So, you’re committed to attachment parenting but… you need somewhere safe to put your baby while you shower or do any of the other million and one things we parents need to do. Play yards are great for that, as are travel cribs! And travel cribs are also a lifesaver when traveling (duh!) and even for daytime visits to friends and family. Below are the best non-toxic travel cribs for your baby.
Most travel cribs and play yards are mostly plastic, though, with PVC, waterproofing chemicals, and flame retardants. Do you have to compromise your non-toxic lifestyle just to have a safe place for your baby? No!
A handful of companies, such as Baby Bjorn, Nuna, 4moms, and Guava, make non-toxic travel cribs and non-toxic play yards that are a great choice for occasional or even everyday use. I’ll look at these in a minute, but first, here’s what to watch out for when choosing a travel crib or play yard.
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What to Watch Out For in Travel Cribs or Play Yards
The majority of play yards and travel cribs are made with plastics that are filled with phthalates, bisphenol-A (BPA) and alternatives, and other toxic chemicals. Many feature polyurethane foam mattresses or padding, PVC mesh, polyester, nylon, and questionable stain-repellants, flame retardants, and waterproofing chemicals (DWRs).
Polyurethane Foam and Flame Retardants
Some companies like to boast about using plant-based foam, but let’s be honest; this is just petroleum-based foam with a little soy oil poured into the mix. These foams still hurt the environment, the people making the products, the communities living nearby, and the end-user, i.e., you and your baby.
Even when a company says they don’t use chemical flame retardants, I’m skeptical. After all, I’ve been burned before by Orbit, whose convertible car seat was not free, like they claimed, of toxic flame retardants, which I only found out by testing the foam myself and finding TDCPP, a carcinogenic chemical.
How did this happen? Well, many manufacturers don’t know if their products contain these chemicals because different batches of their materials may have been treated differently by suppliers.
Trisphosphates (TDCPP and TCPP) are still used in polyurethane mattresses and are definitely ones to avoid. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are also used as fire retardants in some products and are especially common in older products.
As such, hand-me-downs might not be the way to go for things like play yards, travel cribs, car seats, and other items that contain foam. Regulations changed in 2014 and newer baby items are less likely to have flame retardants than older items. That doesn’t mean they are all flame retardant free though!
VOCs and DWRs
Even if a travel crib or play yard is free from toxic foam and flame retardants, there are plenty of other causes for concern.
Other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can off-gas from these products thanks to commonly used varnishes, paints, plastic mesh, stain-proofing, and waterproofing (DWR) chemicals.
Durable water repellents (DWRs) are coatings added to fabrics to make them water-resistant. These are common in the base mats of play yards and travel cribs, especially those that can also be used outdoors.
Again, many textiles used in travel cribs and play yards are treated at the factory with DWRs, meaning some companies don’t even know that these chemicals are present.
DWRs are often fluoropolymers (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS) – and these are commonly thin, largely ineffective, and not actually very durable.
PFAS are toxic to humans and the environment and can affect infant birth weight, disrupt thyroid hormone levels, affect immune system activity, increase the risk of cancer, and even increase cholesterol levels.
And there’s zero need for these chemicals in the first place! Some fabrics are naturally water-repellent, and manufacturers can use silicon- and hydrocarbon-based finishes instead or increasingly popular plant-based waxes and treatments. Unfortunately, none of the companies I looked into seem to be using natural DWRs.
To figure out if a play yard or travel crib contains potentially harmful DWRs, check for third-party testing and certification to that effect and/or ask the company directly.
You may be told that the ‘non-toxic play yard’ is PFC-free, but this doesn’t mean it is free from other types of PFAS or other chemicals you’ll want to avoid. Asking what chemicals are used, rather than a shortlist of those not used, offers much more reassurance that this is a truly non-toxic travel crib or play yard.
PVC is super common in travel cribs and play yards because these almost always feature mesh and other thinner fabric components. To make PVC flexible, manufacturers often use phthalates or plasticizers.
Some phthalates, but not all, are banned in the US because of safety concerns. Still, this means that even where brands boast about adherence to Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) standards, and even say that a travel crib or play yard is ‘phthalate-safe,’ this is no guarantee it is free from all PVC and all phthalates.
PVC and phthalates have been linked to worrying health effects, including an increased risk of cancer, birth defects, and disruption of the endocrine system. And PVC production harms workers and the wider environment.
What to Look for in a Non-Toxic Travel Crib or Play Yard
There are a few key things to look for when choosing a non-toxic travel crib or non-toxic play yard. Some of these things will depend on your family’s particular needs.
