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Expert Q&A: Choosing Baby Gear

Consumer activist and co-author of Baby Bargains Alan Fields gives the lowdown on where to skimp, save, and splurge for baby.

Why does Baby Bargains recommend so strongly against borrowing or buying a secondhand crib when your goal is to help people save money?

You should never sacrifice safety to save dollars. A lot of cribs, especially those sold prior to 2000, may not be safe. Also, a secondhand crib may have parts missing or be unsafe in other ways. Finally, many products are recalled, and if you can't identify the make and model of a secondhand crib, you may not realize that it's a model that has been deemed hazardous.

What else should parents avoid borrowing or buying secondhand?

We recommend against using a secondhand baby car seat. Car seats quickly become obsolete. So a secondhand seat is likely to have outdated safety features. Also, if you get a secondhand car seat, you don't know if it's been in an accident, which can compromise its integrity.

Toys are another item you should be careful about buying secondhand. There are a lot of toy recalls, so you need to do your research.

Finally, we don't recommend that you use a secondhand crib mattress. A used mattress can harbor bacteria from baby pee, spit-up, and so on. And you don't know how the used mattress was stored, which could also contribute to bacteria, mold, and other issues.

What is the most common mistake you see expectant parents make when buying furniture and other baby gear?

First-time parents often feel they have to get the most expensive baby products and gear that's bloated up with features. For example, many first-time parents buy the Cadillac stroller and then find out that it's incredibly heavy and they can't get it out of the car.

I'd advise expectant parents to avoid rushing out and buying everything before your baby is born. It isn't as if you can't go shopping after the baby arrives. Wait a few months and find out what kind of parent you are and what kind of baby you have.

For example, not every baby is going to need a baby bouncer seat or a swing. But if you end up with a fussy or active baby, a bouncer seat or a swing is essential. Take your time about some of these purchases.

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