Would you use equipment that's been recalled?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  January 6, 2011 06:00 AM

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Dear Barbara,

I'm mom to a wonderful 3-year-old little girl and have a second baby on the way, due in April. Since my daughter was born, her high chair and crib have both been recalled. And now that I'm looking at her infant car seat, it's definitely not in the greatest shape. Where do I draw the line? Safety is my top priority, of course, but budget is also a concern. The crib was new with my daughter and is in great shape, but it's a drop-side crib. Can I still use it? Or is it safer to buy a new one? Same with the high chair. And the car seat, not expired, is just heavily used (the material is worn from washing, the handle to the carrier came off but I think will go back on, etc.). Should I be concerned? I would like to keep my new baby as safe as possible without breaking the bank.

Thanks!
From: Gershurd, Easton

Dear Gershurd,

The Consumer Protect Safety Commission does not recall products without reason. To me, this is a no-brainer, budget considerations or not: I would not use a product that has been recalled. However, when a manufacturer issues a recall, there is usually a financial remedy of some kind. Have you investigated? The link above shows seven cribs that have been recalled. You can click on the manufacturer and then scroll down to see what remedy it offers. I didn't click on all seven but, as an example, one manufacturer will send you a free repair kit so the drop-side can be immobilized. Ditto for the high chair manufacturers.

It's a good idea to check the CPSC site weekly for recalls. Bookmark it! (I like this consumer site for its "Recall of the Week" feature.)

Car seats get dirty, that doesn't make them unusable. Being in an accident does. So does age; they also usually have expiration dates. It is always a good idea to make sure the car seat is properly installed.

I'm anxious to hear what readers say about re-using equipment.

Editor's note: Drop-side cribs were banned by the government last year. Also click here for a photo gallery of kid-related product recalls from 2010.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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16 comments so far...
  1. Honestly, I'd look at WHY the items were recalled and make my decision based on that. Sometimes they offer a kit to repair items, and sometimes the problem is due to people using the item incorrectly.

    I feel that a well-made drop-side crib should still be safe. If you're really worried, put the side up and use screws or other fasteners to permanently fasten it up.

    If the handle to the carseat came off and you plan to use it as a carrier, I would get a new one. They aren't that expensive, particularly compared to the emotional cost of a preventable injury to your new baby.

    If the issue with the highchair is the straps, use the carseat or bouncy seat or something to feed the baby until she's old enough to sit in the highchair without the straps. We found the straps on ours to be useless past a point anyway.

    Posted by akmom January 6, 11 06:38 AM
  1. Drop side cribs have been banned for good reasons...invest in a new one...there have been deaths associated with these cribs. Just knowing that would make me invest in a new one.

    If the high chair has been recalled..I would probably get a new one..you don't even need a high chair ...you could just get a booster seat that seats infant to toddler...you know, one that will strap to your kitchen chairs..NOt as expensive either.

    Carseats....My husband is using a a hand me down from my cousin...I am sure it hasn't been in a accident. If it was involved in one then don't use it.

    Posted by jd January 6, 11 07:25 AM
  1. I volunteer for a program through Catholic Charities in the Brockton area that collects gently used baby equipment and clothing for expectant teen mothers who have exactly limited resources (family or financial) to help them. This program will not accept anything that is recalled to distribute to these young girls. To me - there is your answer. If a charity refuses these items to mothers and babies that would have absolutely nothing otherwise, then you should accept that as your standard. Could you ever live with yourself if something happened with one of these recalled items? See if you can fix them through the manufacturer, and if not, in the trash they go.

    Posted by RH January 6, 11 07:47 AM
  1. Budget counts but safety trumps. Read up on the recalls and why they were issued. Look at the worst case scenario, consider whether you would subject your baby to that, then make your decision. I suspect you already know what to do. And please, if you do upgrade, please don't defray the cost by selling your old gear, and please don't donate it to a thrift. If it isn't safe for your baby, it won't be safe for the next owner's, who probably wouldn't even have a clue that they bought a recalled product.

    Posted by JBar January 6, 11 07:56 AM
  1. One related tip, do not donate items that you know have been recalled, our church did a collection a few years ago and we had to throw out quite a few items that we found had been recalled.

    Yes, the heart was in the right place, but you're either making work for the charity or putting someone else's child at risk.

    Posted by JT January 6, 11 08:17 AM
  1. I've read more than a few articles about the drop-crib ban that suggest it may be an overreaction, so the crib you may wish to research and form your own opinion. The link Barbara provides certainly favors akmom's suggestion to just screw the thing shut. This article even notes that the misuse of approved infant seats actually causes more infant injuries than the cribs! http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/114002/infant_car_seats_should_be

    Also, don''t discount your own first-hand experience with your specific crib and the high chair with your other child. All the information available today makes people distrust their own wisdom and experience, and that is a huge mistake.

