How to Donate Every Kind of Baby Item

Box labeled donation full of kids clothes and toys


Iryna Khabliuk / EyeEm / Getty Images

Babies grow out of things quickly, whether it be clothing, diapers, or toys. And parents are left with what to do with all the stuff—do you throw it away? Sell it secondhand? Or donate it?

If you're considering donating baby items, it's important to know who accepts what kinds of donations. While many baby items are accepted as donations, there are some that are not—and each organization or group has different rules. Here are some general guidelines to follow when donating baby items, so your donation can have the most impact.

What to Consider Before Donating

You've sorted out what you want to donate and what you want to keep. The next step is to consider each item. Most organizations and groups accept gently used items, so inspect each item for any major flaws before you decide it's going in the donate pile. That means ensuring nothing is broken, chipped, damaged, or ripped.

You'll also want to clean each item as well. That could mean washing fabric items like a baby carrier or baby swing cover, or giving items like an activity cube or musical instrument a good scrub and wipe down. And finally, you'll want to reference the organization or group's website for any guidelines about how, when, and what to donate. Each organization is different, so it's imperative you check before dropping off to save them—and you—headache.

While any donation is usually well-intentioned, there is a general rule of thumb you can follow. “Don’t give away stuff you wouldn’t gift to somebody," says Toni Sarge, the director of public affairs for Seattle-based baby bank Westside Baby. "I know people think a shirt is a shirt, and maybe that’s your call for your family. But if you wouldn’t gift it to someone else, please don’t donate it. We won’t give it to a family because we value every family’s humanity and that doesn’t mean that they deserve stained shirts.” Remember, you always have the option to donate new items as well.

Where You Can Donate

Once you've got clean, gently used items, there are many places you can donate your baby items. You can pass off goods at thrift stores like Salvation Army and Goodwill, baby banks, donation websites, or through word-of-mouth donations. Sometimes, you can even find ways to donate via social media.

Thrift Stores

Many people are familiar with community non-profits such as Goodwill and Salvation Army. There are also countless local thrift stores that you can donate to as well. These stores take donations and resell the used items at a deep discount.

Each organization has a clearly defined mission about what the money they make from donations is used for, in addition to what they're willing to accept. Generally, if they cannot accept your donation, a thrift store will find a way to recycle it. For example, Goodwill will sell clothing they can't accept to a textile recycler.

Baby Banks

A baby bank is a nonprofit organization that acts like a food bank, but for baby items. Parents in need can go and get diapers, wipes, strollers, and more to help care for their children, or social workers and nurses can request items for their clients. Similarly, a diaper bank is a baby bank that only accepts diapers and items related to diapers. 

“We collect, sort, clean and redistribute new and gently used items to families who are experiencing all sorts of challenges, whether it be economic hardships or a family in a program for children with developmental disabilities," says Sarge. Most larger baby banks work with a network in the community to distribute. They do not distribute directly to families. Baby banks generally have very strict guidelines about what they will and will not accept, so check the website or call before donating.

Social Media

A relatively new way to donate is via social media, such as parenting groups on MeetUp or Facebook. There are groups specifically created for donations, as well as groups by niche. For example, you might be in a baby gear group in your area where people buy used goods, or a neighborhood buy/sell/trade group. You can list your donations as free in that case.

Any group you are in will have specific rules around communication, donations, and meet-ups to keep everyone safe. Social media is a great place to donate items that you are unsure about donating to baby banks and thrift stores, as well as items that you need to go quickly.

You can post items directly to your social media channels as well. This is a great way to get a donation to someone who is pre-vetted by you, whether a follower on Instagram or friend on Facebook. This is good for bigger items you need to be removed from your home by someone you trust (like a swing set or bed frame), that might not be accepted by an organization.

Community Websites

There are also neighborhood sites like NextDoor and Craigslist where you can post items in free forums to donate, or create a post in your neighborhood if you want to keep the donation very local. For safety reasons, always meet in a neutral, central location to do the hand-off.

Word of Mouth

Within your own network, you might know people in need, or know people who know people in need. You can donate items directly to recipients without as many restrictions. This is a good way to donate items that other places generally won't accept, such as baby food or opened cans of formula.

What You Can Donate

What you can donate varies by organization and group, says Jaime Lackey, founder and CEO of Helping Mamas, Georgia’s only baby bank. "Clothing is the most popular item donated [to us]," she says. Beyond clothing, though, you can donate many other sorts of baby items, such as new diapers and wipes, gear such as car seats, strollers and cribs, and even postpartum supplies.

Baby Clothes

Most organizations and groups allow gently used baby clothes to be donated. You'll want to inspect each item before donating it for rips or tears.

