Hand Me Downs for Your Family: Accept or Politely Decline?

There are some handy gently used items that are offered to moms throughout their child’s growing years. Hand-me-downs can be so helpful and a blessing for a growing family, but did you know that some are potentially unsafe to pass on to others for reuse? Let’s discuss common hand-me-down items and whether they’re great to have or should be declined (and/or recycled) and why.

New or Gently Used?

When I was preparing for my first child, I had it stuck in my brain that everything had to be new. Not only did this cost a ton of money, but it was totally unnecessary. Once I saw the costs of new children’s items and saw how simple it was to clean hand-me-downs to my liking, I began shopping for used items and saw the joy in accepting second hand items.

There are plenty of hand-me-downs that you will definitely want to consider accepting. Make sure you thoroughly clean any hand-me-downs you receive to remove any unwanted germs and inspect them for damage. Here are some types of acceptable hand-me-downs.

  • Clothing: It’s okay if it has a small stain, snag or doesn’t fit perfectly. Your child will look adorable and there are unlikely any serious safety concerns to be worried about with clothing (assuming it is not damaged). Used clothing is probably the most popular hand-me-down item passed around. Children are only in a certain size for a limited amount of time and the clothing is made to last for longer than that. The more we can utilize hand-me-down clothing, the better!
  • Books: The love of reading is a beautiful thing to pass down to a child. A little wear and tear on a book just shows the new recipient how much more they should love books (that and you don’t have to worry so much that your child wants to read him/herself and accidentally tear a page).
  • Toys: Hand-me-down toys can be a great addition to your child’s early years. Just make sure that the toys are fully operational and haven’t been recalled. The hand-me-down toys may not last as long as ones you may purchase new, so make sure to keep tabs on them as the children play.
  • Dishes: Children can be picky when it comes to what bowl, plate, cup or silverware they want to use. Plus, if you put them in a cabinet or drawer that they can reach in the kitchen, they make for great fun! Accepting dish hand-me-downs will come in handy.
  • Cloth: Things like towels, burp cloths and washcloths are great to use second hand. They’re bound to get dirty with your kids, so using hand-me-downs are great!

It is recommended that you politely decline, recycle or discard the following children’s items.

  • Cribs: The Consumer Product Safety Commission updated its regulations on cribs beginning in 2011. Be sure to check that the crib you’re about to inherit is up to date and safe for your little one. If it meets all of the standards, then by all means accept the crib.
  • Car seats: Unless you know and the trust the person who you are receiving the used car seat from really well, I would politely decline. You have to know that the car seat has never been in an accident, isn’t expired, the plastic hasn’t been in extreme weather or age to cause it to become brittle or isn’t missing parts. All of these things could risk your child’s life if they were in an accident. Try your very best to buy new car seats.
  • Pacifiers and bottle nipples: Did you know that you should replace pacifiers every 4 weeks? For this reason and sanitary reasons please do not accept used pacifiers and bottle nipples. If you do accept bottle nipples, make sure they are from someone reliable and that there are no signs of damage or overuse.
  • Bath toys: You wouldn’t believe how quickly bath toys can collect mildew and mold. I would highly recommend discarding these and purchase new ones. And when all else fails, bring the measuring cups in the bathtub and throw them in the dishwasher afterwards!
  • High chairs: Just like car seats and cribs, high chairs also have updated safety standards that be observed before using. Also, be sure to check to see if there are no recalls on the high chair before accepting.
  • Breast pumps: There are two types of breast pumps: open and closed systems. All rental pumps are closed systems where the milk never comes into contact with the parts of the pump, making it safe to switch between mothers. Most pumps that you can purchase at the store are open systems. This means that the milk particles can come into contact with the breast pump’s motor. If the hand-me-down pump you are about to accept is an open system, I would think twice before accepting due to hygiene. Read more at LLLI.
  • Mesh-sided baby equipment: Be sure to thoroughly inspect any play yard for holes before allowing your child in them. If there are holes present, you should consider declining the pack ‘n play hand-me-down.

There are many other hand-me-downs that you may receive. Use your common sense on whether or not to keep them. When in doubt, accept them and be sure to quickly check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s list of recalled items before allowing your child to use them. What a wonderful gift to receive hand-me-downs. It’s an opportunity to put less in the landfills and fill your home with gently used items that will help create a beautiful childhood.

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