10 Used Baby Items to Avoid & Tips for Buying Secondhand Gear

Here are some of the secondhand baby items that it's best to leave on yard sale shelves.

Published October 10, 2023
Girl at yard sale

Babies are expensive. When you see used baby items at a yard sale or consignment store, it can be hard to resist that bargain deal. However, there are certain secondhand baby items that are not safe to use, even if you know the previous owner.

While used clothes and most toys are a steal, we've compiled a list of the baby items that are always best to purchase new. 

10 Baby Items You Should Not Buy Used 

We all want to save money, especially when it comes to baby supplies, but there are certain items that are important to buy new. Here are some of the top secondhand baby items to avoid.

1. Car Seats

Girl in car seat reading

Your baby's car seat is critical to their safety. These are big-ticket items for a reason — they go through rigorous testing to ensure that your child is as protected as possible in the event of a crash. When you buy this item used, you don't know what the integrity of the seat may be by simply looking at its surface.

It could have been mishandled or it could have been in a minor crash. Either way, this is one secondhand baby item that parents should avoid.

Need to Know

Car seats can be passed down from sibling to sibling if they have not been in a crash. However, it is important that you register your device for recalls and check that the car seat has not expired. Extreme temperatures and regular use can degrade the components of the safety seat, which is why the company advises that you replace it after a designated period of time.

2. Breast Pumps

Breast pump on bed

Breast pumps are baby items that are intended for a single user. The Food and Drug Administration notes that "breast pumps that are reused by different mothers can carry infectious particles, which can make you or your baby sick."

3. Cribs

Mom putting baby in crib

Cribs may seem like a relatively safe secondhand baby item to purchase, but used sleeping products can be deadly. Unlike years past, present-day cribs have to follow specific safety standards.

For instance, drop-down sides have been banned, the spaces between the crib slats have been shrunk down, and decorative cutouts are now prohibited. All of these features can potentially lead to suffocation and strangulation.

Additionally, used cribs can have broken or missing parts and they may not snuggly fit present-day crib mattresses. If there is too much space between the mattress and the sides of the crib, it can also pose a suffocation risk.

Finally, many older cribs used lead-based paint. For those who are wondering why this matters, I am here to tell you that you will be shocked at what your baby can do when they are left alone in their crib and teething. 

4. Crib Mattresses

Safe sleep is paramount for babies. This makes the crib mattress another item that should be purchased new. Why? Babies spit up and drool all the time, especially in their sleep. This means that the inside of a used crib mattress could be housing dangerous bacteria and mold. Since you don't want your baby breathing in these things, it is always best to not buy this item used. 

Need to Know

Playpens are normally safe to purchase used if all the parts are accounted for, there is no visible damage, and there have been no recalls. However, if you intend to use this space as a place for your child to sleep, it is best to buy new. Just like crib mattresses, the base accumulates dead skin cells, saliva, food, and other debris that can cause mold and bacteria to grow. 

5. Toy Chests

Those beautiful wooden chests that have been passed down from generation to generation seem like the perfect touch of rustic charm to add to your baby's nursery, but these products have been linked to multiple deaths.

Not only can a small child become trapped in them and suffocate, but without safety lid supports, the tops can slam down on your child's head or neck, causing brain damage and even death.

Instead, parents should look to buy new, open-top toy chests. These can keep things organized, promote a Montessori-style space, and avoid entrapment.

6. Strollers

Every few years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission puts out new mandatory safety standards for strollers to ensure that safety features are of the highest quality and that issues from previous models are remedied. The latest update to these standards occurred on February 15, 2022.

Thus, strollers made prior to this date are not recommended to purchase used. However, if you find a stroller made after this date that is gently used, it is likely safe to snag for a deal!

7. Pacifiers

baby with pacifier

Did you know that you are supposed to replace your kid's pacifiers every two months? Since kids suck and chew on them for hours on end, these baby items experience rapid wear and tear. Not only that, but when cleaned improperly, bacteria can grow inside the nipple. In other words, this is a used baby item you should pass up and an item that you should throw away when your toddler says bye-bye to their binky!

8. Bottle Nipples

Similarly, your baby's bottle nipples go through a lot, which is why most manufacturers recommend swapping them out every two to three months, or as you notice wear and tear. 

9. Bath Toys

Did you know that bath toys with openings are likely to house dangerous mold and bacteria? Research shows that there is a dark side to these ducklings and other water toys without solid surfaces. Buying new bath toys and other water-based play things is best to keep your little one healthy!

10. Bath & Food Products

Unopened foods, soaps, lotions, and powders may seem enticing to grab at a fraction of the cost, but there is no way to know how the previous owner stored these items.

Bath products typically last for two to three years, but as they degrade, you run the risk of causing skin irritation. Formulas also lose their nutritional value over time, and when stored incorrectly, can make a baby sick. In other words, leave these used baby items on yard sale shelves.

Tips for Purchasing Secondhand Baby Items

Happy Toddler Girl Choosing a Ball in Toys Store

Toys, clothes, baby baths, and high chairs are normally great items to buy used. Many of these baby supplies get limited use, making them a steal if you can find them at a yard sale or consignment store for an affordable price.

However, like all used products, these items could be perfectly fine or they could be something you should pass on. How can you tell? 

  • Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website for recalls on the specific item.
  • Double-check for product issues at Recalls.gov.
  • Ask questions about the item's use.
  • Request an instruction manual.
  • Count that all the parts are present. 
    • If an instruction manual is unavailable, you can typically find these documents on the manufacturer's website
  • Test the various functions of the device.
  • Inspect the item for damage, mold, or possible functionality issues.

Finally, take the time to find the product online. Can you get the same item for the same price? With so many stores to shop at, sales that occur throughout the year, and registry deals that are available to new parents, you can often get the item you are looking for at a similar or even lower price tag. 

Always Clean Used Baby Items

Even if they look clean, the final step in buying secondhand baby items is giving them a thorough cleaning. This is especially important for cloth items that can house an array of debris and even pests. Since your newborn's skin will be sensitive at the start, cleaning items completely will help ensure that your little one will have no issues with the secondhand items you purchase. 

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10 Used Baby Items to Avoid & Tips for Buying Secondhand Gear