The Lowdown On Hand-Me-Downs
A friend from the office offers you the car seat that her son has outgrown. Should you accept?
Probably not, unless the car seat is nearly new, the instructions are intact and you are certain it has never been in an accident or subject to a recall. "Used products increase the chance that something's broken, worn out or doesn't work right," says Sandy Jones, co-author with her daughter, Marcie Jones, of Great Expectations: Your All-in-One Resource for Pregnancy & Childbirth and Great Expectations: Baby's First Year (both, Sterling).
Ideally, any gear you rely on to protect your child—whether it's car seats, strollers, even cribs—should be purchased new. Safety standards change, and straps, buckles and harnesses wear out. "With cribs, screw holes can weaken, and the glue and staples that hold the bars could be affected," Sandy Jones says. If you do buy a used crib, inspect it carefully to make sure all the parts are present and in working order, and use a soda can to test the spacing of the bars; if the can fits through, the bars are too far apart and pose a strangulation hazard.
Avoid strollers sold at yard sales, as their treads tend to be worn out and the reclining mechanisms may not work well; if you accept a used stroller from a trustworthy friend or relative, first roll it around with a child inside. "Wheels get out of alignment, veer to one side or become wobbly," explains Jones. "You can't tell how it will steer until there's a weight inside."
In general, don't accept used products that could have hygiene issues, like a crib mattress or breast pump. Rental pumps are the exception; the bottles and tubing are designed so that the milk never touches the working parts of the pump. (For additional guidance on buying used baby products, go to fitpregnancy.com/buyingtips.)
For baby-product safety information, check out the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (cpsc.org) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org). Also, the infant/child section of recalls.org provides extensive information on recalled products.
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