I am the mother of two very young boys, 17 months apart in age. I originally purchased my Graco Pack N Play with Bassinet (and changing table attachment) in the "Broadstreet" fabric pattern whilst I was pregnant with my first son. We had purchased a crib proper for his room for him to be able to sleep in at nighttime, but decided to also buy a Pack N Play which we thought we'd eventually keep in our living room as a "playpen" safe-area for him, in anticipation of the time when he would require such. I was also counseled by my mother, in addition to having read online, that the Pack N Play could also double as a safe alternate sleeping area if necessary. This solidified our decision to purchase such a "portable crib" as we were eager to make baby-sleeping-arrangement provisions that would enable us to somewhat-resume a semblance of a social activity life outside of our own home, following our son's birth.
Following our purchase of the Pack N Play at Sears, we brought it home where my husband proceeded to erect the unit in our soon-to-be newborn son's bedroom alongside his regular crib. I must admit that we found the Pack N Play somewhat confounding to set-up at the outset; with its assorted rods, snaps, straps, and accessories. My handyman husband quickly managed to figure it all out however, with the help of the handy instruction booklet which came with the product. With the preceding having been said, I wish to firmly emphasize that setting up & collapsing the unit gets easier and easier every single time you do so - it was only at the initial outset that we had some minor difficulties because there are *a lot* of component parts involved in this integrated unit. Whilst at first confusing, we quickly learnt precisely where everything was supposed to go and to connect, and what parts went where, and most importantly how the finished Pack N Play was supposed to fit together & what it ought to look like once completely set-up. After setting up & collapsing the entire unit only a handful of times, rest assured that you too will also become an expert in its quick assembly and disassembly, which is really quite easy when you know how.
We initially set up the Pack N Play such that the hard, flat, "mattress" which would normally rest upon the unit's bottom to create the floor of the playpen, was hanging off the unit's sides. This creates an elevated mattress area which is intended for & can support the weight of a newborn, very small baby. The idea behind hanging the mattress so that it's elevated within the Pack N Play unit, rather than resting on the bottom, is to create a higher-level sleeping area for a very young infant negating the necessity to perhaps dangerously have bend way over to lower & lift your newborn into and out of the Pack N Play while your newborn is very very small. This being our first child, and us not really knowing what to expect, we felt good about having both the Pack N Play as well as a regular crib available in his room as options to care for him. Our newborn son would be able to begin using the Pack N Play immediately if necessary, for sleeping purposes.
We did not attach the Pack N Play's bassinet. I had been counseled by my mother - who birthed & raised five children - which a newborn baby should always sleep on a perfectly flat surface. The bassinet attachment does not afford a perfectly flat sleeping area, but rather, is concave. Although cute and snuggly-cozy looking, the bassinet attachment was not, in my mother's opinion, a safe option in which to place the newborn baby to sleep while he was still very very young. Mom advised that I keep the bassinet and that I could use it as a place for my son to lay in while he was awake later on, when my son was a few months old, when we moved the Pack N Play into the living room. This is precisely what we ended up doing. The bassinet did turn out to be a wonderful, safe place for me to place the baby down while he was awake & while I was in the room with him, but I never ended up using it as an actual sleeping area as I suppose Graco intended it might be. Perhaps we were simply overly cautious, but this being my first child, I was glad to follow my mother's advice.
Ironically, the changing table attachment which comes with the Pack N Play looked to me to be a safer sleeping area for a newborn than the bassinet itself did - although I would never have even considered placing my son to sleep on the changing table! The changing table attachment IS almost completely flat, much flatter than the bassinet. We found the changing table attachment to be pretty much completely useless for our needs, and to this day I do not recall ever having kept it attached or using it more than perhaps once or twice in the entire time I've owned this Pack N Play, just to be able to say I'd done so. We have a changing table proper in our son's bedroom, and whenever the baby needed his diaper changed, we merely took him there to do so. And every single time we've ever been out anywhere with the Pack N Play, it has been sans-changing-table attachment. The changing table attachment is simply too big and bulky to be efficiently portable, and it's simply not worth the trouble to bring it along. You can *always* find a place to change the baby when out somewhere, whether you've got your Pack N Play with you or not. Be it on a sofa, on a bed, or even on the floor with a portable changing pad, there are countless other baby-changing options available, in my opinion, negating the need for the Pack N Play's changing-table attachment. Perhaps it's just my own personal way of feeling - other more fastidious parents may appreciate having their own personal, portable changing table with them with the Pack N Play. The changing table attachment is probably useful for people with different baby-changing tastes.
