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?
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.