One of the most wished for items on baby registries, pack and plays are popular with new and experienced parents for good reason.
They provide a safe, comfortable place to sleep* and play for infants to toddlers around the age of 2 to 3 years old.
And they’re generally quite portable, allowing parents to move them around the house as needed like a portable crib, so care givers have a safe place for baby when they need to put a little one down for a sleep, rest, or some play.
(*Pack and plays are considered safe to sleep in in the United States, but not in Canada)
In the United States, as of mid-2022, products intended for (or marketed as) an infant sleep product need to meet federal safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This is in addition to existing CPSC regulations around pack and play safety and usage.
Play yards are considered safe in the US for baby sleeps when used as intended by the manufacturer and according to safe sleep guidelines intended to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and sleep related infant deaths.
Which often leads parents to another question, namely: how long can baby sleep in a pack and play for?
In this article, we’re go over some common questions about how long you can use pack and plays with your child:
- How long can your baby sleep in a pack and play or play yard?
- When should you stop using a pack and play?
- When should a baby stop using a pack and play bassinet or other attachment?
- When should you lower a pack and play bassinet mattress?
- What are the limits on using a pack and play?
DISCLAIMER – This content is being provided for information purposes only and should not be seen as a recommendation. I am not a medical professional, and none of the content in this blog post or on this website is meant to substitute professional health, safety and medical advice. I’ve rounded up the best research and evidence I could find, but at the end of the day you should consult your pediatrician or family doctor when it comes to questions or concerns about your babies’ sleep environment and safety. Also note, you need to read the user manual for your specific pack and play, as different models have different rules for use, and ensure it is used as intended by the manufacturer.
(Final note: I use pack and play, play pen / playpen, and play yard / playard interchangeably in this article. I also refer to a Pack ‘n Play® which is a brand-specific term that refers to Graco brand play yards: a Pack ‘n Play®. I’ve tried to use the term Pack ‘n Play® when referring to Graco products only, and one of the other terms when referring to other brands).
How Long Can Baby Sleep in a Pack n Play?
Most babies can sleep in a pack and play until they reach 2 to 3 years of age.
More specifically, babies can sleep in most pack and plays and cot-style portable baby beds until they reach 30 pounds or approximately 35 inches tall, or they begin trying to climb out of the pack and play (whichever comes first). Toddlers typically reach these milestones when they’re between two and three years old.
Pack and play attachments have different limits to the main pack and play frame.
For most models, the pack and play bassinet weight limit is 15 pounds. Once your baby reaches the weight limit, or starts pushing themselves up on their hands and knees, stop using the bassinet attachments.
Pack and plays with a changing table also have different weight limits for the changing table attachment. Typically, it’s around 25 pounds, which most babies reach when they’re between 1.5 years and 2 years old.
How Long Can Baby Sleep in Pack n Play? Factors to Consider
When to stop using a pack and play typically comes down to your child’s age, height, and weight, as well as some developmental milestones. Your child’s personality factors into the decision as to when to stop using a play yard as well.
Age Limit for Pack and Play
The ideal age for a pack and play is from birth to somewhere between two and three years old. Typically, pack and play ages officially top out at three years old, but most kids grow out of their pack n play before their third birthday due to height, weight, or developmental milestones.
Worth noting, however, is that some pack and play brands and models have a younger age limit. The Bugaboo Stardust is one example of a pack and play with an age limit of two years old on it.
Pack and Play Height Limit
In the United States, pack and plays are federally regulated through the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to be made for children less than 35″ (89 cm) tall.
“Play yards provide sleeping and playing accommodations for a child who cannot climb out and is less than 35 in. (890 mm) in height” (source).
As such, pack and play height limits for most manufacturers is 35″or just under 3 feet tall (89cm).
However, different playpen manufacturers may have different height limits, and it’s worth checking the user manual on your specific brand and model to ensure you’re using it as intended, particularly as your child starts to near 35″ in height.
Play Yard Weight Limit
Most commonly, playpens are good up to 30 pounds or 14kg.
