What To Look For In A Pack And Play For Your Baby

Toddler in a pack and play

You've heard good things about a pack and play. But with so many other baby supplies on your to-buy list, you're wondering if this particular item is truly a necessity.

We're here to set the record straight: Pack and plays are incredibly versatile and can make your life as a parent much easier. They even made our list of the 21 must-have minimalist baby essentials.

It’s safe to say we’re pretty fond of them, but we know they aren’t for everyone. So to help you decide if this type of portable bed suits you and your family, we've put together a quick guide on what to consider.

But first, let's look at what a pack and play is to ensure we're on the same page.

Table Of Contents

What Is A Pack And Play?

young kid in a pack and play

A pack and play is a portable, baby-safe space you can use as a travel crib, changing station, or bassinet. Pack and plays fold down for storage and portability, and most come with wheels so you can easily move them from room to room.

Pack and plays are ideal for small homes or apartments where space is at a premium. They're also great for travel, whether you're going to grandma's house for the weekend or flying off on a family vacation.

Though they vary in size, there are some industry standards. For example, according to government regulations, a play yard or playpen must be less than 35 inches high. Manufacturers must also adhere to strict interior dimension requirements.

There are two allowed sizes for both length and width. In length, pack and plays must be either greater than 55 inches or smaller than 49 ¾ inches. Width-wise, they must be greater than 30 ⅝ inches or smaller than 25 ⅜ inches.

The material of a pack and play also sets it apart from other portable cribs. You'll typically find them with mesh sides because the material is breathable so your baby won't be too hot while inside. It also allows you to watch your little one while they're playing.

Some pack and plays also come with unique features, like newborn inserts (more on that later), changing tables, or even canopies.

Lastly, though some companies use the terms “play yard” and “pack and play” interchangeably, pack and plays tend to be smaller and have more features. Play yards, on the other hand, are usually large enough for a toddler to stand and move around in.

Pack And Play Features To Consider

Now that you know what a pack and play is, let's review some of its features so you know what to look for when shopping.


Size is one of the most important things to consider when buying this type of bed. You want something big enough for your baby to sleep in but not so big that it takes up too much space in your home.

As we mentioned, there are size differences. Make sure to check the dimensions before you purchase. We recommend using painter's tape to mark the dimensions on your floor so you can see how much space the pack and play will take up.

Newborn Inserts

Baby laying on a newton crib mattress

If you're planning on using your pack and play from the day your baby comes home from the hospital, you'll want to ensure it has a newborn insert. This special feature allows you to create a smaller, cozier space for sleeping.

The insert is simply a smaller bed with a mattress that attaches to the top rail of the pack and play. It's removable, so you can easily take it out when your baby outgrows it.

The best part about a newborn insert is that it raises your baby higher. If you've ever had to bend down to pick up a newborn, you know how hard it can be on your back.

With the insert, you won't have to stoop over as much. That means less strain on your body, which is a win!

Changing Table

Another pack and play feature to look for is a changing table. This can be a lifesaver, especially if you don't have a dedicated changing station in your home.

These changing tables usually feature a padded surface where you can lay your baby down to change their diaper. They often have side rails so your baby doesn't roll off.

Like the newborn insert, the changing table comes on and off the pack and play. So when you're not using it, you can remove it to open up more space for your growing baby.


Pack and plays typically come with feet or wheels, though a few on the market rest directly on the ground.

If you plan on using your pack and play in multiple rooms, look for one with wheels. That way, you can quickly move it from room to room. Just make sure the wheels lock so it doesn't accidentally roll away.


When you're traveling, the weight of your pack and play matters. A heavier model is more difficult to lug around, especially if you also carry other luggage or a baby. But, if you rarely move your pack and play from one room to another, weight might be less of an issue.

Either way, check the manufacturer’s specs for the model you're thinking about buying. That way, you'll know how much it weighs and can decide if it's too heavy for your needs.


You want your pack and play to be easy to set up and take down. After all, that's part of the reason you're buying one in the first place.

Most can be assembled and taken down in just a few minutes, but some are easier to use than others. Since each manufacturer has its own design, you'll want to read the directions carefully before you try to set it up.


When you're looking at pack and plays, pay attention to the included accessories.

Some come with sheets, which help keep the mattress clean. Others have storage compartments on the side, which you can use to store diapers, wipes, or other baby essentials.

In addition, some brands include a storage bag with their pack and plays. The bag keeps it clean when it’s not in use. And since the bag usually has a handle, it's easier to maneuver, which is important when traveling.

Pack And Play Safety Considerations

sleeping baby

Baby safety is our top priority. So we'd be remiss if we didn't mention pack and play safety. Keep these tips in mind whenever you're using this type of portable crib with your baby:

  • Read the directions before starting.
  • Always make sure the sides are locked in place.
  • Inspect it regularly for damage. If you see any, stop using it immediately.
  • Keep an eye on recalls.
  • Continue to follow safe sleep guidelines. Put your baby to sleep on their back.
  • Never use blankets or pillows with a baby. Instead, keep them warm with our Sleep Sack For Babies.
  • Always check the size carefully to avoid dangerous gaps if you decide to upgrade the mattress.
  • Check the area around the pack and play for safety risks. For example, don’t set it up near blinds, cords, or anything else that could pose a choking hazard.

Which Pack And Play Is Right For You?

Now that you have a better idea of what to look for in a pack and play, it's almost time to start shopping.

But before you buy, ask yourself these questions. That way, you can select the perfect model for your needs.

  • Where will you be using your pack and play? Is your baby going to use this instead of a traditional crib? Or is it just for use at Grandma’s house or on the road? The more you need to pack and tote it around, the lighter model you will want.
  • Do you need a newborn insert? How old is your baby? If they’re close to the weight or age limit on a newborn insert, it’s probably not worth the extra cost. But, if they’re not, it is a handy addition!
  • Do you need a changing table? Do you already have a changing space in your nursery? If you do, you may not use another one. But having a clean area when you’re traveling can be helpful.
  • How much space do you have? If you’re short on space, a large model might not work. Check the dimensions and see what will realistically fit in your home.

Ultimately, the best pack and play is the one that works best for your family’s unique needs. There isn’t a one-size-fits all solution.

The Perfect Space For Your Little One

Baby sleeping in a sleep sack

A pack and play is a versatile piece of equipment. You can use it as a travel crib, a changing station, or even a safe place for your baby to play. It really is the perfect space for your little one.

The above tips can help you select the best model for your family’s needs. And once you find one, you can dress your little one in a cozy Newton Baby Sleep Sack For Babies and let them sleep peacefully in their pack and play.

Sweet dreams, little one!