Kecia Healy on December 07, 2012

Safe Shopping with Baby

Wear your baby while shopping!

photo courtesy of dani hampton

I see scary carseat/shopping cart situations all the time. I know you must see it too. Perhaps you’re even in the habit of placing your baby’s carseat on top of the cart when you’re shopping. 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 the cart.

The problem: Infant carseats just 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 issue 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 more often than not, it’s just teetering on the top with little support. One good bump and that seat (with baby inside) is going to topple. If the baby is old enough to kick, grab or try to sit up – that increases the chances of falling. If the child is old enough to kick, grab or try to sit up and 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, and climb on it, and hang off the sides as soon as you turn your back. The cart isn’t the most stable object on four 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 can’t avoid going to stores completely and you need a safe and convenient place to put your baby or toddler so you can get stuff done.

Here are some suggestions for making a trip to the store a little less hazardous for your child:

• Use an Ergobaby Carrier or other babywearing product and leave the infant carseat in the car.

• If you decide to bring your infant carseat into the store with you, place the infant carseat 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 been there done that 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 and neck injuries.

• Take advantage of stores with 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 your baby down.

• Use common sense! If the carseat is poorly supported on the cart, don’t leave it that way! Nothing you’re going to buy at Costco or Target or ShopRite is worth risking your child falling off the cart face first.

Way back in the late 90′s when my oldest son 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 horrified by what I had just seen (and heard). That experience stayed with me and from that day on I have always been 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 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 my mouth shut. And blog about the problems instead!

safe shopping with baby

photos courtesy of kelly fondots and xza higgins


Please help spread the word!

This post originally appeared here on and was re-posted with permission.

Kecia Healy

Kecia Healy is a mom of 2 boys, a Child Passenger Safety
Technician-Instructor and one of the primary authors of She lives with her husband and children in the
suburbs of New York City.

  • Emily

    Yikes! 23,000 injuries a year! That’s terrible. I love shopping with baby in the Ergo. She sleeps instead of screams, I have two hands free, and everyone’s safe!

  • Sascha

    My daughter at around 18 months was seated in the cartseat buckled in and in 2 seconds she managed to get out of the buckle and fall out giving me a heart attack thinking she broke her neck. She fell in that crazy of a position. Thank GOD she got right up and didn’t even wimper. I wear my kids every chance I get if I’m shopping. I recently had to stop wearing my ergo since I am pregnant , highrisk and my son weighs 35lbs at 22 months.

  • C Olsen

    It’s my understanding that even car seats that do snap in to the cart and those that are attached to the cart are still not safe because they make the carts top heavy and more likely to tip over. I read an article about a baby dying from a cart tipping over in a parking lot and hitting his head. I don’t think the carseat/cart arrangement is safe unless the seat is in the cart (as you mentioned). Wish more people did the baby wearing thing!

  • Angela

    I found that by placing my daughter (in her carseat) inside the cart, it reduced how much I could buy at Target/Walmart. Which was a really good thing, because unless you’re doing your grocery shopping, most of your trips to the store don’t require that many purchases but you fill up the car anyways because you wander around picking up cute socks and a new shirt and that movie that’s on sale, etc. I HAD to wear my daughter at the grocery store because our store used giantly tall shopping carts and I couldn’t see over the carseat if I set it on top and then couldn’t lift the heavy seat with my giant baby all the way out of the belly of the cart. With this baby, I’ll have an even better carrier (last time I just had a ring sling and a babybjorn, this time I’m getting an ergo), which is good because I’ll also be shopping with the preschooler!

  • susan

    Stores need to get the message that this is a liabilaty to them and enforce a policy of not allowing infant carriers on there carts. The store I own – small kids store- does this – every customer that trys to put an infant seat on our carts is nicely asked not to and offered other safe options for her child while she shops. If all stores did this it would help alot

  • Courage Lightflow

    I went to a grocery store the other day and saw that the carts finally have a ‘no car seat’ sign on them. I pointed it out to my husband, but a cashier who overheard stated she couldn’t believe that, and that car seats are made to latch onto the cart to be safe… I pointed out that the cart isn’t meant to hold the car seat and it can tip the cart, not to mention the latch isn’t meant to attach to the cart but to the base in the car (and if the latch gets broken or something messing around with shopping carts then you’re breaking your car seat.) She continued to argue with me about how it was perfectly safe to put the car seat on top of the cart.

    It’s something that needs to be gotten out. Doctors need to mention it to patients in the same way they ask us whether our kids are still in car seats. Store employees need to have it told to them in safety training. Car seat manufacturers need to put “not for use on shopping carts” on every single car seat (it should be on every handle where the parents can see it.) I’ve argued with parents who were convinced that because their car seat didn’t have it as a warning, their car seat was the exception. This is such old news, but so many people have never heard it…

  • Sarah walker

    Thank you for this post- I am one of those moms with the scary car seat(buckled into the cart, of course, so I justified it). This was the kick in the butt I needed. I have various carriers- just hard to use in the winter with coats and sleeping baby, etc. but you are absolutely right- nothing is worth risking my baby. I’m done with the car seat on the cart.

  • Meg

    “But giving unsolicited advice to strangers can be more dangerous than playing in New Delhi traffic, so usually I just keep my mouth shut” I like the article but I LOVE this line!

  • Britt

    Thanks for posting this! I love babywearing while grocery shopping. It is so scary to see so many people use the car seats on top of the cart!