Where Should Newborns Sleep?
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Deciding on where your new baby is going to sleep is a major decision! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that newborns sleep in the same room as you but not in the same bed. Co-sleeping in the same bed leads to a higher risk of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
More: Your Baby and Sleep
Of course, for some parents sleeping in the same room is not feasible or desired, but have no fear; there are plenty of safe options for your baby to sleep in their own room as well. Many parents have questions like, “Is it safe for a baby to sleep in a pack ‘n play every night?” and “Is it ok for my baby to take naps in a stroller?” We’ve got the answers for you!
We've gathered together the safest and most recommended places to make your baby's sleep restful for both them and you!
Perhaps the most traditional choice for a baby is the crib. Cribs come in all colors, sizes, and materials, but the good news is that federal guidelines regulate all modern cribs. Cribs are also the best long-term investment because your child can use them his or her entire first year, and often well beyond that if you purchase one that converts to a bed.
Having your newborn sleep in a crib from the get-go also helps new parents establish a sleep schedule with their child, as there will be no transitioning to a new sleeping place until well after his or her first birthday.
Things to Avoid
- Older and used cribs that do not meet federal guidelines
- Cribs with broken or missing slats
- Crib bumpers or soft bedding
Bassinets are a wonderful choice for parents who wish to keep their babies close to them while they sleep. It is much safer than bed-sharing and allows you to keep your little one close without a full-size crib or play yard in your room.
Some bassinets attach to the side of your bed so that your baby is right there next to you. This style reduces the risk of suffocation that bed-sharing creates and provides a safe sleep environment for your newborn.
Things to Avoid:
- Bassinets on wheels that do not lock
- Old-fashioned or heirloom bassinets that might not be up to safety standards
- Fluffy or frilly curtains or bedding. Newborns should sleep on a firm mattress with a fitted sheet and no additional bedding or stuffed animals
Bedside co-sleepers and bassinets have become somewhat interchangeable of late, but there are still some unique options in this category for a baby to sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not advise co-sleeping in the same bed due to the increased risk of SIDS. The AAP has no recommendations for in-bed sleepers, and there are currently no Consumer Safety Product standards for in-bed sleepers like there are for bedside sleepers.
Things to Avoid
- In-bed co-sleepers
- Mattresses or sheets not specifically recommended for your co-sleeper
- Positioners or any other devices meant to alter the way your baby lies on the mattress unless specifically recommended by your pediatrician
Play Yards are an excellent alternative to a crib in your bedroom, and best of all, they can be easily moved about the home as needed. Play yards are considered a safe sleep surface and provide soft, breathable siding without crib bumpers, which are not recommended due to the risk of SIDS and strangulation. So if you can only have one and you are deciding on pack n play vs. crib, opt for the pack n play because of its versatility.
Like cribs, play yards are subjected to rigid safety standards and considered an extremely safe option for room-sharing. So if you were wondering, “Can my baby sleep in a playpen?” Yes they can! In fact it is what most hotels offer as a sleeping option for infants and toddlers.
Things to Avoid
- Old and worn-out Play Yards. It is recommended that you purchase a play yard made in 2013 or newer. Always check for wear and tear.
- Thick mattresses and loose bedding. Always use the mattress that came with the play yard as well as a tightly fitted sheet.
- Soft objects such as bumper pads, toys, or blankets.
Graco Pack n Play
The Graco Pack n Play is undoubtedly the most popular and well-known play yard out there and therefore deserves a special mention. I personally used it, and it is what many other parents I know had or have in their homes. The Graco Pack n Play was a lifesaver for me because I lived far away from family when my kids were babies, so we did a lot of traveling and took our pack n play to grandma’s house, hotels, and everywhere in between, and our baby slept in it every night.
The Graco Pack n Play was durable enough to last through two kids and was the perfect playpen for my baby to nap or play. Your baby can sleep in a playpen every night as long as it is used, just like a crib with no blankets, sheets, or other bedding, and your baby is placed on their back to sleep.
