Nine years ago I started collecting, cleaning and repairing, safety checking and distributing all manner of nursery goods.
Naive yet earnest beginnings. On my front porch. Over the years I have learnt a thing or two about product safety that I would like to share with you.
You may be considering purchasing a second-hand cot. A friend might have offered you their pre-loved Moses basket. You may have seen a fantastic looking change table in the hard rubbish and wondered if it is safe to pick up.
How do you know if it is safe? Are you aware of the risks you are taking?
When items are sold new, they come with loads of information about their safe use. Product manuals, assembly instructions, quick start guides, and a heap of infographical information or photographs that easily explain how to use the product safely.
But this packaging, and the instructions it came with, are often disposed of or lost, and without these the risk of improper use and child injury increases.
Australian Standards change over time and the second hand products may not meet the current standard and have all of the latest safety features.
If you are purchasing a second hand item online, you can’t physically see the product (only photos which can be hard to rely on) or handle it to see if it is in good condition, has all parts etc.
Some products come with instructions for safe use on the product itself. A sticker on the frame of your pram may have 5 bullet points about how to use the pram safely. A cot has a stamp on the base that advises what size mattress to buy.
But these can be peeled off or painted over.
Cots bolts, for example, are often misplaced when converting to a toddler bed. People donating their cots will often suggest that we could simply buy the missing bolt from a hardware store. If only it were so simple.
We have discovered over the years that many distributors and manufacturers of nursery products have ceased trading. It is therefore impossible to source replacement parts or a copy of the instructions for safe use for one of these items.
And what are the consequences of trying to put together a cot with generic bolts? There is a maximum $28,000 fine for the supply of an unsafe cot under consumer law in Victoria. This is why there are so few op shops selling cots these days.
But the risk to your child or someone else's is just too great.
This is why at St Kilda Mums, Geelong Mums and Eureka Mums, we only rehome cots from reputable distributors who offer after sales service and can supply replacement parts. We only rehome cots that are easy to assemble. The range of cots available for sale today is large. Our experience has helped us to recognise that certain styles of cots are safe, practical and fit for rehoming.
Everything we do is focused on the needs for the families we help and the social workers supporting them. That is why we recently updated our list of "what we can rehome" and removed wooden change tables, Moses baskets, cane baskets, rocking cradles and bassinets with lots of flounces.
The main reason that we have decided not to rehome wooden change tables is that so few of them actually meet the safety standard. They should have 3 sides at least 10 cm higher than the mat to prevent rolling over or wiggling upwards and falling from the top end. They should have a safety harness that secures over the child's tummy. Regrettably this standard is Voluntary not Mandatory - so many change tables don't meet this standard.
The second reason for not being able to rehome these change tables is that the families we help are usually living in refuges, transitional housing or homes with limited space. In such accommodation a portable folding change table or a change mat that can be stored under the couch or bed is a more universal solution - and safer.
We have a ton of ideas for what you can do with wooden change tables that we can’t rehome. Please visit our Pinterest page.
We do however happily rehome all folding change tables, change mats and their covers.
You might find this very difficult to believe but there is actually no Australian safety standard for bassinets. Neither mandatory nor voluntary.
What this means is that there is a large variety of products for sale and in use today, and we see them all - sometimes 30, 40 and 50 years old.
On the recommendations of our Every Baby Advisory Group, we do not rehome any of the following second hand items: Moses baskets, cane baskets, rocking cradles and bassinets with lots of flounces. This advisory group is made up of experts - Maternal and Child health nurses, social workers, midwives, homelessness specialists, product safety experts from Red Nose and Kidsafe, and experts in perinatal mental health.
Moses baskets can lose shape and become splayed with use and age, creating a gap between the mattress and the sides. This presents a suffocation hazard. Cane or wicker becomes brittle with age, breaks and poses a laceration hazard. Rocking cradles can tip, and bassinets with flounces lack breathability.
The best bassinets - the ones favoured by the experts - are these ones. They are mostly manufactured in the past 10 years and have breathable sides.
We love this particular model as it is so easy to remove the fabric and wash it - something we like to do with every donated bassinet.
If you have any questions about product safety please contact us and we will try and help you.
We love to share our knowledge, and by signing up to volunteer with us, not only can you learn a new skill, but you can help families in need. At St Kilda Mums we are always looking for volunteers to help us with a variety of tasks from cleaning prams, to assembling cots, to packing beautiful clothing bags - there is a job for everyone. We also rely on the community for donations of preloved baby goods so that we can continue to help families in need. Signing up for our newsletter is a great way to keep in touch, see the impact of your support and know when we need your help. Thank you!
Author: Jessica Macpherson, CEO St Kilda Mums
For more information:
Product Safety Australia (a division of the ACCC) - 1300 302 502
Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) Toy & Nursery Safety Line - 1300 364 894
Red Nose Foundation (formerly SIDS and Kids) in your state or territory - 1300 998 698
Check for product recalls
Choice Magazine How we test change tables
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