- Check Recall Information – The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission is the single most valuable resource for recalls and safety warnings that the modern parent has at their disposal. Their website is a wealth of information for both new and used baby items; parents should make a habit of checking it regularly or signing up for their free email list in order to stay abreast of any developments regarding future recalls.
- Be Sure That Older Furniture Meets Modern Safety Guidelines – If a hand me down crib was made after 2011 it’s almost certain to meet modern safety standards. Cribs before then should not be handed down because they almost certainly are out of compliance and do not include the most lastest minimum safety requirements. Measure the space between slats to ensure that they’re no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, and check to make sure that any paint on very old or antique cribs is not lead-based, that models of any age have not been recalled, and that your mattress fits snugly into the crib with no more than two-fingers width between the edge of the mattress and the sides of the crib. You’ll also want to be sure the headboard and foot board have no ornate cutouts that could post an entrapment risk. Changing tables should feature a railing or raised edge that’s at least six inches higher than the changing surface and safety straps or harnesses to keep wiggling babies in place; high chairs should be checked for stability and any broken or deteriorating pieces.
- Skip the Second-Hand Car Seat – One thing that should not be purchased second-hand, or accepted as a hand me down donation, is a car seat, due to the extreme concerns about their safety and functionality in the event of a car accident. Car seats should always be discarded and replaced after an accident, even if they seem to be intact under close scrutiny. Often, inner workings and safety measures can be compromised after an accident, rendering them practically useless in a second crash. Unless you know the history of a car seat intimately and are absolutely sure that it was never in so much as a fender bender, it’s best to opt for a new model to ensure your new baby’s safety.
- Give Items More Than a Once-Over – A quick glance is usually not sufficient to ensure that all parts of an item are in good working order and that nothing is missing, so take the time to carefully examine a second-hand item. Make sure that all screws and bolts are tight, that surfaces feel stable, and that nothing wobbles; toys should have all pieces intact and present no danger of breaking into smaller parts that could present a choking hazard, and strollers should have working breaks and be free of any rusting, sharp edges, or frayed seams.
- Clean, Clean, Clean – No matter where a second-hand item came from or how clean their houses are, it’s important that you clean them thoroughly to remove any mildew or mustiness due to the item languishing in a storage building, stains of indeterminate origin, bacteria, or foreign bodies. While you’re scrubbing look for corrosion from leaky batteries or expiration dates; some items are made from plastic that degrades over time and may no longer be suitable for use.