Pack n’ Play vs. Crib: Pros, Cons & Buying Guide

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Both cribs and pack ‘n plays—also known as playards—are totally safe sleep spaces for your little one. So how do you choose? Cribs are more commonly used on a regular basis, since they’re more permanent pieces of furniture, while pack ‘n plays are more portable and typically used for travel or occasional naps. 

Still, some families may decide to use one over the other for reasons like cost, space constraints and more. To help you decide what’s right for your family—a pack ‘n play vs crib—our gear experts have tried both, and have broken it all down for you.

Can You Use a Pack n’ Play as a Crib? 

Yes, you can use a pack ‘n play as a crib. According to the AAP, a crib, bassinet or portable playard with a firm, flat mattress and a fitted sheet are all safe sleep surfaces for infants, babies and toddlers who meet the height and weight requirements of each individual product.

Main Differences Between Cribs and Pack n’ Plays

Though both cribs and pack ‘n plays are considered safe sleep areas for your little one, there are some very important differences between the two.

  • Portability: A crib is a heavy, fixed piece of furniture. Though some come on wheels, they typically can only be moved short distances with minimal effort. Pack ‘n plays, on the other hand, are very lightweight and easily fold up and down, so you can move them around to your heart’s content.
  • Size: Because they’re so portable, pack ‘n plays are smaller than standard cribs. This is great for portability, but means the mattress is smaller, leaving your little one with less space to move around. A crib mattress, on the other hand, is roomier.
  • Mattress: Not only is a crib mattress roomier, but it’s also thicker and more comfortable. While a crib mattress mimics a full-size mattress an adult would sleep on, a pack ‘n play mattress is a relatively flimsy board with minimal padding—not exactly what you’d call cozy.
  • Versatility: That said, a pack ‘n play can be used as more than a sleep surface, adding to its functionality. Pop up your playard in your living room, and all of the sudden you have a little play space for baby to hang out in while you fold the laundry. A crib is more commonly for sleep.
  • Price: Because cribs are usually made of wood and are heavier pieces of furniture, they typically cost a lot more than pack ‘n plays. Expect to spend upwards of $150-$200 on a crib, but just $50 or so on a standard playard.

Crib vs. Pack ‘n Play vs. Playpen 

A crib is a piece of furniture—a bed for babies with bars to keep the whole thing enclosed. Here’s where things get tricky: Though pack ‘n plays and playpens are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences between the two.

A playpen is actually the category of product—an enclosed area for baby to sleep or play—that pack ‘n play falls into. To complicate things even further, a pack ‘n play is actually a brand name product by Graco. The correct term for this sort of portable sleep surface is a playard.

To recap:

  • Crib: A fixed piece of furniture with slatted sides for baby to sleep.
  • Playpen: A category of product that refers to a free-standing enclosed baby gate or a portable crib.
  • Playard: A type of playpen that functions as a sleep or play area, since it typically contains a mattress.
  • Pack ‘n play: A name brand playard manufactured by Graco.


Pack ‘n Play: Pros and Cons 

Graco Pack 'n Play Nearby Seat Playard

  • Retail Price: $79
  • Avg. GoodBuy Gear Price: $44
  • Age Range: Birth to 25 pounds
  • Avg. Weight Limit: 35 inches

Pack n’ Play Sizes & Dimensions

  • Average dimensions: 39.5 x 28.5 x 29 inches
  • Average weight: 23 pounds

A pack ‘n play is a brand of playard by Graco. Today, the term is used colloquially to refer to any type of playard—a piece of baby gear with enclosed mesh sides that you can use for both sleep and play.

Playards are inexpensive and highly portable, because they’re compact, lightweight and fold up and down with the click of a few buttons. They also tuck neatly into a travel bag—typically the mattress folded over the frame of the playard and then secured with Velcro.

Many families buy playards in addition to a regular crib, because a playard is not only a convenience for travel, but also comes in handy for use in rooms beyond the nursery. Some parents keep a playard in their living room or basement, so they can put baby in a safe, contained space while they tackle other chores, like laundry.

