Mini-Crib vs Pack ‘n Play: What Are the Differences, Pros, and Cons?

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A stuffed animal inside a small crib

When you’re planning for a new baby you’re faced with all sorts of questions, like:

  • What will his middle name be?
  • Is there a bottle that’s better than others?
  • Will he sleep in our room at first?

When it comes to where your baby will sleep, many parents choose to have their bundle of joy sleep in the same room for the first several months.

In some cases, the baby might be sharing a room with an older sibling, or perhaps you’ll move your baby around to different rooms in the beginning. In cases like these, it makes sense to look at smaller sleeping options like the mini-crib and the pack n’ play.

In this article, I want to break down the differences between a mini-crib vs. a pack ‘n play and help you decide which one is right for you; and it might be both!

So…what is the difference between a mini-crib vs. a pack ‘n play?

The main difference between a mini-crib and pack ‘n play is that mini-cribs are mostly just a smaller version of a full-size crib and do not fold up, where pack ‘n plays can be folded making them very portable and they are used for much more than just sleeping. 

Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at this comparison.


Mini-Cribs Explained

Click to see on Amazon

 A mini-crib is basically a small version of a full-sized crib; it’s really any crib that does not meet the standard size requirements of a regular crib.

Mini-cribs are sometimes on wheels, making them somewhat portable since they can be moved from room to room, however, they do not fold up.

Mini-cribs are on the smaller side, so your baby will outgrow them fairly quickly.

The main uses of mini-cribs are:

  • They are good choices for small spaces
  • They offer solutions if you need to fit two cribs into one room
  • They can be an option for dedicated sleeping space for your baby at another house, such as grandma’s place
  • They can be moved from one room to another (if on wheels) fairly easily so you can keep your newborn in the same room as you

Mini-cribs are usually about 36 to 43” long, making them smaller than a standard crib.

For the most part, they are used exactly like a regular crib, with the exception of the easier mobility due to the wheels and smaller size.

(Since they are smaller, mini-cribs usually only offer a temporary sleeping arrangement since your baby will outgrow them quickly. However, there are a few mini-crib options that are convertible and can be turned into toddler beds).


Pros and cons of mini-cribs

Pros

  • Less expensive: Mini-cribs usually cost much less than standard cribs.
  • Works for small spaces: If the room where your baby will sleep is on the smaller side, this could be the solution you need!
  • Portable: If you get a mini-crib with wheels, you can easily move it around your house and keep baby close to you or easily move it out of the way when it is not in use.
  • Faster assembly: Since they are on the smaller side, you can put them together without too much time and effort. Plus, you can do it by yourself if need be with little hassle.

Cons

  • Limited bedding options: If you are particular about the look you want for your baby’s nursery, then be prepared for fewer bedding options if you choose a mini-crib. The mattresses have unique sizes that can make it hard to find the appropriate bedding, especially if you are looking for a specific style.
  • Less sturdy: Mini-cribs can experience wobbliness, mainly due to the wheels, which can make them slightly less sturdy as far as cribs go. Plus, with the cheaper price tag, many may also come made with materials that aren’t of the highest quality.
  • Only temporary: Unless you are fortunate to find a mini-crib that converts to a twin or toddler bed, your baby will outgrow it fairly quickly and you will need to switch to a standard crib. For this reason, if your budget allows, it may be more cost-effective in the long-run to invest in a standard crib from the start.

A great option for a mini-crib is the DaVinci Emily 2-in-1 mini crib (Amazon link).

It gives you the stability of a full-sized crib, looks great, AND can eventually be converted to a twin bed with the use of a separate kit, meaning your baby can use it for years to come.


Pack ‘n Plays Explained

A pack n play assembled
Mitch Bennett/Flickr

Pack ‘n Plays are portable sleep and play areas for babies and toddlers that can be folded up for extremely easy storage, portability, and set-up.

Many pack ‘n plays (also known as play yards) come with an elevated sleeping area that can hook onto the top, creating a bassinet for your newborn.

Pack ‘n Plays are usually rectangular and slightly elevated from the ground. The sides are made from a breathable mesh, making them safe safe options for babies since it helps prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Pack ‘n Plays are much more than just places to sleep. They can be used as safe, contained play areas for your baby or toddler, and many even come with a changing table attachment.

If you get a pack ‘n play with these extras, you could essentially have a bassinet, changing area, play area and sleeping space for your newborn through the early toddler years.

Pack ‘n Plays are roughly a few inches shorter than standard cribs, about 28″ wide by 40″ long.

The biggest benefit of a pack ‘n play is that it can be folded up and usually packed away into a bag or storage case, making it an excellent option for travel and if your baby will be spending days away at grandma’s house or with a sitter.

It’s lightweight, about 15-30lbs depending on how many attachments it has, making it fairly easy to move.

The main uses of a pack ‘n play are:

  • To provide a safe place for your baby to sleep and play
  • To provide a portable sleeping/play area for your baby that can be easily moved
  • To provide a sleep/play area for your baby that can be quickly put away when it is not in use – great for small spaces

Pros and cons of pack ‘n plays

Pros

  • All-in-one: If you want to have convenience no matter what room you’re in, the pack ‘n play can be a great solution if you invest in one with extras. This way, you will have a bassinet, play area and changing table in any room that you’re in, making taking care of your baby a lot easier. Some even come with toy attachments, sound machines, and mobiles!
  • Keeps baby close: Since a pack ‘n play is lightweight, it is fairly easy to move from room to room, so you can keep your baby close to you. Plus, it’s smaller size provides an option for keeping it in your room at night so your baby can sleep nearby.
  • Less expensive: Even a pack ‘n play with all of the bells and whistles is less expensive than a high-quality crib, so it can be an excellent choice for parents on a budget. You can get a very good quality pack ‘n play for around $150.

Cons

  • Won’t convert to a larger bed: Unlike some mini-cribs, pack ‘n plays are not designed to convert to larger beds, and most come with age and weight limits that will size your baby out of them by the time he is two years old or so. Usually, by the time your baby is about thirty pounds or 35 inches, whichever comes first, he will need to move from the pack ‘n play. If he can climb out sooner than this, you would need to move him even earlier.
  • Special bedding: Pack ‘n plays use their own size sheets and are limited on bedding options. So you will need to purchase the appropriate bedding and may not be able to find the exact style you are looking for.
  • A lot of pieces: Although having all of the bells and whistles makes the pack ‘n play super convenient for at home, the more attachments you get the less portable it becomes. Meaning, if you want to travel with your pack ‘n play, getting all of the pieces and parts like the changing table, bassinet, toys, etc. may not be as easily packed up, so these pieces may stay behind.

The Graco Pack ‘n Play is the gold standard and comes with all the features you need to keep baby comfortable.

Check it out on Amazon.


Wrapping Up

That about sums it up when it comes to a mini-crib vs a pack and play!

The biggest difference between the two is mini-cribs are mostly used for sleeping, while a pack ‘n play can be used for sleeping, play, and even a changing station.

Plus, although mini-cribs are portable when on wheels, they do not fold up, so pack ‘n plays are a better option if you want something you can hide all together or need to put in the car.

If your budget allows (and your situation calls for it), you could use both — a pack ‘n play as your baby headquarters for changing, sleeping, and play in the living room, and a mini-crib in the bedroom for more a permanent sleeping option.

Just remember that your baby will outgrow both options pretty quickly. Although, you could search for a mini-crib that can convert into a toddler or twin bed.

And if you’re looking for more baby stuff explained, check out:

I hope this helps, parents, and good luck with your search!

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