Hand-Me-Downs: What to Keep (and What to Toss)

Once you’ve had more than one child, you know a lot about parenthood—including the magic of hand-me-downs. The first child is gifted new everything: clothes, crib, car seat, toys, changing table and more. Then the little brother and sister end up with, well, much of that same stuff. Exactly what should you hand down to your second, third (and if you’re crazy enough, fourth and subsequent) children? And what should be bought new for each child? Here’s the breakdown.


Clothes: KEEP! REUSE! Our third child barely has worn a new piece of clothing in his four years of life. Grandma may buy him a cool Star Wars t-shirt now and then, but for the most part, his older siblings’ drawers get emptied right into his. This works out perfectly as he tears a hole in most pants on day one, so there’s not much heartbreak when his hand-me-downs go into the trash. Babies are the same way. They spit up and poop through their clothes (you know this by now if you have one). Why buy new clothes for them to stain? Of course, you may want to purchase a new “coming home from the hospital” outfit or, if you have your first girl and her older siblings are boys, maybe a few new dresses. But most days she can hang out in big brother’s frog pajamas and be all set.


Shoes: Depends on the shoes. And the kid. My boys wear their sneakers until they have holes in the bottom, making them ineligible for the hand-me-down pile. A cute pair of dress shoes, however, that are still in good shape? Pass them on. Snow boots, cleats, dance shoes, etc., definitely can be reused as well.


Expensive baby gear: REUSE! When our second and third were born, we dragged out the trusty bouncy seat and exer-saucer from the basement. We dusted them off, installed new batteries and plopped that baby right on in. Same goes for high chairs, cribs, swings, Pack ’n Plays and strollers. Of course always register your products so you can be notified of a recall. Check for broken parts like straps that don’t function properly anymore and loose parts that can fall off and choke Baby. For example, drop-down side cribs have been deemed highly unsafe, so parents who used them in the past have now had to purchase a new crib for younger siblings. Also, sometimes items just aren’t going to make it past one or two kids. Our stroller didn’t. My kids and I beat the you-know-what out of it, going to parks, play dates, shopping and on long walks, so it needed to be replaced before Number Three arrived. Sometimes you just need to have a good long look at your stuff and make a judgment call. It’s not easy, but what is easy in parenthood?


Car seats: Car seats are tricky. They expire, so check the label before reusing. If the date has passed, it cannot be reused. Check to make sure the straps, base, latches, etc., all work properly. Update your knowledge on car seat recommendations. Every few years, the American Academy of Pediatrics changes the rules. With new guidelines, your car seat may not work out this time around. This is a topic not to be taken lightly. Think about how much time you spend in your car and know that with each subsequent child, that amount increases as the older kids go to school and join activities. Baby needs to be safe.


Breast pump: REUSE (hello, those suckers are expensive) but buy new tubes, bottles and any other parts that have been exposed to milk. After sticking your trusty pump in the closet for two years, think about what could have happened if milk particles were lodged in any of its parts. Gross, right? Replacing these parts means clean, safe milk for Baby.


Other mom and baby gear: Definitely reuse your baby carriers and wraps (again, check for recalls), sheets, blankets, diaper bag, baby monitor, etc. You probably can reuse your training potty for when you’re ready to go down that road again. Cloth diapers are reusable. I do, however, recommend investing in a new changing table pad, as well as a new travel pad for your diaper bag. Think about how much pee and poop was on those things. Start new with a new tushie!


Outdoor wear: Definitely hold on to sports gear like cleats, baseball gloves, batting helmets, swimming flotation devices, hats, gloves and snow pants. This stuff isn’t cheap! Get the longest life out of it that you can. My second son proudly rides his big brother’s old bicycle, wears his old helmet and swings his old baseball bat.


Other items to buy new: Nipples for bottles, pacifiers, teethers, sippy cups and toys that Baby chews on (like board books). Also bath toys and any other plastic toys that may collect moisture. Moisture equals mildew and mold.


Rule of thumb: Most of the gear you’ve invested in can be reused! Save a buck. Recycle it. And enjoy growing your family!


Olathe mom Karen Johnson has three children, ages 8, 6 and 4. She writes at The21stCenturySAHM.com.




1.Which of the following should you keep for the second, third, etc., baby?

            A. clothes

            B. sheets

            C. crib

            D. all of the above (as long as the crib meets current safety standards)


2. Which of the following should you buy new for your next baby?

            A. cloth diapers

            B. nipples for bottles

            C. swing

            D. high chair


3. Car seats can be reused only if

            A. they are in proper working order and have not expired

            B. they seem to be working fine

            C. they are the right fit for Baby

            C. they are clean


4. Which of the following should be replaced because they may have moisture and mildew trapped?

            A. pump parts

            B. sippy cups

            C. bath toys

            D. all of the above


5. When having a new baby, it is a good idea to invest in a new

            A. bouncy seat

            B. Pack ’n Play

            C. changing table pad

            D. stroller 

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