Cradles are a great space-saving option. Many have the traditional look of a baby's crib; however, since cradles move by design, it could cause your baby to roll over unintentionally, which goes against the "back is best" stance to reduce SIDS.
If you decide to use a cradle, opt for a newer model that has a locking arm that prevents it from rocking once your baby is asleep. Additionally, babies rocked to sleep in a cradle may rely on that motion, making it harder to transition them to a traditional crib when the time comes.
Things to Avoid
- Older cradles that you cannot lock
- Soft crib mattresses or soft bedding
Rocking Sleepers & Seats
Baby seats, swings, rocking sleepers, and even car seats are a great way to lull your baby to sleep or calm them when they are fussy, but they are not recommended for longer stretches of sleep. When developing your baby's sleep patterns or bedtime routines, you should avoid these types of sleepers.
That being said, having one in your living room or home to help your baby sleep from time to time can feel like a lifesaver. It is recommended that once your baby falls asleep, you move him or her to their crib, where they can sleep safely on their back.
Things to Avoid
- Leaving your baby in these seats for long periods or naps
- Inclined sleepers
Infant Sleep Tips
- Pacifier use is believed to reduce the risk of SIDS. Always remove pacifier clips or strings before giving it to your baby in his or her crib.
- Breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of SIDS. If you cannot breastfeed, consider pumping breast milk to bottle feed.
- Keep your baby's room temperature at a comfortable point, around 68 degrees.
- Safely swaddling your baby can help him or her sleep. You can also purchase swaddles that make it easier to do rather than using a blanket. You should stop swaddling once your baby can roll onto his or her stomach.
- When possible, choose baby products approved by the CPSC, ASTM International, or the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA).
- If you know ahead of time you will be having a C-Section, consider the height of your baby's sleeper. It may be difficult to bend low.
- If you bring your baby into your bed to feed during the night, make sure you return him or her to his or her sleep place before falling back asleep.
- Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep. Once he or she can roll over independently, there is no need to flip him or her back onto his or her back if he or she rolls over while sleeping.
Products and Things to Avoid
- Infant sleep positioners liked wedges and bolsters. Products may claim that they reduce the risk of SIDS, acid reflux, or GERD, or flat head syndrome, but there is no evidence that these claims are accurate, and in fact, these devices may increase the risk of SIDS.
- Crib bumpers, blankets, and other soft animals. There should be nothing in your baby's crib except your baby.
- Moses Baskets. They usually have soft bedding and sides. Save these for photo opportunities only! Any crib, bassinet, chair, or other devices that have broken or missing parts.
- Mattresses that are not recommended for your product. There should be no more than two fingers width between the side of the sleeper and the mattress.
- Remove mobiles from above your baby’s crib once they are able to sit up as they could pull it down.
- Cribs should never be placed near windows, cords or blinds, or furniture with objects your child may pull down onto themselves.
A sleep schedule is important for both you and your baby. Explore Essential Products to Help Your Baby and Toddler Sleep.
Graco Pack ‘n Play Portable Playard Review
We purchased the Graco Pack ‘n Play Portable Playard so our reviewer could thoroughly test it with her infant and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
During a baby’s first year of life, there are so many safety precautions a parent needs to take, which isn’t always easy while traveling. The Graco Pack ‘n Play Portable Playard offers a safe sleep and play space for babies in a compact and easy-to-carry travel bag. The pack n’ play is designed with safety, durability, and convenience in mind. Keep reading for all the details of our testing.
Setup Process: Like riding a bike
I’ve used a different, but similarly designed, portable play yard before so my knowledge may have helped me here, but the setup was fairly intuitive. You basically push the middle section of the bottom of the play yard down and everything kind of snaps into place. If it were my first time using a product like this, I’d probably need to read the directions to safely install the mattress (by looping the straps through) because that’s not an obvious step.