Sometimes a playard becomes a stand-in for a regular crib—typically if space is a concern. However, it’s worth noting: Pack ‘n plays and other playards have very thin, firm mattresses that sit atop a rigid plastic frame—not exactly the most comfortable place for your little one to snooze, especially for older babies as they get heavier. And while there are after-market pads for playards, they are not recommended, since they can pose a suffocation risk.

Best for: Budget-conscious families who want a portable option or who live in a smaller space


  • Very lightweight and folds easily for portability
  • Often comes with a bassinet attachment
  • Smaller footprint
  • Can be used for both sleep and play
  • Less expensive


  • Mattress is not very comfortable
  • Weight and height limits are less than a crib


How Long Can Baby Sleep in a Pack n’ Play? 

It’s important to check the specifications associated with the particular model your little one is using, but in general, a pack ‘n play can be used until your kiddo reaches 35 inches or 25 pounds, whichever comes first. That said, if your little one attempts to climb out, it’s time to retire the pack ‘n play—even if they haven’t yet hit the height or weight maximum.

Best Playards: Our GBG Picks

What Our Team Thinks:
Personally I chose a crib for both children and stuck with crib for baby #1. Baby #2 is the complete opposite of #1, in EVERY.SINGLE.WAY, including SLEEP. So with #2, we all had such a great night’s sleep in BabyBjorn Travel Crib, we swapped this gem for our crib in baby’s nursery. It’s a super cozy/comfortable/safe sleep space that was 100% approved by our most selective sleeper, it became our must have for all sleep!” – Megan Larsen, Gear Expert & Mother of Two

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Crib: Pros and Cons 

Stokke Sleepi Crib

  • Avg. Retail Price: $350
  • Avg. GoodBuy Gear Price: $79
  • Age Range: Approximately 0-3 years
  • Avg. Weight Limit: Approximately 0-50 pounds 

Crib Sizes & Dimensions

  • Average dimensions: 28 x 52 inches
  • Average weight: 100 pounds

A crib—typically a fixed piece of furniture with a wooden frame and high slats—is the most common type of baby bed. Cribs come in many styles and shapes (usually rectangular and circular):

  • Traditional cribs: Traditional cribs, or standard cribs, are the most basic of the three types and are most commonly a rectangle with high, slatted sides. 
  • Mini crib: A mini crib is similar to a traditional crib, but has a smaller footprint that’s more appropriate for small-space living. These cribs sometimes have wheels or fold up for added portability. Just note: They won’t suit your baby for as long as a standard crib might. 
  • Convertible crib: Convertible cribs are more versatile than traditional cribs. When your little one outgrows the crib, they convert to a toddler bed and sometimes even a full-size bed. 

No matter which type of crib you choose, a crib is usually more of an investment than a pack ‘n play, because it has a much higher weight and height limit. In most cases, a crib can be used well into toddlerhood—until about 3 years old. 

Plus, convertible cribs, in particular, can be used long after your little one has outgrown a confined sleep space like a pack ‘n play or standard crib. That said, cribs—even mini cribs—are much less portable than playards and take up much more room—they’re not great options for families who want the flexibility to assemble and disassemble baby’s bed on a whim.

Best for: Families who only want to invest in one piece of furniture


  • Highly durable
  • Suitable for both newborns and toddlers
  • Some even convert for use into childhood


  • More expensive
  • Not very portable


Best Cribs: Our GBG Picks

What Our Team Thinks

“Traditional cribs are great for a permanent sleeping space while a pack n play playard is ideal for temporary or flexible sleeping spaces. You might choose to have a crib in baby’s room and playard in your living room for your convenience or older caregivers who are not comfortable navigating stairs with baby. From personal experience, we went to grandparent’s house and baby #2 slept so well in the playard that we made it her permanent sleep space back at home in the nursery!! They are both great options for safe sleep, so you (or baby) can feel comfortable choosing between your options!” – Megan Larsen, Gear Expert & Mother of Two

