New or Used: What You Can and Can’t Buy for a Baby
Babies are expensive. They need a lot of stuff, and they’re constantly outgrowing things. Because of this, many parents want and need to buy a few items secondhand. While there are certain pieces of baby equipment you should absolutely always buy new, you might be surprised at the number of things you’re perfectly able to buy used.
Buying used is a great way to not only save money, but also to help the environment. It reduces waste and prevents potentially large items of furniture heading to the landfill. A lot of baby stuff is made of plastic, which takes a long time to decompose, so it’s much better to reuse than buy something that can’t be recycled.
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Playpens aren’t necessarily an ‘essential’ item, but they are a great buy if you can find a good one. Not only are they a fantastic way of always knowing where your baby is if you have to take on a household task (keeping them in your eye line, of course), but they also provide fantastic storage for wayward toys, books, and other bits and bobs that would otherwise be scattered over the floor. Better to pop them in a playpen than risk standing on a Lego!
Because most playpens are made from materials that are straightforward to clean, a secondhand one will more than suffice. Just make sure to disinfect it thoroughly once it arrives, and stress-test the sides to make sure there’s no risk of sudden collapse.
It’s perfectly fine to buy a crib secondhand if you’re sure it’s safe for your baby to sleep in. A new crib can run to several hundred dollars, and a used one will cost only a fraction of that. Before collecting your crib, look up the make and model online, so you know what parts should be included and what it’s supposed to look like once assembled. As with a playpen, you should also thoroughly test it for strength and safety before your baby starts sleeping in it.
While a secondhand is okay, you should absolutely never buy or use a used baby mattress, nor should you ever use the same mattress for even another one of your own children. Mattresses can harbor mold and bacteria, no matter how often they’re washed.
Prams and travel systems
Prams and travel systems are among the most expensive baby items if bought new, and while you don’t want to cut corners, babies spend a lot of time in them and need to be safe and comfortable. You can pick up a perfectly fine used system. Just make sure you’ve read the instructions and safety specifications for the make and model you’re buying, and that you have all the parts. Clean and disinfect all surfaces, and check the safety features before putting your baby in it.
In all honesty, you don’t really need a baby bath. That’s why there are so many secondhand ones available online. Most babies are fine to be bathed in a sink or can be supported in a full-size bath even when tiny. If you do want a baby bath, buy it secondhand. It’s not likely to see much use.
Given that they’re pretty much all the same, and serve the same function, the price of high chairs may surprise you. Some can cost several hundred dollars! Most high chairs exist only to keep your baby secure while he or she mashes food on every surface they can reach, so buying one secondhand is perfectly okay. As with any other secondhand baby equipment, you’ll need to make sure it’s safe and clean before the baby goes anywhere near it, but fortunately, due to the mentioned food-mashing, most high chairs are designed to be easily cleaned.
As with cribs, you’ll want to buy a new pad for the top of the changing table for hygiene reasons, but you can buy the table itself secondhand. Go for one with drawers in for extra storage, and don’t worry if it doesn’t match your nursery’s color scheme. That’s nothing a little sandpaper and a coat of paint won’t fix!
You’re also fine to buy any other nursery furniture you want, such as rocking chairs or bureaus secondhand. Just bear in mind that while those picture-perfect nurseries you see on Instagram are full of beautiful furniture, you don’t actually need most of it. Skip it if you need to spend elsewhere.
Where to buy
If you’re a true bargain hunter, your first port of call should be garage sales, jumble sales, and local thrift stores. While a lot of these places won’t have larger items of furniture, there are thrift stores that focus on bigger bits and pieces, so it’s likely there’s one in your area. Many will also deliver items to your home for a reasonable fee.
If you have no luck in stores or sales, classified adverts are also a great place to hunt down a bargain. There are online forums such as Gumtree, where you can find items for sale in your local area, and many stores still have notice boards where people can advertise things they want to sell. Failing that, try an online auction site such as eBay or a Facebook auction listing. Expect that you’ll have to collect from the seller if it’s a large item.
You may not even need to buy anything. If you have friends, colleagues, or family members who have slightly older children, it’s entirely likely that they have all sorts of great baby stuff just lying around their house taking up space. They’ll be glad for you to take it off their hands!
Once your baby has outgrown things, or you don’t need them anymore, simply give them away or sell them on. As long as they’re still safe and can be cleaned, they’re safe to use again.