Got an old hand-me-down pack and play from a sibling or friend?
Maybe you found a good deal on a Pack ‘N Play at Goodwill or the Salvation Army?
That’s great! These things are super expensive new, so whenever you can save a few bucks on baby stuff, that’s money that can go towards endless refills of diapers and wipes.
But are old Pack and Plays actually safe? Do Pack and Plays expire, the way car seats do?
Pack ‘n plays don’t come with an expiration date, but that doesn’t mean you can use them forever. Safety standards change over time and products from the 80s or 90s might not meet modern requirements. Components can also be damaned or come loose over time, making the pack and play unsafe.
By the way, in this article I’ll be using “Pack ‘N Play” and “Pack and Play” interchangeably. Pack ‘N Play usually refers to a branded product by Graco whereas Pack and Play is used as a more general term for foldable, travel cribs/play yards, but people tend to swap these terms and spellings frequently.
Let’s take a closer look!
Do Pack and Plays Expire? (Simple Answer)
A lot of people wonder about this because car seats are known to expire, so they start to question whether other baby things do, too.
Car seats expire because the materials degrade over time, especially because they’re left in the car and exposed to extreme heat and cold on a regular basis.
Safety standards for car seats also change and update somewhat regularly, making old ones obsolete.
Baby pack and plays do not technically expire, but manufacturers strongly recommend following all up-to-date safety requirements — over time, it is possible that a pack and play could become less safe.
Safety requirements are improved and updated every few years, so it’s important to make sure your pack and play meets the latest safety standards.
(For example, an original Pack ‘n Play from the early 90s may not meet modern requirements.
Fun fact — Graco invented the Pack ‘N Play in 1987!)
On top of that, materials used to make the pack and play may deteriorate or become damaged over time, which could make it less safe for your baby to use.
So, while pack and plays don’t have a specific expiration date, it’s always a good idea to check that your pack and play meets the latest safety requirements before using it.
You should also give it a visual inspection to see that it’s still in tact. Loose parts or worn down seams are a huge safety no-no!
How to Tell if It’s Safe to Use an Old Pack ‘n Play (Safety Standards Explained)
For starters, you’ll want to find the brand and model of pack and play (look for a tag or sticker on the underside of the product) and look for any recalls online.
Recalls are for known safety issues and should be taken extremely seriously!
If there are no recalls on the pack and play, it’s time for a visual inspection.
- When set up properly, does it wobble?
- Are there any broken or missing parts?
- Any holes or rips in the mesh sides?
- Do all latches and locks still work?
- Is the padding around the rails still in tact?
These are common problem areas that could indicate a used pack and play is no longer safe to use.
If the pack ‘n play is really old, it may be in good shape but its safety rating may be out of date.
Here’s a good read on the latest federal safety guidelines for play yards and pack and plays.
Warning, it’s a tough read and discusses some fatal incidents. However, it’s really important as parents to understand where a piece of used equipment like a pack ‘n play might fail and cause an injury or worse.
For example, you have to watch out if your pack ‘n play has a bassinet attachment. Make sure it’s firmly attached and won’t break off with light pressure.
Key things to look for are that the crib area is high enough to prevent children from climbing out (at least 20″ in most cases) and that there are no holes in the sides bigger than 1/4″ where a child could get an appendage stuck.
What to Do With an Old Pack and Play (And How to Repurpose or Dispose)
If you’ve decided the old Pack and Play isn’t safe enough to use for sleeping, you really shouldn’t let your child use it at all.
Using it as a fort or daytime play space might be OK if your child is older and mobile enough to climb out if it were to collapse, but you should never, ever leave them unsupervised in an outdated pack ‘n play.
The best bet is to take it to the dump and dispose of it for good. You wouldn’t want to donate it or pass it on knowing that it’s not completely safe.
When Do Babies Outgrow the Pack and Play?
A pack and play might technically be safe to use, but children do outgrown them on their own.
When does that happen?
The age at which babies outgrow pack and plays depends on the size of the pack and play and the size of the baby.
Most babies will outgrow the bassinet attachment of a pack and play by the time they are 3 to 4 months old or when they can roll over on their own.
However, they can continue to use the pack and play as a play yard until they reach around 30 pounds or are able to climb out of it, which is usually around 2 to 3 years old.
But these are just general guidelines.
It’s important to always check the weight and height limits of your specific pack and play model to ensure that your baby is safe and comfortable while using it.
Old, used, or hand-me-down baby products are a mixed bag.
It’s great to save money, but you have to be extremely diligent about safety checks.
Look up the most up-to-date safety requirements for pack ‘n plays and make sure the one you’re evaluating meets the standards. You should also conduct a visual safety check of key components and make sure your child isn’t too big to use it!
Before you go, check out:
Hope this helps!