Choosing the Best Portable Crib or Playard for Your Baby

Newborn babies cost a lot of money and even more time. By purchasing a playard as the bassinet for your newborn and putting off the baby bed, you can help spread those costs out significantly. And by buying an easy-to-use system, you save yourself more time and stress than you might think.

If you do buy Baby a playard system, you should be very choosy about what you get – and the price of the crib should be the last concern on your list. Cheaper systems may be as good as more costly systems, but they’re much more likely to be less safe, harder to put together and break down, and more prone to breakage. Besides, if you buy a really good system and take care of it, the resale value on it is high, while a cheap system may be hard to even give away.

Choosing A Perfect Playard

The most important consideration is safety. Most playards today are built to strict specifications and are pretty safe. Sensory gyms in the nation for instance requires a lot of specifications before putting in in your home. However, check out things like maximum weight ratings, how stable the changing table and bassinet are, and whether the middle legs and center of the playard area seem strong, sturdy, and stable.

The most common problems with cheaper playards involve breakage or sagging in these areas.

How easy is the playard to use? This is hard to determine in the store, though you should always test it yourself if possible. If you can’t, the Babies R Us website includes a great section of customer reviews, and manufacturer websites often include video or animations demonstrating the way your playard can be manipulated.

As important as ease of use are the features of the playard. Most non-basic versions today include a bassinet that can be removed when your baby starts to sit up, and many also include a changing table, shady hood, and play mobile for Baby as well. Some have electronic vibration features, music, nightlights, etc. (investigate these well; some customers have complained about lights coming on by themselves, obnoxious music, etc.) Compare available features of the playards you like and see which has the best mix.

Make sure the playard is easy to clean; especially if this is your first baby, you will be shocked at how quickly your playard gets dirty, no matter what you do. Removable ruffles and cloth parts are crucial so they can be laundered. If you can get sheets and other cloth accessories for extra protection, this is a bonus. The ideal playard has a vinyl bottom, easy-to-clean mesh, and sheets that easily fit over the mattress to protect your baby from the vinyl.

Finally, before deciding against a playard because of price, ask yourself how many babies will be going through this system. It is much, much cheaper to buy a really good system starting out than to have to buy a second system due to wear and tear on the first one. And again, resale value on well-cared-for top-quality systems can be surprisingly good.

My Playard Choice

I really like the Graco Suite Solutions Pack N Play Playard. It has a playard at the bottom, like all these, but above it you have a removable bassinet with a hood and mobile, and a fold-down changing table with accessory pouches in easy-to-reach locations. Best of all for the newborn, the unused space at the bottom provides large storage shelves, which you can remove when the baby gets too old for the bassinet.

Add to that its great safety rating, good selection of fitting sheets, and ease of carting around, and this playard is exactly what I wanted.
Its drawbacks are the patterns – home décor friendly but baby unfriendly – and its width, a little too wide to easily navigate through standard interior doors. The folding latches are also susceptible to damage from sand, making it necessary to completely clean the playard any time you take it to the beach before putting it away. Still, overall this is the best portable crib on the market today.

Nicole Hennig
Nicole Hennig is a freelance writer, content writer, blogger, and also a photographer. She graduated from the University of Caloocan in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015.

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