Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Dangers of Infant Car Seats (oustide of the car)

One thing that has bothered me time and again is seeing children in infant carriers placed on top of shopping carts at stores. Some of them are latched (though this is still not safe, and they no longer make them so they can latch specifically to avoid parents doing this), and others are not latched because it is a newer car seat model, but STILL just set the baby up there. I will try to snag some pictures of this the next time I make it into the store, as I see it literally every single time that I go.

Sometimes I work up the courage to politely approach the mother, oogle over the baby, and politely sneak in some safety education about car seats and shopping carts. Sometimes I find myself with a shocked parent who asks more questions and is thankful, and other times I'm received with, "well, the air we breathe is dangerous too." I guess they just don't think something can happen to them or their child. Hopefully it never does, but not all parents are that lucky.

You hear reports of children falling and getting seriously injured. You hear reports of children dying because of these shopping cart injuries... and still, we have parents doing this same action over and over again.

I decided a while back that I need to do something about this. Something more than just approaching (again, politely) parents in the store. This isn't going to stop with parents being educated, obviously. Some simply don't think it applies to them. This isn't going to stop with car seat manufactures putting warnings in the owner manuals (as they are already there! See page 12 of this PDF for GRACO.) It's going to stop when stores stop letting it happen.

I am in no way, shape, or form saying that the stores are responsible for these accidents. They aren't. There is no way the store could be responsible for the action of the parent (educated or not) to place a seat atop a shopping cart. The store can, however, prevent these accidents from occurring in the first place by simply not allowing parents to place infant carriers on top of seats anymore.

Yes, this will be greeted with anger and hostility at first (by customers), but the store can always provide a small paper at their courtesy desk with facts on these dangers if parents want to cause a big stink about it. The arguing will fade with time, and the injuries on store property will drop drastically. I think the store would rather have a few customers griping at them over a few serious injuries (or even fatalities) that were completely preventable.

So what can you do to shop with an infant more safely? If you don't have another person to watch the child or to go shopping with you (so they could push the child in the infant carrier in the stroller it was sold with (or in the stroller alone), there are still options. While it's not recommended to place the infant carrier in the basket of the shopping cart (where you put the bulk of your merchandise), this is MUCH SAFER than placing the carrier on top of the basket. So long as you make sure you are not piling merchandise higher than the lip of the carrier so that nothing has the potential to fall on your child, this is a safer alternative to placing the child on top in the carrier.

Another option is to wear your baby. There are many options out there for carrying your child for all sizes/ages (up to about 40 lbs), so it won't matter if your child is no longer a newborn. We still wear Bobble on those days where we just can't keep up with him! There are all sorts of carrier styles from slings and wraps to structured carriers. Just make sure to check the weight limit on the carrier before you use it!

For those of you who want to help get stores to take action, I will include a generic letter that you have permission to copy, fill in with the appropriate information (like the name of the retailer, the date, etc.), and can send to the retailers of your choice. I'm hoping we can get at least one big-name retailer to take notice and change their policy.... if one does it, maybe the rest will follow suit. Please join me in this endeavour to protect all little ones from preventable injuries (or worse!)! I will include a small list of contacts to send the letter to (by whatever means you wish: email, fax, USPS, etc) to get you started. You can also look up the store/retailer of your choice online and find a place to send it via their "Contact Us" Section, or do a search in Google for "CONTACT (STORE NAME) CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS".

Walmart Home Office
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716-8611
(online submission form )

2929 Walker Ave., NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49544-9424
(877) 363-4537 
([choose store, not meijer.com]: online submission form )

 Kroger Corporate Headquarters
1014 Vine Street  Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 762-4000
(online submission form)

Target Corporate Headquarters
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 338-0085
(612) 332-1454
(online submission form)

There are so many retailers I can't really list them all, nor could I know them all since the major stores vary by location throughout the country. Local or large-scale, any change is a start!

Disclosure: The letter below was written by Christine from Thoughts Of Fluff. This letter IS available for public use. Please feel free to copy this letter and send it to the retailer(s) of your choice.

__________ (DATE)

To Whom It May Concern:

It has come to my attention that many customers in your store are demonstrating unsafe practices of shopping cart use in regards to infant car seats. Many injuries, and even deaths, have resulted from these unsafe practices, and even the manufacturers of these infant car seats have placed warnings within owner manuals to (quote) "NEVER PLACE carrier in top of shopping cart." (Graco Infant Safety Seat/Carrier owners manual, page 12 http://www.gracobaby.com/Instruction%20Manuals/archive/413-11-00.pdf ).

