These high-sided, enclosed play areas are popular because they allow parents to put their baby down with the knowledge that their little one can't wander off. However, playpens are no substitute for adult supervision — never leave a child unattended in a playpen.
What to look for:
- If the playpen has mesh sides, the holes in the mesh should be no larger than 1/4 inch (0.6 centimeter) to keep small fingers from getting caught. The mesh should be securely attached.
- The sides should be at least 20 inches (51 centimeters) high, measured from the floor of the playpen.
- If the playpen is wooden, the slat spaces should be no more than 2-3/8 inches (5.08 centimeters) in width.
- Look for padding on the tops of the rails to protect your baby from bumps.
- The locks that allow you to lower a side should be out of your baby's reach.
- Make sure the playpen has well-protected hinges and supports.
- Look for a playpen with top rails that automatically lock when lifted into the normal position.
- Examine the floor of a used playpen for wear and tear.
- Never leave a baby in a mesh playpen with the side lowered. The baby could get trapped between the mesh side and the floorboard. Because of the danger of suffocation, only one floor pad should be used and soft bedding should be avoided in the playpen at all times.
- Show babysitters and other caregivers how to correctly set up the playpen.
- Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back.
- Stop using the playpen when your child can easily climb out — when he or she reaches a height of 34 inches (86 centimeters) or weighs 30 pounds (14 kilograms).
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: February 2010
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.