Before I knew I was pregnant, I read the book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. After reading this book, I set out a goal for myself to not buy anything but gas and groceries for a year. With this in mind, when I found out I was pregnant, I developed some anxiety about any non-practical things, things soon-to-be outgrown, and general things we would be gifted by excited relatives and friends. I wanted to borrow as many baby items as I could, so I did my research on what baby items I could borrow and what I should avoid.
First I wanted to be sure that anything I bought used did not have a manufacturer recall associated with it. Recalls.gov is supposed to be a good resource. However, there are some items that I would never obtain secondhand.
C A R S E A T S
Car seats that have been in any sort of collision, whether severe enough for the air bags to go off or not, need to be replaced immediately because they are no longer considered safe in the event of a second accident. The plastic can be so easily compromised.
I got a car seat from a friend, who I know was never in an accident. When I took off the padding to wash it, I discovered there was an expiration date. Car seats apparently have expiration dates that are usually about 5-6 years from the date of manufacture. Even without being involved in an accident, the plastic degrades over time and can have invisible cracks and weaknesses. When your child outgrows his carseat, you are actually supposed to destroy it and put the parts in separate garbage bags so no one else can try to use it. There are also options to recycle car seats, but such recycling centers are few and far between and it may cost you money to recycle.
C R I B S
Just two years ago a certain style of crib was banned in the US. That time frame presents two hazards. There are probably many babies out there who are still using these “dropside cribs,” and when they outgrow them, their parents will undoubtedly want these cribs out of the house. A cute vintage find may not comply with Federal and ASTM standards, and it can be difficult to figure out the exact name and model number of a newer crib to check for a recall. Furthermore, hand-me-down cribs have probably been assembled, disassembled, and reassembled numerous times which means there’s a greater chance of missing parts, too.
M A T T R E S S E S
There’s probably a lot more than just pee and poo to worry about. Bed bugs, dust mites, fleas, mold…
B R E A S T P U M P S
A pump you rent from the hospital is a commercial grade, closed system pump, and you simply have to buy your own tubing, flanges, and other accessories to use it. These pumps are also upwards of $1000. Consumer grade pumps are “open systems,” meaning that breast milk can actually make its way to the pump motor, which is not possible to sterilize.
But if you have health insurance, your breast pump is free.* I speak at breastfeeding classes at my local hospital, and the instructors are still hesitant to tell them that their pumps could be covered by insurance. Since January 2013, the Affordable Care Act requires that all insurance companies cover breast pumps at no cost to new moms in the US. You can call your insurance and they may give you an obscure list of places to obtain your pump from, but your local baby boutique, often located at your hospital, will probably be covered as well even if the insurance doesn’t mention it. These stores can check on that coverage for you, check which pump will be covered, and will take care of all the billing. You cannot buy your pump at Babies R Us and get reimbursed because they don’t qualify as a place to buy “durable medical equipment.”
*Unfortunately, some plans in place before March 2010 were “grandfathered in,” and they are not required to comply with the Affordable Care Act provisions. Insurers must notify clients that they have a grandfathered plan, so you can check your paperwork or call the plan if you are unsure. Even plans that are grandfathered in may still have some coverage that could include a deductible or copay.
S E C O N D H A N D B R E A S T M I L K
For a pretty penny, there are certainly reputable milk banks to get breast milk from, and perhaps your very own sister may be a trustworthy resource if she is also breastfeeding. But I’ve seen so many mom groups on Facebook with desperate pleas for donor breast milk from a stranger right this instant. Breastmilk is a bodily fluid and can transmit diseases like any other bodily fluid, diseases that are a lot more serious than the common cold or flu. In light of this risk, I would not hesitate to switch to formula if I needed to.
U S E D G E A R
So what have I gotten pre-loved? I’ve been lucky to borrow a play mat, bathtub, swing, and pack and play from friends. I met a gal who said she lent her swing out to a friend, and by the time she had her second child, 5 families were able to use it! To me, that sounds fantastic. I scored a Snap and Go stroller off Craigslist for $25, and the guy even dropped it off for me on his way to work, and took the time to show me how to use it. At that 3 week mark with an infant and being up all night (finding the ad on Craigslist at 6am while feeding), I felt so blessed!
Clothes! I’ve encouraged friends and family to give me hand-me-downs instead of buying new, and one friend lent me her son’s favorite overalls with peek-a-boo panda bear pocket, which totally warmed my heart. I didn’t really want to get into buying clothes myself, but then I realized I needed to out of necessity because thin cotton outfits with a dozen snaps and 3 separate pieces are impractical and inconvenient. So began the search for enough zip-up fleece sleep and plays to get me through to the next laundry day.
Children’s consignment stores are great, and you can do a Google search for the ones in your area. I was surprised to find that not only are their clothes better quality and in better condition than things I’ve found at the Goodwill in our upscale neighborhoods, but they’re often cheaper, too. There are a lot of huge consignment sales throughout the year in pretty much every state – there’s a compendium here where you can search by your zip code. Just Between Friends is one I have really enjoyed, and they have them in several nearby cities to where I live. Here’s a few things I scored at my first one. I kept an eye out for things she could use down the line, and I love the Jackie O type jackets, especially for when she’ll be able to walk! The yellow one is some brand name from Nordy’s and comes with a matching mod dress.
What are some of the best things you’ve acquired second hand?