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There are so many things to think about when you are a new parent.
One of the most important decisions you will make is which baby gear is worth investing in, which pieces you can go without, and, best of all, which items can actually do double duty, and serve more than one purpose.
And that’s exactly why many parents find themselves comparing the bassinet vs. Pack ‘N Play – they’re both safe spaces for your little one to catch some z’s, but they definitely do each have their own unique advantages and drawbacks.
Can you get away with just purchasing a bassinet and forego the Pack ‘N Play, or are you better off investing in a Pack ‘N Play, and finding a bassinet alternative?
Well, you’re in luck, because that’s exactly what we’re breaking down for you today.
Let’s dive in –
What, exactly, is a bassinet?
A bassinet is essentially a smaller, portable crib that is used as a safe sleep space for newborn and young babies.
When compared to a standard crib, bassinets are smaller, less expensive, easier to move around, and often kept at mom’s bedside overnight, or in another area in the home during the day.
What, exactly, is a Pack ‘n Play?
Though it’s widely used as a term to refer to portable play yards and travel cribs in general, the term Pack ‘N Play is actually baby brand Graco’s trade name for their travel crib.
So, what, exactly is a Pack ‘N Play?
A Pack N’ Play is a small, portable play yard that can also be easily folded up and used as a travel crib. It often comes with a carrying case so that it can be checked for air travel, or easily transported in your vehicle.
Pack ‘N Plays have also come to include many handy accessories, too, like a bassinet that attaches to the top, and a caddy that holds diaper changing supplies.
Bassinet vs. Pack ‘n Play: Similarities
We’ll dive into all of the differences between the two pieces of baby gear right away, but first, let’s take a look at what the two items have in common.
Here’s what a bassinet and pack ‘n play have in common:
Length of use
Both a bassinet and pack ‘n play can be used during those first few weeks and months of your little one’s life. However, a bassinet is more of a quintessential newborn piece of baby gear with a limited lifespan, while a Pack ‘n Play is more versatile and can be used into toddlerhood.
Safe sleep space
Both bassinets and portable play yards are safe spaces for your little one to sleep.
Both bassinets and pack ‘n plays are pretty portable, and are meant to be a flexible option that can be moved from room to room.
Both pieces of baby gear most commonly have mesh sides that are breathable and also allow you to keep a close eye on baby.
Neither a bassinet nor pack ‘n play need an additional mattress (though this can be confusing, especially since cribs require their own mattress). While the mattresses that come with both bassinets and pack ‘n plays are relatively thin, no additional padding should be added to either sleep space; simply cover the included mattress with a fitted sheet.
Bassinet vs. Pack ‘n Play: The Differences
When it comes to the actual use and functionality of these two pieces of baby gear, one of the biggest differences is that many Pack ‘N Plays come with a bassinet attachment, and can be used as such, whereas bassinets, on the other hand, don’t offer that same functionality (and can’t be used as a play yard).
Ease of Use Bedside
Bassinet vs Pack ‘N Play: how do they compare on the overnight shift?
Being designed primarily for bedside use, most bassinets will tuck in nice and tightly beside your bed, and many come with retractable sides that lower.
This makes it easy and comfortable to grab your little one out for those middle of the night feeds and diaper changes (*especially* for c-section mamas!)
On the other hand, because Pack ‘N Plays are primary made for travel, and as a safe play space around the home, they don’t fit in quite as close to your bed.
What this means is that you’ll most likely have to stand up and get out of bed to pick your baby up a few times a night for diaper changes and feeds during those first few months.
A bassinet will typically be safe to use until your baby is somewhere around 20-25 pounds, depending on the specific model. Babies will typically weigh somewhere around 20 lbs by their first birthday.
A Pack ‘N Play, on the other hand, can be used for longer – up until your child weighs around 30 lbs. Most children will reach weigh 30 lbs somewhere between the age of 2 and 3.
Wondering how a bassinet and Pack ‘N Play compare when it comes to their dimensions?
In general, Pack ‘N Plays are around 28″ to 33″ wide, varying by brand and by model.
In the USA and Canada, the clearance of a standard doorway is about 29″ across.
In taking a look at the different widths of both bassinets and Pack ‘N Plays, what you’ll notice is that the bassinets will easily fit through the doorways in your home without having to be taken apart, whereas Pack ‘N Plays, can not.
Pack ‘N Plays, on the other hand, are too wide, and would have to be disassembled, or folded up, to be moved from room to room.
Here’s a comparison of a few of the width of the top models of bassinets and travel cribs:
Lengthwise, travel cribs, or Pack ‘N Plays, are typically between 40″ to 45″ long, whereas bassinets are much smaller: typically around 32″ to 34″ long.
This may be an important consideration for parents with smaller spaces, or longer babies.
Here’s a comparison of a few of the length of the top models of bassinets and travel cribs:
The next important consideration that we’ll take a look at in comparing a bassinet and Pack ‘N Play is their portability.
In general, a bassinet is smaller and lighter than a Pack ‘N Play, so it is easier to carry and move.
Bassinets will generally fit through the doorways in your home, and may even come with wheels, so you can move them from room to room easily.
