Jennifer Saranow Schultz solves 6 big-ticket baby gear dilemmas.
In addition to deciding on the perfect baby name and the most city-friendly baby stroller and car seat, there’s another baby-gear related decision you’re likely grappling with: whether to go for new or used baby gear.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple online tool for answering this question like there is when you’re buying a car. In fact, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there about which baby gear items are okay to buy used or accept as hand-me-downs, and which you should really buy new.
So to make your life easier, I checked in with a number of reliable experts. Here’s what I learned regarding the new vs. used debate as it relates to six big-ticket baby gear items.
Cribs: Go new. While I have many friends who have safely used hand-me-down cribs, the authors of my go-to baby gear book, “Baby Bargains,” recommend purchasing a new crib. Hand-me-down cribs, Denise and Alan Fields say, may have been made before drop-side cribs were banned in 2011 and 2012. “Hence even a crib that is just 2 years old may not meet current standards,” they told me. And even if a used crib meets current standards, it could be missing parts, and have other wear and tear from assembly and disassembly, creating a safety hazard.
So when would going used be okay? If you have all the crib parts, if the crib is in good working order and meets current safety standards, and if you have the assembly instructions. In other words, “in the end, it is probably safer to just buy new,” the Fields say. The good news, however, is that you don’t have to shell out a lot on a new crib. There are some perfectly good inexpensive models out there.
Car seat: Used is okay with some caveats. According to one car seat expert’s website, a used car seat is generally okay to buy or accept if you know the entire history of the seat, that the seat was never in a crash, all parts are in good working order, it hasn’t expired (car seats generally expire after six years) and any recall-related problems have been addressed. HealthyChildren.org offers similar advice. The Carseat Blog, meanwhile, shares a very helpful used car seat checklist that can help you decide whether to go for a used car seat. The bottom line, according to the post: “If you don’t trust that the person selling or giving you the car seat is truthful, don’t use the seat.”
Breast pumps: It depends on the model. Many breast pumps on the market can’t be reused because their design makes it possible for milk remnants to potentially get into pump parts that can’t be cleaned. However, the good news is that there are now pumps on the market, like the EnJoye model from Hygeia, that can be shared because they have barriers between the pumping and milk collecting parts. So if you’re going to go the used pump route, make sure to get a closed-system model like the EnJoye or opt for a rental pump.
Strollers: Used is generally fine. Going for a used stroller is typically fine to do, assuming all the parts are in working order, the stroller meets current product safety standards and the stroller hasn’t been recalled (you can check for recalls at the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website). If the stroller has been recalled, check to make sure a kit to address the problem is available. The Bump also recommends making sure the used stroller’s “wheels are working properly, the seat is safe and supportive, and that none of the parts are loose.”
High chair: Used should be fine. Assuming a used high chair hasn’t been recalled, has all of its parts and you clean it well, it should work just fine. One tip: Look for a used model where you can replace the seat pad and perhaps even the tray, if they’re particularly scuzzy. Many baby gear manufacturers sell replacement parts in online parts stores, and this trick also works for the seats on used baby swings and bouncy seats.
Changing table: Used. If you have a friend who wants to pass along an old changing table (I luckily did) or you know of one available to buy, snap it up (we buy old furniture don’t we – think antiques?). However, be sure to disinfect the table well and to buy a new changing pad and new pad covers.
So where can you find the items above that are okay to buy used? I’d feel most comfortable getting a used car seat from someone I know and really trust. However, for the other items, local mom groups can be great resources for gently used baby gear as can local parenting listervs and local Facebook mommy swap groups.
What’s your take on the used vs. new baby gear debate? What’s okay to buy or accept used? What should you get new?