For instance, you might want a travel crib that also functions as a bedside bassinet for the first few months. This means paying particular attention to the size of the travel crib and any bassinet attachments to ensure it will work in your space.
Ease of Set-Up
It’s also good to look for features such as one-handed setup. Trust me, this makes life way easier than trying to put a complicated travel crib or play yard together while also holding a squirming or sleeping infant.
If you will be moving around a lot with this travel crib, you’ll also want to pay attention to how lightweight it is. Some travel cribs weigh just 13 lbs. or so, while others can easily weigh twice as much and take up much more room. Some even come in a handy backpack, like the Guava Lotus!
I’d strongly recommend looking for a travel crib without a foam mattress. Some have polyester mattresses with organic cotton covers, and these are arguably the least toxic options out there. Some travel cribs have mesh mattress layers made with polyester, nylon, and other mostly inert materials that are also better than a polyurethane foam mattress.
It’s also good practice to look for Oeko-Tex, EcoInstitut certification, or Greenguard Gold certification. These offer some reassurance that a travel crib or play yard is mostly free of the most toxic chemicals and isn’t off-gassing excessive levels of VOCs.
These certifications don’t guarantee that a travel crib or play yard is free from polyurethane and all nasty chemicals, but they are better than nothing.
The Best Non-Toxic Travel Cribs and Play Yards
It’s practically impossible to find a totally non-toxic travel crib or playard. After all, to keep these things lightweight and relatively affordable, companies resort to making many components from plastic materials. Still, there are some brands that avoid flame retardants, DWRs, phthalates, and most other harmful chemicals.
My top choices for non-toxic travel cribs are Nuna: the COVE Aire, SENA Aire, and SENA Aire Mini, and the Guava Lotus. There are a few key differences between these three though, so make sure to get the one that works for you!
Nuna SENA Aire Travel Crib
The Nuna SENA Aire is quite possibly the best non-toxic travel crib around. It has a simple central push/pull one-handed set-up and take-down and a bassinet attachment that snaps in to make this suitable for full-time use by your bedside and as a handy option when visiting friends and family.
The full sized SENA Aire travel crib weights 25.3 lbs. with the bassinet and 22 lbs. without. This crib has a strong aluminum frame and non-skid feet.
The SENA Aire is six inches wider than the SENA Mini and measures 41.3″L x 30″W x 29″H, making it a similar size to a regular crib. When folded up, the SENA Aire measures: 13” L x 11” W, x 31.5” H.
The SENA Aire also comes with a GOTS certified organic fitted sheet and essentially functions as a regular crib and a play yard with well-ventilated mesh on all four sides.
The SENA Aire is free of flame retardants, phthalates, lead, PVC, and BPA. It is OEKO-Tex Standard 100 certified, is made with non-toxic dyes and inks, is Greenguard Gold certified and low VOC, and the lining, sheet, and even the travel bag are machine washable.
The SENA Aire non-toxic travel crib can be used from birth to the toddler years, or until your child is 35 inches tall, 30 lbs. in weight, or 3 years old.
Nuna SENA Mini
The Nuna SENA Mini weighs just 17.5 lbs. without the bassinet attachment (a couple of pounds heavier with it) and measures 34.5″L x 24″W x 26.4″H. The Mini is a great non-toxic travel crib for smaller spaces and fairly lightweight travel. This model will only last you up until your baby is 18 months or so though as it just isn’t big enough to accommodate an older toddler.
The Mini can be opened with one hand, has an organic cotton sheet, comes with a washable travel bag, and Nuna’s famous triple layered mesh mattress and sturdy aluminum zigzag frame. The mattress panels can be removed easily for cleaning, padded edges help keep little fingers safe (and your fingers too!), and the bassinet attachment folds with the frame.
As with the other Nuna travel cribs, the SENA Mini:
- IS OEKO-TEX® Standard 100
- Uses non-toxic dyes and inks
- Is low VOC
- Is UL GREENGUARD GOLD Certified.
These cribs are all screened for 10,000 problem chemicals, meaning they are some of the best non-toxic travel cribs around.
Nuna COVE Aire Go
The COVE Aire Go was Nuna’s newest travel crib, launched in 2017, and seems like a great hybrid of the SENA Aire and the SENA Mini.
The COVE Aire Go is free of flame retardants, phthalates, lead, PVC, and BPA. It is OEKO-Tex Standard 100 certified, is made with non-toxic dyes and inks, is Greenguard Gold certified and low VOC, and the lining, sheet, and even the travel bag are machine washable.
