Knowing these portable playpen safety issues can safe a baby's life

Before you put your baby in a portable playpen or play yard, please read first about some serious safety issues that have injured and cost the lives of several children in the past.

portable playpen
Photo by drewzuckerman

Everybody uses portable play pens, but not all of them are safe.

Playpens are convenient for both sleep and play. But a playpen should never be a substitute for a full-sized crib. The safest place for an infant to sleep is on his back in a normal crib.

Portable playpens come in different sizes, but most can be collapsed into a small roll for easy storage and transport. Modern playpens are made of metal and plastic support system and mesh.

Since 1988 200 babies died while in playpens. Half of these deaths where caused by ill-fitting or extra mattresses and the babies died of suffocation or SIDS.



Safety hazards of portable playpens

  • When you add another mattress your baby can get trapped between the mattresses and suffocate.
  • Soft bedding, such as quilts, comforters and pillows are suffocation hazards and have no place in a playpen.
  • Cheap baby playpens or second hand playpens that may not be safe or have been subject to a product recall . Often these products are passed down among friends and families without knowing that the product was recalled.


Failure of top rails

portable playpen

One of the most serious flaws found in portable playpens is where the top rail collapses posing a entrapment and suffocation hazard.

Children have suffocated when their neck was caught in the v-shape created by the top rails. Fortunately the type of playpen that had top rails where you had to manually rotate them into a locked position has been replaced by playpens with top rails that lock automatically into place.

A baby can also suffocate if you leave the drop side of a mesh playpen down. The mesh material will form a pocket that may become an entrapment hazard for the child.


Mattress pad hazards

If a mattress pad doesn't fit well and a child is able to pull the pad from under the mattress and over his head, the child may suffocate.

If you want to protect your play yard mattress with a protective pad make sure it fits snugly around the mattress preferably with safety stay-on corners and extra-deep sides to keep the mattress pad in place.


Make sure your baby is safe in the playpen

  • If your baby is under 12 months always put him to sleep on his back.
  • Don't use any soft bedding, like pillows or quilts in the playpen.
  • Make sure the sides of the playpen are locked into place.
  • Never use additional mattresses in the playpen.
  • Trying to modify or repair a playpen yourself can create hazards.
  • Playpens should not be placed near to windows. Drapery or blind cords can become a strangulation hazard.
  • The mesh of a playpen should be no more than ¼ inch in size and should be securely attached to the top rail and floor plate.
  • Wooden playpens should have slats that are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
  • Check if there is not a recall on your playpen.


A highly rated playpen is the large and roomy Graco Pack 'n Play Playard with Carry BagPack 'n Play Playard that sets up and folds in less than a minute. The strong frame and mesh on all sides provide a safe environment for your baby. This playpen is spacious enough for twins.

portable playpen

A portable playpen is more suitable for young babies. When your baby starts to crawl you may want to create a safe play area with a toddler play yard.


CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) does everything to make sure that the portable playpens available in our stores are as safe as possible and to prevent tragedies by issuing recalls if baby products are considered a potential risk for children.

You can check for a recall on your portable playpen or contact or visit CPSC's website. If the playpen has been part of a recall, take advantage of the remedy provided by the manufacturer.




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