I see this ALL. THE. TIME. I know you must see it too. Perhaps you’re even 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.
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. Sometime 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 little critter 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 where you’ll have a lot of explaining to do while they examine your baby for serious head injuries.
- Take advantage of carts that have built-in infant carriers. Just remember to buckle your baby in nice and snug. And I highly suggest a receiving blanket to cover the surface before putting 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, Walmart or the supermarket is worth risking your child falling off the cart face first.
Way back in the late 90’s when DS1 was a toddler, I saw a woman’s baby fall off the cart at the drug store. I can still remember the sound that kid’s head made when it hit the floor. She scooped him up and ran out 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 usually I just keep quiet. And blog about it instead. Feel free to help spread the word!