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Why Every Parent Needs a Mini or Portable Crib

Updated October 2, 2019

One thing that takes many new parents by surprise is the sheer amount of “stuff” that comes along with caring for an infant. From high chairs and strollers to toys and tubs, deciding what’s actually necessary can feel overwhelming. 

If there is one piece of baby gear that every family needs, though, it’s a place for the little one to sleep. For most families, that’s a standard crib, which can be used for several years and even passed down among siblings. Some families opt to use a cradle or co-sleeper for the first few months, but generally speaking, most infants sleep in a crib during their first few years of life.

However, a standard crib isn’t ideal in all situations. For that reason, it’s also a good idea to invest in a portable crib. 

All About Mini Cribs

baby in crib

When most people think of a crib, they think of a standard crib. By law, a standard crib must be built to specific dimensions: The interior must be 28 inches by 52 3/8 inches, give or take 5/8 of an inch, and the distance between the top of the mattress and the railing must be at least 20 inches. The bottom of a standard crib mattress must be at least 6 inches off the floor (most are higher). These standards ensure that a regular crib mattress fits in the bed and that you can purchase sheets and other bedding to fit, while also ensuring the baby’s safety. 

A portable crib, sometimes referred to as a mini crib or a travel crib, does not have to meet those specific standards, so there is a lot more variety in styles and sizes. Essentially, any crib that is smaller than a standard crib is considered a mini crib, even if it’s only a few inches smaller. In fact, some cribs designated as mini or portable have many of the same features as a standard crib, such as the ability to be converted into a toddler bed.

It’s more common, though, for portable cribs to be much smaller than their standard counterparts. After all, a crib that’s designed for portability is going to be smaller, weigh less, and have features that make it easy to transport, such as wheels or a fold-up design. In general, mini cribs are between 36 and 43 inches long, and the same width (28 inches) as a standard crib. Travel cribs that can be folded up and taken on the road are often even smaller. Although a standard crib mattress must be at least 6 inches thick, portable crib mattresses can be anywhere from 1 inch to 6 inches thick. 

Most portable cribs fall into one of a few categories:

Standard: These look like standard cribs in every way but size. They usually aren’t collapsible but may have wheels so they can be moved from room to room.

Pop-Up: Also known as a travel crib, as the name implies, this type of portable crib can be easily folded up for travel. Some resemble playpens or play yards, while others are made of lightweight materials and can be folded up into a small bag.

Bassinet: Most people only use bassinets, or Moses baskets, when their babies are very young. They are small and simple, and can easily move from room to room, but typically cannot support a child after a few months. 

The Benefits of Mini Cribs 

Smaller cribs offer plenty of advantages for parents, even if the baby sleeps in a standard crib most nights. 

For starters, if the baby’s room isn’t large enough to comfortably fit a standard crib or if you are sharing a room, a mini portable crib will fit in the space while still providing a safe place for the baby to sleep. It’s also useful if you have twins and can’t fit two cribs into the room. Two portable cribs will give the babies some space to sleep without taking over the whole room. 

For parents who work at home or otherwise need space for their babies in the office, a portable crib is an ideal solution: Just roll the crib into the room or pop it open and the baby can safely nap while you get some work done. In fact, some portable cribs offer enough flexibility that they can serve as both a sleep and play area for the baby.

family with baby checking in to hotel

And of course, a portable travel crib is ideal for vacations, visits to the grandparents, and other travel situations. Not only can you be sure that your baby will have a safe place to sleep in a hotel, but the mini crib is more likely to feel familiar and thus won’t disrupt your baby’s sleep too much. Also, bringing along your own crib provides a more sanitary sleeping environment for your baby than a shared hotel crib. You can rest assured that your crib is clean and safe, giving everyone a more restful night.

How to Choose a Mini Crib

Choosing a mini crib is a lot like selecting any other type of gear for your baby. You need to consider a number of factors, not the least of which is the cost and how well it coordinates with your decor (if you’ll be using it in place of a standard crib). Before you purchase a portable crib, consider the following:

  • Ease of use/convenience: Think about how you plan to use the portable crib. Some mini cribs are simply smaller standard cribs, and may not be conducive to travel, as they need to be disassembled before they can be moved beyond the next room. If you only want a portable crib for home use, consider whether you can easily move it from room to room, and how easy it is to maneuver. 
  • Size: The size of the crib is very important, especially if you want to use it for longer than a few months. First and foremost, confirm that you can move a wheeled crib through the doorways of your home. If you are considering a travel crib, choose a model that’s large enough for your child but not so large that it will be bulky or cumbersome to transport.
  • Portability: Again, a travel crib should be portable. Some mini cribs are just too heavy or big to be conveniently moved. Even if you opt for a travel model, check the size and weight to ensure you can easily transport it, and if possible, test the assembly and packing process with a demo model so you can get an idea of how easy it is to use. Compare the features: Some travel cribs have a separate mattress, while others have built-in mattresses, for instance. 
  • Safety features: Safety is a priority for any crib purchase, including a portable one. Locking wheels are a must on a mini crib, for instance. To choose the best model for your needs, compare the different safety features of each crib in terms of your child’s age and abilities. 
  • Cleaning: Keeping the crib clean and sanitary is another priority, so consider how easily your chosen portable crib is to clean. 
  • Materials: Avoid purchasing cribs that are made with harmful chemicals, including flame retardants. Look for cribs that are environmentally friendly and sustainable to keep your baby healthy.
  • Comfort: Babies want to be comfortable too, so the portable crib should be appropriate for their size and weight, and offer enough cushioning. 

Baby Sleep Safety Reminders

A portable mini crib can be a perfectly safe and comfortable place for your baby to sleep. No matter where your little one sleeps, though, keep a few important safety points in mind. Babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep for the first year, and you should never use crib bumpers, pillows, or soft bedding (including blankets) in the crib with an infant. Remove all stuffed toys as well. Always supervise your baby during sleep, and replace any crib that has broken slats or other damage to avoid injury or death.