Like just about everything to do with parenting, the use of playpens is somewhat controversial. Useful tool to keep baby safe, or unnecessary restriction of freedom?
Well, in my experience, especially with twins, certain playpens are useful, but they have to be configured for you.
First, make sure it’s big enough. A small playpen will be no good once baby can roll / crawl, and if baby can’t roll or crawl then you can probably do without one – a playmat or popping baby in the crib while you nip to the loo will work just as well. It really needs to be big enough for at least one adult to get on there with baby, so that baby doesn’t associate it with loneliness.
To give you an idea of size, for our twins we actually bought two (Lindam Safe and Secure) playpens and fixed them together to make one giant playspace – the entire Multifamily can fit in it.
Which leads us onto the second consideration: mesh or bars? Mesh seems safer for avoiding bumps, but baby can’t see out very well. Bars are harder, but baby can see out and, more importantly, use the bars to pull herself up to standing and practice cruising. This will increase the life of your playpen hugely.
So yes, we went with bars. We had a couple of (very minor) bumps at the beginning, but BabyBoy and BabyGirl learnt very quickly not to crash onto them, and now the are absolute pros at pulling themselves up. Do make sure that the bars are rounded so that there are no sharp corners for baby to hurt himself on.
Third, positioning. A playpen is useful as a containment tool for older babies and young toddlers when you need to be somewhere or doing something which means baby can’t be with you. But you want to keep an eye on baby and baby will want to see you! So have it in sight of the kitchen so that you can cook, or by your desk if you work from home. There is no point putting a playpen in the nursery if you’re hoping to cook dinner in the kitchen – you might as well just use a gate and babyproof the room (and get used to howls after a few minutes as baby can’t look over and check that you’re still there).
Fourth, have ‘playpen toys’. These are toys which live in the playpen and are only played with there. This gives baby something new and interesting to look at when you’re hoping she’ll amuse herself.
BabyBoy and BabyGirl are very fond of their playpen. Sometimes the Multiparents get in with them, most of the time they are happy on their own (perhaps after a few minutes of settling down with a Multiparent pulling out a few toys to get them started).
So if you have the space, I highly recommend one!
Note: as always, I have no connection to any of the brands mentioned in this post.