Car Seat and Shopping Cart Safety
I see this ALL. THE. TIME. I know you must see it too. Perhaps you’ve even been guilty of this yourself. Here’s why it’s such a concern and what you can do to reduce the risk of your baby being seriously injured in a fall off a shopping cart.
The Problem: Infant carseats aren’t designed to be secured to the top of a shopping cart. Most carseat manufacturers specifically prohibit using their seats this way but that warning is usually buried along with 30 other generic warnings in the instruction manual so it doesn’t get much attention.
According to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics):
It is more common than most people think for children to be hurt in shopping carts. These injuries can be severe or even deadly. Each year approximately 23,000 children are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries from shopping carts. Most injuries are caused by falls from the cart or by the cart tipping over. Many injuries are to the head and neck.
Unfortunately, we’re a monkey-see, monkey-do society; so many parents think this is a perfectly acceptable practice. The problem is that the carseat isn’t strapped in or snapped onto the cart. It’s just perched on top. Sometimes it’s perched in a way that’s fairly stable but very often it’s just teetering on the top of that cart with very little support. One good bump and that seat is going to topple. If baby is old enough to kick, grab, or try to sit up – that increases the chances of falling. If the harness straps are loose, or worse yet – not buckled at all, that greatly increases the chances of a fall. And if you have a preschooler shopping with you – the chances of baby toppling off the cart just increased ten-fold. In case you haven’t noticed, little kids like to push the cart, climb on the cart, and hang off the sides of the cart as soon as you turn your back. The cart isn’t the most stable object on 4 wheels to begin with, so adding a toddler or preschooler into the equation can be a recipe for disaster.
The Easy Solution: Don’t do it.
The Reality Check: You gotta put the baby somewhere and while a baby carrier or sling is a great option, wearing your baby while you’re trying to shop isn’t always practical or convenient. Here are some suggestions for making a trip to the store a little less hazardous for your baby.
- Try wedging the infant seat sideways into the toddler seat of the cart. Different carts have different dimensions so it may be possible in some carts but not in others.
- Place the infant seat in the main portion of the cart and drag an extra cart around with you if you need to do a big grocery shopping. I’ve BTDT so I know what a pain in the rear this is – but it’s doable. And it certainly beats a trip to the ER.
- Take advantage of carts that have built-in infant carriers. Just remember to buckle your baby in nice and snug. And I highly recommend a receiving blanket to cover the surface before putting the baby down.
- Use common sense! If the seat is poorly supported (as in the picture above), don’t leave it that way! Nothing you’re going to buy at Target or the supermarket is worth risking your child falling off the cart face first.
Years ago, when my oldest child was a toddler, I saw a woman’s baby (in an infant car seat) fall from the cart at the store. I can still remember the sound the kid’s head made when it hit the floor. She scooped him up and ran out of the store with him while the store manager ran out after her. I don’t know what happened after that but I remember being really upset by what I had just seen (and heard). It stayed with me and from that day on I was always super-conscious about how my kids were secured in shopping carts. However, I am obviously in the minority because far too often I witness dangerous baby in shopping cart situations. Sometimes I’ll say something – in the nicest way I can, of course. But giving unsolicited advice to strangers can be more dangerous than playing in New Delhi traffic, so I just keep quiet and hope that this information reaches them somehow. Please help spread the word!
Interesting how many mothers are on here whining about the inconvenience of following the safety instructions. This is for your child’s safetly, pussywillows. Your babies are completely at your mercy, they cannot fend off your laziness or your stupidity yet. Buck up and find another way, it is only for a year until they can sit in the cart’s babyseat. One year of your inconvenience to guarantee their head doesn’t slam on the tile two yards below. Seriously, find some decency.
I’ve seen a couple stores with a car seat holder. It looks much like the carts with the built in seat but a little bigger. You put the car seat in it and use the strap that’s attached to secure it in. Very helpful when you have a lot of shopping to do, instead of piling the food around the seat in the basket. It would be nice if more stores offered this, and advertised them. I didn’t even know they were there until my older child pointed them out to me, I thought they were he usual cart with built in seat.
Alternatives: wait to shop when dad, or grnd parent can either look after little ones, trade babysitting , borrow and backpack carrier. I would some times take a blnket and lay my infant in the bottom of the cart instead of the seat when she/he was sleeping. When I. Had toddlers I sent them for food items in the same isle I was in. But I lived in a very small town and we all looked ou t for each others kids. So not practical in large store or communities.
It’s important to remember this is only for short time this phase will pass. So always think safety. With good sense.
this assumes you have family that lives close or that your spouse has a job in which you’d both be off of work at the same time. this is quite often not the case
Another simple solution is to simply bring your stroller into the store, and place your groceries under the stroller. I’ll often also bring a few reusable shopping bags with me that help out when it gets full under the stroller. So far this has worked great for me everywhere except for Costco. 😉
I really love the idea of babywearing, I do, but I get a little frustrated when those who like it get evangelical about it and think it’s a solution for everyone and look down on those who don’t. Believe it or not, some babies don’t like being worn—or they only sometimes like being worn and you can’t predict when that will be, or they only like being worn for short periods of time, or they only like being worn if you’re moving at a rapid pace and woe be unto you if you slow down to read a label. That last one described my baby. I know a lot of moms with similar stories. In the bitter cold, I also liked not having to remove my baby from his carseat and blanket with the cold wind blowing as I struggled to get him into the carrier, at which I was never great or fast.
