Before you start accepting hand-me-downs or shopping at consignment shops, check out our tips for buying used baby items. Many gently used items are fine, but there are some things to avoid when buying secondhand.
Buying used baby clothes is one of the best ways to save money. Babies grow so fast they usually don't stay the same size for more than a month or two, and that means their clothes aren't worn very often. When buying used clothes, avoid anything with drawstrings, check that all buttons, zippers, and clasps are secure, and make sure nothing is unraveling.
Shoes are another item babies grow out of quickly. Infants especially barely need shoes, so if you want to dress your baby up in a cute pair of tennis shoes or sandals, opt for a used pair rather than investing in a pair that will be worn only a few times.
Depending on what season your baby is born and where you live, you might need heavy coats or hats. If you do need a warm coat to take Baby outside, look for one that is gently used rather than shelling out the money for a brand-new one. Chances are he will use it only a few months; then you can pass it on to the next baby.
Did your family keep a box of toys you played with when you were a kid? Before passing it along to your child, check the old toys for chipped paint or loose pieces. This is especially important on toys that might contain lead paint. If it's chipped or broken, don't use it! Also watch for items with small parts that could be choking hazards. Before buying used toys at a yard sale or consignment shop, check our recall finder.
Before buying a used playpen, there are few things to check. First find out if it was made after 2000, as the last safety updates were issued in 1999. If its original mattress is snug and there are no dangling cords, it should be safe. Also make sure the mesh has no tears and that holes are smaller than 1/4 inch.
The short answer: Do Not Buy A Used Crib.
The rules for how cribs must be made took effect on June 28, 2011 and essentially made most cribs sold before that date obsolete and, technically, unsafe. After hundreds of incidents, millions of recalled cribs, and an estimated three dozen deaths, the government stepped in and said that cribs were not being made to a standard that parents could count on.
Drop-side cribs, which had been the most common type, were determined to be particularly dangerous. They can no longer be sold in the U.S. You will see them at yard sales, though, but they are no more legal there than at a furniture store. Also, crib hardware and how cribs are assembled have been big problems - problems that are more pronounced with used cribs. Never buy a crib bumper pad, which the American Academy of Pediatrics says can put a baby at risk for suffocation and other hazardous injuries.
So, buy a new crib that meets the new standards. And, if you can't afford one, safety advocates say a new portable crib - which are less expensive - is preferable to getting a used crib.
Aside from the crib, you might need additional furniture for your baby's room. Save money by purchasing gently used baby furniture such as changing tables or rocking chairs. Always make sure the used furniture meets safety standards, hasn't been recalled, and doesn't have any peeling paint, chips, or missing parts.
Strollers made after 2007 are OK to reuse. Safety standards since then address stability, impact, and shoulder-strap safety. Avoid any broken, loose, or missing parts when looking at a used stroller. Take it for a spin to make sure it has a smooth ride and is sturdy. You should also make sure it has its instruction manual.
Baby bathtubs are fine to buy used as long as they aren't moldy and don't smell of mildew. Babies grow out of these tubs quickly, so if you want a baby tub, you should be able to save money on one that was barely used. Avoid bath seats, bath rings, or inflatable tubs that fit in the bathtub, as they can be dangerous.
Voluntary safety standards require a high chair to have a five-point harness to prevent a child from climbing out and a fixed crotch post so he can't slide out. If these two elements are in place, a hand-me-down high chair is fine. Avoid high chairs with removable trays or arms that lift the tray over the baby's head.
Most essential baby items can be purchased secondhand. Look for quality used baby items at garage sales, kid-specific consignment shops, and thrift stores. Your friends with kids are another great source for secondhand finds.
Web sites such as Craigslist and eBay are great sources for used baby items. Before buying anything online ask these questions:
* What's the model number or product name? Go to www.recalls.gov to make sure it hasn't been recalled.
* How much is shipping? Sometimes the price of shipping makes a good deal not such a steal.
* Does it include an instruction manual?
* When was the item made? How long was it used? Did the seller buy it new or was it used?
In many cases, buying or borrowing a used car seat is not a good idea, and some safety experts say that you never should. If you are considering a used car seat, look for a label with the model name, number, manufacturing and expiration dates. Car seats expire—typically in 6 to 8 years—because the materials can degrade over time and you need the name and number to check for any recalls. You'll need to be aware of the seat’s entire history because you should never use a seat that has been in a moderate to severe crash. The seat should also come with the owner’s manual so you can be sure it’s installed correctly, and all the parts need to be present and in good working order. If a used seat does not meet all this criteria, pass it up.