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Secondhand Baby Gear: Good Deal or Bad Idea?
Cost-conscious new parents may be tempted to shop for used baby gear at yard sales, thrift shops or online. While it can be satisfying to find a bargain, the most important consideration in purchasing items for your newborn is safety. Older products may not meet current safety standards. They may have missing, loose or broken parts, or may have been recalled by the manufacturer.

Before you purchase a used car seat, high chair, stroller or crib, check to see if the product has been subject to recall. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission provides information on product recall at their website: www.cpsc.gov. Additionally, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides an up-to-date list of child car seat recalls at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/recalls/childseat.cfm.

Only consider buying products that appear to be in excellent condition and contain all original restraining straps and safety devices. All surfaces should be smooth and free from protruding hardware or splinters. Any caps, plugs or tubing should be completely secure.

Used car seats are a special safety concern. It's risky to purchase a used car seat unless you personally know the seller. A seat should include the manufacturer's label showing the manufacturer, model number and date of manufacture, and should not be used if it is over six years old or was involved in an accident.

Older cribs may have loosened or missing slats, which could lead to accidental injuries. Be reminded that cribs should have vertical slats no greater than 2 and 3/8 inches apart. Latches should hold securely in place, allowing the sides to be secure and not jiggle when raised. And a mattress must fit snugly. You should not be able to place two adult fingers between the edge of the mattress and the side of the crib.

Heirloom items may be beautiful but many fail to meet current safety standards. For example, cribs may have cutout patterns on the end panels that could entrap a small arm, foot or leg, or could be used to climb by an adventuresome toddler. If the crib was made before 1977, it may have paint that contains lead, another safety concern for youngsters.

Portable cribs and playpens should feel sturdy when assembled and have mesh that is securely attached, tightly woven and free of tears, holes or loose threads.

Strollers and carriages should have a wide base to prevent tipping, brakes that securely lock the wheels and safety straps securely attached to the frame with functioning buckles. A basket that is directly over or in front of the rear wheels may improve stability.

If you cannot verify the safety of a product that interests you, it is better to choose a new item. After all, your child's safety is the highest priority.
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist