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Shopping carts are not for infant seats

I used to do it. I’d pop my daughter’s infant carrier out of the car seat base, snap it atop the shopping cart, listen for the reassuring click and be on my way. It was super convenient having her right at eye level, because goodness knows she would let the whole store hear it if I dared look anywhere else.

Now we are told to not do that.

I know. Because shopping with a newborn wasn’t difficult enough already? The truth of the matter is neither infant seats nor shopping carts were designed to work together in this way. Most car seat manuals spell it out, but not everyone reads — let alone commits to memory — every word. Especially when you’re reading safety warnings for cribs, swings and baby bathtubs.

Prompted by the unfortunate death of a 3-month-old whose seat fell from the shopping cart in a parking lot, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a Shopping Cart Safety Alert in 2012. It urges stores to post signs and to label carts with warnings, but I’ve yet to see this in practice anywhere I shop. So people aren’t stopping.

I have yet to be brave enough to approach parents I’ve seen doing this, but mom Criri did just that. “I was about to mention to a lady it’s not safe and was walking over as the seat started to tip. Fortunately we both caught it!” Near misses like this happen all the time, but near misses don’t make the news.

Kate tells of a similar incident not even involving a bulky car seat. She was shopping with her safely buckled-in infant and 4-year-old, when the older child unexpectedly grabbed the handle of the shopping cart, causing it to flip. “I was able to grab him before the cart hit the floor. I was so terrified after that.”

So what are you supposed to do instead?

By the time my third was born, I knew better. I proudly put his seat into the basket of the cart instead of on top. Except, per those CPSC guidelines I just mentioned? This is also a no-no. Crap. While I could not find any reports of injuries from stowing baby in such a manner, I can’t exactly recommend it either. Here are some safer options:

  • Babywearing. Not all babies will tolerate this (my oldest shrieked like a monkey), but it’s the best option for those who will. Just make sure to follow safe babywearing guidelines.
  • Use a stroller. Cram as much as you can underneath. Grab a handheld basket for meats and other items likely to harbor bacteria — you don’t want that all up in the space you usually stow pacifiers and burp cloths.
  • Shop with a partner. Split the list. Baby wrangler gets the light stuff, while the one with the cart grabs the rest.
  • Go alone. I know. This can seriously cut into your precious solo time, but going anywhere without your newborn in tow is practically a vacation.
  • Outsource. Grocery delivery is a luxury, but companies like Amazon and Target have made it easy and affordable to keep nonperishables on hand. Toss your fresh foods list at someone else, and take a nap. Seriously, you’ve earned it.

More on babies and safety

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Life-saving tips for baby furniture safety
The biggest children’s medicine mistakes parents make

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