Bassinet vs Pack n Play? How do you decide between these two sleeping options?
For a creature so tiny, who knew that deciding on a baby’s bed could be so complicated?!
When you start looking at all of the different options for babies to sleep in (especially when they are newborns!) it can feel overwhelming.
The two most popular options for newborns, bassinets and Pack n’ Plays, have features that make them a great sleeping option for your brand new baby.
If you are trying to decide between a portable and affordable Pack n’ Play and a beautiful and cozy bassinet, we are here to help you! Read on to find out everything you need to know about Bassinet vs Pack ‘n Plays and which one will be the best choice for your baby.
- Bassinet vs Pack ‘n Play – What’s the Difference?
- What is a Bassinet?
- What’s the Best Bassinet to Use?
- What is a Pack ‘n Play?
- Important Pack ‘n Play Safety Tips:
- What’s the Best Pack ‘n Play to Use?
- Is it better to have a bassinet or Pack ‘n Play?
Note: this blog post probably contains affiliate links, which means we may receive small commissions from purchases made through links in this post (at NO extra cost to you). You can read our full disclosure for more information.
Bassinet vs Pack ‘n Play – What’s the Difference?
Let’s start with the big differences between a bassinet and a Pack ‘n Play:
Generally, a Pack ‘n Play is the more frugal choice owing to the fact that you’ll be able to use it longer and won’t need to upgrade later to a crib. However, there are many different types of bassinets so you might be able to find some budget friendly options. Overall, you will probably spend more on a bassinet (plus crib later).
You’ll also need to account for how long you can use each product. It is possible to use a Pack ‘n Play through the toddler years, whereas with a bassinet you’ll need to purchase at least one more bed when they grow out of it.
Length of Use
Bassinets were created to be baby’s first sleeping area, and can be used until baby is about four months old. Pack ‘n Plays, especially those with a bassinet insert, can be used for much longer, since the bassinet can be removed and older babies can sleep in the portable crib portion.
Although it can differ between brands, the sleeping area of the average Pack ‘n Play is around 26″ x 38.” Bassinet sleeping areas are usually around 29″ x 17.5″. Pack ‘n Plays often take up more floor space, while bassinets are taller and more slimline.
The beauty of a Pack ‘n Play is how well it packs! It can be easily folded and put out of the way or carried in its travel bag. Some Pack ‘n Plays will have caster wheels so they can be moved, however, the average Pack ‘n Play may not fit through doorways!
Many bassinets come on casters so they can be easily moved from room to room in your house. If you are concerned about in-home portability, a bassinet might be the better option. Bassinets are usually small enough to be relatively easy to travel with (especially for car travel), though they don’t pack down as well as the Pack ‘n Play.
If you want to be able to travel with baby’s bed, a Pack ‘n Play is the clear winner.
Graco, the manufacturer of the Pack ‘n Play, has stepped up to add many of the same features you will find on high-end bassinets to their travel-friendly portable cribs. You’ll be able to find basic vibration, white noise, music and built-in night lights on both bassinets and pricier Pack ‘n Plays. However, the most expensive of bassinets (like the Snoo) include built-in movement like rocking or vibration and even cry detection technology that responds with noise and/or movement when your baby fusses.
Both bassinets and Pack ‘n Plays are federally regulated to be safe sleeping spaces for newborns. You can read more about the safety standards for Pack ‘n Plays (termed play yards in this document).
One caveat is the practice that some people have of adding an ‘aftermarket’ mattress to the bottom of their Pack ‘n Play. Although it might seem common online, it is not recommended by the manufacturer and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Adding a mattress to your Pack ‘n Play will make it less safe for your baby.
What is a Bassinet?
Bassinets are a modern version of Moses baskets. They have a fixed base and are usually around bed height to make it easy to reach your baby. They still maintain some of the look of a Moses basket, and some even have a cover or hood at one end to protect baby.
There are many styles of bassinets – including cosleepers (that have a drop side and sit snugly up against your bed), bassinets on a swivel stand, with caster wheels, with mesh sides or fabric…
Pros of Using a Bassinet
- You can put them close to your bed
- Cozy and comfortable for babies
- They are small in size so they can fit in pretty much any space
- Are easily moved from room to room
- Safe for newborns up to four months of age
Cons of Using a Bassinet
- Can only use them until four months old (or less depending on baby’s size and ability to sit/push up)
- Only serves one purpose
- Aren’t great for travel
Important Bassinet Safety Tips
- Bassinets can be used from newborn to four months of age.
- You should stop using the bassinet when your baby can push up/sit up at which point they are no longer safe.
- Make sure to check weight limits for your particular bassinet, it can vary between brands.
What’s the Best Bassinet to Use?
If you’re considering a bassinet, one of our budget friendly favorites is the Fisher Price Soothing Motions Bassinet.
This bassinet’s soothing rocking motions are created by baby’s movements or a parent’s gentle push. It includes a projection light and night light, an overhead mobile and music as well as white noise and vibrations that will run on a 30 minute timer.
