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Crib, Bassinet or Pack 'N Play: Where Should Your Baby Sleep?

In the market for somewhere your baby can sleep? Find out if a crib, bassinet or a portable playpen is best for your little one.

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As a parent or caregiver, keeping your baby safe, comfortable and happy while they sleep is a top priority. But with so many baby products on the market, it's difficult to choose between a crib, bassinet or Pack 'N Play. We'll help you consider the pros and cons of each so you can find the best fit for your little one.

What is a crib?

crib is a popular sleeping option for older babies who are too big for a bassinet but not quite ready for their own bed. Cribs are enclosed with high, slatted sides and are fitted with a firm mattress. They can be made of various materials but are often constructed with sturdy hardwood that makes them very durable.

Cribs come in a few different sizes. Standard cribs, also known as full-size cribs, are typically 28 inches wide by 52 inches long, which allows your baby to grow into the bed as they get older. Mini cribs, or non-full-size cribs, are much smaller, measuring roughly 24 inches wide by 38 inches long. 

In terms of price, a crib ranges anywhere from affordable to very expensive, depending on the brand, construction and features. For example, luxury brands or cribs made with special types of wood can cost more than $1,000. In general, however, you should expect to spend between $150 and $500 on a high-quality crib to keep your baby safe.

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Benefits of a crib

Once your baby can start sleeping on their own, a crib can be a great option. Here are some benefits:

  • Built with solid construction: If you are looking for a high-quality crib, you can find one that is built with strong wood that will hold up well over time. 
  • Can be very affordable: Although some cribs are expensive, there are lots of great options that won't break the bank.
  • Often converts into a toddler bed: One of the biggest upsides to a crib is that many can be converted into a small bed for your toddler, which means you don't have to purchase another piece of furniture when they outgrow the crib.
  • Available in many different finishes: Cribs are available in lots of different designs and finishes, so you're likely to find one that matches the existing decor and color scheme of your nursery.
  • Option to choose a mattress: Cribs have interchangeable mattresses, so you can choose your own mattress based on your baby's needs.

Disadvantages of a crib

A crib may not be the right option for every family. Here are some downsides:

  • Can be affected by wear and tear: While cribs can be very durable, they can also be damaged by wear and tear if your baby jumps around or bites on the railings.
  • Often hard to assemble: Cribs can be difficult to assemble. They can also be heavy, so you might need two people to set one up. 
  • Can take up a lot of space: If you choose a standard crib, it's a pretty large piece of furniture. A crib can take up a lot of space, which is not ideal if you have a small nursery and need to fit other items in the room, like a changing table or rocker. 

Read more: Best Crib Mattresses

What is a bassinet?

A bassinet is a bed that is specifically for newborns and babies up to 6 months old. Bassinets are usually small and oval-shaped and made out of a soft, mesh material. Bassinets are designed for mobility, so they can be easily moved from room to room, depending on where your baby is sleeping. 

Although bassinets come in slightly different lengths and widths, they're mostly standard size -- given that bassinets can only be used for smaller babies up to a certain weight. 

In general, bassinets are less expensive than cribs. However, the cost depends on many factors, like the brand name and features. You can buy a good bassinet for around $100, but there are less expensive options available. High-end bassinets will run you several hundred dollars or more.

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Benefits of a bassinet 

If you have a newborn baby, you might be thinking about purchasing a bassinet. Here are some advantages:

  • Available with unique features: Today, you can find bassinets with lots of interesting features, like rocking, lights and music players. 
  • Portable and easy to travel with: Bassinets are light and easy to move around your home (some even have lockable wheels). They are also easy to collapse, so if you have plans to travel, you can probably fit a bassinet in the back of your car. 
  • Good for small spaces: A bassinet is a good option for a small bedroom or nursery because it doesn't take up much space.
  • Not very expensive: They can be found for $100 or less. In general, bassinets are far less expensive than cribs. 
  • Easy to lay your baby down: Compared to a crib, laying your baby down in a bassinet is easier because it sits at waist level. It does not require bending over, which is important for new moms who give birth via C-section.

Disadvantages of a bassinet

Bassinets have several disadvantages, and it's important to understand these drawbacks before you buy one. Here are some: 

  • Cannot be used for very long: In most cases, they can only be used for babies up to 6 months old. Babies can outgrow their bassinets quickly, and there is no way to convert a bassinet into a bed.
  • Can tip over: Bassinets are generally very safe, but they can tip over due to their light weight.
  • Most have weight limits: Once your baby reaches 15 to 20 pounds, you should stop using a bassinet. Some babies reach this weight within just a few months, which means you could get limited use out of the bassinet.

