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While it's fine to buy used toys and clothes, there are a few items you should buy new. "Stay away from anything used that has to do with safety, hygiene and feeding," says Oli Mittermaier, co-founder of The Lila Guide: Baby Gear Buyer's Guide (OAM Solutions, 2005).
Prime examples: car seat, crib, mattress and breast pump. To see if products you own have been recalled, go to . For car seat recalls, go to www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
• Car Seat You have no way of knowing if a car seat has been in an accident, which can compromise the cushioning foam. Also, safety standards change, and belts, buckles and harnesses wear out. "It's just not a good idea to take a chance on using a car seat that is more than 5 to 7 years old," advises Alan Fields, co-author of Baby Bargains.
• Crib In 1999, crib safety standards were revised, but cribs aren't date-stamped. If you don't know when a crib was manufactured, don't buy it.
• Breast Pump Potential contamination is the reason to steer clear of previously owned breast pumps. Milk can get into the pumping mechanism; if it's not properly cleaned and sterilized, there is a risk not only of malfunction, but also of transmission of infectious diseases.
Since there is no way to guarantee proper cleaning and sterilization, both Fields and Mittermaier recommend buying a new breast pump or renting a hospital-grade pump instead of buying a secondhand one. Hospital-grade pumps are guaranteed against contamination, says Corky Harvey, M.S., R.N., C.L.C., co-owner of The Pump Station in Santa Monica and Hollywood, Calif.
Looking to save some beans on baby gear? Here are tips for finding great deals online from Alan Fields, co-author of Baby Bargains (Windsor Peak Press, 2005):
• Go to www.froogle.com and type in the specific name of the item you are looking for, such as "Britax Roundabout." Results are sorted by price, from lowest to highest.
• Try to find free shipping or coupon code offers by going to www.google.com and doing a search by vendor plus "coupon code," e.g. "Babystyle coupon code."
• Surf parenting message boards for coupon codes, bargains and freebies that other parents have found. The board at www.babybargains.com, for instance, gets 25,000 posts per month.
• Scan the free electronic classifieds at www.craigslist.com if you live in one of the areas it covers. It's a great way to get bulkier items, like a dresser or changing table, because you pick up the item locally instead of paying for shipping.