New vs. Used Baby Items: Is It Safe to Save?

Items you can safely buy secondhand

A lot of planning goes into having a baby, from deciding where to give birth to choosing a name. Parents-to-be also need to ensure that they have the basic baby gear they’ll need to welcome their new arrival. Buying gently used baby items can save money, but when budgeting for having a baby, there are certain items that should only be purchased new.

Key Takeaways

  • Certain baby items, such as clothing, cloth diapers, high chairs, and changing tables, are safe to buy used if they’re clean and in good condition.
  • Other baby items, such as car seats and cribs, should be purchased new purely for safety reasons.
  • When budgeting for having a baby, it’s important to consider which items are essentials and which are “extras” that you may be able to forgo to save money.
  • Thrift stores, secondhand shops, consignment shops, and eBay are some of the places where you can buy gently used baby items to save money.

Baby Items That Are Safe to Buy Used

When having a baby, saving money is usually a priority for parents. After all, the cost of raising a child to age 18 is $233,610 on average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That figure doesn’t include expenditures for college, which can easily land in the five- or even six-figure range. So it makes sense that parents would want to cut costs as much as possible when stocking the nursery.

To help you prepare a baby budget, here are some of the items that are safe to buy in used condition to save money.

Baby clothes and shoes

Buying used baby clothing can be a smart move since babies grow quickly—what fits them one week may not fit them the next. The types of baby clothing that can be purchased used include onesies, sleepers and pajamas, shirts, pants, socks, coats, hats, and shoes. When purchasing used baby clothing, check for stains, tears, missing buttons, and broken zippers.

Baby furniture

Outfitting a nursery could easily break a new-baby budget if you’re splurging on high-end furniture. A simple way to save money is to stick with basic furniture that you can buy used. Some of the things you might consider buying used include a changing table, a dresser, and a rocker. Similar to purchasing used baby clothes, it’s important to inspect baby furniture to make sure it’s in good condition.

Cloth diapers

Using cloth diapers can be a money saver for parents. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a typical family spends $1,000 on disposable diapers during a baby’s first year. That number doesn’t include additional spending on baby wipes or diaper rash cream. Reusable cloth diapers may be a cheaper option—and they can be more environmentally friendly. As long as they’re thoroughly cleaned and sanitized, cloth diapers are safe to purchase used.

High chairs and booster seats

High chairs and booster seats are generally safe to buy used, though it’s important to go over them carefully to look for any potential safety hazards. For example, a high chair with a broken or missing harness to keep the baby in place could be a safety risk. It’s wise to check the manual for size and weight limits, too. And consider the cleanliness factor. Food can easily hide in the crevices of a high chair or booster seat, so it’s important to give these items a good cleaning before use.

Baby baths

A baby bath can be helpful for keeping your infant clean until they’re able to sit up on their own. Baby baths can be purchased used as long as they’re in good condition—meaning that there are no visible cracks or mold in evidence. However, use caution when purchasing used baby bath toys, as mold can easily collect inside and on them.

Carriers, wraps, and slings

Studies suggest that babywearing—carrying your baby close to your torso in a sling or carrier—can promote bonding and attachment, as well as encourage language development, while keeping parents’ hands free to perform other chores. Baby carriers, wraps, and slings can be safely purchased used if they’re inspected carefully beforehand. Parents will want to check for any excessive wear in the material or in the buckles and closures that hold the carrier, wrap, or sling in place.

Some of the best places to buy used baby items include thrift stores, secondhand stores, consignment shops, and online resale websites.

Baby Items That Should Be Purchased New

Certain items of baby gear should only be purchased new for safety reasons. While this could mean spending more money for those items, it can be a wise investment to protect your baby from harm.

Car seats

A car seat is one of the most important pieces of baby gear that parents can purchase. If you’re involved in an accident, the right car seat can help to protect your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidelines on choosing a car seat. Specifically, you should never use a car seat that:

  • Is past the manufacturer’s expiration date
  • Has visible cracks or damage
  • Is missing a label showing the manufacturing date and model number
  • Was recalled by the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Is missing instructions or parts
  • Has been in a crash

You can find out if a car seat is subject to a recall by contacting the manufacturer directly or checking the NHTSA’s online recall center for car seats. You will only need the brand name or model. If you have a complaint or concern regarding a car seat, you can call the NHTSA’s Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or complete the online form.