Interestingly, some play yards don’t have a weight limit at all for the main playpen part (i.e. not a detachable bassinet or other type of attachment).
These pack and plays use floor sitting mattresses, whereby the mattress rests on the floor within the cot frame, rather than on a slightly raised platform within the frame. Typically, only some lightweight travel cribs use this system, including the Lotus Pack and Play, the Babybjorn pack and play, and the Phil and Teds Traveller.
If your child starts to approach 25 to 30 pounds and is still using a pack and play, it’s worth digging out your user manual to double check the weight limit.
Pack and Play Bassinet Weight Limit
However, this varies by manufacturer. For example, the zip-in bassinet attachment for the Bugaboo Stardust has a weight limit of 19.8 pounds. On the Guava Lotus Everywhere Crib, the bassinet is good up to 18 pounds.
To be certain, check the user manual for your specific brand and model of play yard.
Pack and Play Dimensions: What Is The Standard Size of a Pack and Play?
Pack and plays vary in size somewhat, but standard pack and play dimensions are typically around 38″ to 44″ long by 28″ to 30″ wide, and around 29″ high.
As with child height limits for play yards, pack and play dimensions are federally regulated in the United States.
“Play yards, much like non-full-size cribs, have an interior length dimension either greater than 55 in. (139.7 cm) or smaller than 49 3⁄4 in. (126.3 cm), or an interior width dimension greater than 30 5⁄8 in. (77.7 cm) or smaller than 25 3⁄8 in. (64.3 cm), or both” (source).
While the standard pack and play sizes listed above around a good starting point, in practice pack and play dimensions vary by brand and model. Below, you can see the specific dimensions for several popular pack and plays:
- 4Moms Breeze Go: 43″ L x 30″ W x 29″ H
- Bugaboo Stardust: 38.8″ L x 25″ W x 33.5″ H
- Graco® Pack ‘n Play® On the Go™ Playard: 39.5″ L x 28.25″ W x 29″ H
- BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light: 44″ L x 32″ W x 24″ H
- Guava Lotus Everywhere Crib: 45.5″ L x 31.5″ W x 25.5″ H
Milestones to Suggest Your Baby Has Outgrown Their Pack and Play
While it’s fairly easy to let a sleeping newborn baby stay in pack and play for a nap, it gets tougher once you hit the toddler stage, and your child has words and opinions to share with you.
Once your child hits certain developmental milestones, it’s time to reconsider your pack and play use.
- Your baby is standing in the pack and play. For many kids and many pack and play models, it’s fine if your young child is simply standing up in the play yard to look around. However, if they’re pushing the edges or doing anything that indicates they might destabilize the frame, you need to pull them out.
- A baby is trying to climb out of a pack and play. If your child starts trying to climb out and escape their pack and play, you need to discontinue use. If you’d still like a quiet but protected area for them to sit, play and read, and aren’t quite ready to discontinue use, you could switch to a play yard with no weight limit and a zip open side panel such as the Guava Lotus Everywhere Crib or the Phil & Teds Traveller. Alternatively, you could set up a kids tent in place of the play yard, as this will likely last for a few years into the future.
- You have a particularly strong toddler. Outside of height and weight limits, ensure your little one isn’t strong enough to destabilize the play yard, or make it fall over. This might vary based on brands and styles, including the sidewall strength and how stable the legs are.
- Personality. Some kids just don’t like being in a pack and play for whatever reason. As your little once gets older, you might find yourself with a toddler who is frustrated, screaming, etc., and no longer wants to use the pack and play. If that’s consistently the case, it’s a good sign it’s time to stop using the pack and play.
Safety Guidelines About When to Stop Using a Pack and Play
In addition to hard limits set by federal guidelines and the manufacturers, there are some red flags around using a pack and play safely. If your pack and play starts to meet any of the following criteria, it’s time to retire it and stop using that pack and play specifically:
- The mesh or fabric sides are stretched out or damaged. If the mesh sides or fabrics have holes in them, it’s possible your baby could get something stuck in the hole. If the fabric or mesh sides are stretched out from their original condition, the structural integrity may be reduced, and the pack and play mattress may not fit properly in the base.
