Most playpens' sides fold down and make a V shape when they fold up. Some infant deaths have resulted when these sides entrapped children. Check your manufacturer's instructions to make sure that you're locking your sides into place correctly. Many infant playpen deaths occur in day care settings, or when the baby was in the care of others, such as a babysitter or grandparent. Make sure that others know how to correctly lock the sides of the playpen.
While a playpen might be a convenient spot to keep an older baby or young toddler, once a baby reaches certain developmental milestones, he's no longer safe using a playpen. Some older babies can use toys and bedding in the playpen to climb out. To avoid this, make sure that you don't leave a baby alone with toys in his crib. A child can use even just one piece to climb out. Similarly, bedding can be used to climb out of the playpen. If your baby can crawl or walk, playpens are still good choices for sleeping, but keep in mind that your baby wants to be able to explore. Consider, instead, baby-proofing a specific room and enclosing it with a baby gate.
To save money, some parents reuse playpens or purchase them used. Most of the time, this is fine, though you'll want to check the Consumer Products Safety Commission's website to make sure it hasn't been recalled. You can also call the CPSC at 1-800-638-2772. If you purchase a used playpen, make sure it still has its original mattress, as playpen deaths are sometimes associated with using ill-fitting mattresses. If the playpen has mesh sides, make sure that the holes are no longer than 1/4 inch. The mesh shouldn't have any tears or holes, as they could entangle and/or suffocate a baby. The mesh should be securely attached, and if staples are used, make sure they're not loose, exposed or missing.