    The one item I wouldn't gamble with, however, is the car seat. There I would think you'd want the latest and greatest you can afford.

    Posted by Q January 6, 11 09:36 AM
  1. Oh, and another thing - these comments about charities not being able to take this stuff - I imagine that has much more to do with liability issues (whether real or just feared). Just because you're a non-profit doesn't mean someone can't sue you if their child is harmed by a recalled product that you provided with knowledge of the ban. They don't have a choice as to whether or not to distribute this stuff.

    Posted by Q January 6, 11 09:40 AM
  1. My son is 4 and we're also due with #2 in April. His crib was also recalled, but we got a voucher to get a replacement crib. His highchair was also recalled, but we got a kit to fix the problem. (Why the heck all these baby products get recalled is a rant for another day).

    I wouldn't re-use your car seat. I'm a little concerned about how "beaten up" it got from just one child's use. The loss of the handle may affect the structural integrity of the seat. And if it went through the wringer that much, it's probably not going to survive the 6months+ you need it for baby #2.

    Posted by Jags January 6, 11 09:54 AM
  1. I am a mom of a 10 month old and I did everything on a budget. Here is what I found were the best buys, some of which you might find useful if you decide to replace!

    For the car seat, look at the Cosco Sensa. It was Consumer Reports's second best choice and cost us all of $80.00. We bought ours new from Children's Orchard. It is a convertable, not a bucket. We bought our bucket resale (I think Kid 2 Kid) and it was used which some people think is a good idea, and others get concerned about safety. I wasn't worried. We only used it for a few months.

    So many of the recalled drop side cribs were total garbage. Some of them were not. Many high quality drop side cribs were recalled because they recalled all of said cribs for a particular company, not because there really was an actual problem, ever. We have a really great high quality drop side crib. The gap that they worry about a child smothering in doesn't exist in my crib. We use it for our current baby and we will use it for the next one. No problem. If I needed to buy another one and there was no credit or rebate from the recall, I would go to Ikea and buy one of their cribs. They are compact, high quality, one of them is attractive (the other one is not to my taste) and the only drawback is that you need to buy your linens from Ikea because a regular crib sheet won't fit. That isn't much of a drawback, because their linens are cheap and very cute!

    I wish I hadn't bought a High Chair. Once we had one, we discovered from friends that there is a fantastic booster seat that Fisher Price makes for between 23-30 bucks that straps securely onto a kitchen or dining room chair. It is compact, easy to clean and very portable. We sprung for the $30 Rain forrest version that comes with an extra tray with toys attached, suitable for keeping a baby amused if the parents aren't quite done eating. We bring it to restaurants and to the in-laws, but our friends have one they just keep strapped to a kitchen chair 24/7 and that IS their high chair.

    If you really want a full on high chair, check out Children's Orchard and Kid 2 Kid. They are very recall conscious, verifying everything. We got two Peg Perego high chairs and a stroller there and are nothing short of thrilled with them.

    I hope these ideas help. You CAN get fantastic high-quality baby stuff if you know where to look, even new!

    Posted by merilisa January 6, 11 10:25 AM
  1. I don't know where my first comment went (might have gotten nixed for a link to a blog about how more children are hurt in misused child seats than by the drop-side cribs). Don't disregard your own good judgment and first hand experience with these items. Educate yourself about the risks that caused the recalls and decide for yourself whether you still trust these items. I'm not saying "it was good enough for your first kid, it's good enough for the second" but at the same time, don't let fear talk you into ignoring your own instincts and experience.

    Posted by Q January 6, 11 10:57 AM
  1. KeepingBabiesSafe.org has partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to launch "Safe Sleep for Babies" - a 12-minute instructional video on what a safe nursery looks like. Launched in November 2010 it can be viewed at keepingbabiessafe.org for free and is a great resource for new parents.

    Posted by Victoria George, New York January 6, 11 10:57 AM
  1. Hi Q - After I saw your post about your missing comment, I checked our spam filter and saw your previous comment in there. It was probably due to the link. Sorry about that - you should see it published now.

    Posted by Angela Nelson, Boston.com Staff Author Profile Page January 6, 11 11:04 AM
  1. "fantastic booster seat that Fisher Price makes for between 23-30 bucks that straps securely onto a kitchen or dining room chair. It is compact, easy to clean and very portable."

    Yes -- I have that booster seat and it is fantastic. So very budget-friendly it seems worth it to scrap your recalled highchair and just use that.

