Well, it has 3 modes: a rocking bassinet, a portable crib (aka playard), and a standalone cot. It also has outstanding features like mesh construction for breathability, plus the ability to rock your baby gently to sleep. What other playard can do that?!
Overall, I totally recommend this sleep system for anyone with a baby under 1, since you’ll get a big bang for your buck. Older babies can benefit too, but they’ll be too big for the coolest features.
I think it’s easiest to discuss the features by stage, so here goes:
Stage 1: The Rocking Bassinet
For this first stage, your wee baby must be less than 15 pounds. If they can pull themselves up to crawling position or rollover, the bassinet is a no-go.
This bassinet operates just like the other playard bassinets that you’ve seen. It has a shallow little bed that sits on the top portion of the playard. The whole thing is made from a breathable mesh for safety and coolness. You simply secure the top of the bassinet attachment to the top of the playard, and the support straps do the work.
The mattress, which is usable in all 3 stages, is not so much an actual mattress. It’s more or less a few layers of the 100% cotton muslin breathable mesh with a nice cotton border. And yet, it’s still supportive and comfortable for baby. There are 4 leg holes built-in for when you are ready for the cot stage, but they are only on the underside, so baby can’t get into trouble. Best of all, you can remove the mesh and wash it.
You might be wondering: why mesh? Well, as one of the most successful baby product companies, HALO’s mission is to save children from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). And having a breathable mattress isn’t guaranteed to ward off the mysterious and terrible SIDS, but it is cooling and breathable, keeping your infant comfortable and safe while they are sleeping and protecting them from overheating, suffocation, and mattress off-gassing, which are all possible causes of SIDS.
Create a Baby Care Center
Don’t think it’s soft enough? Worried about stuff getting down in the mesh? You can purchase a specially-made sheet from HALO for the DreamNest mattress that fits perfectly and still leaves the holes for the cot stage.
Want a changing table option, too? Buy the HALO changing station attachment and you can make this into a full-on baby care station. The baby changer just clicks on to the top of the sleep system. It’s easy, comfortable, and it works! It’s suitable for babies up to 25 pounds, so you can still use it even after your baby has outgrown the bassinet portion of the sleep system.
But what about storage? HALO thought of that, too. You can buy a Dreamnest storage caddy that simply hangs from the side of the unit. It will store your diapers, wipes, blankets, toys, and whatever else you may need. You can fit 5 lbs of weight per compartment, so 15 lbs of weight overall. Fill away!
If you use the sheet, the changing table attachment, and the storage caddy together, the DreamNest Open Air Sleep System becomes a rival to baby care stations like the Graco Anywhere Dreamer Playard or the Chicco FastAsleep Playard. Big downside here: the new and unique DreamNest is a bit pricier than these other options.
Yes, I did say that this was a rocking bassinet. And no, you don’t have to gently rock the unit by hand. An EasySway rocking system via a foot pedal soothes your baby before bedtime.
So how does it work? Place the rockers on the legs of the unit. At the bottom of the playard, where the frame is, you’ll find a lever. Gently push it up with your foot, and the frame is now unlocked. That’s when the curved legs can be used to rock the whole unit.
I love this feature! It makes it so easy to calm your baby when they are starting to stir in the bassinet. And if you are worried about a toddler rocking over and out in the future, then rest easy. The rocker attachment is totally removable. You’ll be left with a regular portable crib frame with no tipping problems.
Stage 2: The Portable Crib/Playard
As your child grows, the HALO DreamNest converts into a portable crib. You might know this part as a playard or a pack n play or even a playpen. Basically, the same thing, it just goes by different names depending on whether it’s foldable and portable. This one is both, hence the portable crib title.
Don’t confuse this with a mini crib, which is something different. Although, you could potentially use the DreamNest as a mini crib substitute.
Simple and Effective
For this stage, the mesh mattress drops down and becomes the sleep surface of the crib. The sides of the playard are mesh and breathable, just like the mattress, so baby gets great airflow. The covered metal frame and plastic reinforced corners keep the unit secure and sturdy. Baby can sleep here or play here happily until they reach 30 lbs and 35 in tall.
