    • The mattress that comes with it is more similar to a crib mattress rather than a typical “mat” in a pack-n-play 
    • It’s very lightweight so it is great for travel
    • There is no weight limit!! Like all play yards, it still has a height limit of 35 inches. But if you think your babe might hit the 30lb limit long before the 35in limit, then you will get much more use out of it! Note: the only other options I am aware of with no weight limit are the Baby Bjorn and Joovy, but they are equally pricey.
    • You can also purchase safety-tested and approved accessories. These include a “fun shade” to provide sun protection or darken the sleeping area, and a mosquito net for camping!
  • Dream on Me Travel Light: this is my favorite budget pick at just $61!
    • It is also very lightweight
    • It also has a mattress a bit more like a crib mattress. It is much nicer than the typical “mats” but not quite as nice as the more expensive ones mentioned above
    • There is also a side zipper version for $130

Still unsure which option is right for you? Realizing there may be other baby items you aren’t sure are safe or how to use them safely? Consult my guide on all the Baby Sh*t You Need (And Don’t) to create an evidence-based, safety-conscious registry!

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