That beautiful old wooden high chair that’s been in the family for generations may evoke warm memories — but chances are it’s not a good choice for your new baby. Unless it has a between-the-legs post and waist and crotch straps, you’ll want to buy a new high chair. Use the family heirloom as a plant stand. And that wooden crib you slept in as a baby? It belongs in the attic, not the nursery.

While baby gear that’s handed down, donated by friends or even purchased from garage sales can be a real boon to your budget, it’s not always safe. Safety standards for baby gear such as high chairs, cribs, strollers and car seats are frequently updated, so the best way to make sure you’re using the safest equipment is to buy new.

If you are offered an item that looks like it’s in good shape, you don’t have to reject it out of hand. Just make sure you follow the guidelines outlined here.

High chairs

Besides checking for the aforementioned post and straps, make sure a used chair has a wide, stable base, is sturdy and doesn’t wobble. If it’s a folding model, check the mechanisms to make sure they work and lock properly. And check carefully to make sure all the end caps on any metal tubing are in place and there are no exposed sharp edges.

Car seats

You should never use a child restraint seat unless you are absolutely certain it has never been in an accident. That means skip the yard sales.

You can use a seat from a previous child or a trusted relative or friend as long as you can verify it is less than six years old. Car seats actually expire in six years. Look for an expiration date on the label that shows the manufacturer’s name and the model number. If you don’t find the label, don’t use the seat.

Before using any car seat, new or used, it’s very important to read the user’s manual. If a used seat doesn’t have a manual and you can’t find one online, say no thanks to the seat.


Cribs sold in the United States after June 28, 2011 must adhere to new safety requirements, so don’t use a crib manufactured before that date. Most significantly, the new regulation outlawed traditional drop-side cribs. Immobilizers and repair kits are not allowed.

If you are considering a used crib and you can confirm that was made after June 28, 2011, check the slats or spindles to make sure they are no more than 3/8-in apart.Wiggle each slat to make sure none are loose. In fact, give the whole crib a shake to make sure it is sturdy. Also make sure the mattress fits snuggly.


Strollers get a lot of hard use, so if you are considering a used one, check carefully that it is in good working order. Make sure the brakes, restraining harness and the folding mechanisms work properly. If the seat back reclines fully to a flat position, make sure that the leg openings are adjustable so an infant can’t slip through. And make sure the stroller is wide enough so your baby can’t tip it if she or he leans over.

If the stroller has a shopping basket, make sure it is low on the back or directly over the rear wheels so that packages won’t tip the stroller.

Check for recalls

New products come with cards and web addresses for registering the products. The most important reason to register new products is that you will be notified in the case of a recall. You won’t be able to register a used product, so it’s essential to check or CPSC before you use it.

You’ll need to know the make and exact model. If you can’t find that info on the product, buy a new one instead.

David Schiff is a freelance editor and writer who specializes in home safety, home improvement, woodworking, child safety and music.