I was instantly *extremely* happy to have my Pack N Play all ready immediately upon returning home after giving birth to my son in hospital. My little newborn baby boy was so... very... small, and incredibly tiny; and I was so very afraid in those first hours having him at home following his birth. The full-sized, wooden crib we'd purchased & placed in his bedroom, which we'd intended to be his primary sleeping place, seemed *much* too humongous for such a teeny tiny little newborn baby. He looked so small and lost in the big crib, and I quickly found I wasn't comfortable placing him there for various reasons - having to bend way over to lower & lift the newborn into and out of the wooden crib, among them. My trusty Pack N Play, with its elevated-mattress sleeping area, was readily available and I decided immediately to use it, instead of the big crib, as my son's primary sleeping area in his bedroom. My son was so tiny, that he was able to stretch out easily & lay widthwise on the Pack N Play's elevated mattress. I felt much better with this arrangement than having him in the big crib. He didn't look quite so tiny or lost in the Pack N Play, and it was easier to take the baby in and out of the Pack N Play with its elevated mattress sleeping area rather than constantly having to bend & lift the baby in and out of the big crib with its elevated sides.
Initially I had feared that the hanging, elevated mattress on the Pack N Play might not be stable enough, or might somehow collapse or fall down to the bottom of the unit during the night, sending the baby flying (and potentially to the hospital or worse). These fears proved totally unfounded, however. The hanging, elevated mattress is very securely attached to the unit's sides, and has served well & safely as a sleeping area for both of my sons now. The same initial sleeping arrangement we used for our first son, we also repeated following our second son's birth. He also slept in the Pack N Play, rather than in a full-sized crib, immediately upon coming home from the hospital.
My boys share a bedroom, and having this Pack N Play unit has actually negated altogether the need for us to purchase a second crib for our second-born son. As my first-born grew up & got bigger, I eventually was able to begin placing him in the large wooden crib to sleep, as we'd originally intended. We decided not to even bother purchasing another full-sized crib for our second baby. We do now & plan to continue using the Pack N Play as our second son's primary sleeping place, until my older boy is ready to move into a regular-sized twin bed, at which point the younger boy will move into the vacated full-sized crib. My youngest son is five months old now, and he has always slept in the Pack N Play - first upon the elevated hanging mattress when he was very small, and then at around three or four months old, we lowered the mattress to rest on the Pack N Play unit's floor, where he sleeps currently.
We have absolutely no intention of getting rid of our Pack N Play, even when our youngest moves into the vacated wooden crib. We are avid campers, and own a tent trailer, or "pop-up" camper. Last summer, we brought the Pack N Play camping and erected it inside the camper, where it provided a safe & secure place for my older son to sleep. He was only a year old at the time, and honestly I don't know where else he would have been able to sleep, had we not had the Pack N Play with us.
We never made much use of the included "vibrator" system, which can be used to make the mattress shake ostensibly soothing the baby. When our boys were in the Pack N Play, it was usually to sleep. The older boy used it as a safe place in which to play with toys when he was old enough. I never did really feel there was an occasion where I wanted to use the vibration system. The included vibration system also has an integrated music-player, which can play soothing sounds or a couple of different tunes to soothe the baby to sleep, something we did use quite a few times especially while camping with the Pack N Play. The soothing sounds & music helped my son to be able to go to sleep in the trailer, and he quickly learned how to press the buttons himself to make the music turn on. I do like the music / soothing sounds unit feature. It is great to have, and having your child listen to the familiar noises can help them fall asleep if they are in a strange place, in the Pack N Play.
The only issue I have with this product has to do with the fact that, once folded down & stored away completely within its special carrying bag, there does not appear to be an obvious carrying-handle or strap with which to carry the folded unit around. It would have been far better if Graco would have integrated some sort of carrying-strap into the vinyl bag that contains the unit once folded, for portability. Initially, we were utterly confounded by this seeming omission, and resorted to having to carry the folded / bagged unit around in our arms directly, with arms wrapped around "hugging" the thing. Picture the way a one-year-old child might hug & carry around a favorite teddy bear in their arms; that's how we were carrying around the Pack N Play for the longest time, which we did find quite mirthful as well as somewhat ridiculous. I believe my husband did eventually manage to make out some kind of "handle" of sorts on the vinyl bag, but I can't recall where it is and it isn't an obvious feature. The carrying-handle is not intuitively integrated; something that we can only hope Graco will choose to improve going forward!
All in all, a terrific, wonderful, highly-useful product that I cannot imagine life nowadays without. One of the most useful baby supplies I ever purchased! This unit is safe, stable, reliable, and dependable with a plethora of multi-faceted uses. I highly, highly recommend purchasing a Graco Pack N Play in whatever particular fabric pattern suits your fancy, to all soon-to-be parents. The uses of a unit such as this are endless, and my Graco Pack N Play has become an extremely important item to me in my life, as the mother of two very young boys.
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