What is a Pack 'N Play?

A Pack 'N Play is one of the most versatile baby items -- think of it as a sleeping area and a play area. Pack 'N Plays are trademarked by Graco, but you can find similar play yards or travel cribs from other companies. They are large, enclosed playpens where your baby can rest or be entertained, and they are suitable for most ages. Many parents like using them because they're portable and good for traveling. 

Besides sleeping and playing, a Pack 'N Play can be used to keep your baby in one place while you're doing something else in the same room. If you are encouraging independent time for your baby, this type of space allows them to play alone. You can even use these at the beach or outside when you want to keep your baby safe and prevent them from wandering.

The average price of a Pack 'N Play or similar playpen ranges between $50 and $100, so compared to cribs and bassinets, they're quite affordable. Some companies make more expensive models, yet even the priciest ones are around $250.

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Benefits of a Pack 'N Play

Many parents and caregivers consider these portable playpens to be a must-have baby item. Below are some of the biggest advantages:

  • They are multifunctional: They can be used for sleeping, playing, outdoor time, traveling and, when your baby is not using it, you can use it to store toys and sleeping essentials.
  • Suitable for a wide range of ages: They can be used at almost any age, from newborn to 3 years old. Most experts agree that Pack 'N Plays are safe for babies and toddlers to sleep and play. 
  • Keeps your baby in one place: When you need to keep your baby from wandering, a versatile play/sleep area is a great option, whether you are at the beach or cleaning up around the house.
  • Very easy to travel with: Pack 'N Plays are easy to transport and are travel-friendly. Most are lightweight, so they aren't difficult to load into the back of your car and assemble when you get to your destination.
  • Most are affordable: You can get a great one for $100 or less. Plus, when you consider that it can be used for up to three years, the cost is worth it.

Disadvantages of a Pack 'N Play

Like with all baby products, there are some disadvantages to portable playpens. Here are some of them:

  • Takes up a lot of space: Most are pretty large because they can accommodate toddlers up to 3 years old. So they may not be the best option for small spaces.
  • Not the most durable: Pack 'N Plays typically have a metal or plastic frame covered by soft, padded fabric and mesh. They are not always the most durable and are susceptible to wear and tear if you move them often.
  • Not a good option for extended use: Pack 'N Plays should only be used for short periods of time. They are not a good solution for parents who need to keep their baby in a confined area for a prolonged period of time. 

Differences between cribs, bassinets and Pack 'N Plays

Cribs, bassinets and portable playpens are among the most popular sleeping setups for babies and toddlers. Here's a closer look at the differences between these products:


Crib

Bassinet

Pack 'N Play

Average cost

Between $150 to $500

Around $100 for a standard

Between $50 to $100

Intended use

Should only be used for sleeping

Should only be used for sleeping

Can be used for playing and sleeping

Size 

Standard cribs are large, mini cribs are smaller

Most bassinets are small and good for tight spaces

Portable playpens are large and not ideal for small spaces

Recommended ages

Can be used for babies between 6 to 18 months

Can be used for newborn babies up to 6 months 

Can be used for babies and toddlers between newborn and 3 years

Assembly required

Some are heavy and difficult to assemble

Lightweight and easy to assemble

Lightweight and easy to assemble

Portability

Not easily portable

Good option for portable sleeper

Good option for portable sleeper and play area

Things to consider

Choosing between a crib, bassinet and a Pack 'N Play is a big decision. After all, your baby spends most of their time sleeping and playing, so having the right product is essential. Plus, there are hundreds of different options on the market, so researching and comparing products is an important part of the process.

Here are some questions to consider before your purchase: 

How much money do you want to spend? Bassinets and portable playpens are usually cheaper than cribs, but they are also less durable. If you plan to have multiple kids and want to reuse the item, you'll probably get the longest use out of a crib.

How much space do you have in your home? If you have a small nursery, a standard-size crib might not fit. A bassinet is much smaller and is usually a better option for tight spaces. Pack 'N Plays are also large, but they can be easily moved from your baby's room to your living room or even your backyard. 

What does your lifestyle look like? If you travel often, either to relatives' homes, hotels or campgrounds, a bassinet or Pack 'N Play is going to be your best option. Cribs are not designed to be portable, can be heavy and difficult to disassemble and reassemble without tools and a second person.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.