- Mid-price point
- Easy to assemble
- Sounds, vibrations and music work well
- Rocking Motion
- Can’t lock the bassinet to keep it from rocking
- Only lasts until baby weighs 20 pounds
You might also like to read our post on the best bassinets for newborns where we compare some of the best bassinets on the market.
What is a Pack ‘n Play?
A Pack ‘n Play is a play yard designed for sleeping and traveling. They can be easily packed into a carrying bag and set up in minutes. Many Pack ‘n Plays also include a diaper changing station and a detachable bassinet.
Using the bassinet feature, the Pack ‘n Play can be used from newborn up to the toddler years (depending on your child’s height/length).
- Easy to put up/take down
- Can be used for traveling
- Can be used from newborn to toddler years
- Often include diaper changing station (saves you money!)
- Cannot rock
- Are wider/longer than traditional bassinets so may not fit everywhere
- Mattress is thinner, some babies might not be comfortable
Important Pack ‘n Play Safety Tips:
- Make sure the sides are fully extended and locked before placing your baby inside
- Keep the Pack ‘n Play away from things that could be pulled down on top of baby (lamps, comforters, televisions etc).
- Once your baby/toddler can climb out of the Pack ‘n Play, it is time to move them into a toddler bed.
What’s the Best Pack ‘n Play to Use?
If you are on the fence about choosing a bassinet or Pack ‘n Play, a great compromise is the the Graco MyView 4 in 1 Bassinet.
In size, it is most comparable to a traditional bassinet, so you get many of the Pack ‘n Play features with the smaller footprint of a bassinet. The Graco MyView includes a “drop-in” height adjustable bassinet that can be moved from newborn to infant depth.
One great tip from reviewers of the Graco MyView is to use zippered queen size pillow protectors as a waterproof cover and 20×30 pillowcases or changing pad cover as a sheet! So clever and much cheaper than other mattress covers/protectors.
- Can fold up and fit in a travel bag
- Smaller footprint, the size of a bassinet!
- Height adjustable bassinet
- Can use pillowcase as fitted sheet
- Fits through standard doorways
- Won’t last as long into toddler years as a traditional Pack ‘n Play because it is smaller sized (20% smaller)
- Fits toddlers up to 35” long
- Mattresses aren’t known for being terribly comfortable
Is it better to have a bassinet or Pack ‘n Play?
Now that you’ve read information about both the bassinet and a Pack ‘n Play, which one is the best choice for you? Let us help you decide!
- Travel often (Choose the Graco MyView or another Pack ‘n Play)
- Have big babies (Choose Graco MyView, bassinets won’t last you long enough)
- Don’t have a lot of space in your room/baby’s room (Choose a bassinet)
- Want to be able to see baby well from your bed (Choose a bassinet)
- Are having a c-section/have back problems (Choose a bassinet, so you don’t have to bend down as much)
- Plan to move baby around the house with you (Choose a bassinet or the Graco MyView that will fit through doorways).
What if You Can’t Decide?
If you are still stumped on which to choose for your newborn, a bassinet or a Pack ‘n Play, it might be a great idea to get both!
Purchasing a Pack ‘n Play along with a bassinet will allow you to have safe sleeping surfaces in several places in your house (set up one upstairs and one downstairs). You’ll also feel better about taking baby on overnight trips with a Pack ‘n Play ready to go. Getting your baby used to sleeping in a Pack ‘n Play will also make it easier for them to sleep well while traveling, major bonus!
Can a pack n play be used as a bassinet?
Many Pack ‘n Plays come with a bassinet feature that you can use to safely elevate your newborn. While not quite the height of a normal bassinet, it still works in the same general way. If your Pack ‘n Play does NOT have a bassinet attachment, you can always place it next to your bed and have access to your baby that way. However, you will lose the convenience of having the baby easy to reach and at eye level that comes with a bassinet.
Do you need a Pack ‘n Play for a newborn?
Most parents will tell you a Pack ‘n Play is not a newborn essential. If you plan to travel often, or if you are short on space and want to use a Pack ‘n Play for your baby’s bed they are a good sleeping choice though!
Is it safe for baby to sleep in Pack ‘n Play every night?
Yes! As long as it meets the latest consumer product safety ratings your baby can sleep in a Pack ‘n Play every night. Just be sure that the Pack ‘n Play is fully extended and there is nothing within reach that could fall or be pulled on top of baby.
When should I stop using a bassinet?
Bassinets should only be used until a baby is four months old, has reached the manufacturer’s weight limit or is sitting up/pulling himself to standing WHICHEVER COMES FIRST.
How much weight does a Pack ‘n Play bassinet hold?
The bassinet attachment for a Pack ‘n Play can usually hold up to 15 pounds, at which point the baby can sleep in the play yard portion of the Pack ‘n Play. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for the weight limits specific to your Pack ‘n Play bassinet!
We hope this information is helpful as you make the decision about which product to purchase for your baby’s first bed. Remember, you can always return items that don’t work for your baby!
If you are able to purchase both a bassinet and a Pack ‘n Play, you can have the best of both worlds, with multiple places for your newborn to rest AND the ability to travel with baby more easily!