Whether you are picking up groceries or making a run to your local big-box store, you will need your hands free for shopping, but when it is safe to let your baby ride in the shopping cart?
Most babies are ready to sit in a shopping cart when they can sit and hold their heads up without support, usually around 6 months old. Do not rely on the simple lap strap to keep your baby safe if she cannot support themselves and consider a seat cover that provides extra support and safety features for a safer and more comfortable experience for infants.
Keep reading to find out when your baby is ready to sit in the shopping cart, how to keep him safe in it, and the best ways to keep your baby comfortable and healthy in a public cart, plus what to do if you don’t think your baby is ready to sit in the cart seat.
When can a baby sit in a cart by themself?
Almost all shopping carts are constructed with a baby seat with two leg holes and a lap belt, but there is not a lot of support otherwise.
Because of the loose structure, your baby needs to be able to do most of the work of staying upright in the cart himself so it is important that he is able to sit up and hold his head up for as long as you plan on shopping. Depending on your baby’s development, this will probably be around six months old.
Remember, however, that all babies will develop at different speeds and reach milestones at different times – the exact age of your baby doesn’t matter when it comes to putting them in a shopping cart. You can help your baby through this process by using supports like towels or blankets to help them sit up at home. Tummy time is also a great way to build neck strength. Over time, these muscles will get stronger and your baby will be able to practice sitting up straight and using better posture!
If you want to learn more about grocery shopping with your baby I’ve created an entire resource for you!
Is it safe to put a baby carrier in shopping carts?
It is never safe to put a baby carrier in the shopping cart.
A shopping cart is wider at the top than the base and has an awkward center of gravity that depends on the bottom of the cart basket taking the majority of the weight in order to keep itself balanced. Adding unexpected weight to the top of the cart can severely overbalance it and cause the entire cart to tip over, potentially leading to your baby being trapped or injured.
It may be tempting to put the carrier into the main portion of the shopping cart, especially if you have a small baby or infant who is not yet able to sit in the cart seat, but then you run the risk of items falling on your child.
Do car seats fit in the grocery cart?
Car seats do not fit in grocery carts, and should never be placed in one.
Like baby carriers, car seats may overbalance the cart or fall off entirely when propped on the unstable basket. In 2011, a three-month-old was killed when the cart hit a bump and his car seat was knocked down onto the floor.
Can you use a stroller as a shopping cart?
A great potential alternative to putting your baby in the shopping cart is to use his stroller instead. This can work if you are not planning on buying very much or anything very large.
My stroller is relatively lightweight and works great for this because the bottom storage basket is open enough that I never feel like I am trying to hide something when I put it down there. I also try to make sure that I do not mix personal items with my shopping items.
What about before my child is big enough to sit in the cart?
Before your baby is big enough to sit in the cart, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure you complete all your errands without risking your child’s safety.
- Teamwork – Schedule your shopping so that there is someone available to push the shopping cart and another person who can carry the baby.
- Get a babysitter – Leave your baby at home or at a trusted friend or family member’s house while you go to the store.
- Babywear – There are so many options for different types of baby carriers available that it should be simple to find one that makes it convenient for you to carry your baby comfortably and still push the shopping cart easily.
- Order online – With many grocery stores rolling out online ordering programs, you can now pick up your groceries without ever leaving your car. In urban areas, some grocery stores have even started offering in-home delivery for many items.
How to put baby in the shopping cart safely
Once your baby can sit up and hold his head up for extended periods of time, he is ready to ride in the shopping cart seat. But you still need to pay special attention to ensure that your baby is comfortable and safe in a moving shopping cart.
Here are a few shopping cart safety tips:
No matter his age or development, your child should never be placed in the basket portion of the cart.
Shopping carts have been shown to be dirtier and more likely to be harboring disease than many common surfaces that you might already be concerned about your baby coming into contact with. This includes places like changing tables, restaurant dining tables, and even many bathrooms. It is a good practice to keep baby-safe disinfectant wipes or sanitizer on hand for when you are out in public; use one to wipe down the cart handle and any parts of the cart that your baby may come into contact with.
If you are looking for a safer and natural hand sanitizer, I HIGHLY recommend The Honest Company for their awesome-smelling sanitizer sprays. These work very well for babies and kids because you can simply spray it where it needs to go instead of worrying about a messy gel.
These are finally back in stock and you can grab a single on Amazon or get a 12-pack directly from The Honest Company by clicking on the image below.
Once the cart is clean, place your child in the cart seat, ensuring that each leg goes through the correct hole, and fasten the lap belt securely around his waist. Don’t allow your child to stand up in the cart, and never walk away from the cart with your child in it. According to a 2012 study, more children under five are hurt in shopping cart accidents than any other way, including car accidents, so it is important to be diligent about your child’s safety even with everyday items.
Shopping cart safety and support for babies and infants
If your child needs extra support in the shopping cart – for example, he is able to hold his head up but lacks the muscles in his trunk to stay upright due to delayed development – you may want to consider a padded shopping cart cover that includes pillows on either side.
For those that have to run a lot of errands or just love getting their baby or infant out and about these will be worth the money. If you are considering buying one just for the extra support for a few weeks – it might not be. Still, these covers are super useful because they can usually also be used in restaurant highchairs as well!
Best shopping cart cover to use
Even after you spray or wipe down the cart, you may not feel comfortable putting your child into the seat of a shopping cart since the closest they ever come to being washed is being outside while it rains. There are several types of covers that you can buy that will completely separate your child from the shopping cart, and are easy to wash so you know the surface touching your baby’s skin is always clean.
This is a basic cover that fits most carts and doubles as a high chair cover when you are eating out. It includes a teething ring, a space for an additional toy, and a strap to hold onto your child’s cup. It rolls up into itself and forms a tote that can be carried easily.
This shopping cart cover is made of a plush Minky fabric and includes several attached toys, as well as a place to attach your baby’s favorite toy.
It also has a pocket for his bottle and a larger pocket for storing any other items which converts into a fold-and-go pouch once you are done using the cover. Unlike some covers, this one only comes in one size, but reviews indicate that it fits most carts, and it doubles as a cover for a restaurant high chair.
This cart cover is designed for small children who are unstable and unable to stay upright during a shopping trip. Not only does it include two tabs you can hang his favorite toys off of, but it also has pillows on either side to help support your baby and protect him from toppling over into the hard metal or plastic of the cart.
What about a shopping cart hammock?
Note that all of these options are covers. You could also use a shopping cart hammock but I haven’t found those to be as useful as they get in the way of the shopping cart basket and are just generally harder to use.
Are there shopping cart safety regulations?
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are voluntary safety regulations in place that include testing for child safety, the inclusion of lap belts, and clear warning labels on the carts. The regulations are not extensive and do not address sanitization at all, so use your own best judgment when choosing how and whether or not to place your child in a shopping cart.