Sometimes you're going to want to move around and will need a safe place for your baby to sleep. Playards and travel cribs can be very simple (one level, with a thin mattress and space to sleep or play) or very complex (with added bassinet attachments for use before baby is rolling over, separate diaper changing platform, mobiles, and more).
Playards may be made with materials, paint or other finishes that contain volatile organic compounds and other harmful chemicals. Rigid plastic support materials may be made with PFAS (Teflon in fibers), bisphenol A (in polycarbonate) or polyvinyl chloride (potentially including phthalates or heavy metals. Mattresses, toppers and padding and other products containing foam may contain chemical flame retardants. Some playard mattresses (or sheets sold for them) may have embedded antimicrobials.
Remember, babies grow fast. A bassinet or cradle suitable for a 1 month old may no longer be safe or adequate a couple months later. Make sure to consider height and weight limits. To avoid physical hazards, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends choosing products certified for safety by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). Consider your specific needs and whether you’ll need a bassinet/safe containment product. Many come with LED lights for changing baby at night, bouncing, rocking or vibrating options, music, storage areas, easy folding for portability, all of which may add to the cost of the product.
Cribs, bassinets, or play yards that meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission and ASTM International's safety standards are recommended, using only mattresses that are intended for that specific product. (Note: While this usually means the mattress from the manufacturer, there are some mattresses made especially for specific frames that are made by third parties, including Naturepedic, which is certified by MADE SAFE.) Soft objects such as pillows, quilts, toys or comforters should not be placed under sleeping infants, even if they are covered by a sheet. In addition, be careful to avoid placing the bassinet/containment area near any potential hazards such as cords and electric wires.
Check to see if the label states that the product is compliant with “California flammability standard TB 117-2013 and the box indicating “No added chemical flame retardants” is checked. If you don’t see that label, you can contact the manufacturer. Ask about the other chemicals listed above; they are not often listed on product descriptions.
References & Resources
Learn more about the hidden hazards by reviewing the glossary or take a deep dive by reading Safer Products for Babies and Toddlers: Resources and Recommendations for Retailers.
For evidence that some playards may contain the chemicals above, see this patent description.