If you love babywearing, more power to you. If you don’t, my solution was to use my stroller in the store, making the large bottom basket my shopping basket. (My carseat connected right into the stroller). Sometimes, if I had a big shop to do, I would also have a shopping basket over my arm. There were some things I couldn’t get, this way, like a big flat of sodas from the wholesale club, but I did surprisingly well. I’ve also seen moms with a lot of children using strollers and pulling one of those a cart behind them, which is easier than two carts; strollers are way more maneuverable than carts. This isn’t intended to say my idea is better, but it is an option for those who don’t want to babywear every time for whatever reason! The more tools in the toolbox, the better.
To everyone who is saying their car seat locks into a shopping cart just as it does with the car seat base PLEASE read this:
Doing so does not secure it in the same way and it can most certainly come un-latched from the cart if it were to tip over or if the seat was jostled (even if there is that audible “click”). Furthermore, doing this can actually damage the mechanism in the seat which can cause it to fail in a car crash. Not worth the risk!
Is some info that is missing from this article….
Also, placing the car seat there can ruin the latching mechanism. Meaning it will latch poorly or not at all to the base in the car.
I don’t see how babywearing isn’t always practical or convenient. Sure seems more practical than dragging around another cart, or making a trip to the hospital. It even gets the nod of approval from the AAP (or whatever they’re called). I totally missed being able to babywear while shopping once babe got too big. I couldn’t lift her into the toddler seat (she was too tall and couldn’t bend to fit through the leg holes!). It’s horrible shopping with a toddler walking. When babywearing, babe either napped, or got to be social with everyone, up there at adult height. What’s so hard about that?
try picking up a 50 lb bag of dog food with an infant strapped to your chest
I have severe tailbone pain that started during my labor…baby wearing is excruciating now.
I’ve seen this a lot. I used to say something but I stopped because I got chewed out too many times. I saw someone perch a car seat *across* the narrow dollar general cart one time. It was so dangerous and I actually struck up a conversation with this mom and mentioned that I home school and she said “yeah, school is not as safe as being at home with mom!” This made me anxious like she may be receptive, but being that I’ve been called foul names in front of my children, I still said nothing, because I don’t like people freaking out on me in front of my kids.
If I’d been by myself I probably would have said something about reading an article about how car seats can fall off the cart.. I actually even thought about giving that mom my extra mei tai (she mentioned she was a single mom) that I had in my car and was planning to donate and saying something then.. but my anxiety got the best of me.. In our society people have gotten to where they will flip out on people who are nicely telling them something safety related .. I’ve unfortunately completely lost my nerve. Maybe if I had a flyer to drop into their cart if they aren’t looking I’d do that when my kids are with me.. Maybe I will make one!
Something else that I’ve wondered about.. Are babies even safe outside of the car in their car seat/ outside of the stroller that the car seat is meant for? I’ve wondered this because it’s not really at the proper angle out of the car / stroller and aren’t infants sensitive to angle and couldn’t they suffocate if the car seat is at the wrong angle? Positional asphyxia? Like with those pouch slings? I’ve never let my babies nap in their car seat out of the car because I wondered that and didn’t know the answer so I didn’t do it. Also, people who “snap” the car seat into the cart.. could that damage the locking mechanism and then it cause the car seat to fail in an accident?
Another super unsafe thing I’ve seen is babies in car seats perched on top high chairs in restaurants. Someone could bump into it.
I think that infant carrier seats are possibly going to be something we look back on as relatively unsafe devices in 30 years time.
You are right. Babies have died from being in car seats and not being able to breath properly. It’s called position asphyxia. Babies are not supposed to be in car seats for more than an hour without a break. Many years ago a nurse did oxygen saturation tests on babies in car seats and discovered they have decreased oxygen. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20090824/infant-car-seats-may-lower-oxygen-levels
Babywearing is a super-great solution to this problem… except when it isn’t. I love wearing my baby, but my back and knees won’t always let me. On the worst days, I have to stay home. Sometimes I just use the stroller and plan to not get much, sometimes I bring a helper to push the cart. Some days I use a delivery service! But even though I have lots of options for not balancing my baby in hir seat on top of the cart, not everyone has those options, and sometimes even if you do have a lot of options, they don’t work all the time. I’d really love to see, for example, carts with a designated spot to put infant seats, or more carts with attached infant seats in more stores. It gives more people more options to safely get the food they need while having their baby with them.
I saw a woman today in Whole Foods with a baby in a car seat balanced on the top of a shopping cart and her toddler in the basket moving around and jumping around. I said something to the mom and she was very angry with me. Told me to mind my own business. Her toddler almost pushed the baby seat with both feet. The mother was walking away from the cart, several feet away and continued doing it after we spoke. I was losing it. No words.
In response to those that say they’ve never seen a car tip over, I worked in retail for many years and have done first aid on kids that have done just that. Usually it’s from them standing up in the back and leaning over the side to grab something, or from hanging off the sides and goofing around. But, it’s never fun when a child gets hurt, and it’s so easy to prevent. Just don’t do it. My mother in law tried to put my kids in the back of the cart when we were shopping once, I told her why we don’t and it’s never happened again.