Cribs and crib mattresses

Used cribs and crib mattresses can pose safety risks if the crib is damaged or has a drop rail or if the mattress has developed dips that could potentially create a suffocation hazard. When shopping for a crib, make sure it’s soundly constructed and that there are no missing parts. Slats should not be too widely spaced, as this can allow the baby’s head or body to slip through. (Older cribs may predate the most recent safely regulations on construction.) Crib mattresses should be firm and tight-fitting to reduce the possibility of the baby getting caught between the mattress and the crib’s sides.

Playpens, play yards, or pack-n-plays are better off being purchased new to prevent safety hazards as well as minimize wear and tear. If you decide to buy a used playpen, make sure to pick one made after 2012, when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission approved strict regulations for safety standards.

Strollers

A baby stroller can make it easier to get out and about, but these items are generally best purchased new rather than used. Stroller safety standards were updated in 2015, and parents are advised against purchasing a stroller made before that date.

If cost is a concern, consider looking for an adaptable stroller that can grow with your baby. It may be a bit pricier, but investing in a stroller that can be used through your baby’s different growing stages means that you won’t have to spend more money replacing it as they move from newborn to infant to toddler.

Breast pumps

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers breast pumps to be single-use devices, meaning that they’re not to be used by more than one person. Reusing one could put a breastfeeding mother at risk of potentially harmful bacteria or other infectious agents. For that reason, this is another item that is best purchased new to protect the health of mother and baby.

Bottles, pacifiers, and teething toys

While some parents prefer breastfeeding, bottle feeding may be more practical or even necessary for others. And many parents rely on pacifiers or teething toys to soothe and calm fussy infants. While these items can be purchased used, buying new may be preferable for a few reasons.

Buying bottles new is the best way to ensure that you’re getting BPA-free items. BPA, or bisphenol A, can present numerous health risks to babies and infants. Bottle nipples can also degrade over time, so buying new can help you avoid any health risks associated with degraded nipples. With teething rings and pacifiers, buying new ensures that you’re getting clean, germ-free items.

Is it OK to buy a used crib?

Cribs and crib mattresses are baby items that are best purchased new to minimize potential safety risks. Older cribs, particularly those with a drop rail feature, could present a safety hazard to newborns, infants, and toddlers.

Are used baby toys safe?

Used baby toys are generally safe as long as they’ve been thoroughly cleaned and are in good working order. Baby toys that have been recalled, are broken in some way, or have been allowed to collect mold could be unsafe to give to children. You can check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website for recalled toys and other baby products.

Are old strollers safe?

Strollers made before 2015 do not meet current safety standards. If you have a stroller made after 2015, it may be safe to use, but it’s important to inspect it thoroughly to look for excessive wear and tear or visible damage.

The Bottom Line

Deciding which baby items to buy new vs. used can help with fine-tuning a baby budget and potentially saving money. When buying used isn’t an option, there are still things that parents can do to save on baby gear, including adding essential items to a baby registry, using coupons or online promo codes to shop, and buying items on sale whenever possible.

Article Sources
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  2. HealthyChildren.org, American Academy of Pediatrics. “Buying Diapers.”

  3. Hospital for Special Surgery. “Babywearing Is Healthy, If Done the Right Way.”

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  7. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, via Federal Register. “Safety Standards for Infant Sleep Products.”

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  10. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. “CPSC Approves New Federal Safety Standard for Play Yards.”

  11. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. “CPSC Approves New Federal Safety Standard for Carriages and Strollers.”

  12. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Buying and Renting a Breast Pump.”

  13. Mass.gov, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “Protect Your Baby from BPA (Bisphenol A).”

  14. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. “CPSC Approves Strong New Crib Safety Standards to Ensure a Safe Sleep for Babies and Toddlers.”

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