While a Pack ‘N Play can also be moved from room to room in your home, they are generally about two times the size of a bassinet, will not fit through doorways, do not have wheels and will most likely require you to dismantle and set up again when moved between different spaces in your home.
Planning on doing a lot of travel while your baby’s still young?
Whether it’s a weekend trip to visit family a few hours away, or island hopping in Greece, if having a sleep space for your baby that travels well is important to you, you are much better off opting for a travel crib, or Pack ‘N Play.
Designed for travel, Pack ‘N Plays fold up fairly easily, and compactly, and often come with a carrying case for easy transport.
Bassinets, on the other hand, do not fold down, are large and bulky, and do not have carrying cases.
Already know your new little family will be on the move? The Slumber Pod is a total baby travel essential: this tiny blackout tent simply goes over your travel crib so that baby has a nice, dark sleep space, and mama can actually enjoy a few minutes to herself in the hotel room before heading off to bed!
When comparing the bassinet and Pack ‘N Play, probably one of the biggest differences are how long you use each piece of gear for.
Bassinets are meant for newborns, and as such, can be used up until your baby is about 6 months of age, or until they can push up on their hands, or roll over.
Pack ‘N Plays, on the other hand, can be used for much longer. Depending on the model, up until your little one is 2 or 3 years old.
This is mainly because they are much deeper and larger, so even when your little one can push up on their hands, sit and stand, they are still safe and contained.
When to use a bassinet?
A bassinet is used for newborn babies from birth up to 6 months of age, both for naps during the day and for overnight sleep.
It can also be used as a safe space to put your baby down if you need your hands free to do something.
Is a bassinet worth it?
The million dollar question: is a bassinet worth it?
Let’s take a look:
A new bassinet will cost you on average around $50 to $250, with more luxe options, like the Snoo, over $1,500.
In their first few months, babies sure are sleepy, and can sleep up to 14-17 hours a day.
Though it’s likely your baby won’t be in their bassinet the entire time they’re sleeping, (you may be holding them), you can be sure they’ll log a whole lot of hours in there.
However, one main consideration to factor in is that some babies just simply refuse their bassinet. Though some argue that with the right sleep training, you can get any baby to sleep peacefully in their bassinet, this is up for debate.
When it comes to baby gear, at the end of the day, there just isn’t any knowing which baby items your baby will love, and which they won’t.
If you’re looking for a more minimalist approach, or to save some cash, my best suggestion is to consider finding a gently used or open box bassinet, which you can often save up to half of the price on by buying secondhand.
👉🏼 Check out the current selection of open box bassinets at GoodBuy Gear here. (✨Last time that I checked, they had some brand new Mamaroos and the Maxi Cosi Iora bassinet for $130-$150!✨)
Pack ‘n Play FAQ
Do you need a Pack ‘n Play for a newborn?
Pack ‘N Plays can be a super convenient piece of baby gear, but at the end of the day, they aren’t absolutely necessary.
While I wouldn’t say it was totally ideal, you can make it work –
I used a Baby Bjorn bouncer to put my baby down, Dock-A-Tot for closely supervised naps, and a diaper caddy and portable changing mat laid out on the couch or floor for diaper changes.
Once he got a little older, I used our Jolly Jumper, activity centre and high chair whenever I needed somewhere to put him down safely.
At the end of the day, having gone through the first year, and now navigating the second, without a Pack ‘N Play, I can say I would absolutely recommend it to other parents, and completely regret not having purchased one ourselves.
Though we did buy a bassinet, my little guy barely used it, and before I knew it, he had outgrown it! 😩
If we had opted for a Pack ‘N Play instead, we would still have a piece of baby gear we could use, instead of one collecting dust in the basement.
So, yes, I do recommend that you purchase a Pack ‘N Play, as you will get more use out of it than a bassinet.
Save yourself some money, mama, and check out GoodBuy Gear before shopping new:
👉🏼 Check out the current selection of open box travel cribs and play yards at GoodBuy Gear here.
Do you put sheets on a pack ‘n play?
Yes, and no.
Pack ‘n play mattresses are not exactly the coziest surface, so you’ll definitely want to make sure you cover it with a properly sized fitted sheet. However, bedding such as blankets or loose sheets are completely unsafe to add to your baby’s sleep space, including a Pack ‘n play, even if it is small or light.
Will a crib sheet fit a pack ‘n play?
Standard cribs and pack ‘n plays have different dimensions and are different sizes, so a standard fitted crib sheet will not properly fit around the pack ‘n play mattress, and should not be used.
Though you could essentially find a way to make it work by trying to tuck the excess sheet beneath the pack ‘n play mattress, your baby could easily shift the sheet around as they roll or move, which is totally unsafe.
Instead, avoid the major safety hazard and suffocation risk, and simply buy a fitted sheet that is made specifically for the pack ‘n play that you have.
Still curious? Check out some of my other baby gear guides:
✨ 7+ DockATot Alternatives (+The Best DockATot Dupe!)
✨ Crib vs. Mini Crib: Which One’s Right For You?
✨ Ubbi vs. Diaper Genie vs. Pure Pail: My *Honest* Review
✨ 7+ Baby Bjorn Bouncer Alternatives (Aka *Neutral* Baby Bouncers)