Teardown, however, took a little more work. I was apparently a little overconfident the first time I tried to tear it down and wound up very flustered. It wasn’t exactly hard to break down, but it wasn’t easy either. After I checked my ego and actually read the instructions, I was able to do it correctly. After that initial time, I didn’t have to read instructions again for subsequent teardowns.
This is nice to have even just in your living room if you need to keep your newly mobile baby in one spot while you work on something.
Packing everything up to put into the bag was fairly easy as well. I do wish the little handle that’s sewn onto the bottom of the mattress were a different color because literally every time I tore the pack n’ play down and packed it up, I ended up putting it in the wrong direction, which meant the handle wasn’t sticking out for me to carry it. It was an easy fix, but frustrating nonetheless.
Design: Durable and convenient
The basic model comes with the play yard frame, a mattress pad, a removable pocket, and a carrying bag. The frame is made with strong metal pieces and covered with a canvas-like fabric. The space between each metal piece is held together with a mesh fabric that allows for airflow and transparency in the play yard itself and keeps the space safe for a sleeping baby should they press their face up against it.
The mattress pad is surprisingly plush (not as plush as an actual mattress, of course, but not just a hard surface either). It has adhesive straps that lace through the bottom of the frame so that it will stay in place to avoid safety risks. When it’s not in the play yard itself, the mattress folds into a rectangular position, which encases the play yard frame when it’s torn down. The carrying bag then fits over the folded-up mattress, which has a handle sewn onto the side and zips up to create an easy-to-carry crib in a bag. While the carrying bag can be machine washed, the mattress pad will have to be wiped down if it gets dirty.
What I liked best about the design was how compact it is.
There are two wheels on one end of the pack n’ play when it’s set up, which makes it very easy to move or reposition as needed. This was especially nice when I wanted my 7-month-old to have a place to play in the common area at her grandparents’ house but later needed to move it to a quiet spot for her to nap. I also liked that the play yard sits up off the ground because it made it easier to pick my daughter up and place her down as needed.
What I liked best about the design was how compact it is when everything is torn down and packed up. I have a small crossover SUV and a family of four so when we travel we have to be very conscious about storage space. Since it’s rectangular shaped, it can easily be tucked in small open spaces. The carrying bag is thin but is durable enough for a car trunk. If I were to check it for a plane ride, I’d probably invest in a bag to put it in, just for a little extra protection.
Safety: No need to worry (as long as you follow instructions)
Graco seems to have put a lot of thought into this play yard’s design because it has a lot of safety features. From the fastening straps on the mattress to the mesh siding, down to the carefully padded metal bars, parents really don’t have much to worry about—unless their child is over the height, weight, or development limits.
Graco clearly notes that babies 35 inches and taller, weighing more than 30 pounds, and/or who are able to climb should not use this product. There is definitely a tipping hazard if you have a little climber on your hands, and that is obviously a major safety issue. Even if your baby doesn’t meet these criteria but you know your little one is a little rambunctious, you should use your judgment to determine whether or not they have the strength to tip the unit over if they were to roll around or pull up and shake it.
Age Range: Less about age and more about size
This particular model is strictly the play yard (no changing table), so it’s great for a baby who is a little older and has head/neck strength. It would be difficult to safely lift or put down an infant in this play yard since it’s so low to the ground. On the other hand, a baby who is able to pull up and is ready to explore may be too big for this. There seems to be a sweet spot between 3 months old and 9 months old (give or take). A lot of it has to do with the baby’s size and development, though.
This is a budget-friendly option, especially when you consider how long your baby can safely use the product.
Price: On the low end of comparable models
This is a very basic model—no real bells and whistles—but it’s still a lot of bang for your buck. At around $60 it seems to be in line with its competition. In fact, some pack n’ plays are priced at well over $100, so this is a fairly budget-friendly option, especially when you consider how long your baby can safely use the product.
Competition: It depends on what you’re looking for
Regalo My Play Portable Play Yard: This Regalo play yard is a comparable product if you are simply looking for something to provide your baby with space to play. It’s safe for indoor or outdoor use, is designed for easy setup and teardown, and has a travel bag. The price is similar to the Graco Pack ‘n Play Portable Playard, but it might not be quite as durable. It’s a good option for local travel, but may not withstand the beating it would get in the luggage compartment of an airplane.
