Welcoming a baby to your family is legendarily expensive. Aside from birth expenses, the absolute bare minimum you need to buy includes diapers and a car seat, so you're talking hundreds of dollars out of the gate. Add in "all the other stuff," and I'm not surprised that most parents accept hand-me-downs. But there's a big difference between reusing your niece's outgrown clothes for your own baby and dragging a vintage crib out of the attic for your newborn to sleep in. The bottom line? Old used baby gear, especially antique-aged, just isn’t safe.
Basically, you should never mess around with putting your infant in anything not up to modern standards. You know the saying, right? The more we know, the more we grow. Safety protocols and requirements change over time as new information and technology becomes available, meaning the car seat you bought two years ago might not pass muster anymore. Yes, that means you don’t want to put them down in anything that isn’t new — aka, stop searching those “Buy Nothing” groups for the Rock n Play.
Where’s this coming from?
For two decades, I was the gear editor at American Baby magazine and then Parents magazine, and many coworkers and friends liked to chat me up about their baby-gear plans. The number-one topic was around which stroller to choose, which was funny because, No. 1, most people have already decided and just want validation, and No. 2, no stroller is good at everything. So, stop thinking there is a hidden gem that is big, comfy, and able to smoothly glide over rocks while also being so very lightweight and tiny-folding that it fits in an airplane overhead. You get one kind of stroller or the other, folks!
But I digress. Occasionally, a friend would drop some vintage-baby-gear nonsense that would snap me out of my stroller lecture and pivot me into my "Why would you mess with that?" talk.
One friend bragged that she didn't need a modern (read: breathable) bassinet, because her new baby would be the third generation to sleep in a cradle an ancestor had carved out of wood. I said, "You know that's not safe, right?" But she was firm: Nostalgia was going to win out over common sense. I didn't know what else to say except, "Just know that it's a dangerous sleep hazard." I am sure it didn't stop her, but maybe — I hope! — once she put her newborn among those solid wooden walls, she took one picture to show her mother and never used the cradle again. (I'll be honest, I didn't ask, but the baby is now a schoolchild, so I know that things turned out OK.)
Is it really that unsafe?
I will never be cool with people using vintage baby gear, and I am not some outlier. Goodwill will neither accept nor give out used baby gear. Baby2Baby will take an unopened pack of diapers that are now the wrong size for your baby but will not take your used baby swing. Room to Grow needs gently used toddler clothing but can't accept your crib. And so on.
You shouldn't give kids your old '90s toys, and you shouldn't give the less fortunate your old baby gear. The best way to help parents who struggle to afford things is through donations of new, unused gear or money.
So, what to do with all that stuff?
It may be too late to go back and decide to skip buying certain things, like the changing table. Your best bet is to give your local friends any gear that is still so new there is not an updated version on the market. Your second choice is to give gear to nearby relatives or neighbors so that no one is taking it apart and rebuilding it or shipping it and having parts come loose. Everyone involved should check CPSC recalls, too, because even beloved, widely used baby products can be recalled. The last option is to donate it at a swap meet where, again, you can be honest to whoever takes your used gear about how old it is and how much use it's seen. Stuff wears down, people, so think about that when you give and when you receive.
Finally, please don't be a parent who holds the Dock-a-Tot on a basement shelf for your future grandkids. If there are two things I've learned from watching the juvenile-product world for a few decades, they are that styles change (jungle-chic will not be a thing in 2050) and products keep getting safer. If you don't believe me, Google "'80s car seat."