If you have never used a portable crib, I urge you to try it! Need to take a shower? Pop baby and a few toys in there and stick them near the bathroom where you can peek at them. Need to put baby down for a nap at the grandparent’s house? Grab this portable crib! Have multiple levels at your house and a baby who will wake up on a journey up the stairs? Turn this into their sleep station on a different floor.
This portable crib is easy to take apart and easy to set up. Just click the sides into place or click to unfold. Oh, and did I mention that it has wheels on one side and easy clean fabrics on the top? Drool and spit up will wipe right off.
There’s not a portable crib on this planet that will be as comfortable as a regular crib. You can’t compare apples to apples here, because a foldable mesh mattress just ain’t got what an 8-inch crib mattress has.
That being said, the sheer thinness and smallness of the mesh mattress makes me wonder if baby is comfortable. It’s tension-based, and there is a tightening system on the underside of the mattress, but I wonder if the mesh will stretch and become less supportive as it gets used, and baby gets heavier.
Stage 3: The Cot
As your child becomes a toddler, the DreamNest switches to a cot. This works for children up to 30 pounds, which gives you a couple of years of use.
To use, you take the mesh mattress and add the cot legs/supports. That’s it! You’ve got a breathable sleep space for your kiddo. It really is perfect for trips with toddlers or older babies that might not need a full-blown crib. So simple and yet so useful.
Be forewarned: if you have big babies, you won’t get to use this long! My kids hit the 30 lb mark somewhere between ages 1 and 2, so they wouldn’t get to use this for long. If you have smaller babies, then you could probably use this up to age 3 or so.
Carrying It All
The product comes with its own carrying case, which transports the comfortable sleeping system. Here’s the one place where this playard isn’t a dream for parents- there are a lot of pieces to worry about. When you buy the sleep system, you get the frame, the mesh mattress, the rocker attachment, the bassinet attachment, and the cot legs.
You get a portable travel bag to put it all in. I will concede that the travel bag, who’s final dimensions are 30 in long by 10.5 in wide by 15 in high, is a good and manageable size. Also, the bag makes the 27 pounds of weight, which is relatively light, easier to haul. But putting everything in the bag is difficult. It’s like an intense game of Tetris. It’ll fit, but you have to do it right every time.
And that’s not even factoring in the changing table attachment and the storage caddy. They don’t fit into the bag because they aren’t foldable! And there is no way you can just carry those around without loosing or hurting them.
If you want this unit for traveling, just remember this part before buying.
It’s so brand-spanking-new that there are no reviews yet! Stay tuned for more reviews as they come!
- 3 stages for years of use
- Safe and breathable sleep space
- Attachments available to make it a baby care station
- Travel bag for portability
- Easy to assemble and take apart
- Machine washable mattress and easy clean fabrics
- Thin mattress doesn’t have firm support
- Lots of pieces to manage
- Have to buy attachments separately
- More expensive than similar options
Final Thoughts- To Buy or Not to Buy?
The 3 stages are great, especially that bonus cot stage. The EasySway feature is to die for. It’s actually pretty light, and the breathability is wonderful, and I like that you can carry it all in a nice bag.
I have 2 small reservations with this sleep system: price and the weight limits.
I wish the weight limits were higher all around. Us mammas with big babies wouldn’t get to use this for very long. My kids would have outgrown the bassinet by 2 or 3 months old. My 19-month-old kiddo is already almost too heavy for the playard and cot, so it wouldn’t make it through her toddler years like it’s supposed to. Not a problem for all parents, but some may need to consider it.
Then there’s price. You have the buy the sleep system by itself. The diaper changer and storage caddy and sheets are all sold separately. If I’m going to spend the money, I want it to have all the features for maximum usability. But by the time you buy all this, it costs a lot more than another brand’s option with almost the exact same features!
If you have a newborn (or are about to!) and you are very concerned with safety, then this is a great choice. For more seasoned moms, and especially moms with bigger and/or older babies, you might do better with a more reasonably priced option with higher weight limits like the Chicco FastAsleep.