A brand new, tiny little being shouldn’t come with so much stuff. But when a baby moves into your home, they bring with them a crib, stroller, car seat, bath tub, breast pump, bottles, playpen, clothing, and on and on. And each one of those comes with a cost that can really add up over time.
According to a 2015 Consumer Expenditures Survey, a married middle-income, two-child family can expect to spend $US12,980 ($16,648) a year — almost as much as the price of a brand new compact automobile. And like car shopping, new parents might be tempted to seek out deals on must-have gear by looking in a consignment shop or Facebook Marketplace. But with some items, there is a risk of getting something unsafe if you’re not careful.
There’s no shame in hitting up friends and family for gently used items for your little one. But for the safety of you and your child, you need to know what you can skimp on and when you should splurge. We’ve identified essential items that you should purchase brand new for safety and hygienic reasons. We’ve also shared hand-me-downs you can accept worry-free from a friend or family member, and which items you can buy used with no worries from a second-hand store.
Which baby gear items should be purchased new?
There are several reasons new parents shouldn’t purchase used car seats, according to Consumer Reports. Even if it looks like it’s in great shape, it is difficult to determine if the car seat is expired, recalled by the manufacturer, or has been damaged in a crash. When shopping for a new car seat that fits your budget, keep in mind that they have to pass federal safety regulations — as long as they do, even more affordable ones are perfectly safe to use.
Another crucial piece of gear to purchase new is a breast pump. Per the Food and Drug Administration, there is no assurance that the device will be cleaned and disinfected between owners, which could allow for the ingestion of infectious particles that could make you or your baby sick. Insurance companies must cover the cost of a breast pump per the Affordable Care Act, so check with them or your local health department to find out what you need to do to get one.
Along the same lines, be sure to spring for new feeding bottles, nipples, and pacifiers. The plastic material has likely gone through hell in the mouths of its previous owner and may have deteriorated due to repeated cleanings. It might go without saying, but the same goes for kids’ underwear too.
Children also put cribs through tremendous wear and tear (picture a toddler yanking on the rails as they wait to be sprung free), and joints can become weak in the heat of storage. Additionally, The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission upgraded its safety standards for cribs in 2011 to make them more durable and structurally sound. Consumer Reports recommends purchasing a new crib certified by Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association to ensure it meets current manufacturing standards. Also, be sure to get a new crib mattress for safety and sanitary reasons.
What about hand-me-downs?
Hopefully, you’re lucky enough to have a village of parent friends come to your aid with advice and practical items like a child’s bathtub, playpen, or stroller that will ease the burden on your pocketbook. Per Parents, if you accept a barely used bathtub from someone you trust, be sure to check it for any mould or mildew and thoroughly clean it, just in case.
Also, inspect hand-me-down playpens for any tears or holes that could present a choking hazard, and don’t accept if it was manufactured before 2013, as it doesn’t meet current safety standards.
Strollers can withstand wear and tear. If you receive one, closely examine it for any broken or missing straps, and make sure it comes with the instruction booklet. Also, check to see if it was manufactured before 2015 to ensure it meets current safety standards. High chairs can also be accepted from someone you trust, but inspect it to make sure it has a five-point harness and a fixed crotch post so your child can’t climb or slide out.
What baby gear can I buy used?
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but babies grow fast. And if you’re on a budget, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on a onesie that your child will likely wear only once (and ruin during mealtime). You’ll find great deals on baby clothes and shoes at any consignment shop or thrift store. And if you’re concerned about germs left behind by the previous owner or another shopper, throw the outfit in the wash a few times until it looks and smells like new.
While shopping, you might also find bargains on baby toys, books, gliders, and other pieces of furniture. Just check for any loose or missing parts or chipped paint (it could contain lead). If you’re hoping to sleep at night, be sure to check for deals on used baby monitors because you don’t have to pay retail for peace of mind (and rest).