Friday, April 4, 2014

(Innovative?) Fix for saggy twins bassinet

I probably wouldn't qualify as a typical (or good) engineer which is likely why I've been put in a management role that mostly entails sending emails and going to meetings to either inject sarcasm or repeatedly bite my tongue depending on the topic, but the design of some things drive me nuts.  

One of said designs is the Graco Pack 'N Play with Twin Bassinet, which is designed to be "a roomy playard with 2 cozy quilted bassinets for twins" up to 15lbs each.  In reality, as the Amazon reviews state, the thing is a sloping mess that sags like a mother in the middle with 2 small 8sh lb newborns (or dumbbells if said newborns have not yet arrivede) placed in it.  In all fairness, I don't blame Graco for the decisions made in its design, they did a pretty good job of throwing together something they could slap on a $80 pack 'n play and charge freaked out soon to be twin parents almost 2x that, plus all engineers know that the marketing guys win out in the end regardless of what the finished product turns out to be.

All that said, despite the reviews, in our freaked out soon to be twin parent state we ponied up $135 (on ebay of course because paying full price is for suckers and surely we're not suckers even though we bought the thing knowing what we knew) to ensure we had a sleeping apparatus to put at the end of our bed for the first couple of months after our girls arrived.  Also, having an Mechanical Engineering degree (which turns out to be way different than actually being an engineer, something they didn't cover in Intro to Engineering) I was confident I was smarter than all those amazon reviewers and could come up with a novel way to fix this problem that I could potentially pitch to Graco and make millions (of pesos) off of.

The bassinet (that's a hard word to spell, 2 s's, 1 n, 1 t??) portion is basically an assembly of sewn together canvas sections that snaps on to the outer rails of the pack 'n play and is supported by a couple of rods and sections of thin pressboard.  

The main issue is there's nothing supporting the center of the assembly from below so much like an unsupported beam the thing starts sagging when any load is applied away from its supported ends.  In trying to stick with the intended modularity of the thing (and my Cuban Redneck heritage) my first idea involved bungee cords and a ratchet strap around the center section but no duct tape because I couldn't figure out how to work it in.  This solution was less than ideal (and so embarrassing I will not show a picture of it) and had my wife concerned due to the loaded bungee cords running between her little darlings.

Next idea-cram some pieces of an old Virginia Tech (my Alma mater and giver of said ME degree) t-shirt in the pockets that the support rods run through to add some tension.  This fix proved to be fairly promising, supporting 10lb dumbbells prior to the onset of sag but made it almost impossible to get the support rods back out to tear the thing down which is obviously one of the benefits of a Pack 'n Play and inherent in the name.

After drinking a beer (for brainstorming purposes) and kicking around a few more ideas, I caught a glimpse of a sleeping bag crammed under our bed that I had been planning to put in the attic for a few months.  Call it foresight or laziness but this lack of organizational effort led to the best (and easiest to implement) solution for the sag problem. Slightly compressed in its upright position, the sleeping bag had just enough height to span the gap between the base and bassinet section of the Pack 'n Play allowing support for 2 15 lb dumbbells and later 2 newborn baby girls. PROBLEM SOLVED. 

For anyone wanting to implement this (innovative?) fix, the Coleman Trinidad 40-60 degree sleeping bag can be found for $20 on Amazon.


  1. No joke, the sleeping bag trick worked like a charm! So happy I came across this article or I would have thought my twin pack n play was useless.