Do You Really Need a Crib? [Crib Alternatives for 2023]


Soon-to-be parents setting up a crib in anticipation of bringing home a baby is a right of passage, right? Cribs are so quintessentially ‘baby’ that it is assumed that you have to have one. But do you really need a crib?


That’s right, you do not actually need a crib for your baby. Traditional cribs are not the only option for safe sleep. Bassinets, pack and plays, playards – maybe even a box – work just as well as a standard crib (or better!).

We skipped both a traditional crib and a bassinet with our baby. Cribs are an investment, especially for something you only use briefly. We also live in a small space and simply did not have enough room for another piece of furniture.

Instead our kid sleeps in a playard travel crib – and we love it. It works just as well as a standard crib, with the added bonus of being affordable, portable and travel-ready.

So if you are worried about the money or space needed for a crib, read on and let me disabuse you of any lingering beliefs about crib superiority. You’re still a good & legitimate parent whether your kid sleeps in a box or a pottery barn crib.

And don’t forget to check out some of my other do-you-really-need-that posts:

Do you need a crib?

As long as you have a certified safe sleep space for your baby, you do not need a traditional baby crib. Here are pros and cons of a standard crib:

Pros of Cribs

  • Cribs are a safe sleep space (more on sleep safety recommendations)
  • Cribs come in a variety of styles to better match home decor
  • Some cribs convert into toddler beds for longer use
  • They provide more room to grow than a bassinet

Cons of Cribs

  • Additional costs than crib alternatives like pack and plays (which you likely need anyway)
  • Require additional purchases like crib mattress
  • Not easily moved from room to room
  • Not portable so you’ll need an additional travel crib when away from home
  • Not easily stored when not in use
  • Tiny baby legs can get stuck between crib slats in the night and wake up the baby

What about common crib accessories? For example, do you need a crib mobile?

No, you don’t need a crib mobile. In fact, some baby sleep experts recommend skipping mobiles because they can be too stimulating for tired babies. If you want a mobile, try putting it over your diaper change area instead. Some crib alternatives like pack ‘n plays also come standard with a baby mobile equivalent.

Related Post: Do You Need a Changing Table?

Crib Alternatives

So if you don’t want a traditional crib, what other options do you have?

In my opinion, a playard or travel crib like a Pack ‘N Play or Lotus Travel Crib is the best crib alternative because they:

  • Are sleep safe
  • Last longer than a bassinet since they can be used into toddlerhood
  • Save money since you don’t need to buy a separate bassinet, mattress or travel crib
  • Are Portable & light
  • Collapse for easy storage
  • Have Mesh sides so baby legs don’t get stuck in the middle of the night

If you are planning to have multiple babies, a portable crib is a great alternative to a crib because of how easily you can store it between babies. Unlike a standard crib, simply pack it up and tuck it away until you need it again. This also makes it easy to hang on to if you expect to host friends with babies.

Best Affordable Crib Alternative: Pack-N-Play with Bassinet

This is the pack ‘n play we use and love. Paying a little more for the bassinet feature to elevate the mattress is definitely worth it (compared to the most basic model). I like that Graco models are a more basic pick than brands like BabyBjorn. And I’ve personally had great experience with their customer service.

If you are using your Pack ‘N Play as your primary sleep space, don’t forget that you’ll want to have some extra sheets on hand. Pack ‘N Plays are compatible with mini-crib sheets so you have lots of options. We had to change sheets frequently in the newborn days because both our babies were big pukers.

That said, you likely can skip the more elaborate ‘care station’ pack and plays – you don’t need the extras. In fact, you’ll constantly have to take off the added features like a changing pad before putting your baby to sleep on the bigger mattress.

If you’re using your pack ‘n play like a crib, keep it simple and reduce the hassle.

Upgrade Pick Crib Alternative: Guava Lotus

If budget allows, the Guava Lotus travel crib offers some smart features that you won’t find on Graco’s pack-n-play:

  • Side zipper door to more comfortably access the baby.
  • Lighter-weight than the pack-n-play (almost cuts the weight in half!).
  • No maximum weight limit since the mattress rests on the ground.

Of these, I think the side zipper door is the biggest selling point for the Lotus. As our baby got bigger, I wished our pack-n-play had this feature and it would add a lot of value once babies are able to crawl in independently. In hindsight, knowing how much we’ve used our travel crib, I would have seriously considered the Lotus over the pack ‘n play.

The Lotus is more of an investment than the Graco pack-n-play, and you have to pay extra to add on a bassinet attachment for the littlest babies. The bassinet is a smaller mattress so you’ll also need two sets of sheets – sheets for the bassinet mattress and sheets for the regular Lotus mattress.

And these sheets are Lotus-specific sheets — there are a few options for getting them in 2-packs which can save some money, like these cute organic cotton sheets or these elephant sheets.

Option for Small Spaces: Mini Graco Pack-n-Play

The mini pack ‘n play is simply a smaller version of Graco’s regular pack ‘n play. If I were to get another Pack ‘N Play, I’d opt for this model because the smaller footprint would be nice in our small space.

Remember Safe Sleep Guidelines

A quick word of warning, if you google crib alternatives you’re likely to find lists that include other ideas like floor mattresses, baskets or co-sleeping. Remember to always cross-check current safe sleep guidelines, as some of these suggestions do not meet safety recommendations.

Related Post: Do You Need a Diaper Pail?

Crib or Pack and Play?

So to summarize, here is a crib sheet (ha!) comparing cribs vs. travel cribs

CribTravel Cribs
Sleep SafeSleep Safe
More CostsLess Costs
Not portablePortable & collapsible
Endless stylesLimited color options
Some options for small spacesGood for small spaces
Bulky storage when not in useFolds for easy storage
Side slatsMesh sides (legs can’t get stuck)

Overall, I highly recommend to friends that they think twice before buying a bulky crib. We are extremely happy with the versatility and function – and of course the money savings – of our pack ‘n play. You don’t have to have a crib if it doesn’t work best for your needs.

Ready to read more about baby gear? Check out these 10 baby items with high resale value.

Or check out some more posts in my “do you really need…” series:

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