The Smart Guide to Shopping for Secondhand Baby Gear
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From big-ticket items, like the crib and the stroller to everyday essentials like diapers, wipes, and bodysuits—babies need a lot of stuff! So, it’s no wonder that budget-conscious and environmentally-minded parents are increasingly drawn to pre-loved baby gear. In fact, 83% of parents of 0 to 2-year-olds shop secondhand, according to a 2021 report. But before you hit the local resale shop, search Facebook Marketplace, or post a request on your neighborhood Buy Nothing group, it’s important to know that some used baby gear can put your baby at risk for injury, according to The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). To keep your baby safe—and save some money—read this guide before you buy any used baby gear.
Is it OK to buy a used car seat?
JPMA explicitly states that folks should not use a secondhand car seat. For one, it’s nearly impossible to know if a secondhand car seat has been involved in an accident. Car crashes, even minor ones, can weaken a car seat’s structural integrity, jeopardizing its ability to keep your little one safe. In fact, child restraints are designed to keep a child safe only one time in a crash situation.
It’s not just a possible crash history that makes a secondhand car seat unsafe. Age and exposure to environmental factors, like extreme temperature changes, degrade a car seat’s safety, too. That’s why most car seats expire between six and 10 years after they’ve been produced. Simply put, using an expired car seat will not protect your child like a newer model will, according to Consumer Reports. Another safety issue with using a secondhand car seat: Missing or hard-to-read labels. If you can’t see the date the seat was made, the model number, warnings, and more, there’s no way to know if the car seat has been recalled or when it expires.
Of course, if the secondhand car seat in question was for your firstborn—and you’ve never been in an accident, the seat has not expired or been recalled, and has no cracks or missing parts—you can feel free to strap the newest member of your family in! For those who are short on resources, you might be able to find a car seat assistance program through your local hospital or health department that provides car seats to families in need. (Learn more about car seat assistance programs.)
Is it OK to buy a used crib?
While it’s tempting (and cost-saving) to buy or borrow a secondhand crib, getting a new crib is the best option, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Vintage cribs manufactured before 1978 contain lead paint, and cribs made before 2011 may feature drop-down sides, which are now banned because this dangerous design can trap and suffocate babies. But a used crib does not need to be old to be dangerous. Since secondhand cribs have most likely been assembled and reassembled more than once, they have a greater chance of missing parts, which is incredibly dangerous, notes JPMA. Even if all parts are accounted for, Consumer Reports warns that a crib’s hardware can be weakened by rough use or changes in humidity during storage.
If your budget doesn’t have room for buying a new crib or bassinet, you still have options! You can:
Rent SNOO. Thanks to Happiest Baby’s SNOO Rental program, you can take a SNOO home for your love bug for about $5 a day—and simply send it back when your bub is a SNOO grad!
Buy a Certified Pre-Owned SNOO. When you buy a Certified Pre-Loved SNOO from Happiest Baby, you not only save money over buying new, but your SNOO is guaranteed to arrive fully sanitized, reconditioned, and expertly inspected for safety and quality. Plus, every Pre-Loved SNOO comes with a 1-year warranty and new accessories. (Learn more about buying a secondhand SNOO.)
Register for a crib or bassinet. For example, you can add a new SNOO, a Pre-Loved SNOO, or SNOO rental gift cards to your Happiest Baby Registry, so that your loved ones have the opportunity to give your baby the gift of safe sleep. Plus, if you tick off the “Group Gift” button next to SNOO, multiple people can contribute toward your bassinet.
Talk to your HR department. Today, 70+ top companies provide free 6-month SNOO rentals to thousands of working parents thanks to the SNOO Employee Benefits Program. Contact your human resources representative to learn if this is an option for you. (If your palace of work is not yet part of the program, complete a referral form and Happiest Baby will send info to your HR department.)
