A pack and play is a safe and easily portable device that can double as a bed and a playpen, making it very handy for use both at home and when traveling.
So it’s little wonder they are popular with parents throughout the world.
But if there’s one thing that most moms and dads agree on, it’s that pack n plays aren’t the most comfortable of playards out there.
Let’s investigate why this is the case, and more importantly, what steps you can take to make your pack n play more comfortable for your baby or toddler.
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Why Is A Pack N Play Mattress So Hard?
If you’ve ever pressed down on the mattress inside a pack n play you’ve probably been surprised to see just how firm the mattress is.
There are two good reasons for this, which come down to safety and portability.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with countless other expert bodies and medical professionals, recommend that infants sleep on a “firm” surface.
What exactly does that mean?
In simple terms it means the surface should not indent or give way when your baby is lying on it, because doing so would increase the risk of your child suffocating if they ended up lying face down.
Think of a waterbed or your couch compared to a pack n play mattress, and it’s easy to see what soft vs firm looks like in practice.
Reassuringly there are actually strict guidelines which need to be met in order to receive the necessary certification from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
And if you are buying a pack n play from a reputable brand like Graco, Baby Trend, Paco Babe or an equally respectable manufacturer, then you can bet the mattress will be a lot firmer than your typical adult mattress.
The second reason why your pack n play might be less comfortable than you’d expect comes down to the fact that these devices are meant to be foldable and travel-friendly.
In order to be safe, an infant mattress should be relatively thin – certainly thinner and firmer with less padding compared to an adult’s mattress.
And because a pack n play is essentially a portable crib with fabric sides rather than wooden slats which you’d find on a crib, the mattress is deliberately thinner and firmer so as not to compromise on safety.
Can Babies Sleep In Pack N Play?
We all love items that are multifunctional, especially if it results in you having to buy one less item of expensive baby gear.
The good news is that a pack n play is typically a safe place for your baby or infant to sleep as well as play in, as long as you adhere to specific safety guidelines and recommendations, most notably:
- Do NOT change the mattress that the pack n play comes with, because it’s important the mattress is firm, fits snugly and has the correct sized fitted sheet.
- Follow the ABC’s of safe sleep, which stands for: Alone (your child should always sleep on their own sleep surface; Back (your baby should sleep on their back for every sleep); Crib (your baby’s crib or bassinet should be empty for at least the first year, which means strictly no pillows, blankets or soft toys).
How to Make A Pack N Play More Comfortable
But that doesn’t means there aren’t things you can do to improve the comfort levels that your child is experiencing.
Here are five ways to safely make your pack n play that little bit more comfortable for your little one:
1. Block Out Light
For many parents this is a game changer and will enable your child to have a much better sleep while in their pack n play.
As you may know by now, babies tend to sleep much better in a dark environment, and this goes for both daytime naps as well as night time sleep.
Frustratingly when you are traveling it can be difficult to control the amount of light in their room, and if you’re co-sharing a room while on vacation, there may be times when you need some light in order to move around while your child is asleep.
This is where a blackout tent comes in super handy.
One of the most popular types available is made by a brand called SnoozeShade, and their products are designed to safely block out up to 94% of light, thereby helping your baby sleep just about anywhere.
SnoozeShade are the pioneers in the category and have a great reputation, but they certainly aren’t the only brand out there.
Whatever brand and product you decide to go with, make sure the tent you buy is safe, breathable and won’t compromise on air flow.
SnoozeShade Pack and Play Blackout Tent ($74.99, Amazon)
2. Organic Cotton Sheets
Babies have notoriously sensitive skin, which means the skin of your child is much thinner, more absorbent and more sensitive than the skin of an older children or adult.
This is noteworthy because a baby’s skin absorbs chemicals more quickly, and when you tie that in with the fact that the process used to make organic cotton does not use any harmful chemicals and toxins (unlike regular cotton), it can make a big difference.
Related: Is Organic Cotton Better For Babies?
So using a high-quality pack n play sheet is a great way to help your child feel more comfortable when they are sleeping in this playard.
As a word of caution, it’s important you use sheets that are specifically designed for your pack n play mattress and its dimensions, because too much fabric could bunch up and increase the risk of SIDS.
What you’re looking for is a sheet that fits the mattress nice and snug, without any excess of fabric.
3. Waterproof Sheets
While we’re on the subject of sheets, you might want to consider investing in some waterproof sheets in your bid to make the pack n play more comfortable.
Waterproof sheets have 3 advantages over regular sheets:
- They make cleaning up easier if your little one has a diaper blowout.
- Helps protect your mattress from stains and bad odors.
- Adds a soft layer between your child and their mattress, thereby increasing comfort.
4. Check The Airflow In Their Room & The Room Temperature
If you haven’t already discovered, babies and toddlers can be sensitive to just about anything!
One area where this can really cause issues is around the temperature of the room in which they sleep, which means a room that is either too hot or too cold can be uncomfortable for your little one.
It’s handy to therefore remember that experts recommend babies sleep in a room with a temperature between 68°F and 72°F (20°C to 22.2°C).
In practice this means the room in which you set up the pack n play should feel like a comfortable temperature, but on the slightly cooler side.
Depending on your child’s age they won’t be able to tell you if they are too hot or cold, so keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Feeling hot and sweaty to touch, looking flush and being easily agitated are signs that your baby may be overheating.
- If your baby has cold feet or hands, pale skin and is fussy for seemingly no reason, they may be too cold.
5. Dress Your Child Appropriately
Lastly, it’s worth checking if your baby is dressed appropriately, which might not be as straightforward as it sounds if you are away from home and in a different climate compared to usual.
This is where it’s helpful to remember that the key to dressing your baby correctly in all seasons is to base your decision on the air temperature of their room, not the outside temperature.