Graco Pack ‘n Play On the Go Playard With Full-Size Infant Bassinet: This is the upgraded version of the basic Graco pack n’ play. It retails for closer to $100, but you can use it from the time your baby is born until they’ve grown out of the play yard model. This design allows you to move the mattress up higher to safely lay an infant down without risking injury and has a little mobile attachment to give it a little extra fun. If you’re an avid traveler, spending the extra money on this model makes sense.
Still undecided? Check out our roundup of the best pack n’ plays.
Add it to your registry, now.
The Graco Pack ‘n Play Portable Playard will come in handy so many times during your baby’s first year of life. You never really realize just how “unfriendly” baby-free homes are until you have a baby you have to bring over. Even if you don’t travel or socialize much outside the house, this is nice to have for the backyard or even just your living room if you need to keep your newly mobile baby in one spot while you work on something. Don’t hesitate on this one, just get it.
- Product Name Pack ‘n Play Portable Playard
- Product Brand Graco
- Price $59.99
- Weight 20.1 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 39.5 x 28.25 x 29 in.
- Color Aspery, Carnival
- Manufacturer Age Recommendation Children unable to crawl out of crib; less than 35 in. tall
- Warranty 1-year limited
The 9 Best Pack ‘N Plays of 2021
What to Look for in a Pack ‘N Play
Ensure any Pack ‘N Play you plan to use as a bed meets safe sleep guidelines for babies under 1-year-old to reduce the risk of SIDS. Sides should be made of a breathable material, mattresses should be flat and firm, and any included fitted sheets should fit snugly without risk of coming loose.
To ensure your little one is safely sleeping, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not bedsharing, placing baby on their back for every sleep, and room share, if possible, for the first six months of baby's life. You also want to keep any soft objects, loose bedding, or any other items, like blankets, pillows, and toys, out of baby's sleep space as those all pose an entrapment, strangulation, and suffocation risk.
Size & Weight
Think about what you will be using this product for, and take its size and weight into consideration. If it’s going to be set up at home, something larger with storage and a lot of attachments will benefit you. However, if you plan on doing a lot of traveling, you’ll want something a little smaller and more lightweight for easier transportation.
Ease of Use
Ideally, you want a Pack ‘N Play that is easy to set up and takedown, with as little frustration as possible. Many of them are designed with one-step or one-hand mechanisms, simple buttons, or easy interlocking pieces that pop right into place. Getting the collapsed Pack ‘N Play in and out of its carrying bag should also be considered.
Not all travel cribs and playards are meant for the same purpose. Some convert from infant bassinet to toddler playard, some are strictly for sleeping, and others are designed only for play. Consider what purpose you need the Pack ‘N Play to serve when choosing the right product for you.
How do you set up a Pack ‘N Play?
Most Pack ‘N Plays have an interlocking frame that can be easily broken down or securely snapped into place, some with the use of buttons while others need an adult to manually fold them down then up. There is also typically a pull tab in the center of the bottom of the playard (which is covered by a mattress when in use) that functions similarly to an umbrella; when it’s pulled up the playard collapses into itself and when it’s pushed down the playard fully expands.
Can a baby sleep in a Pack ‘N Play?
As long as the Pack ‘N Play is specifically designed to be sleeping space and it meets all safe sleep guidelines, then babies can sleep in them. Before you use the Pack ‘N Play for sleep, make sure you are aware of age, weight, and height restrictions. If there is a bassinet attachment, find out if there are any guidelines for babies who can roll over.
Why Trust Verywell Family?
Ashley Ziegler is a full-time parenting writer, mom to a 1 and a 4-year-old, and she has personal experience in researching, setting up, tearing down, and using Pack ‘N Plays. Key considerations she used when selecting these recommendations include ease of use, function, quality, and customer reviews.
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