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Ways to Make Sure Your Hand-Me-Downs are Safe

When my sister-in-law found out we were pregnant, she immediately offered us the beautiful crib and dresser set her two young daughters had used, but were just about to outgrow. My mother-in-law bought her the set about four years ago and we happily accepted. Not only is the set in great condition, but it is far nicer than anything we could ever hope to buy for ourselves. And better yet, since she’s not quite finished using it, we don’t have to address the whole converting the office into a nursery situation now.

Spoiler alert: there is going to be a lot of upheaval and carrying of heavy furniture involved. If anyone wants to come and help, we’re accepting volunteers.

We are extremely blessed to have family and friends who are finished having babies and have offered us all kinds of wonderful hand-me-downs. When I told a friend of mine about this recently, she recommended that we double check the safety standards for some of these items and I was pretty surprised at what I learned. There have been a lot of safety updates and recalls in the past few years that are definitely worth checking out if you’re getting some hand-me-downs like we are.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of recommendations, but maybe it’ll help jumpstart your search so you can make sure that all your hand-me-downs are safe and ready for your baby.

Cribs
The big concerns with cribs are the distance between the rails and the drop down sides. If the rails are too far apart (greater than 2 3/8 inches) there is a risk of the baby falling out, or getting their head stuck. You also want to make sure that there are 2 locks on the side rails to prevent it from falling, and that the mattress is firm and fits snugly. The latest crib safety standards were released in 2000, so most cribs made after that should be compliant, but better break out your measuring tapes just in case.

Strollers
The most recent safety standard update for strollers was in 2007, so your safest bet is to find a stroller made since then. But since 2007 several different strollers have been recalled for various safety reasons. To be on the safe side, google your stroller and make sure that if there’s a recall the parts have been replaced and that it’s now up to safety standards. Also, double check that the brakes on your stroller work and that the safety harness clips and adjusts to fit snugly.

High Chairs
When it comes to high chairs, I have to admit, the antique ones look pretty cool. But it turns out that many of them aren’t all that safe. Or comfortable for babies, especially if they’re the classic wooden ones. The most important things to check on your high chair is that it has a good quality harness and a post between the legs to keep the baby from sliding out the bottom.

Car Seats
Hand-me-down carseats are a little trickier than the rest of the items. You need to make sure that the seat is in good condition, but also that it’s never been in a car accident, even if it was unoccupied at the time because there can be micro trauma that you can’t really see. If the seat is more than 6 years old, it’s best to politely decline these, because the parts can wear out and this is one of those times where you need all the materials to be in tip top shape.

Baby Clothes
This one is probably the easiest, though it surprised me to find out that this was an area I should be concerned about. You need to double check that snaps and buttons are all well affixed and not likely to fall off, since they pose a choking hazard. And if you’re using a special detergent, be sure and wash them with your soap before dressing your baby in their new gear.

Get more information on hand-me-down safety from WebMD
Get more information on car seat safety from SeatCheck.org

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