Travel tip: Hotel cribs and play yards

Consumer Reports News: November 25, 2009 05:08 AM

When you're traveling with an infant, a hotel crib or play yard can be a safe haven for your baby. But if you don't know how old the crib or play yard is, it could be outdated and not up to today's safety standards.

To play it safe, you may want to take your play yard from home when you're traveling. When your baby sleeps in a play yard at night, place the play yard next to your bed, within arm's reach. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby sleep in the same room with you (but not the same bed) until he is at least 6 months old, whether you're at home or on the road.

Because the bassinet feature in play yards can only be used for sleeping for babies up to 15 pounds, you'll need to go to plan B after that. One option: Put your baby to sleep on the floor of your play yard. It's close to the ground and uses the same mattress/floor pad as the bassinet.

If you can't or don't want to travel with a play yard, use the hotel's crib or play yard, but be sure to do your own assessment. For hotel cribs, check to make sure that the mattress is firm and tight-fitting. You shouldn't be able to fit two fingers between the edge of the mattress and the crib side. You shouldn't be able to fit a soda can between the slats. There also shouldn't be any missing parts, which can make the crib unstable or create dangerous gaps. There should be no protruding parts, screws, or bolts, or corner posts more than 1/16 inch or less than 16 inches high (anything in between can catch clothing, posing a strangulation hazard) or cutouts in the head or footboard, which can trap an infant's head or limbs. (Do the same tests at home and at Grandma's house.) Ask for another crib if the one you're offered doesn't pass muster. (See more safe sleep tips.)

If all a hotel has to offer is a play yard, check it out. (These criteria also apply to your baby's play yard at home.) It should have mesh panels, which allow airflow, but a weave that's small (less than ¼-inch openings.) Ask for another if the mesh is larger or has any tears, holes, or loose threads, or if the mesh is not secured all around to the top rails and the floor, or the top rail cover has tears or holes. The sides should lock securely (press on them to be sure), and the play yard should include a snug, tight-fitting mattress/floor pad. Use only the mattress or pad provided by the manufacturer. Don't add a second mattress, pillow, comforter, or other soft bedding to either a hotel crib or play yard. Consider bringing a crib or play yard sheet from home in case you need it.

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