    I'm a big fan of not taking chances with equipment, and I would not use a drop-side crib as-is. But that does NOT mean you need to buy a new one! Just get the repair kit; if your model is generally safe, the company will have a repair kit available. If they don't, it is because it has some more fundamental flaws that can't be fixed (in which case, get a new crib!).

    Posted by jjlen January 6, 11 01:43 PM
  1. I have a modified version of the booster seat that is a 3-stage "convertible" which just means that it can be reclined for infants and used up until the child is old enough to reach the table comfortably. SO much better than a high char, easy to strap on anywhere and easy to clean.

    Those other commenters urging common sense have it in one. If there is a fix for the issue, fix it and save your money.

    Posted by Phe January 6, 11 02:10 PM
  1. Drop-side cribs were not "banned." Their sale and manufacture was banned. Parents with properly assembled drop-side cribs already in their homes that have not been subject to a recall may continue to use them safely.

    The LW should *DEFINITELY NOT* use her recalled products until they are made safe.

    Posted by geocool January 6, 11 02:35 PM
  1. I have a 2 year old and we're planning on #2.

    Like the LW I own a drop-side crib, and one of the fisher price high chairs that had a recall...and I also have an infant car- seat that's well-used.

    On the drop-side crib front. Did her crib have an actual recall? Why? My crib was never recalled and I am confident it is a safe crib. Having done my homework, I feel that the ban on the manufacture of drop side cribs was an overreaction in general. I have every intention of using our crib with #2 (and if we decide to go that route, #3). If you look at the recalls on drop-side cribs, they were from companies that had received poor grades from Baby Bargains. When I shopped, I made every effort to buy the highest rated crib by them that we also loved (and purchased one with a grade of b+). We assembled it carefully, and have checked it regularly to ensure that all screws and such are tight and not showing signs of wear or damage.

    It's HER choice. No one is going to come by and report her to CPS for using a drop-side crib. The police aren't going to issue her a ticket for using items like a drop-side crib.

    On the other hand, if she has one of the cribs with an actual recall, I would argue it's time to go buy a safer, better crib and to refer to Baby Bargains to find a higher rated one.

    With the high chair, there was a recall because of two screws that were positioned on some models such that if a child made an effort, they could get scraped on them. On my model, those two screws are on the interior of the leg--my child would have to make a very determined effort to get hurt on those, and if she did, she'd probably deserve the hard lesson of a scratch for doing something she knows better than to do. I rolled my eyes, didn't even bother to get the fix (as there was no concern about the screws falling out or anything related to safety...just a possible injury if a child was doing something they shouldn't be doing and unsupervised), and will continue to use it.

    Car seats are supposed to be good for 5 years, barring an accident. Like the LW's, ours is still within that 5 year period, and has some wear. In our case, I've decided to go new because a car seat is one of the most critical pieces of baby stuff that CAN safe a child's life...each time you get in the car, your child has a 1 in 6,000 chance that they will be in a potentially fatal accident. There have been advances in the infant seats (and there are models with a higher weight limit), so we think it is in their best interest to have a new seat for #2. Considering that the handle has come off, I would strongly consider a new car seat if I were the LW.

    Posted by C January 7, 11 06:14 AM
 
16 comments so far...
  1. Honestly, I'd look at WHY the items were recalled and make my decision based on that. Sometimes they offer a kit to repair items, and sometimes the problem is due to people using the item incorrectly.

    I feel that a well-made drop-side crib should still be safe. If you're really worried, put the side up and use screws or other fasteners to permanently fasten it up.

    If the handle to the carseat came off and you plan to use it as a carrier, I would get a new one. They aren't that expensive, particularly compared to the emotional cost of a preventable injury to your new baby.

    If the issue with the highchair is the straps, use the carseat or bouncy seat or something to feed the baby until she's old enough to sit in the highchair without the straps. We found the straps on ours to be useless past a point anyway.

    Posted by akmom January 6, 11 06:38 AM
  1. Drop side cribs have been banned for good reasons...invest in a new one...there have been deaths associated with these cribs. Just knowing that would make me invest in a new one.

    If the high chair has been recalled..I would probably get a new one..you don't even need a high chair ...you could just get a booster seat that seats infant to toddler...you know, one that will strap to your kitchen chairs..NOt as expensive either.

    Carseats....My husband is using a a hand me down from my cousin...I am sure it hasn't been in a accident. If it was involved in one then don't use it.

