Can A Baby Sleep In A Playpen? (Instead Of A Crib)

baby standing in a playpen

As you start to plan for your new baby’s arrival, one of the big decisions you need to make is where they will sleep.  A crib is a good option for many families, but not all, and there are other options out there.

In short, a baby can sleep in a playpen as long as there is a mattress which is suitable for them to sleep on. Let’s explore this in more detail and look at all things you need to consider so you can be sure it is safe for them.

Can a baby sleep in a playpen?

So long as the playpen has a mattress and is designed to be used for sleeping in addition to play then yes, your baby can sleep in a playpen. It is important that the playpen has the same safety features as a crib such as a suitable mattress, no soft bedding or bumpers inside and appropriately spaced bars. Many playpens now have a lot in common with cribs. The benefit is that playpens can be multipurpose. However it is crucial to check the manufacturer’s safety instructions and government guidelines.

Can you put a crib mattress in a playpen?

You should not put a crib mattress in a playpen that it is not designed for. Some playpens come with a mattress that is specifically designed for it and therefore it can be used for sleeping. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions and follow their set up guidelines.

How long can a baby sleep in a playpen?

A baby can sleep in a playpen for as long as it is safe for them to do so. This may mean the upper limit that the playpen manufacturer recommends or when you notice them trying to climb out. For most children this is between 1 and 3 years old, so long as the playpen in question caters to their age. Since many playpens now have a lot in common with cribs, they can be perfectly suitable for sleeping too.

Is a pack n’play better for sleeping in?

A pack n’play is designed to suit both the purposes of sleep and play for your baby. Some pack n’plays also have a bassinet feature that can be detached when it’s no longer useful to you. This kind of playpen is particularly great for travel because it folds down into a storage/carry bag. It’s easy to throw in the car, quickly set up and provide a safe place for your baby to sleep and play. That being said, there are families who use a pack n’play at home too and it works well for them.

How can you check if a playpen is safe for sleeping?

Check the manufacturer’s instructions and if in doubt give them a call to check. Most playpens that come with a mattress are safe for sleeping, but it is always smart to confirm before use. Just like in a crib, you will want to ensure there are no bumpers, loose bedding or toys when your baby sleeps in a playpen.

What are the different types of playpens?

  • A playpen meets playard  – these are made for safe, supervised play versus sleeping. They come in different shapes, sizes and materials to suit your needs and budget.
  • Fabric/mesh playpen – these are designed to be moved around your home or even to take with you on your travels. They can usually be packed away and stored easily. They tend to have a mattress and sometimes a bassinet option too for sleeping.
  • Metal or wooden playpen – these playpens may come with a mattress just like the fabric ones. However, it is likely that they will not move or store as easily.

Related Post: Types Of Playpens

Which is better for sleeping – a crib or a playpen?

Whether you choose a crib or a playpen with a safely fitted mattress for sleeping, your baby will be just fine. It really is a personal choice. Some families use a playpen for travel or to move around the house while others use a playpen for sleep every day of the week. Grandparents and other family members often like a playpen to set up at their homes when babies come to stay.

What are some alternative sleeping options (other than cribs and playpens)?

Some parents choose an alternative sleeping option for their baby other than a crib or playpen. Let’s have a look at those options:

  • Moses basket – this is a popular option in Europe but also in the USA. The benefit to a moses basket is that they are affordable and move easily around the house. The downside is that most babies will outgrow a moses basket by 5-6 months old.
  • Bassinet – many people like to have either a separate bassinet or an attachment to their crib or playpen. They are great for when your baby first comes home because they are small and babies feel snug and cosy in them. It’s easy to move most bassinets around your home so you can put them down no matter where you are in the house. Again, your baby will outgrow a bassinet quickly after just a few months.

Related Post: Bassinet vs Moses Basket

  • Cradle – a cradle is essentially a smaller crib that can be rocked to help your baby fall asleep. They are less popular than other sleeping options because they don’t last as long as a crib, but some babies respond really well to sleeping in one.

Related Post: Bassinet vs Crib vs Cradle

  • Side sleeper – this is a popular choice for sleeping babies for the first 6 months. A side sleeper is a fabric/mesh adjustable crib that can be put right against your own bed with one side down. Many parents like this style of sleeping arrangement so they can easily reach their baby without climbing in and out of bed at night. It is especially useful for mothers who are recovering from a C-section. 
  • Co-sleeping aids – co-sleeping is controversial for some and essential for others. There are several aids out there that attempt to eliminate some of the risks associated with co-sleeping. Do your research and check the safety features of these aids before you buy.
can a baby sleep in a playpen


Before we wrap up this article, let’s look at some FAQs about using a playpen.

Is a playpen necessary?

No, it is a piece of equipment that not everyone needs or wants. A playpen is designed to provide a safe play for your baby to play and/or sleep. Your home may be set up in a way that you have no need for a playpen. Here’s a more detailed article on this topic.

When can you put a baby in a playpen?

You can put a baby in a playpen from birth. Check the manufacturer’s instructions and follow the safety guidelines. Remember not all playpens are the same and each has a different purpose, design and age limit.

When is a baby too old for a playpen?

A baby is too old for a playpen either when the manufacturer’s instructions say so based on their age, weight or height. They may also be too old for a playpen when they try to climb out, so keep an eye on them!