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Secondhand baby gear safety Ask the Experts

Secondhand baby gear safety

We’re on a tight budget and are trying to buy baby gear secondhand when we can. What precautions should we take to ensure the products are safe?

A: When having a baby, receiving hand-me-downs from family and friends and buying secondhand can certainly help with a tight budget. To ensure the products are safe, you’ll first want to make sure they haven’t been recalled. All recalled products are listed on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) website. The CPSC has made it easy for consumers to search its database, and any time you spend on the site will be time well spent. Additionally, you will want to closely inspect any product and make sure it doesn’t have any loose or missing pieces. If it is in need of repair, it likely isn’t the good buy you’re hoping for.

There are two products that are better bought new: a crib and a car seat. While the heirloom crib that has been handed down from generation to generation or a gently used crib made before 2011 may be tempting, you should take a pass. In 2011, the CPSC passed new crib regulations that banned drop-side rail cribs, strengthened crib slats and mattress supports; the regulations also required more rigorous testing going forward. Considering how much time your baby will spend in the crib, it’s a product where new is better.

If you are looking at a crib that was manufactured after 2011, you will want to make sure it has all its original hardware and instructions. At no time should a crib be put together with bolts, screws or other hardware that was not made specifically for the crib.

With a car seat, it is important for you to know the history of the seat—and that’s hard to do if it is being purchased used. A car seat is a safety device and needs to be structurally sound. There’s really no telling if a car seat was in a vehicle that crashed, and while there might be not visible signs of damage, looks can be deceiving.

There are also new regulations and new technologies being applied to car seats regularly, and you’ll want to make sure your seat is up-to-date. Remember: All car seats, regardless of price, must meet the same safety standards. So when it comes to buying one, there’s a new model out there to fit any budget.

—Julie Vallese, managing director of government & public affairs for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association and nationally recognized expert on child and infant safety.