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Best Portable Cribs

By: Saundra Latham on July 26, 2016

Portable cribs and play yards offer versatility, portability

Portable cribs can do a little bit of everything. For some families, they're a crib stand-in; for others, they're a place for quick naps and diaper changes. For still more, they're a travel crib for use at grandma's house or in a hotel room. And some parents simply use a portable crib or play yard as a safe spot to contain a mobile baby for short periods.

Reviewers say the Graco Pack 'N Play Playard with Reversible Napper and Changer (Est. $80) hits the sweet spot for pack 'n plays: It has a couple extra features to satisfy most parents' needs, but not so many that they inflate the price. Available in more than 20 colors and patterns, it's also easy to find one that matches a nursery or blends in with a living room.

As its name suggests, the Graco Pack 'n Play Playard features a napper and diaper changer that attaches to the top of the main play yard. On one side, the diaper changer has wipe-clean fabric; flip it over and the napper on the reverse side has softer, plusher fabric. There is also a removable full-size bassinet, a toy bar and an included carrying bag. Parents say these features help the play yard grow with their children: The napper, changer and bassinet are most useful for the first few months, while the play yard's main sleeping space lasts many children until around age 2.

Like many play yards, the Graco Pack 'n Play Playard gets mixed reviews for ease of use. While many parents say assembly is easy, some caution that it's time-consuming, and others say the directions are lacking. A push-button fold does make taking it down easier, they say. Most fabric is easy to wipe except for the spot-clean-only fabric on the newborn napper -- impractical given the risk of spit-up and diaper blowouts, reviewers warn. A few also complain that the button that reverses the napper and changer is too stiff, and that the napper and changer are tough to remove when they aren't needed. This pack and play is about 28.5 inches wide and 40 inches long, with sides that are just over 33 inches tall. At 27 pounds, it's just too heavy and bulky for frequent travel, many parents say.

Graco says the changing table and bassinet are for babies under 15 pounds, and says babies should be under 3 months and unable to roll over to safely use the newborn napper. Parents should stop using the play yard's main sleeping and activity space when children are 30 pounds, 35 inches or able to climb out -- whichever comes first. Graco warns against using third-party mattresses that are thicker or a different size because they can pose a suffocation hazard. Also note that some experts say the newborn napper is too high and plush to be a safe sleep area for babies. Graco maintains that the fabric is breathable and the napper is designed for babies to maintain a safe sleeping position.

Parents who may want a fully featured pack 'n play to replace other nursery gadgets and gizmos will want to consider the Graco Everest Pack 'n Play Playard (Est. $270) -- especially if grandma is buying. The Everest probably boasts the most bells and whistles of any traditional pack 'n play, reviewers say. It comes in two neutral fabrics with either pink or green accents.

The Everest isn't short on features: There is a newborn lounger with two-speed vibration that can be detached from the main play yard and toted around the room, or folded for easy storage. An attached diaper changer has storage for diapers, wipes and the like, and it folds to the side, revealing more storage underneath. There is also a bassinet that can be removed once baby is too big and needs to sleep in the bottom of the play yard. There's also music, nature sounds and a toy bar for entertainment. While they particularly love the easy-to-stow changer, a couple of reviewers note that the bassinet is small compared to the ones featured on other play yards, and say some tall babies may outgrow it relatively fast.

The Everest can be folded up for travel and comes with a carrying bag, but it totals a whopping 46 pounds. That makes it one of the heaviest pack 'n plays on the market. Perhaps for that reason, most reviewers don't seem to travel much with it. There are limited reviews about ease of setup, but a handful complain that the directions are lacking. The play yard is 30 inches wide, 48 inches long and 30.5 inches high.

Graco caps use of the play yard when children reach 35 inches, 30 pounds or are able to climb out, whichever comes first. The changing table and lounger have weight limits of 30 pounds, but Graco warns against using the lounger once a baby can pull up on the sides or roll over. Parents should discontinue use of the bassinet when their babies reach 15 pounds or can push up on their hands and knees. As with all of its pack 'n plays, Graco doesn't recommend using any mattress or padding other than what's provided with the Everest.

Some parents don't need another diaper changer, bassinet or vibrating seat with their portable crib. They simply want a safe, portable sleeping or activity space for their baby or young toddler. Those parents will want to check out the Cosco Funsport Play Yard (Est. $45), a simple, barebones play yard with a low price tag to match. It comes in more than a dozen bright colors and whimsical patterns.

The Funsport Play Yard doesn't have a lot to offer in the way of extra features. Like most play yards, it has breathable mesh sides and a thin mattress pad for sleeping. One side of the play yard has wheels to make it easier to move around the house. There is also a carrying case for travel, but no zip-in bassinet, attached diaper changer or napper. The slightly pricier Funsport Deluxe Play Yard (Est. $55) includes a toy bar.

Most reviewers appreciate the Funsport's simplicity, saying it translates into greater ease of use. At just under 21 pounds, it's still relatively heavy for frequent travel, but parents say setup is quick and easy, especially without having to worry about setting up any accessories. Fabric is easy to wipe, but a handful of parents say the mesh rips too easily. Other quibbles: Some reviewers say a support bar under the play yard makes the mattress pad uneven, while others say the pad is just too hard for everyday use. The play yard is about 28 inches wide and 39 inches long.

Cosco recommends that parents discontinue use of the Funsport once their children are able to climb out or reach 35 inches, whichever comes first. The sides are just 28 inches tall -- 5 inches shy of the 33-inch sides on the Graco -- so children may be able to climb out sooner. Like Graco, Cosco recommends against using any kind of third-party mattresses to reduce suffocation risks.

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