Babycycling for dummies!
September 22, 2008 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Which infant/baby items can safely be bought secondhand?

We're expecting a little one in the spring, and since we have plenty of time to prep, I was thinking I might try over the next few months
to see how much of the necessary apparatus I can pick up for free or cheap via Craigslist/Ebay/Freecycle. I'm wondering, though, if there are any big no-nos when it comes to acquiring used baby items from people one doesn't know too well.

I know everyone always says not to buy a used carseat, for example (I'm assuming because of structural integrity issues??); but are there potential dangers lurking in other used items-- evil, unsanitizeable viruses lurking on that cute onesie, deadly BPA leaching from that sippy cup? Assuming the item isn't visibly broken, is there an age range for things like swings, cribs, strollers, walkers, etc., past which materials might be too deteriorated or safety standards too outdated to make the item trustworthy around a baby?

Would welcome any tips for spotting the good, safe stuff, as well as cautionary tales of used-babystuff purchases gone horribly wrong!
posted by Bardolph to Shopping (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Clothes should be fine as long as you wash them good before using them.
posted by Class Goat at 1:30 PM on September 22, 2008

I'm sure I'm stating the obvious, but a whole bunch of products tested positive for lead last year. You can find by searching online lists of those products so that you can avoid purchasing them. The good news for new parents is that most of those products are toys for slightly older kids, not things you'd have for a new baby.

Also, recall lists will show things recalled for potentially malfunctioning - for example, Simplicity bassinnets were just recalled (under differing brand names, including Graco) because they could pose an entrapment hazard.

Aside from all of that, I really think buying secondhand is the right way to go for many items. I tend to make the "new or secondhand" decision based on how long I'll have an item. For example, something I'm only going to use for one year (like an exersaucer, high-chair, or bouncy chair) is a far better 2ndhand purchase than something that will last a kid five years (a swingset, easel, table/chairs, etc.).
posted by dreamphone at 1:40 PM on September 22, 2008

Use common sense - check for faults as you said - if it looks/feels unsound you should pass on that particular item as you won't feel happy using it even if it is theretically perfectly safe to use.

Make sure you get/download instructions for anything that needs to be assembled as they will not just tell you how to assemble it but also contain safe use guidance you should be aware of.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:52 PM on September 22, 2008

If you're going to buy used items like a stroller, crib, high chair, make sure that it's not something that might have been recalled a year or two or five earlier. The Consumer Products Safety Commission - as anemic and understaffed/funded as it is - has a database where you can look things up.

Cloths and bedding should be fine after a good laundering. Congratulations!
posted by rtha at 1:56 PM on September 22, 2008

Mrs Morte and I bought most of our stuff on eBay when jr. came along. As others have said, check for recall notices. Avoid anything more than a couple of years old and you'll be ok in most other regards.

I'd argue that it's probably fine to buy a used car seat, provided it conforms to current safety standards, is in perfect condition and has its original instructions, although I suppose it ultimately comes down to how much trust you're willing to put in the seller. We're currently selling one on eBay, although it's a spare and hasn't been used.

From experience I'd say a good plan is to buy in advance only those things you're certain you'll need; it's easier to pick up extra things later than it is to get rid of piles of accumulated baby-gadgets that you never needed.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:16 PM on September 22, 2008

This one is probably obvious, but NOT a crib mattress. Although these things tend to change all the time this is the most unbiased link I could find on short notice.
posted by true at 3:02 PM on September 22, 2008

We bought a co-sleeper and a carseat (with a snap and go strollers) second hand. I know you're not supposed to buy the carseat used but this was in perfect condition, had all its documentation and parts, and it all just seemed fine. We got a playpen for free from an acquaintance. We bought a swing but that's really only because I wanted a specific model. I would have bought that used, too. Pretty much everything can be cleaned though if you're planning on nursing, I'd suggest buying a new breast pump. But friends of mine have even passed those on to other friends.

Ask around amongst your friends with children. They probably have stuff lurking in their basements that they'd be happy to be rid of.

Babies outgrow things so fast that it just doesn't seem worth it or even environmentally responsible to buy all new.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:05 PM on September 22, 2008

Because you cannot know its history a car seat should be purchased new or at the very least, still sealed in its original packaging, and no more than six years old. There are programs in most every state for low-income parents to have a car seat purchase subsidized, by the way.

Safety standards for cribs were first enacted in 1973 and again in 1976, then revised in 1982 and again in 1999. If you can ensure that a crib meets current standards (a soda can shouldn't fit though the slats) and it's structurally sound, then it would be okay.

Clothes, stuffed toys, wood toys, dolls, etc. are all safe to buy used, and durable goods, including sterilizers and believe it or not, breast pumps (high quality ones such as the Medela Pump in Style, where only certain, easily replaceable parts come in contact with the milk) can also be purchased second-hand.
posted by Dreama at 3:16 PM on September 22, 2008

We're using a hand-me-down carseat. But I don't think I'd buy a used one. Basically, I wouldn't trust a car seat from someone I wouldn't leave my kid with. Friends, yes. Strangers, no. Used bottles will probably have BPA as the BPA free ones didn't come onto the market until somewhat recently I believe. Clothes I'd give a good wash to regardless of if they're new or used.

Basically, our policy is, if it's a safety thing (car seat, stroller, crib): New or from someone we trust completely.
If it's a soft item (clothes, bedding, toys): It needs to be washable anyway, so wash it.
If it's a food item: It needs to be able to be sterilized anyway, so sterilize it.
posted by Morydd at 3:23 PM on September 22, 2008

(high quality ones such as the Medela Pump in Style, where only certain, easily replaceable parts come in contact with the milk) can also be purchased second-hand.

Actually, the PIS design *can* result in contamination of the pump system, even with replacement of the tubing and collection bottles. The Medela is an open system whereas the Ameda uses a closed system. I think the chance for contamination is pretty small, but it's definitely possible with the Medela and similar open systems. So if that's a concern, I'd not buy a Medela used.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:53 PM on September 22, 2008

Everything but a car seat…unless you know it's history well. And in direct contradiction to that noted above, we have not one but two used mattresses. (Our understanding of SIDS prevention had more to do with the child's sleeping position and bundling -- i.e. lack of loose bedding. If a mattress is not firm, I would not use it. Our used mattresses were, and still are, quite firm and wonderfully bouncy (which, The Boy, being older now, has discovered.)
posted by Dick Paris at 5:14 PM on September 22, 2008

« Older RX something interesting   |   This is just the tip of the iceberg Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.