However, there are times when it's smart to reuse baby gear and times when it's safer to toss what you’ve got and start from scratch.
Getting ready for your second child? This time it’s all about saving money and less about buying everything under the sun for your newborn (that poor second kid is getting the shaft already) but there are some items you most definitely should be shelling out for again, for the sake of your baby’s health and safety.
As a general rule, check for recalls on all the baby gear and goodies you plan on reusing, no matter how big or small. And be aware of any laws that may have passed since the birth of your first child regarding use of bumper pads. Otherwise, here’s the lowdown on what’s safe to put into rotation a second time around.
If your children are close in age, there may be a second life for the crib — providing your eldest is in a bed already, that is. “Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for any recalls,” advises Joseph Shamie, president of Delta Children. “If the crib is less than two years old and has not been recalled, then it will meet the current safety standards.” Just make sure no parts of the crib are broken or cracked and that crib slat spacing meets safety standards. If it is a drop-side crib — though typically not recommended — Shamie advises contacting the manufacturer for a retrofit part to stabilize the side and make it non-drop.
If your older child has moved to a toddler bed and you’re planning to reuse your crib, think twice about reusing the mattress. “Do not reuse a crib mattress unless it is made of all organic materials,” advises Jessica Lahner, Ph.D., owner of Jax in the Box, an online store dedicated to selling gently used toys and kid gear. “Research suggests that off-gassing from synthetic materials is correlated with SIDS, and the older the mattress, the higher the risk.”
Car seats should never be reused if they have ever been in a car accident or if their complete history is unknown. “Even minor car accidents can cause microscopic damage to car seats that decreases their strength for providing protection,” says Dr. Michelle Bennett, pediatrician and founder of Mama Seeds. Car seats actually have an expiration date. Look for that magic number imprinted on the bottom of the seat or seek out the sticker on the seat that lists manufacturer, model number and manufacture date. “If there is not an expiration date specified, assume that the seat expires six years after the manufacture date,” says Dr. Bennett.
Ideally, you exchanged bottle nipples several times for your older child throughout their tenure as a bottle-lover. Follow the same route with your newborn and purchase all new nipples for their use. “Reusing BPA-free plastic bottles is OK if the bottles are free of scratches,” says Lahner. Chances are, this is one place you plan to buy completely new anyway, just to get a fresh start on feedings. Put yourself in baby’s place — would you want to inherit, say, someone else’s heavily used coffee mug?
The fun — and sometimes sleep-inducing — baby gear like bouncers, strollers, swings, high chairs, stationary activity centers and toys are usually fair game for reuse. “Parents need to inspect for wear and tear, such as plastic that is breaking or showing signs of strain,” advises Lahner. “If the items remain in good shape, wash and sanitize and feel free to reuse.” Your older child may feel a little territorial in this area, however, so proceed with caution before attempting to turn over their stuff to the new kid on the block.
You may not have wanted used clothing for your first child, but reusing your eldest’s outfits for your newborn is a smart move, especially if your second child is the same gender. “Look the clothes over for signs of excessive wear and working zippers,” advises Lahner. “Check for long strings that could pose a safety hazard.” And, of course, if you’re facing a box full of onesies with impossible stains, just toss ‘em and get your newborn a few well-deserved fresh threads.
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