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!
Thank you for explaining this so clearly! We have been having a discussion about this on my facebook page and I just shared a link back to this article.
You are 100% correct, we are a monkey see monkey do society, most people don’t have any idea how dangerous putting the baby on the cart like this is.
I am also tweeting your article in hopes that we can help even more mammas make the decision to please stop doing this.
I am so sorry I did not read this earlier! 🙁 I did not know that this was unsafe and I had my baby fall from the shopping cart! she was in the car seat with the belt on and some how the car seat was on the ground facing down and my 6 months old baby screaming! I almost die of scare and guilt and took her from the car seat and started to pray immediately because she had a huge scratch on her forehead and she would not stop crying… put some ice on it and took her to the hospital. Thank God she was fine, she did not hit her head just scratched on the car seat. I think the angels protected her!
I got a huge backlash trying to make this point a few months ago. Seems like common sense once you know the physics. But people would rather endanger their children than be told they need to change their behavior. Baffling!
Hi! i certainly hope you informed the mother rather than just taking a picture to make an example of her. I definitely think many new and old moms do this because they dont know any better and see it everywhere. like you said, monkey see monkey do.
I certainly hope this doesn’t come across as judging mom’s (and others) who place their car seats up there “because the manual says I can.” I so agree with whomever posted that just because her speedometer goes over 100 that it is safe or smart to do so. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t do it just because you think it’s safe. What if you are the one consumer who does so and the cart tips over or the seat falls off? Are you willing to take that chance with your child’s life? I’m sure none of us wants to be that exception to the rule, and there ALWAYS exceptions to rules and statistics. (BTW, my infant carrier never leaves my vehicle. What a pain in the a$$ they are! Much easier IMHO to carry baby instead of that heavy, unweildy thing!)
Baby Wearing is a good solution, but I would only recommend front wearing. When I was 20,I worked in a large department store, in the children’s section. I was cleaning up when a woman came through with her daughter on her back. AS she bent down to look at an item, her toddler looked up and her face went directly into the end of a high rack. She was *this* close to having it stick directly in her eye. I will never forget both the sound of the child’s scream or the mother’s anguish. So, I can’t bear to wear my son on my back.
I had to put the carsest in the basket or the cart so I just started bringing in my stroller and just me and the baby do the small trips so its perfect and when we have to get a lot hubby usually comes so he can push the cart and I push the stoller 🙂
I’ve never had a shopping experience where baby wearing wasn’t practical or convenient. At least not any less practical or convenient than lugging around, and maneuvering, a huge baby seat. If baby wearing happens to be a little less practical or a little more inconvenient, it’s much safer than putting the seat on the cart (period)!
As the post states, we’re a monkey see monkey do society so if more babies were worn, more babies would be worn, right?
Just food for thought… just because you offer safer alternatives, doesn’t mean they’re really safe.
thank you so much for this! I’ve been dreading going to the store bc I didn’t know how to manage my nb and the car seat. now I’ll go happy and bout make the mistake, and make hubby happy to have groceries when he gets home from work!
@ Sarah – you’re right, wearing your baby is the safest possible solution! Unfortunately, most American parents still haven’t really embraced the whole babywearing concept. I tried to focus on safer ways to accomplish what the vast majority of parents are already doing with a product they already own.
Surprised not to see under the solutions, maybe the easiest of them all. WEAR your baby in a carrier, whatever your preference may be, my personal favorite with my son has been an Ergo, with my daughter it was a ring sling. My baby is much happier, for much longer…and SAFE!
When my son was young enough to ride in those carriers, ours latched onto the bar of the buggy and onto the back so it wasnt dangerous. I guess it depends on the carrier you get. But if it was like ours, then i do not see the harm in using it as shown in the picture above.
@Pixels- When I was 7, and my sister was 6 months, my mom and I went shopping at K-Mart. I hung onto the end of the cart while my sister sat up in the seat, and I tipped the cart onto myself. When my sister was 4, we were shopping and she sat in the larger portion of the cart. Something caught her eye and she stood up in the cart and tipped it over. I remember these vividly because watching the cart tip over, and having the cart tip onto me scared the living daylights out of me. My 37 lb 2 year old is not allowed to sit anywhere except in the front seat, or he can hold my hand and walk through the store, but that’s it. I don’t want him standing up to grab at a toy he sees on the shelf and have the cart tip over onto him, like it happened to my sister 14 years ago.
@Knitted In The Womb. Did you check the front, first few pgs, of your manual? It’s just a small blurp. My baby trend from 4 yrs ago allowed it and clipped in hard (as in, I couldn’t get it out w/o pulling the release handle really hard). The Baby trends online manual also still allows for it: http://www.babytrend.com/pdf/CS21XXX_0307.pdf (Pg 3. section 6.5: When using the carrier with a shopping cart, check that the seat is firmly locked onto the shopping cart. If the carrier will not firmly lock on
always place the carrier into the interior of the shopping cart.).
The ONLY way my baby trend seat would have been able to fall w/ most carts was if the cart would have tipped all the way over (there were some odd sized carts that I couldn’t lock it into that I would have to put it in the basket for).
I have a BabyTrend infant seat (the seat “Pixel” mentions as having instructions to use the seat with a shopping cart), and the instruction manual does not even mention shopping carts. Perhaps it did for older versions? Certainly in the late 90’s many infant carseats had designs to latch them onto shopping carts, but as thousands of children were injured each year…this faded away. A couple of months ago I checked the instruction manuals for the top 6 selling infant carseats at Babies R Us. Most of them specifically said NOT to use them on the toddler seat area (not even sideways…sorry…I can’t see how that is any better). The ones that didn’t say not to use in the toddler seat of a shopping cart simply didn’t mention shopping carts at all.
Just because it clicks does not mean it’s safe. Also, the wire/metal the seat of the cart is made from is not the same gauge as the wire of the base it clicks into in the car, and just that difference can make it so that it no longer secures in the car, which is the ONLY place the car seat should be clicked into.
it’s still not safe… the extra weight on top when it hits a bump could still send the whole cart over… there is no safe way to put the baby seat on the top of a cart.