    Posted by jd January 6, 11 07:25 AM
  1. I volunteer for a program through Catholic Charities in the Brockton area that collects gently used baby equipment and clothing for expectant teen mothers who have exactly limited resources (family or financial) to help them. This program will not accept anything that is recalled to distribute to these young girls. To me - there is your answer. If a charity refuses these items to mothers and babies that would have absolutely nothing otherwise, then you should accept that as your standard. Could you ever live with yourself if something happened with one of these recalled items? See if you can fix them through the manufacturer, and if not, in the trash they go.

    Posted by RH January 6, 11 07:47 AM
  1. Budget counts but safety trumps. Read up on the recalls and why they were issued. Look at the worst case scenario, consider whether you would subject your baby to that, then make your decision. I suspect you already know what to do. And please, if you do upgrade, please don't defray the cost by selling your old gear, and please don't donate it to a thrift. If it isn't safe for your baby, it won't be safe for the next owner's, who probably wouldn't even have a clue that they bought a recalled product.

    Posted by JBar January 6, 11 07:56 AM
  1. One related tip, do not donate items that you know have been recalled, our church did a collection a few years ago and we had to throw out quite a few items that we found had been recalled.

    Yes, the heart was in the right place, but you're either making work for the charity or putting someone else's child at risk.

    Posted by JT January 6, 11 08:17 AM
  1. I've read more than a few articles about the drop-crib ban that suggest it may be an overreaction, so the crib you may wish to research and form your own opinion. The link Barbara provides certainly favors akmom's suggestion to just screw the thing shut. This article even notes that the misuse of approved infant seats actually causes more infant injuries than the cribs! http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/114002/infant_car_seats_should_be

    Also, don''t discount your own first-hand experience with your specific crib and the high chair with your other child. All the information available today makes people distrust their own wisdom and experience, and that is a huge mistake.

    The one item I wouldn't gamble with, however, is the car seat. There I would think you'd want the latest and greatest you can afford.

    Posted by Q January 6, 11 09:36 AM
  1. Oh, and another thing - these comments about charities not being able to take this stuff - I imagine that has much more to do with liability issues (whether real or just feared). Just because you're a non-profit doesn't mean someone can't sue you if their child is harmed by a recalled product that you provided with knowledge of the ban. They don't have a choice as to whether or not to distribute this stuff.

    Posted by Q January 6, 11 09:40 AM
  1. My son is 4 and we're also due with #2 in April. His crib was also recalled, but we got a voucher to get a replacement crib. His highchair was also recalled, but we got a kit to fix the problem. (Why the heck all these baby products get recalled is a rant for another day).

    I wouldn't re-use your car seat. I'm a little concerned about how "beaten up" it got from just one child's use. The loss of the handle may affect the structural integrity of the seat. And if it went through the wringer that much, it's probably not going to survive the 6months+ you need it for baby #2.

    Posted by Jags January 6, 11 09:54 AM
  1. I am a mom of a 10 month old and I did everything on a budget. Here is what I found were the best buys, some of which you might find useful if you decide to replace!

    For the car seat, look at the Cosco Sensa. It was Consumer Reports's second best choice and cost us all of $80.00. We bought ours new from Children's Orchard. It is a convertable, not a bucket. We bought our bucket resale (I think Kid 2 Kid) and it was used which some people think is a good idea, and others get concerned about safety. I wasn't worried. We only used it for a few months.

    So many of the recalled drop side cribs were total garbage. Some of them were not. Many high quality drop side cribs were recalled because they recalled all of said cribs for a particular company, not because there really was an actual problem, ever. We have a really great high quality drop side crib. The gap that they worry about a child smothering in doesn't exist in my crib. We use it for our current baby and we will use it for the next one. No problem. If I needed to buy another one and there was no credit or rebate from the recall, I would go to Ikea and buy one of their cribs. They are compact, high quality, one of them is attractive (the other one is not to my taste) and the only drawback is that you need to buy your linens from Ikea because a regular crib sheet won't fit. That isn't much of a drawback, because their linens are cheap and very cute!

    I wish I hadn't bought a High Chair. Once we had one, we discovered from friends that there is a fantastic booster seat that Fisher Price makes for between 23-30 bucks that straps securely onto a kitchen or dining room chair. It is compact, easy to clean and very portable. We sprung for the $30 Rain forrest version that comes with an extra tray with toys attached, suitable for keeping a baby amused if the parents aren't quite done eating. We bring it to restaurants and to the in-laws, but our friends have one they just keep strapped to a kitchen chair 24/7 and that IS their high chair.

    If you really want a full on high chair, check out Children's Orchard and Kid 2 Kid. They are very recall conscious, verifying everything. We got two Peg Perego high chairs and a stroller there and are nothing short of thrilled with them.

    I hope these ideas help. You CAN get fantastic high-quality baby stuff if you know where to look, even new!