- The original mattress is in poor condition. Sometimes, pack and play mattresses get damaged due to misuse, accidents when trying to clean them, or storage. If the original mattress that came with the pack and play is no longer usable, don’t purchase or use extra mattresses for use in the pack and play to make it more comfortable, unless they’re from the same manufacturer as your play yard, and are intended for use with your specific play yard model. Additional mattresses can provide a suffocation hazard if they don’t fit properly, and may not provide a firm enough sleep surface to meet safe sleep guidelines.
- You can’t provide a safe play area to place the pack and play. If you’ve moved to a new home, or are on vacation with your pack and play, don’t use it unless you can find a safe place to set it up. The ground needs to be flat and firm, with no hazards such as cords and electrical outlets within reach. If you’ve moved to a new home and can no longer find a place that meets that criteria, stop using the pack and play.
- The sheets you use aren’t tight fitting or don’t fit properly. If you purchase the same brand of sheets as you did pack and play, this shouldn’t be an issue. But if you decide to buy third party sheets, test the fit out before putting your baby in the pack and play. They need to fit tightly, so there is no loose fabric and no risk of them sliding off and creating a pool of loose bedding in with your baby. You cannot use normal crib sheets on a pack and play mattress, as they will be too loose.
- It’s missing parts or hardware. If your pack and play is missing any parts or hardware, your baby should stop using it until you can get and install replacement parts from the manufacturer.
- The Pack and Play has been modified. While I love a good Ikea hack, hacking a pack and play is a no no. Only use pack and plays that are in their original condition and as it was intended to be used by the manufacturer.
- You can’t set it up properly. If for whatever reason (damage to the pack and play, a change in your abilities, etc. ) you can’t get the pack and play set up properly, don’t use it with your baby. It’s particularly important the legs and top railings lock properly into place, and that attachments (including the mattress) and the bassinet are installed correctly.
- New safety guidelines are released, and your pack and play is no longer considered safe. Occasionally, the CPSC passes new safety guidelines, which potentially means products made before that time will no longer be considered safe. The last guidelines passed specifically regarding pack and plays was in 2013, although there were also some infant sleep product guidelines passed in 2022. If you buy a used one, be sure its in good condition and was manufactured and originally sold within a period that the current regulations were in effect.
Baby’s Safety in the Pack and Play
In the United States, play yards are regulated for infant sleep through the CPSC, and they’re considered a safe place for baby sleep.
However, it’s still important you follow safety guidelines for use. Below are some safety guidelines. Please refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics Safe Sleep section for the whole thing.
- For nighttime sleep, room sharing but not bed sharing is considered safest. Babies should have their own separate sleeping area (bassinet, crib or pack and play) in their parents room.
- Don’t add any extra bedding to the pack and play, especially for babies under one year old, Only use a tight fitting pack and play sheet – no blankets, soft bedding like pillows or stuffed animals, or loose bedding of other kinds. If you’re concerned your baby will get cold, wearable blankets that fit properly are a safer solution than a blanket or duvet.
- Place baby to sleep on their back. This is the safest position. Even if older babies flip themselves over to a different position while sleeping, you should still place the baby to sleep on their back.
- Never let your baby fall asleep in the diaper changing station attachment or a seat attachment. Only the bassinet and lowest play yard level are safe, with a firm mattress that was made by the same manufacturer for your specific pack and play model. Be sure to follow the manufacturer recommendations about bassinet level, and when to stop using it. Only use the diaper changer for diaper changes, and only use a seat or lounger attachment when baby is awake.
Final Thoughts: When Should You Stop Using a Pack and Play?
Stop using a pack and play when your child has outgrown it according to the manufacturer’s specifications and user manual, when your child reaches developmental or temperamental milestones that mean a pack and play is no longer safe or suitable for them to use, or when your specific pack and play becomes unsafe due to wear and tear or updated safety guidelines.
When you do use a pack and play, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and intended use, and don’t use third party accessories with it (or replace the mattress). Finally, be sure to follow safe sleep recommendations as per the American Academy of Pediatrics.