So, It’s Wrong to Put Babies in Playpens?!

Playpens: Love 'em or hate 'em? (Photo: Erin Zammett Ruddy)
Playpens: Love 'em or hate 'em? (Photo: Erin Zammett Ruddy)

Last week I posted this photo (left) on Facebook. It’s of my three children hanging out in the baby’s new playpen. The caption: “Unfortunately, only one of them doesn’t know how to get out.” I was just making a joke, obviously, but the post sparked a conversation about parents and playpens and it came to my attention that there are people out there who do not and would not put their kids in one. I did a little web research and, yup, apparently some feel like using a playpen is cruel — akin to sticking your child in cage. Interesting.

I’m very familiar with the breast-versus-bottle debate and I know there’s a co-sleeping camp and the baby-wearing-is-best thing. There are even people who don’t believe in strollers. But I didn’t realize that placing your baby in a little fenced-in play area with a bunch of fun toys for a few minutes so she doesn’t choke on a rogue Lego or crawl on top of the TV stand was frowned upon. Of course, in this day of nothing-you-do-is-right parenting, I’m not surprised. The thing in the photo is actually called a play yard. We bought it because our 8-month-old is all over the place and we needed somewhere safe to stash her every once in a while. And that’s how we use it — every once in a while.

That said, I’m hoping she gets used to it and learns to love it. Because sometimes the phone rings or there’s a knock at the door or one of the other kids needs me to wipe them and I stick her in there for peace of mind while I’m out of sight for a sec. But sometimes it would be nice to have her hang in there a little longer while I do something fabulous for myself like empty the dishwasher without her climbing into the dishwasher. Or pee without her pulling herself up on the toilet and trying to dive in. The kid is active and then some and she has a lot of strength and no fear. I’m sure she’ll be just like her big brother and sister and figure out how to climb out of the cage before she reaches 10 months. In the meantime, we’re trying to keep her safe — and ourselves sane. And, yes, we sometimes refer to the playpen thingy as her cage. Because we think it’s funny. Another mom friend called hers the penalty box.

We have a Pack 'n Play too that we use for her to sleep in when we travel but we also set it up in the house sometimes or we bring it outside when we’re working in the yard. Again, it’s nice to have a safe place to stick her. When I was a baby — in the late '70s —playpens were all the rage. They were also unsafe and kids got hurt so I think most of them came off the market. Perhaps that’s where all the bad blood toward them came from? Or maybe there’s some larger cosmic meaning behind all of this that I’m missing? Regardless, it isn’t going to make me return our cage or stop putting the baby in it when necessary. I’m pretty confident that my kid will not be damaged in any way because of the short amount of time she spends in there — my others certainly weren’t. I’m not apologizing but I am curious: Do you or did you use a playpen/play yard/Pack 'n Play with your little kids? Do you have an issue with it?