Baby Gear That Is OK to Buy Used
Baby gear and goods that meet current safety standards, are in like-new condition, and can be easily cleaned are great choices buy secondhand, notes JPMA. Baby products that are okay to buy used include…
Plastic bath tub
Rockers or gliders
Baby Gear That May Be OK to Buy Used
There are a few key pieces of baby gear that can be borrowed or bought secondhand…if they’re in top-notch shape—and not under recall. Those baby items include:
Play Yards: If you spot a secondhand play yard, like the ubiquitous Pack ’n Play, that features no rips or stains, comes with the original mattress, has not been recalled, and is otherwise in great shape, it’s likely okay to use it. The exception: Play yards made before February 28, 2013 do not meet current safety standards and should not be used. (Learn more about travel crib safety.)
High Chairs: A sturdy and clean secondhand high chair that features a five-point harness, a fixed crotch pillar, and no cracks or missing parts should be a-okay to use—as long as it hasn’t been recalled and was manufactured after June 2019 when new safety standards came into play. It’s also important that the high chair tray slides in front of your child, and does not go over their head.
Strollers: Don’t use a secondhand stroller made before Sept. 10, 2015, when safety standards improved. (Check the underside of the stroller frame for a label featuring the manufacture date.) Inspect the stroller to make sure the seat reclines and folds properly, the brakes work, the swivel wheel locks, and that there are no cracks, dents, or missing parts. (Again, always check for recalls, too.)
Baby Gear You Should NOT Buy Used
There are a few baby items that should be left on the consignment shop’s shelf, or better yet, traded in or recycled, including…
Car seats: Not only do car seats expire, it’s close to impossible to know a used car seat’s history, including whether it’s been in an accident, which renders the seat unsafe.
Cribs: It’s considered unsafe to use secondhand cribs because they may not meet current safety standards and they’re prone to have missing or broken due, in part, to assembling and disassembling.
Crib mattress: Beyond the possibility of set-in stains, festering mold, and bedbugs, over time, a baby mattress may develop hidden depressions or indentations that can pose a suffocation risk to infants.
Breast pumps. Breast pump motors weaken over time. Plus, even a clean-looking secondhand breast pump can harbor potentially infectious particles that can harm you or your baby, according to the Food and Drug Administration. That said, it is safe to borrow a breast pump from a hospital or lactation consultant because those pumps are specially designed for multiple users, ensuring breastmilk never touches the working parts of the pump that are shared. (Learn how to get a free breast pump.)
Safety Tips When Buying Used Baby Gear
No matter what items you get secondhand, it’s important…
Locate the model number. You’ll need this to…
Check for recalls. You can do that through the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Look for damage. Don’t buy any used baby product if it has loose, missing, broken, or torn parts, or doesn’t function as it should. Spot mold, rust, or anything “out of sorts?” Don’t buy it.
Refer to the instruction manual. This’ll ensure you use the item properly. If the paper manual is missing, you can often find the instruction manual online if you know the model number and what year the baby product was made.
Don’t blindly trust secondhand sellers. While it’s illegal to sell recalled baby items, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that dangerous baby products continue to show up at secondhand stores, garage sales, online marketplaces, and more.
More on Buying Baby Gear
- The Best White Noise Machine: What to Look for in a Sound Machine
- The Best Nightlight: What to Look for in a Nightlight
- The Best Swaddle: What to Look for in a Baby Swaddle
- The Best Crib: What to Look for in a Crib
- Mercari: 2022 REUSE REPORT: Family Edition
- The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association: Secondhand Safety
- Consumer Reports: Is It Safe to Buy a Used Car Seat, Stroller, or Crib for Your Baby?
- Safe Kids Worldwide: Is It Okay to Use a Second-Hand Car Seat?
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Car Seat Checkup
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Choosing Safe Baby Gear
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC): CPSC Issues Warning on Drop-Side Cribs; 32 Fatalities in Drop-Side Cribs in Last 9 Years
- Yale New Haven Health: Baby Items That Are Safe To Get Used
- CPSC: Keep Baby Safe in Play Yard Space
- Food and Drug Administration: What to Know When Buying or Using a Breast Pump
- AAP: Inclined Sleepers, Soft Nursing Pillows, & Other Baby Products to Avoid
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.