You may find buying baby items secondhand eases the financial pressure that most new parents feel. Even the items that simply help you to feed your baby can add up. However, can you really buy used baby feeding bottles? Or is it even safe to buy a steriliser secondhand? Here’s the key advice you need to read before you buy pre-loved feeding equipment, to help you make a safe decision.
What should you look out for when buying secondhand bottles?
One problem with buying secondhand bottles is that you may not know if it's BPA free plastic – unless it’s a glass bottle of course! While bottles that aren’t BPA free are still sold new, many parents opt to buy BPA-free and many big names have to head the BPA-free route due to consumer demand. On a new product, you can see this flagged up on the packaging.
So what’s the issue with BPA? Scientists found that when plastic bottles are scratched or cracked and hot water is poured into them - for example when making up a formula feed or when sterilising them - BPA can leak into the milk. With the amount of washing and cleaning bottles go through and the large amounts of detergent used to ensure they’re clean, all of which can cause cracking, experts advise against buying scratched or damaged bottles. If you want to buy bottles secondhand, be careful to examine them carefully.
How do you tell if a bottle is BPA-free?
While nothing compares to a reassuring “BPA-free” stamp on the packaging, here’s how to tell what plastics are BPA-free and how they’ll look and behave:
- PES (polyethersulfone) BPA-free bottle – Transparent bottle with a honey-coloured tinge, high scratch resistance.
- PP (polypropylene) BPA-free bottle – Bottle looks slightly cloudy, low scratch resistance.
- Glass bottle – BPA-free, transparent bottle, high scratch resistance.
- PC (polycarbonate) bottle – Contains BPA, transparent bottle, high scratch resistance.
You can find out more about BPA in our BPA safety update.
Should you buy new teats?
The simple answer is yes, buy new. Bottle teats get used regularly and over time the silicone will weaken and deteriorate, so they should be checked regularly, especially once your baby's teeth start coming through. Boiling water used to sterilise teats can make the silicone sticky and unusable. A broken teat can be a choking hazard. For the safety of your baby and the short lifespan of the product, experts suggest you buy new teats for each baby you need to bottlefeed.
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What should you know before buying secondhand electrical items?
All baby feeding products that require mains powered electricity to work, such as sterilisers or electric breast pumps, need to comply with current European Standards and should display BS1363. This indicates it has been fitted with the correct type of plug and therefore complies with the current safety guidelines. You’ll find this info either on the packaging or in the instructions booklet. The British Standards Institute has a whole section relating to the safety of child use and child care products if you want to delve deeper.
There may also be a CE Mark, either on the box or in the instructions. This is a trading standards' law and this mark is required to prove the item has met current safety conditions and can be moved and sold throughout the EU.
Having said this, both marks can only be taken at face value when a product is new, unless you have proof that the item you’re buying has been tested for safety.
Secondhand electrical items safety checks
All electrical items need to be tested by a competent, qualified person to ensure they meet certain safety standards. You may have noticed that charity shops don't usually sell electrical items because they don't employ anyone to test them. Secondhand retailers can only sell appliances fitted with an approved plug with sleeve pins and the correct fuse. Private sellers online, such as eBay, can refuse responsibility for the quality of their goods.
Electrical equipment that has been tested will have a sticker on it to say when it was tested and when it will need retesting and the tester's signature.
Instructions on how to operate the product are required by law to be sold with the item.
If you’re unsure whether the goods are safe and instructions are not included, don’t buy them.
Also check out the Electrical Safety Council website for the Safe Shoppers Guide.
What about recalled items?
When a product is recalled there are always a number of products sold that never make it back to the manufacture, so be careful when you’re buying pre-loved products that you’ve done your research first.
If there’s a certain brand you’re on the look out for, you can also call the manufacturer's customer care centre and ask about recent product recalls, so you don't buy them by mistake.
Where can you buy secondhand feeding kit?
Because of the minefield surrounding BPA-free bottles and mains-powered sterilisers there aren't that many places you can buy feeding equipment from and have peace of mind that it is 100% safe. Here are some places that will sell feeding equipment but always be guided by your own instincts and good judgement:
- NCT sales. They will sell bottles and microwave sterilisers, but they can’t sell breast pumps or mains powered electrical items, like sterilisers.
- Secondhand baby shops. There are more of these springing up over the UK, so do a web search for your nearest one.
- Friends and family. Probably the best port of call, as you can ask questions and you may already know how often something has been used.
More feeding kit buying advice
Whether you're buying secondhand or new, there's some key advice that'll help you find equipment that suits your needs - check out our buyer’s guide to bottles and teats and our buyer’s guide to sterilisers. We've also got a beginner's guide to all the types of sterilisers on the market.
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