Having a baby is a pricey endeavor. Health care costs and the expense of getting prepared for a baby’s first year of life take a hefty bit of coin. As babies grow, their needs change, too. There’s no way to anticipate how quickly your child will transition through the stages, which could bring on a heap of unforeseen costs, including wardrobe and car seat upgrades.
If your budget for those first few months is a little tight, you’re often traveling with baby in tow, or you find yourself dealing with a rapidly growing child, renting used baby gear might be a good option for you. But there’s also baby gear that should never be borrowed or rented for safety and sanitation reasons.
How to rent baby gear
The business of renting baby gear has morphed into a gig economy all its own. There are services that contract with individual providers, the same way you’d rent a room through Airbnb. The providers are liable for cleaning the equipment after each return and ensuring it’s still operable. One of the more popular companies in this realm is BabyQuip. The site lets you choose from a variety of baby gear, including car seats, cribs, play pens, changing pads, baby monitors, lock gates, portable swings and toys.
BabyQuip has been around for several years and some of its providers have been renting out gear for just as long. They’re knowledgeable about what they have available and their equipment is insured. Once the gear is returned, you can leave a review for others to consider about your experience with that particular BabyQuip provider.
Prices vary on BabyQuip. Providers charge per day, plus delivery and set-up fees. They’ll offer multi-day discounts if you’re renting for a prolonged period, but it’s worth doing a rough calculation beforehand. In some cases, it’s more cost-effective to buy something outright.
Some manufacturers offer individual rental programs. This route is best if your baby only needs a particular product for a few months. The Snoo Smart Sleeper, for example, is popular with exhausted parents who need help rocking their baby to sleep. However, buying one outright costs a whopping $1,300, which can be prohibitive for families on a budget, especially considering the baby will outgrow it. But Snoo lets you rent the sleeper to save some cash. It requires a minimum of one-month commitment, but at a starting price of $112 a month, it’s more affordable to rent within the six-month recommended maximum usage.
You could also scope out a baby gear rental service that operates within your area. HelloBundl serves the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, for example, while Bay Area Baby Equipment (B.A.B.E) and Anything For Baby Rental Service work with San Francisco Bay Area and Phoenix clients, respectively. If you’re traveling, try looking for a service where you’re visiting. If you’re headed to Disney World, you can try A Baby’s Best Friend, which serves the Orlando area for families vacationing within the region. There are even international rental services for families traveling overseas.
If you do decide to go the independently operated route, send an email or call to ask about the rental service’s policies. Ask how they determine their equipment is safe, whether they check that car seats haven’t been recalled or expired and how they sanitize crib mattresses. It’s also helpful to ask what their insurance policy covers and what you’re liable for should your baby experience injury or infection.
Gear that’s good to rent
It’s easy—and safe—to rent anything that is easily cleaned or sanitized. That includes:
- Changing tables
- High chairs
- Cloth diapers (provided they have removable padding and are sanitized after each use)
- Play yards
One caveat with cribs, play yards and strollers is to check that they were manufactured after the time that federal regulations became more stringent for each of those specific product categories.
Things you should probably just buy
There are plenty of ways to rent baby gear, but that doesn’t always mean you should. Here are the items you’re better off purchasing yourself or, at the very least, scrutinizing more if you’re renting.
- Breast pumps. Breast pumps run the risk of cross-contamination, and according to the FDA, the term “hospital-grade pump” isn’t even officially recognized. If you have to rent one, talk to your doctor or a certified lactation consultant beforehand. And make sure the models you’re looking at are not intended for single-use.
- Car seats. You can rent a car seat for quick trips, but consider this when you reach out to the rental service: the foam material cradling your little one tends to degrade over time. You’ll want to ask if the car seat has ever been in an accident and how old it is. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests nothing older than ten years. Lastly, be sure to check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, which lists both recall information and safety ratings of individual car seats.
- Crib mattresses. It’s best to avoid used crib mattresses, especially if it’s through a rental service that does long-term leases. Babies soil themselves and there’s no guarantee the last person with the mattress used any absorbent pads. Crib mattresses also become softer with use. Depending on your baby’s age, you’ll want something firm to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
And as you navigate the baby gear rental world, the official site for consumer recalls is a handy link to have on file to double-check for any safety issues.
Meet the smartest parents on Earth! Join our parenting Facebook group.