If you are donating via social media or a community website, it's a good idea to group all the items together in one "lot" rather than posting individual pieces of clothing. You can organize the lot by size, gender, season, or condition (new or used).

Diapers and Wipes

Donated diapers and wipes should always be new. Depending on where you are donating, diapers and wipes may or may not be accepted. Social media, word-of-mouth, and community websites offer you the most flexibility, especially if you have just a handful of diapers to donate.

A good place to always donate these necessities is a baby bank. Jessica Reinmann, CEO of 914Cares, a nonprofit in Westchester County, New York, says they distribute about 40,000 diapers and about 3,000 packages of wipes every month to families.

If you are donating to a baby bank, there is a need across the board for larger diapers, particularly sizes 4, 5, and 6. Wipes are also always in high demand. And yes, you can donate opened packages of unused diapers!

Car Seats, Cribs, and Gear

High-ticket items like car seats and cribs are always in-demand. Before donating, check the item to make sure you have all the pieces it came with. For small things that can easily get lost (like adapters), put them in a plastic bag and tape it to the item. If you have the instruction manual you should include that as well.

Gear goes beyond just car seats and cribs. Anything you used with your baby, consider donating it. That includes high chairs, bouncy seats, pack n' plays, walkers, bikes, and more.

Postpartum Supplies

Baby banks will accept new postpartum supplies for parents, such as disposable adult diapers, pads, tampons, and more, so long as they are in their original, individual packaging. You can donate these items via social media and websites as well, sorting them into lots just like baby clothing. Thrift stores will not accept postpartum supplies, as they cannot sell them. You can also consider donating these items to a shelter.

What You Cannot Donate

What you cannot donate varies by group and organization, so be sure to check the website or group rules before posting. Don't forget you always have the option of donating items new, as well.

Baby banks in particular have very strict rules on what they will not accept. You might have one baby bank in your town that will take used cribs, but another that won't. Do your research before dropping items off at a baby bank so that you don't task the organization with disposing of it if they can't accept it.

Used Bottles or Pacifiers

Most non-profits don’t accept used bottles or pacifiers for hygiene reasons, but you can donate these items via other channels like social media and word of mouth. It's best to toss used pacifiers and the used nipples of bottles, especially if your child has bitten them.

If you want to donate bottles without the nipples, thoroughly clean and dry each bottle. If the bottles have several parts, bag the parts together so that nothing gets lost.

Used Car Seats or Cribs

Most organizations, including thrift stores, do not accept used car seats for safety reasons. (Reminder: Car seats have expiration dates, which you can find on the side of the seat.) Car seats are recalled frequently as well, making it hard for organizations to know whether a donated item is on a recall list or not. 

If it seems like a waste to toss a used but good, unexpired car seat, you do have other options. Donating it via word of mouth or via a social media channel where you can assure the recipient that the car seat hasn't been in any accidents is an option. If you post it in a group or forum, clearly state the expiration date and that it has not been in any accidents. If your car seat has been in an accident, dispose of it.

You can donate a used crib, but it needs to be one that is safety compliant. Cribs made before 2011 are not up to the new, mandatory crib standards, so keep that in mind when donating. Cribs are also frequently recalled, so if yours has been recalled, you should dispose of it. If you have an old or antique crib you'd like to donate, consider posting it in groups or on sites where you can clearly state it is for decorative purposes only.

Used Crib Mattresses

The best way to donate a lightly used crib mattress is to someone you know, for hygiene reasons. Before donating it, give it a good scrub with 1/4 cup detergent diluted in a gallon of water. Don't pour the solution directly onto the mattress. Then, let it dry completely.

Used Bathing Suits or Sports Uniforms

Baby banks won't take used bathing suits or sports uniforms, but thrift stores will, and you can post them online. No matter which way you are donating, make sure used bathing suits and used sports uniforms are thoroughly cleaned, with no lingering stains. They should be free of rips and tears.

Opened Baby Food or Formula

It can be painful to have to toss a half-used canister of formula or a half-used box of baby cereal. You can donate both of these items, but it's best to do it to someone you know or through someone you know for hygiene reasons.

Thrift stores will not accept new or used baby food or formula. Some baby banks will not accept baby food or formula as they have expiration dates, but some will if it’s in its original packaging and unopened. No baby bank will accept open containers of baby food or formula.  

A Word From Verywell

While donating items is most definitely a wonderful way to ensure that items you’ve outgrown go to a good home and to good use, donation guidelines vary greatly. Check each organization or group's rules before donating items—and be sure to pick up your tax donation form, if applicable.

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  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. OnSafety – The New Crib Standard: Questions and Answers. Onsafety.cpsc.gov. Updated January 3, 2013.