The American Academy of Pediatrics ( http://www.aap.org/ ) found that approximately 23,000 children are treated in a hospital each year for  injuries from shopping carts, and that the majority are to the head and neck.

I strongly believe that, with your company's help, the number of preventable injuries can be greatly reduced. By instating a policy that no longer approves of customers placing infant carriers on the top of shopping cart baskets, not only will injuries decrease, but you'll be setting a great example for other retailers to follow. There are plenty of studies and statements available stating that this practice is unsafe, so please stop allowing it to continue in your store.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this important safety matter.

____________ (NAME)
____________ (ADDRESS)
____________ (PHONE NUMBER)
____________ (E-MAIL ADDRESS)


  1. It is really good that you post these types of things. I think a lot of women see other women doing their carseats on the carts like that so they assume that is how you are supposed to do it and until they are educated to do it differently they won't know better :(

    Of course I want to get one of the convertible car seats like the Radian by Diono so I won't be carrying around one of those heavy carseats anyway! Yay for moby wraps and other baby wearing wraps!


    1. DIono car seats are AMAZING! I would love to do a post about Diono! The only hard part about us not using an infant carrier at all will be convincing my husband (who will probably stay at home with baby #2 as well... at least for the first year) that he should really just wear the baby from the car to wherever!

  2. You go! I used to put my car seat on the shopping cart and noticed after my oldest was born, stores changed cart designs so the seats wouldn't latch. I felt the seat was so wiggly up there it must be unsafe.

    While I was at Target I saw a real close call when another mom's seat was caught on a clothing rack and she grabbed the seat just as it came off the cart. It was scary and I will never do it again. Folks do get upset when you tell them it's dangerous.

    Baby wearing was my solution followed by a nice cart cover. Take the 3 minutes to keep your wee ones safe!

    1. *shudder* It scares me seeing close calls like that! Baby wearing is a great alternative! We have a nice cart cover, but it doesn't really fit any of the shopping carts well, so we hardly ever used it. It had potential, though!

  3. I always put my daughter's car seat inside the basket because I knew perching the seat on top was dangerous. Thanks for sharing this great information!

    1. Thanks for sharing the post for me! We didn't know at first, but we had a hunch as soon as we tried it a couple times when we were new parents. Now I'm selling my travel system (even though we are expecting #2), and we won't even OWN an infant carrier. No need for worry if you don't even have one, right? :)

  4. Your stats are misleading. The "approximately 23,000 children are treated" include children who are old enough to sit in (and squirm out of) the seats of the carts. I put both of my children in their carseat/carrier on the seats of the carts, BUT I also never left them out of arm's reach while they were there. Oftentimes, I turned the seat so that it nestled down into the seat itself to be more secure. To put the seat inside the basket of the cart is impractical, as is taking the stroller because dragging TWO carts or a cart and a stroller through an already cramped store is enough to drive anyone crazy. A lot of parents can't afford to buy an additional, pricey carrier, so the common solution is to hook the carseat/carrier onto the back bar of the shopping cart seat and let it rest on the front bar. At least in my "travel system" (which was a top-rated system) the attachment to the stroller wasn't any more secure than that! Stores allow far more dangerous behavior with their carts, so I simply can't see them becoming the carseat police. If you truly want change, then lobby the cart manufacturers to stop putting seats for children in the carts at all, since the VAST majority of those "23,000 children" are old enough to have been taught better than to squirm and stand up in the shopping cart.

    1. Carriers aren't all expensive. You can get a Moby Wrap for $30, and it's a fantastic carrier. Your car seat is just that... a CAR seat... not a cart seat! Yes, it's annoying to have the basket of the cart mostly full before your shopping starts, or to have to push a stroller around... but if you don't have someone to watch your child or go with you to push your child separately, an inexpensive carrier isn't out of the question. I've also seen parents set the seat part that covers the bars up so there is no leg hole in the upper part of the cart, lay down padding, and lie their NON-MOBILE child in that section of the cart. (I stress the non-mobile part as I would hate for someone to do that with a child that can roll and push themselves up!)

  5. I was one of those new moms, who saw everyone else put their infant seat on top of the shopping cart. I thought thats just what you do with your baby! Until one day I hit a huge pot hole in the parking lot with the shopping cart and almost tipped the cart and the infant seat almost fell out. Never did I do that again!

