Is it safe to buy used baby gear online?
A new baby is a time for excitement and anticipation. Most parents find themselves making a seemingly endless list of all the things they’ll need for their new arrival. The cost of these items can be pretty hefty with a 2015 USDA report estimating that new parents can expect to spend $12,000 on child related expenses in the first year.
There are many ways that parents can find to reduce costs and purchasing second hand baby items is one of the best places to start. However, with ever-changing safety regulations and recall lists, some parents understandably worry about the welfare of their bub when it comes to used items.
There’s no need to worry though because we’re here to let you know which baby gear is perfectly safe to buy second hand or used and which gear you need to get new.
Before we get into it though, there are some general rules, which are largely common sense, but a good guide to follow whenever you’re looking at second hand baby gear:
- Always check for loose parts, chips, tears, sharp edges or points that could be choking hazards or could cause harm to your baby.
- Ensure there are no worn or missing parts.
- Make sure the item meets safety standards.
- Find out the model number of the item and look up whether it’s ever been recalled by visiting https://www.recalls.gov/.
- For bigger items, ask for an instruction manual for safe assembly and use if necessary.
- Make sure the item works correctly and ask to test it if need be.
- There should not have been any changes made to it that will make it unsafe (eg unsafe paint on a cot or a mattress that’s the wrong size for a cot)
The above rules should keep you and your baby safe whether you’re considering used baby items from a relative, through a swap site or at a second hand baby store. There are still some items you should always buy new for your baby though, so let’s get into it.
Baby Items You Can Buy Used
Babies are constantly growing and you’ll find there are some clothing items that might only get one or two wears out of them before they no longer fit. Many parents are in this position, which is why there’s a massive second hand baby clothing market and you can save lots of money looking for used baby clothes. You can also find some absolute bargains with barely worn and great quality clothes for your baby.
A few things to remember with second hand baby clothes:
- Make sure there are no loose buttons or ties and no drawstrings because they can be choking or entanglement hazards
- Sleepwear needs to be flame resistant
Soft shoes are fine to buy used for very little baby’s, but for toddlers and first time walkers, there are some considerations:
- Shoes should not be molded to the previous owners feet
- Shoes should not have been worn unevenly.
In fact, for kids who are walking and learning to weight bear, new shoes might be the best way to go. If you need to go second hand, just check for wear patterns on the soles of the shoes.
Second hand toys for kids are a great way to save money. You won’t necessarily know what your baby or toddler will want to play with and they have a habit of changing their minds and losing interest in their new toys in an instant.
This can lead to you spending money on something that either doesn’t get played with or gets forgotten after one or two uses.
Buying used toys or accepting hand me downs takes care of this. There are just a few things to keep in mind, especially if we’re talking about toys that have been in families for a long time:
- Older toys may not meet safety standards
- Check for lead paint on older toys, which is toxic and unsafe for use
- Check whether plastic toys are made from unsafe materials such as BPA
- Check for loose hardware or chipping paint and make sure the toys are age appropriate
- Be wary of plush or fabric toys unless you know the exact origin of them because these materials can breed mold, mildew or bugs (You should give them a good sanitizing before use if possible)
This may seem unsanitary but cloth diapers have a great resale value because of their ability to be reused and well sanitized. You can throw them in your washing machine on a sanities cycle, which will get rid of any buildup and ensure they’re safe for your baby.
Bathtubs, as long as they’re in good condition, are a great item to buy used for your baby. Babies grow out of bathtubs fairly quickly and so many are up for resale in great condition. Make sure you check for mold, mildew and cracks.
A word of caution here: You should avoid bath seats, rings or inflatable tubs because they’re considered unsafe for your little one.
If you’re wondering where you can buy used baby gear be sure to check out my article – 15 Places to Buy Used Baby Items Online.
Baby Items You Could Buy New or Used
Change tables are one that you’ll find some people recommend for purchase new and others will say are fine to buy used. We think they’re fine for second hand purchase as long as there are side railings on all four sides and a safety strap. As long as this is the case you do need to see them in person to do a once over to check for the following:
- Make sure the change table is stable
- You should have all of the parts if you need to assemble if yourself
- Check for chipping paint, sharp edges or any exposed nails
Similarly to the change table, you’ll find some sites advocate for new high chairs and others say used is fine. For us, as long as a second hand high chair matches safety standards (3 point harness with a crotch restraint) and doesn’t have arms that lift the tray over the baby’s head, we think they’re fine and will save you a lot of money.
If you’re concerned about cleanliness, covers can generally be used, or at least wiped down with antibacterial wipes and your little one will likely get food all over the surface anyway!
Crib / Bassinet
As with the other items in this category, the used crib is a controversial topic. Drop side cribs are now prohibited for being dangerous and potentially deadly to babies, so they are an absolute no-no, even if you find one for a steal.
If you find a crib that meets safety standards (that means nothing built before 2000), that hasn’t been recalled and is in good condition, then it’s probably okay. That being said, you want to be very sure because the crib is the only place you would leave your baby unattended for a long time.
A good alternative is to buy a new portable crib, which will be less expensive, but is just as safe as a full priced one.
Play Yard / Play Pen
As with the crib, safety standards for play yards changed in 2013. That means as long as you find a used play yard, made after 2013 that you’ve checked the model against recall lists, they’re fine to purchase second hand.
This is controversial, but if you’re in an absolute pinch, you can purchase a used stroller. Safety standards changed for stroller manufacturers in 2015, so you need to ensure the model you’re looking at was made in 2016 or later.
Again, you would also check the model number against recall lists and want to give the stroller a good once over to make sure it’s in good condition.
You may also want to take it out for a spin because your stroller often becomes your baby item workhorse and you want to make sure you can freely put it through its paces.
Soft Infant Carrier
Soft infant carriers are notorious for recalls, so if you’re nervous, purchase them new. However, if you are in serious money saving mode, just check the one you’re considering against recall lists and make sure you can put it through a good sanitising wash.
Baby Items You Should Always Buy New
Car seats have a lifespan of 6-8 years maximum and are immediately unsuitable if they’ve been in any type of accident. Their materials degrade over time and safety standards change frequently.
For these reasons, safety experts say to never buy car seats second hand because you cannot confidently know if a used car seat will protect your child in an accident.
If it’s a used car seat from someone you know and trust and you’ve checked the model name and number and have the ability to check it’s age and safety standards against manufacturing details, then it may be okay. However, we definitely recommend purchasing new if possible.
We know breast pumps are expensive and there are second hand breast pumps absolutely everywhere but this is an item we recommend buying new. With consumer grade breast pumps there is a risk of cross contamination and the last thing you want is a sick baby because of your breast pump.
For sanitary reasons we recommend buying your crib mattresses new. Old crib mattresses risk being contaminated with mold and bacteria and they can be really tricky to effectively sanitise properly. Some older mattresses may also contain chemicals that are unsafe for your baby.
Additionally, mattresses lose their firmness over time and softer mattresses are considered to present more of a SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) risk.