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Pack n’ Plays vs. Cribs: Comparison Chart 

 Pack 'n Play Crib
Avg. Retail Price  $79 $350
Avg. GoodBuy Gear Price $44 $79
Avg. Weight  23 pounds  100 pounds
Avg. Dimensions 39.5 x 28.5 x 29 in. 28 x 52 in.
Age Requirements  0-2 years  0-3 years
Period of Use ~2 years ~3 years
Portability Very Somewhat
Assembly  Simple Complex
Stability  Somewhat Very
Overnight Sleep Suitable  Suitable


Price Comparison 

Pack ‘n plays are generally much more affordable than full-size cribs. You can score a pack ‘n play for somewhere between $50 and $100; a crib will cost you at least $150 to $200.

Winner: Pack ‘n play

Weight Comparison 

Because cribs are more permanent fixtures, they are much heavier than pack ‘n plays. While a pack ‘n play weighs somewhere around 20-25 pounds, a crib weighs at least 50 pounds—sometimes as much as 100 pounds or more.

Winner: Pack ‘n play

Space-Saving Comparison 

Though you can get small cribs, called mini cribs, pack ‘n plays still tend to be the more space-saving option. Pack ‘n plays not only have small footprints, but they also have flexible mesh sides that make them a little easier to tuck into a tight space.

Winner: Pack ‘n play

Period of Use Comparison 

Because pack ‘n plays are much smaller and lightweight, they can’t be used for quite as long as a full-size crib. Most full-size cribs can hold between 35 and 50 pounds, while playards typically max out around 25 pounds. Not to mention, your little one won’t stay comfortable in the pack ‘n play for as long. The mattress is very thin and sits atop a rigid plastic frame, which can feel increasingly less comfortable as your little one grows.

Winner: Crib

Portability Comparison 

Full-size cribs are hard to move without disassembling. Even mini cribs on wheels can be a bit cumbersome to move around the house, since they tend to be a bit larger and heavier. Pack ‘n plays, on the other hand, are highly portable. They’re not only small and lightweight, but also fold up and down with the click of just a few buttons, plus tuck into an included carry bag.

Winner: Pack ‘n play

Assembly Comparison 

This is a bit of a toss-up, depending on your preferences. While a full-size crib is more complicated to set up initially, it’s a one-and-done thing. A pack ‘n play is very easy to set up and take down, but it’s something you’ll likely have to do over and over again.

Winner: Tie

Stability Comparison 

Because full-size cribs are usually made of wood, they tend to be heavier and, thus, more stable. Pack ‘n plays, on the other hand, are made of plastic and breathable mesh fabric and are much more lightweight, making them less stable all around. That said, both are stable enough to keep your little one safe and secure, provided you follow the specified height and weight limits.

Winner: Crib

Safety & Sleep Comparison 

As stated by The American Academy of Pediatrics, both cribs and playards like pack ‘n plays are safe sleep surfaces for infants, babies and toddlers who meet the weight and height specifications. Of course, this is all provided you follow safety standards like placing infants on their backs for sleep in their own sleep space with no other people and keeping loose blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, bumpers and other soft items out of the sleep space.

Winner: Tie

Crib, Pack n’ Play or Both: How to Choose 

The good news: Both cribs and pack ‘n plays are both suitable—and perfectly safe—for your precious bundle. But as long as you can fit it, a crib is likely the more comfortable option for long-term use. Plus, it’ll last longer than a playard like a pack ‘n play. 

Still, it can be helpful to have a pack ‘n play in addition to a crib to give you the flexibility to travel or even just put baby to bed in another area of the house. Not to mention, a pack ‘n play is a great crib alternative for any families short on space, since they’re so portable and easy to assemble and disassemble.

Interested in more sleep space comparisons? Check out our guide to Bassinets vs. Cribs



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