    1. A *LOT* of parents see it and imitate it. I did it at first, but just didn't feel safe, so I placed Bobble in the basket part instead. Then I started wearing the Ergo (or moby) in the store after a while. :)

  6. I might have done this a couple times, but after I realized I couldn't see over the seat (I'm 5'3") and it was super wobbly, I haven't done it since. And I work at Publix (a grocery store here in the south) so I'll be finding the information to get a letter out to them. I see this happen entirely too often when I'm at work. And I just don't understand it, especially since we have the carts that have the little infant carrier type seat attached to the top.

    1. You're actually taller than I am! *laughs* I did this only a couple of times, and I just didn't feel safe with it. I didn't know it wasn't safe at first either! It's sad, because there are so many warnings out there, yet they don't even reach the parents most of the time! And when they do, of course, people see others doing it and figure it's okay anyway.

      I'd love to find a way to get more information out! I wanted to just have a fact sheet on it (including the safety warnings from the companies) for stores, but it's incredibly ridiculous to think that they'd hand out flyers to all parents, have them there for parents to take (which they wouldn't take anyway), or that they'd approach people. I figured it just easier to enstate a new policy... then parents can't be mad at the associate "sorry, ma'am... it's store policy now.", they can be mad at the store. And they won't be mad forever, anyway... if we can get people to not see it as common-place, it will stop happening slowly but surely.

  7. I was shopping at Target and had brought the car seat in because my 6 mo was still sleeping. I had him in the big basket and my son in the childs seat. I used the bottom shelf for my purchases. The system worked pretty well. When I went to check out the cashier, who was trying to be helpful, lifted the carseat and perched my baby sideways over the basket and put all my groceries under the carseat. Huh. I thought. Seemed surprisingly stable, so I went with it. However, on the way to the car we hit a not very big bump, and baby almost fell. I ended up carrying the carseat in one hand while pushing the cart with the other. Not cool. Spending 40 bucks on an infant carrier is SO worth it! I don't think petitioning stores is the right way to go. Parents should be allowed to make their own choices...

    1. Parents SHOULD be allowed to make their own choices, but so many disregard the fact that it's so dangerous that it would be a lot safer for stores to just not allow it. I can't think of a better way to do it. Car seat manufacturers already say not to do it. That didn't work. They redesigned car seats to make them less stable in carts (won't latch). Parents still put them there anyway. There actually have been better shopping cart designs put out a decade or so ago, but nobody has started using them. That would be helpful too. Either way, I'm concerned about the safety of the children. I know parents should make their own choices on how they raise their child, but safety should be universal. We have to have them in car seats when we drive. We have to have them buckled in when they are in their car seat in the car. It is a LAW. Parents don't have that choice. This is a safety matter, and it could even be argued to be a much higher matter. Thing of the insurance liability of the grocery stores. Think of the tax dollar strains for ER visits that could be cut back from these simply not being placed on the cart. Granted I don't really want to talk politics ... but if we are paying for healthcare for those who can't afford it, we're paying for their children to be treated for an injury that was easily avoided. I'd rather avoid the injury.

    2. It's not necessarily a matter of disregarding the fact that it "so dangerous" as much as many might not know the dangers of it. I do put my daughter & her carseat in the top part of the cart but at no time do I walk away from it and when I walk inside or outside the store I have my hands on each side of the carseat. I cannot afford a carrier right now and did not pay for my carseat (was given to me by my local Sheriff's office). I went thru my Prenatal Education class which the first class included them going over the carseat safety and nothing like that was ever mentioned. Perhaps a more effective way would be to approach/contact hospitals that offer the classes and get them to include that in the classes, or even to contact DCFS who can make it a mandatory thing.

  8. What I would really like to see is either a warning sticker on the carrier itself, or a warning printed on the seat of carts warning that carseat carriers do not lock into place and that it is not safe to place them on top. You will still get people who disregard the warning, but I feel like more people would notice it and maybe think about the consequences.

    1. Many carriers DO have warning stickers on them, and the seat of the grocery carts (at our stores, anyway) DO have something on them saying to NOT put an infant carrier on them. :(

  9. I see this a lot, too. As you and other commenters mentioned, I don't think that the dangers of placing an infant carrier on top of a cart are immediately obvious. It's difficult to confront other people in a situation like this and I admire your bravery and dedication to helping prevent this type of accident.