Some gently-used baby gear can look fine, but still have hidden hazards for your little one. The standards for baby gear like cribs, strollers, and car seats are continuously being updated to keep babies as safe as possible, so you’ll want a newer model. In addition, some normal wear and tear on items—like mildew or chipped paint—can be dangerous for your child.
Here’s a no-nonsense guide to which baby items you can buy used, and which you’ll want to buy new.
Baby Products You Can Buy Used
There are plenty of products that are safe to buy second-hand, especially if you know the person you’re purchasing from. These items are a great place to save money and reduce waste by buying used:
Baby Clothes: As you’ll soon find out, babies outgrow clothes faster than you can blink. In fact, many mamas realize that they have clothes that haven’t even been worn before baby is too big. Oftentimes, clothes are the most gently used baby items, so they’re great for purchasing secondhand. Look for posts that are labeled “NWOT,” which means “new without tags” or NWT, “new with tags.” These clothes haven’t been worn and are often sold at a steep discount.
Cloth Diapers: This one certainly has an “ick” factor, but cloth diapers are designed to be passed from baby bum to baby bum. Many mamas who used cloth diapers are budget and eco-conscious, so shopping second hand makes sense to them. In fact, there are many Facebook groups dedicated solely to gently used cloth diapers sales (you’ll never notice that some prints are collector items!). If you purchase cloth diapers, give them a bleach soak for about half an hour just to be sure you’ve killed any germs.
Toys: There are oh-so many toys in the world, many of them barely played with before they’re discarded. Wooden toys, activity blocks, bikes, and other rugged items are great to buy second hand. You can even buy soft toys like stuffed animals second hand, as long as they are able to be cleaned. Just be cautious with vintage toys, which can be a safety hazard.
Changing Tables: Changing tables are super handy during the infant stage, but they do have a short lifespan—by about a year, it’s more work than it’s worth to wrangle your child onto a changing table. Because of that, they’re great to buy used, especially if you don’t mind having a changing table that doesn’t match the crib in your nursery.
High Chairs: Many high chairs are designed to last, so it’s easy to find good second-hand options. When you’re shopping for a second-hand high chair, just be sure to check it out closely in person. High chairs can get downright nasty with all that baby food being dropped, and cleaning them thoroughly can be tough. But, if you find a clean one, this a great second-hand purchase. It’s also a great idea to have a spare high chair for trips to grandparents’ houses, or even to keep on hand if you do a lot of entertaining and will have another little one around for mealtime.
Baby Baths: Baby baths are another item that are used for a pretty short span of time, so they’re a prime candidate for resale. When you’re shopping for a second-hand baby bath, look to be sure that there’s no mold or mildew. If it’s clear, you’re good to go! (Just don’t forget to clean and sanitize it on your own as well.)
Infant Carriers, Wraps, and Slings: Baby wearing can be a lifesaver during the first year and some versions, like fabric wraps, are designed to be only used during the first early months, so they don’t get a lot of wear-and-tear. And wraps, slings, and carriers can all fit different parents’ bodies in different ways, so you may be able to score a practically brand-new carrier for a deep discount. However, if you buy a used sling or wrap, just be sure the fabric is intact and not worn down in any area, as this could affect the quality and not be safe to keep your baby secure. Additionally, if it’s a soft-structured carrier, you’ll want to be sure all parts, like buckles and snaps, are in working order to ensure your baby stays safe and secure.
Products You Should Never Buy Used
Saving money and reducing environmental impact should never come at the expense of safety. Because of that, there are some items you should buy used.
Car Seats: There are few things that new mamas research more than car seats. They’re also a huge expense, especially if you want seats for both parents’ vehicles and maybe a spare for the grandparents or babysitter, so it’s understandable why you may want to save a few dollars with a used car seat.
However, car seats are the #1 item that you should always buy new. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that a new car seat is the safest option for your baby, toddler, or older child because buying a new car seat is the only way to ensure that the seat has not been damaged. A used car seat could have been damaged, broken, in a car crash, or even recalled and you would have no way of knowing if it was safe for your baby.
Additionally, car seats expire. Each car seat model has a different specific expiration, but most seats expire six years after the date of manufacture, which will be on a label on the seat. The AAP states you should never use a car seat that is more than 10 years old. If you absolutely cannot afford to purchase a new car seat, you can speak with your doctor, who can connect you to some resources, like WIC, that may be able to help.
Breast Pump: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against more than one person using the same breast pump, since that can spread infection. Especially since insurance companies usually cover breast pumps, this is an item you’re best to buy new.
Cribs: Crib safety standards are continuously being updated. You should never, ever buy a crib with a side rail that move (a drop side crib), since these pose major safety concerns. Given the importance of having a safe sleeping space for baby, a crib is an item best purchased new.
Crib Mattress: Babies should sleep on a firm mattress to prevent SIDS. In addition to the “ick” factor of a used mattress, second-hand crib mattresses can develop dips and indentations that are dangerous for baby.
Play Yard/Play Pens: Like cribs, play yards get a lot of used and abuse, but are critical for keeping baby safe. Rather than take your chances on a unit with wear and tear, it’s best to purchase new.
Strollers: Stroller safety standards were updated in 2015, so never purchase a new stroller made before that date. In addition, check for any recalls on the specific model you’re considering. If that seems like too much, purchase a stroller new—you’ll likely get your money’s worth as you use it for years to come.
Formula: You only want to feed your baby the best, so skip the second-hand formula, no matter how good the deal. Even if the container is unopened, you don’t know how it was stored. Formula is one item that is always best bought from a reputable store. And even then, double-check that the seal has not been broken, because once formula is open, it does spoil very quickly.