The COVE Aire Go is a great option if you struggle to lift a baby in and out of a standard travel crib or are just looking for a crib that brings your baby closer to the height of your bed. That’s because the COVE Aire Go has a clever topper attachment that offers a secure, cozy sleep surface for naptime. The topper isn’t recommended for extended periods of sleep, nor do Nuna recommend leaving your child unattended in the crib.
Take the topper off though and you have a larger bassinet for safe sleep, meaning the COVE Aire Go could work as your full-time crib. It’s also, naturally, portable enough to take with you, giving your baby a familiar sleep environment on the go. And it folds and unfolds with just one hand! Even with the bassinet attached.
The crib is fully ventilated with mesh sides and a mesh mattress with a three-point harness and a customizable recline. It folds up quickly and easily, and it’s actually quite nice to look at, unlike many travel cribs! Like the Nuna SENA Mini, the COVE Aire is about six inches narrower than the Nuna SENA, meaning it’s great if you live in or are visiting a smaller space. The SENA Mini is also shorter and shallower though and the Nuna COVE Aire’s bassinet is positioned higher than either SENA model.
The COVE Aire has a zipper instead of the SENA’s snaps, which makes it way easier to remove. And when your baby is around 5 months or 15 lbs., you can unzip that bassinet and keep using the travel crib as a full-sized sleep or play space for up to 3 years or when your baby is 35 inches tall or 30 lbs. It also has skid-proof feet, so it won’t shuffle around.
The Nuna COVE Aire travel crib kit includes the topper, bassinet and carry bag as well as a GOTS organic cotton sheet. The mattress cover zips off and can be washed and dried in the machine.
The Nuna COVE Aire isn’t light though. It weighs in at 22 pounds and measures: 40″ L x 24.5″ W x 30″ H, making it a few pounds lighter than the SENA Aire and a few pounds heavier than the SENA Mini.
I really hope that Nuna bring back the COVE Aire as it would likely be my top choice for a non-toxic travel crib.
Guava Lotus with Bassinet
The Guava Lotus with Bassinet (sold as a separate kit) is arguably the best non-toxic travel crib to actually travel with. It weighs just 13 lbs. and fits into its own backpack!
This non-toxic travel crib works as both a full-time crib and bassinet that you can take with you to give your baby a sound night’s sleep wherever you’re going (or just for naptime at a friend’s!). The Guava Lotus is Greenguard Gold certified and all materials are free from flame retardants and phthalates, lead and other heavy metals, BPA, and other troublesome chemicals.
The bassinet is good to use up until your baby weighs 18 lbs. or can sit up. The Lotus turns into a crib or play yard super easily and measures 45” x 32” x 25” as a crib and the bassinet measures 45” x 29” x 27”.
If you’re on the shorter side or have difficulty reaching down into a crib, be aware that in crib mode the mattress is basically at floor level. This means you’ll likely need to unzip the side to get to your baby or put them down to sleep. That side zipper is nice though for if you want to lay down beside your baby and help them get to sleep.
The Guava Lotus has a sturdy but lightweight aluminum frame and comes with a thick pad and soft low VOC polyurethane foam mattress. Personally, I’d avoid using this mattress or use a barrier sheet and/or puddle pad to minimize off-gassing.
The Next Best Non-Toxic Travel Cribs and Play Yards
These travel cribs and play yards fall into the next-best category. They aren’t as non-toxic as the ones mentioned above but are still better than most on the market.
The BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light
BabyBjorn’s Travel Crib Light is an easy to set up play yard and travel crib that is often touted as a non-toxic travel crib, though I’m not quite sure why. The crib fabric is 100% polyester, the mattress is made with polyurethane foam, and the mattress cover is 100% polyester on the bottom, and 50% polyester and 50% polyurethane on top.
Still, this travel crib is certified to OEKO-Tex Standard 100, and the company is at least transparent about its materials, unlike practically every other travel crib maker. The fabric and mat are also machine washable (don’t machine dry, though), and the design is sturdy but still fairly lightweight at just 13 lbs.
BabyBjorn also offers a fitted sheet made with OEKO-Tex Standard 100 (but not GOTS certified) organic cotton that has been custom-made to fit the mattress. The mattress measures 23.5 x 41 x 1.2 in, and the crib measures 32 x 44 x 24 in when opened. Folded down in carry bag, the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light measures 19 x 23.5 x 5.5 in.