    Posted by merilisa January 6, 11 10:25 AM
  1. I don't know where my first comment went (might have gotten nixed for a link to a blog about how more children are hurt in misused child seats than by the drop-side cribs). Don't disregard your own good judgment and first hand experience with these items. Educate yourself about the risks that caused the recalls and decide for yourself whether you still trust these items. I'm not saying "it was good enough for your first kid, it's good enough for the second" but at the same time, don't let fear talk you into ignoring your own instincts and experience.

    Posted by Q January 6, 11 10:57 AM
  1. KeepingBabiesSafe.org has partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to launch "Safe Sleep for Babies" - a 12-minute instructional video on what a safe nursery looks like. Launched in November 2010 it can be viewed at keepingbabiessafe.org for free and is a great resource for new parents.

    Posted by Victoria George, New York January 6, 11 10:57 AM
  1. Hi Q - After I saw your post about your missing comment, I checked our spam filter and saw your previous comment in there. It was probably due to the link. Sorry about that - you should see it published now.

    Posted by Angela Nelson, Boston.com Staff Author Profile Page January 6, 11 11:04 AM
  1. "fantastic booster seat that Fisher Price makes for between 23-30 bucks that straps securely onto a kitchen or dining room chair. It is compact, easy to clean and very portable."

    Yes -- I have that booster seat and it is fantastic. So very budget-friendly it seems worth it to scrap your recalled highchair and just use that.

    I'm a big fan of not taking chances with equipment, and I would not use a drop-side crib as-is. But that does NOT mean you need to buy a new one! Just get the repair kit; if your model is generally safe, the company will have a repair kit available. If they don't, it is because it has some more fundamental flaws that can't be fixed (in which case, get a new crib!).

    Posted by jjlen January 6, 11 01:43 PM
  1. I have a modified version of the booster seat that is a 3-stage "convertible" which just means that it can be reclined for infants and used up until the child is old enough to reach the table comfortably. SO much better than a high char, easy to strap on anywhere and easy to clean.

    Those other commenters urging common sense have it in one. If there is a fix for the issue, fix it and save your money.

    Posted by Phe January 6, 11 02:10 PM
  1. Drop-side cribs were not "banned." Their sale and manufacture was banned. Parents with properly assembled drop-side cribs already in their homes that have not been subject to a recall may continue to use them safely.

    The LW should *DEFINITELY NOT* use her recalled products until they are made safe.

    Posted by geocool January 6, 11 02:35 PM
  1. I have a 2 year old and we're planning on #2.

    Like the LW I own a drop-side crib, and one of the fisher price high chairs that had a recall...and I also have an infant car- seat that's well-used.

    On the drop-side crib front. Did her crib have an actual recall? Why? My crib was never recalled and I am confident it is a safe crib. Having done my homework, I feel that the ban on the manufacture of drop side cribs was an overreaction in general. I have every intention of using our crib with #2 (and if we decide to go that route, #3). If you look at the recalls on drop-side cribs, they were from companies that had received poor grades from Baby Bargains. When I shopped, I made every effort to buy the highest rated crib by them that we also loved (and purchased one with a grade of b+). We assembled it carefully, and have checked it regularly to ensure that all screws and such are tight and not showing signs of wear or damage.

    It's HER choice. No one is going to come by and report her to CPS for using a drop-side crib. The police aren't going to issue her a ticket for using items like a drop-side crib.

    On the other hand, if she has one of the cribs with an actual recall, I would argue it's time to go buy a safer, better crib and to refer to Baby Bargains to find a higher rated one.

    With the high chair, there was a recall because of two screws that were positioned on some models such that if a child made an effort, they could get scraped on them. On my model, those two screws are on the interior of the leg--my child would have to make a very determined effort to get hurt on those, and if she did, she'd probably deserve the hard lesson of a scratch for doing something she knows better than to do. I rolled my eyes, didn't even bother to get the fix (as there was no concern about the screws falling out or anything related to safety...just a possible injury if a child was doing something they shouldn't be doing and unsupervised), and will continue to use it.

    Car seats are supposed to be good for 5 years, barring an accident. Like the LW's, ours is still within that 5 year period, and has some wear. In our case, I've decided to go new because a car seat is one of the most critical pieces of baby stuff that CAN safe a child's life...each time you get in the car, your child has a 1 in 6,000 chance that they will be in a potentially fatal accident. There have been advances in the infant seats (and there are models with a higher weight limit), so we think it is in their best interest to have a new seat for #2. Considering that the handle has come off, I would strongly consider a new car seat if I were the LW.

    Posted by C January 7, 11 06:14 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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