PARENTS

Sensible Second Hand Shopping For Your Baby

09/06/2014 16:27 | Updated 22 May 2015

Baby gear: Savvy second hand shoppingRex Features

Buying second hand for your baby needn't mean second best. With so many products used for such a short time, there are countless barely touched bargains and hand-me-downs to be had, all helping you cut the cost of parenting.

But some items of baby gear are better suited to second hand purchase than others and it's important to be aware that a few shouldn't be bought used at all.

Here's our guide.

Brilliant second-hand buys

The following items are ideal for second hand purchase, although do keep in mind that older products might have been made before modern safety standards were introduced and damage or deteriation could compromise safety. We've included some checks and pointers for each category, to ensure that your bargains will be safe for your baby. Clothes

Baby clothing might only have been worn for a matter of weeks before being outgrown, so you've every chance of picking up fantastic buys at a fraction of their original prices.

Watch out for: Check buttons aren't loose and watch out for drawstrings on older items.

Toys

Baby gear: Savvy second hand shoppingRex Features

Especially good for sturdier, higher value items such as ride-ons, trikes and push-along trolleys.

Watch out for: Chips and splinters in wooden toys, old paint (this could contain toxic lead), loose pieces or anything which is small enough to be a choking hazard.

Cots, cribs and moses baskets

Because these are pretty durable, they're a popular second-hand buy but you need to take particular care about their condition given your baby will be unattended in them at times. Moses basket and crib bargains are especially easy to find as these are only usually used for a few months.

Watch out for: Cot and crib bars should be no more than 6.5cm apart (so your baby's head can't get trapped between them).

There should be a low base position - the top of the mattress needs to be 50cm or more below the top of the cot (so that older babies can't fall or climb out).

Any paint or varnish should be in good condition - if it's peeling or flaking off, you might need to strip it and repaint.

Buy a new mattress which fits well. (See www.fsid.org for more information and advice on this.)

Travel cots

These might have had only limited use before being outgrown, although others which have doubled as a playpen back home might have taken more of a battering.

Watch out for: Check instructions are included as travel cots can be a nightmare to assemble and fold up if you don't have them (and sometimes even if you do!)

Look at the mattress to ensure it's in good condition and that any waterproof cover isn't torn or cracked.

If possible, open the cot up and check it stays up when assembled, so that it can't collapse on your baby.

Baby baths

Plastic baby baths are pretty indestructible, making them likely to be in decent condition.

Watch out for: Anything that's too mildewy or mouldy - the effort of cleaning it up might not be worthwhile given you can pick up a new bath for under a tenner.

Changing units

Many parents only use these until their baby gets mobile (when they switch to changing nappies on a mat on the floor), so again, good condition bargains abound.

Watch out for: Ensure all bolts and screws are included. If you can view the item in person, check it's sturdy and stable.

Reusable nappies

Not everyone will fancy buying these second-hand but provided they're clean, there's no reason not to and you can always wash them once or twice extra before using them on your baby.

Specialist reusable nappy sites sometimes have secondhand marketplaces - try The Nappy Site and Usednappies.co.uk.

Watch out for: Fraying hems and any staining which looks like it won't wash out, if that bothers you.

Baby gear: Savvy second hand shoppingPA

Highchairs

One of the more expensive baby gear buys faced by parents - a second-hand highchair can be a big money-saver.

Watch out for: Missing screws/ bolts which make the chair feel less sturdy.

Check any removable tray can be taken on and off easily and if the highchair folds that the mechanism still works and that it 'locks' open properly.

Avoid highchairs with cracks in the plastic - food could get lodged in them, not to mention tiny fingers.

The same goes for flaking paint or splintered wood. Make sure there's a safety harness and its buckle still works. If there isn't one check you could add a separate harness (these can be bought separately).

There's a lot of variation in used pushchair condition. Sometimes you'll find almost immaculate sets of wheels with barely any sign of use, others will literally have been around the block rather too many times.

Best bought in person but if you're shopping for a used pushchair online, ensure there are plenty of photos.

Watch out for: Check the brakes engage properly, the folding mechanism works - does the chassis stay locked when unfolded and folded?

Ensure there's no rust or flaking paint on the chassis and torn or frayed seat fabric.

Note that current safety standards require a five-point, rather than three-point harness - not all older models will have one.

These are a very popular second-hand buy. They usually wash well if they're grubby and some are available barely-used as not all parents get on with them.

Watch out for: Torn or over-stretched fabric which could compromise the sling or carrier's security.

Check instructions are included or that you can download them online - slings and carriers can be hard to use initially so these are essential.

Stair gates

These normally last well but that said most stay up in houses for at least a year and take a bit of a battering from toddlers, so you should expect a few scuffs and a bit of wear and tear.

Watch out for: Try out the locks to see if they still work properly. The bars should be no more than 6.5cm apart.

Avoid wooden gates where the wood has cracked or splintered and metal ones where the bars or frame have bent.

Check instructions and all the necessary fittings are included.

Cheap baby monitors which use older analogue technology can be a false economy, as many suffer annoying levels of interference - you might well be better off buying a better quality digital model second-hand.

Watch out for: The cables shouldn't be more than 20cm long under modern safety standards. There should be no sign of wear and tear or repairs having been made to the monitor.

Proceed with caution

Cot and crib mattresses

Ideally these should be bought new as used mattresses have been associated with a higher risk of cot death (see FSID's website for more information).

If you are buying used, check the mattress is in good condition and has no rips or tears in the cover.

Car seats

The problem with second-hand car seats is that there could be damage which is not visible which could compromise your baby's safety in the event of a collision. Experts (and not just those speaking on behalf of car seat manufacturers trying to boost sales!) do recommend that wherever possible, parents purchase a new car seat.

If this really isn't an option, buy a seat which you can check the history of with someone you trust - family or friends are the best sources. If the seat has been involved in a collision, even if it looks okay, or is more than a few years old, steer clear.

After your purchase

Chances are you'll want to clean up your baby buys before letting your little one use them. Be particularly careful about putting strong cleaning products on anything which he or she might chew or have next to their skin and rinse items very thoroughly afterwards.

Method's range is non-toxic and worth looking at or you could search online for home-made solutions.

Instruction manuals are particularly important for baby products as they might have included vital safety warnings. If you have bought something which is missing instructions, check the manufacturer's website to see if you can download them.

Selling on

The savviest 'second-hander' parents buy decent used goods, make the most of them for a few months, and then sell them on themselves for little less than they paid!

If you're interested in doing this, make sure you keep packaging and instructions for the next person and clean the product up before taking any photos or heading to a second-hand sale, as this will help maximise your returns. For eBay sales, do a thorough search of competing products on the site to come up with your starting price.

Where to look

Whilst previously thrifty mums- and dads-to-be had to traipse around car boot sales and second-hand stores, the internet has opened up a whole new world of buying opportunities.

Here are our best bets – online and off:

NCT Nearly New sales: Popular sales of used baby gear. Search here for your next local event.

eBay: Needs no introduction! But watch out for 'over-bidding' on auction sites – it's easy to end up over-paying when you're keen to succeed in buying a particularly item so set yourself a limit.

Preloved, Freecycle and Gumtree: Plenty of baby gear and you can search locally.

www.pushchairtrader.co.uk: Dedicated site for buying and selling used pushchairs.

Car boot sales: More hit and miss these days - larger ones should have some parents selling off old gear but there's no guarantee of what you'll find. On the upside it's easier to view things before you buy.

Friends: Ask around - many parents of slightly older kids are keen to offload outgrown items!

Liat Hughes Joshi is co-author of What to Buy for Your Baby published by Crimson.

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