There’s no bassinet attachment for this one, so it’s best for babies over five months or so and up to 3 years old. And because it sits on the floor, the limit to use is not based on your child’s weight but on whether they can climb out of the crib!
The BabyBjorn is super similar to the Guava Lotus but doesn’t have that side zipper for easy access. This means you’re going to need decent mobility and fairly long arms to safely use this travel crib (I really wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who has just had a C section! And while the BabyBjorn does come with a carry bag this is not as convenient as the Guava Lotus back pack type travel bag.
4moms Breeze GO
The 4moms Breeze GO is a super simple to use travel crib and play yard that you only need one hand to open and close. It has a cushioned polyurethane mattress that is water resistant thanks to a polyester cover (confirmed through email). The crib has mesh sides (likely made from nylon) for good visibility and ventilation.
This travel crib is made with steel and nylon, among other materials, and does not come with sheets, unlike the Nuna cribs.
At first glance there isn’t much to differentiate the 4moms travel cribs as non-toxic. However, according to the company, the Breeze GO travel crib is tested for and is free from phthalates, lead, flame retardants, and formaldehyde.
Like the Nuna SENA Aire and COVE Aire, the Breeze GO can be used from birth to 30 lbs. or 35 inches. It is similar in size to the SENA Aire, measuring 43″ L x 30″ W x 29″ H open and 12.25″ L x 12.75″ W x 29″ H when closed with the mattress. It weighs 23 lbs. and comes with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Take note that the change table and bassinet associated with the Breeze Plus crib are not compatible with the Breeze GO play yard. This travel crib doesn’t come with sheets but only fits the Breeze sheets which are sold by the company and are made with a polyester blend and unspecified waterproof backing.
4moms Breeze PLUS
The Breeze PLUS travel crib is also made with a polyurethane foam mattress with a polyester cover that is water resistant. It is free from phthalates, lead, flame retardants, and formaldehyde, but the company did not confirm that it is free from BPA and BPS, or PVC, nor that it is made with non-toxic dyes and inks as claimed over at The Tot.
The Breeze PLUS has a full-size bassinet and flip-top changer, making it a good choice for smaller spaces and travel. You can open and close it easily with one hand, and it can be used from birth to 30 lbs., with the bassinet and changer suitable for use from birth to 18 lbs.
The Breeze bassinet mattress measures 29″ x 23″ x 0.5″. When open, the Breeze PLUS measures
43″ L x 30″ W x 29″ H. When closed with the mattress, it measures 12.25″ L x 12.75″ W x 29″ H. The Breeze PLUS weighs 23 lbs. without the bassinet and changer and 28.5 lbs. with both.
The Breeze PLUS also has a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty and the company offers a diaper storage caddy that is compatible with all models of the Breeze playards.
Take note that the flip changer portion does not fit into the travel bag with the play yard, and you’ll have to carry this separately, which seems inconvenient. This travel crib doesn’t come with sheets but only fits the Breeze sheets which are sold by the company and are made with a polyester blend and unspecified waterproof backing.
Because the Breeze travel cribs got a seal of approval from The Tot, I contacted the company to ask more about their materials and processes. Unfortunately, The Tot’s claims that these travel cribs were free from polyurethane and several other toxic chemicals didn’t hold up, but the 4moms travel cribs are marginally better than most other options out there, which is why I’ve still included them here.
Non-Toxic Play Yards
I didn’t find a single play yard (not a travel crib) that I can recommend as even approaching non-toxic. So, if you’re looking for something a bit bigger for your baby to crawl around in and not necessarily to sleep, your best bet is likely an old-fashioned wooden or metal baby gate to close off a small space in your home and a non-toxic organic rug to cushion the floor.
Final Thoughts on Non-Toxic Travel Cribs
Travel cribs and play yards are an absolute godsend for busy parents (aren’t all parents busy!?), but there are shockingly few companies making a genuine effort to offer non-toxic travel cribs. However, the brands above are making non-toxic travel cribs you can feel good about.
Before I wrap up, just a quick note to say that even a non-toxic travel crib has to be used properly to ensure safety. This typically means only using a bassinet attachment or level up to 15 or 18 lbs. or so and stopping using the play yard or crib entirely once your child is 35 inches tall or weighs more than 30 lbs. (unless the play yard does not have weight limit because it sits flush to the floor). Make sure to check the specifications for any product you buy as some models differ.
I know it can be overwhelming to add products to your registry and find things that work for your family. That’s why I have created my Amazon storefront for vetted, non-toxic travel cribs and non-toxic living items for your entire family – check it out!
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