Car seats and grocery carts aren't designed to fit together. Consider placing a seat in the main part of the cart instead of across the handlebar and seat area.

Shopping Cart Safety

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I take my daughters’ safety very seriously. When parent friends were turning their kids forward-facing in the car as soon as they hit their first birthday and 20 lbs, I kept mine rear-facing until they were well beyond two years old and beyond the minimum weight to be turned forward-facing legally. In fact, I would have kept them rear-facing longer if I were as good then as I am today at standing my ground with my (now ex) husband. They were in 5-point harnesses until the end of second grade, and only moved to boosters because their grandparents said that they didn’t feel comfortable installing car seats in their car.

The reasons for keeping young children in rear facing car seats are well documented. I won’t bother going into them here.

Car seats and grocery carts aren't designed to fit together. Consider placing a seat in the main part of the cart instead of across the handlebar and seat area.

I’ve read the manual to every car seat we’ve had, all the way through. The Graco Snugride. The Britax Marathon. The Diono Radian. The Graco Turbobooster. The Graco AFFIX. Yes, I keep all my manuals and refer back to them often enough that I know where they all are. I’m that person who read the entirety of the manual to my sewing machine before I loaded the first bobbin.

The Snugride manual said nothing about my infant bucket seats not being safe in shopping carts… and I made the mistake of assuming that they were safe. Sure, I’d seen the carts with built-in baby seats and figured they were handy for a lot of families. My two babies weren’t going to fit in that one seat, though. I was so proud of having figured out that I could fit one car seat in the child seat area and the other seat sideways across the main cart area. I had plenty of room for the actual groceries under the cart.

Shopping carts can pose a safety risk for young children. Educate yourself.

In the years since my daughters have outgrown bucket seats, I have learned a lot more about car seats and shopping carts. I’ve read all about the tragic death of 3-month-old James Anderson Berg in a car seat/cart accident. It’s not terribly uncommon for carts to tip. This video, despite its happy ending, is terrifying even for those of us who wouldn’t dream of leaving a 5-point harness unbuckled.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Do not place an infant carrier on top of the shopping cart.” They have some relatively ridiculous “safer ideas” (at least for this home cook and single mother of twins) about leaving kids at home when shopping, but the rules are solid.

If you decide to put your child in a shopping cart anyway, then follow these rules:

  • Place your child in a safety belt or harness at all times when in a shopping cart.
  • Never leave your child alone in a shopping cart.
  • Do not let your child stand up in a shopping cart.
  • Do not place an infant carrier on top of the shopping cart.
  • Do not put your child in the basket.
  • Never allow your child to ride on the outside of a cart.
  • Do not allow an older child to climb on the cart or push the cart with another child in it, because it is very easy for a child to tip the cart over.

Although we never suffered an accident, I wouldn’t put a baby seat in a cart’s seat area if I were to do it over. The Jenny Evolution has some ideas for dealing with singleton infants at the store, and you can check out our thoughts on making it through a shopping trip with multiples.

I encourage you to educate yourself and take a second to think about how you’re comfortable using shopping carts for your infants. They’re a wonderful convenience, and it’s not too hard to use them safely.

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

One thought on “Shopping Cart Safety”

  1. Thank you for posting this. I only had my girls in their carriers on top of a shopping cart twice, I think (I always just used my double stroller…push the stroller, pull the cart). At that time, though, I had no idea that the carrier across the seat/handle was so unsafe.

    Judging by how often I see that at the grocery store, I have to assume this is not widely known.

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