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Mom shares scary photo to warn parents of common car seat mistake

A mom in Ohio is hoping her viral Facebook post will serve as a warning to other moms who make a very common — but very dangerous — car seat mistake: strapping the baby’s car seat to the top of a shopping cart.

It’s something lots of us have done at one point or another. When shopping solo, if your baby just doesn’t take to being worn, and the idea of pushing a stroller and a shopping carriage seems like an impossible task, it’s tempting to kill two birds with one stone and latch a car seat to the top of a shopping cart.

Lindsey Wisnewski certainly used to, though she stopped about two years ago. About a week ago, she got a stark reminder when her cart toppled over about why the practice isn’t recommended, and posted the experience on Facebook as a warning to other moms:

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Wisnewski was multitasking in a grocery store parking lot. As she was loading groceries and securing her kids into the car, a gust of wind caught her nearly empty shopping cart and sent it — and the empty infant car seat in the front of the cart — toppling sideways and into a parked van.

Fortunately no one was hurt. Wisnewski mentions that she posted the picture only to show others firsthand how dangerous it is to have a car seat in the top of the cart and adds that she posted out of anything but sanctimony. After all, even she used to believe what lots of people still do: that if you hear that telltale “click” when you lock a car seat in place, everything is hunky-dory. In the picture, the car seat definitely isn’t secure, though Wisnewski points out that it started out that way.

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The post has been shared over and over, partly because it really resonates with people. Keeping up with changing car seat safety standards can be a bewildering and near-impossible feat. Like Wisnewski, many people know they can change even in the space of a few years. What was safe for one kid can be on the outs in the time it takes to have another.

And car seats on shopping carts really aren’t safe. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is the government entity tasked with regulating and enforcing safety standards in everything from car seats to coffee machines. It warns that falls from shopping carts are one of the top causes of head injury in kids under 5. It estimates that in 2012, nearly 20,000 kids were treated for shopping cart-related injuries, most of them between the ages of 12 and 24 months. Sadly, some of those falls are fatal. Others result in brain injury.

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The Car Seat Lady, a go-to resource for parents looking for accessible, up-to-date information on safe car seat usage, says that if you must put a car seat in a shopping cart, your best bet is the basket, where the weight is more evenly distributed.

It might be better than the top of the cart, but the CPSC doesn’t recommend that either. In fact, it implemented a safety standard in 2012 for retailers, one which would have them post warning signage in stores and carts alerting parents to the dangers, but that standard is voluntary.

What’s clear is this: Car seats should never go on top of shopping carts. If you place yours in the cart basket or simply opt to lug it around the store, then — as in all instances in which a baby is in a car seat — they should be strapped in correctly and snugly.

It isn’t always easy to stay up-to-date on every safety standard when it comes to all things baby related. As we learn more about what’s safe and what isn’t, we try to keep up. But sometimes information slips through. That’s why Wisnewski is encouraging folks to share the post; it could reach someone who just doesn’t know that this common practice isn’t a safe one.

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