Don’t do away with second-hand baby products

by , Conversation Editor Consumer Rights 18 May 2011
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A stark warning this week about second-hand safety is enough to send shivers down the spines of new parents and make them run to their nearest Mothercare. But is brand new always best for baby?

Old-fashioned pram

An email came into my inbox this week. ‘Don’t put your child’s life at risk’ screamed the subject line.

What could be so urgent, I wondered, and clicked through immediately to find out.

It turned out to be a press release from the Baby Products Association (BPA) warning of the dangers of buying second-hand baby goods.

Are hand-me-downs harmful?

The timing of this warning coincides neatly with a spate of births among my peer group. Over the past few months I’ve been digging out baby items that I can pass on to help ease the financial burden of baby number one.

Bags of baby clothes have been sorted, Moses baskets have been squashed into cars and baby monitors retrieved from the back of cupboards – and all have been received with thanks, just as they were when handed down to me.

So am I potentially harming my friends’ babies by doing the generous thing?

Here at Which? we take safety very seriously, which is why we agree with the BPA’s warning about child car seats. ‘You should never buy a second-hand seat as you cannot tell its history,’ says our car safety expert Dave Evans. Here’s his reasoning:

‘If it’s been involved in an accident, hidden internal damage may compromise its safety. Even if it hasn’t, the effect on older seats of prolonged use can mean the plastics may have deteriorated and the buckles and straps have become worn. With Best Buy seats available for less than £100, this is surely a price worth paying to protect your child in an accident.’

Let’s ‘make do’

But when it comes to other products, second-hand items can be a credible alternative to brand new. The BPA, however, believes we should take the same ‘brand-new only’ approach when it comes to prams, pushchairs and cots.

But just how realistic is this for many parents? Not only do these warnings make cash-strapped parents feel guilty, they also generate unnecessary fear in new parents.

‘Making do’ is a concept that many generations of parents have applied to family life, and it’s irresponsible to scaremonger an already consumer-obsessed nation into doing away with that notion.

Yes, when safety is paramount, it’s worth splashing out. Whenever I pass on my Moses basket, for example, I don’t provide the mattress as they pose a risk of cot death when second-hand (and are cheap to buy) but that doesn’t mean friends shouldn’t take the basket and stand.

Babies soon becomes toddlers, who soon become children… these products aren’t used for long before they’re outgrown and surplus to requirements. Buying everything brand new isn’t only tough on our wallets, it’s tough on the environment and totally unnecessary.

11 comments

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rarrar

Its a pity that none of the main charity shops will accept or sell pushchairs, prams and often other nursery equipment due to safety concerns by their head office ( or more likely their insurers).

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www.mothersrus.com

I agree on the baby car seat unless you know where it has come i.e. a family member. However other things like second hand baby clothes are a great way for parents to save money! We sell second hand baby clothing at cheap prices all to give that helping hand.

I can see the sense behind buying new carseats and mattresses but the rest is nonsense. There is so much you need to buy (or think you need to buy) when you have a baby the expense is outrageous. And as Hannah says babies outgrow so much.
Our baby had lots of hand me downs from friends and family which were all hugely appreciated. We also bought a used buggy from eBay which has been brilliant, I checked with our baby product expert at Which? that it was okay to do this.
Rarrar our local Fara kids charity shop does sell used buggies and other baby stuff;

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James Harrison

Everything can be washed and, if necessary checked (like the seat-belts on car seats) for excessive wear. I can only agree with Rarrar that shops don’t want to or contractually can’t sell such things, but happy to know from Shefalee that her local shops do sell such things. We have had years of free clothes donated by friends, which we in turn donated to new parents. The rest from Charity and Ebay. All of which have been fantastic – except for some of the strange fashions! There are also plenty of new things for babies/children which are utterly pathetic and although may pass ‘tests’ are too awful to consider using! Our lovely pram/travel system (Ebay/friends/acquaintences) was meticulously taken apart and cleaned and adjusted so that it WAS like new. Maybe I should start a business to do this!
Essentially, it is up to us – the parents – to ensure the cleanliness and safety of anything that we buy for our children. It is up to us to have fun with our children too and not spend all of our time worrying and stressing over possible dangers. They soon grow up and we get too old.

I couldn’t agree more James, spending too much time worrying is such a waste.

I love your business idea – I think there’d be a real market for it!

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Charlie P

I definately agree with the article and comments. What our children really need are secure, loving parents and a world that isn’t full up with old baby junk! Surely better than us all being stressed out and broke. I find the press release from the Baby Products Association has definately questionable ethics in implying that parents who buy/use second hand are putting their children at risk… presumably when the opposite would profit their members!

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dragilex

I’m all for the 2nd baby stuff market. Already have a 2nd hand pram, crib, and clothes. Obviously stear clear of the car seat and mattress but you can save a lot of money by getting nearly new and like everyone says, most items are not used for long enough to have even gone past their shelf life, let alone their usuable life.

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EL

We have a 2nd hand pram, crib, moses basket, clothes…you name it, we’ve got it. We do think, though, that you need to know where they come from – for us, we were lucky that a lot of our second hand stuff came from some very close family friends, whom we know very well. We think of it like hand-me downs from siblings – we wouldn’t buy new prams and new mattresses for each kid that comes along!

Hi EL, Yes, I agree that it helps a lot when you know where/who it comes from. I went to a car boot sale on Sunday and there was so much second-hand baby stuff. While clothes are really easy to wash and reuse regardless of their history, other products are worth thinking twice about if you don’t know their first owner.

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lruffles

Am I the only one who read this and thought…mmmm interesting, the trade organisation for manufacturers of baby products doesn’t think we should buy second hand. Surely this is just a ploy to ensure that their members continue to sell new products. We’ve got lots of second hand clothes and other baby things, the only thing I wouldn’t buy second hand is a car seat (and to be honest I’d buy that from someone I knew and trusted).

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Mothers R Us

I agree on not having a second hand car seat unless it is from a family member or someone you trust. However second hand baby clothing is an ideal way to save money. You can pick up second hand baby clothing from all sorts of places including our website.

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