The Myth That Car Seats And Carts Are Made For Each Other

I spoke with a car seat brand representative last month, and their pitch was focused on extra measures of safety. A news story was fresh on my mind, and I asked, “What about making it more obvious that parents shouldn’t be putting car seats on top of grocery carts? Like, is there a way to add a visual to the warning that is attached to the seat?”

While she shared my concern, she stated that it does say in the manual not to latch it onto anything other than the base, and that at some point they have to rely on the consumer to read the manual and use common sense.

And I get it. We should all be reading every manual that comes with every piece of baby stuffs we buy, especially the seats we trust to save their lives. I totally understand that. I know that to a lot of people it’s common sense to not put your baby’s carseat on top of a grocery cart.

But let’s just play the reality card real quick. In reality, and I’m just as guilty of this, we don’t always read all of the manuals. In reality, we see the moms and dads that have come before us confidently hoist their babies in their seats to rest atop the grocery carts as they shop. In reality, we sometimes hear those seats “click” and they seem to fit so perfectly up there, we think they were made to do that. In reality, we are exhausted new parents who don’t know which side is up some days. In reality, we have no idea what we’re doing, and sometimes we really do need someone to tell us in some way other than the fine print.


I saw a mom at Target a couple months ago lifting her newborn in his carseat to rest on top of the front of the grocery cart, like at least a half dozen other parents were doing in that same store at that same moment. Her toddler ran circles around her legs, tugging on her loose maternity skirt. She struggled to get the seat to latch onto the cart as she balanced an overstuffed diaper bag on her shoulder.

I paused as I walked toward her. I wanted to say something. I wanted to warn her. I wanted her to put her newborn baby safely down in the cart. I wanted him to be secure if anything jostled them, if his older brother ran into them, if they hit a curb on the way out. I wanted to help her.

I didn’t want to come off judgmental. I didn’t want to deflate her already seemingly tired spirit.

I almost just walked right on, but something in me urged me to stop and say, “Hey! Congrats on the little one. He is adorable. I just… wanted to stop and tell you… I used to put my baby in his car seat at the top of grocery carts like that, and then one day I had a horrible scare. His carseat almost fell off the cart, even though I thought it was latched on. I found out that they aren’t supposed to be up there at all. I had no idea, so I try to tell other parents who also might not know. Even if it clicks, it’s not actually secure. Anyway, you are doing a GREAT job. I know how hard it is to grocery shop with two littles. Hang in there. Have a good day.”

The truth is, I’ve never put my baby on the top of the cart. Not because I’m smarter or have more common sense, but because I’ve been around the internet for a long time. I read the cautionary tales before I had my first baby. But prior to that, it never occurred to me that was not safe, and I’m sure I would have been that mom if I hadn’t known any different.

It was a little white lie, but I hope it helped me convey the suggestion in a way that didn’t come off as harsh or judgmental. As much as I didn’t want her to feel offended by my suggestion, I also didn’t want her baby to get hurt… or possibly die.

No, that’s not being dramatic. Babies have died after their seats have fallen from the tops of grocery carts.

There is no seat that is made to click onto the top of a grocery cart. The safest place for them in their seat is in the basket of the cart, or you can wear them. I know, I know that this complicates things. I know it leaves you less room in the basket for groceries. I know not everyone can or enjoys baby wearing. I know it takes extra planning, but please don’t put your baby in their car seat on the top of your cart.

Tell your friends. Tell them to tell their friends. It’s obvious by the number of parents I see doing this every time I go to the store that it’s not that people lack common sense, but that many of us have bought into this myth that car seats and carts are made to work together. I’m not judging you. I just want to help you keep your baby safe.

Here’s a recent post by The Car Seat Lady about car seats and shopping carts
Here’s a video of a baby who got super lucky when a Home Depot worker caught him after he fell out of his seat atop the cart

Here’s a safety alert from the CPSC

50 Things to Do Before You Deliver: The First Time Moms Pregnancy Guide
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  1. This is something that’s been on my mind lately. While I now agree (I will admit hesitantly, because I did it with B) that it’s not good to put a car seat on top of a cart, figuring out the logistics of getting anything involving a store done [in my new normal of newborn twins + 1] become their own item on the to-do list.

    There are no carts for three kids at any of my local stores. I either have to go alone, or the entire family goes and we either wear them, or get two carts and still have to put the babies in the bottom of the cart with the raw meat while we chase the preschooler. It’s a no-win. (Yeah, yeah, #firstworldproblems.) Maybe stores will start carrying better carts if this information is passed along, but more importantly, keeping the babies safe is what matters.

  2. I see this entirely to often too and I’m always compelled to say something, but don’t want to come across as judge-y or critical. I think that the way you approached the person was great…I need to vow to approach these mistaken parents too. My heart would break if something were to happen and I failed to speak up.

  3. Ok, so I am really embarrassed to say that this never crossed my mind! I always baby wear an infant to young to sit in the cart so I don’t think I have ever done this but I see it happen all the time!!

    Thank you for writing about this!

  4. Have you seen the shopping carts with a ledge type thing that has a buckle and is specifically made for infant car seats? I have just started seeing them here in Utah at Smith’s and Walmart. Anyways, it is a safe way to put the baby’s car seat in the cart and still have room for the groceries. The car seat doesn’t click in, but it is secured by a belt with a buckle, as it would be in a car. I tried to find a picture of it online, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Maybe I’ll have to take a pic next time I go. But more stores should get them because it is so much safer!

  5. Every time I see a car seat teetering on a cart I cringe. I do try to share this warning with new parents but so many of them blow me off or argue that the “click” actually means the seat is meant for the cart. And then there are those parents that argue that the car seat takes up so much room in the basket and my solution is: babywearing. Besides who has the strength to haul that car seat with the baby in it through the parking lot and up onto the cart seat? Not me that’s for sure!

    • except some people can’t babywear. it takes appx 45 minutes for me to get an infant into our ergo and buckled by myself using a bed. imagine doing that somehow? with a very inclined vehicle seat while 2 other kids wait not so patiently. there is zero way to win. most of the time we take 2 carts. or leave everyone out in the vehicle with dad while I grab a few things.

  6. Valarrie Syrus Robinson on

    Thank you for posting this! I am a mom of 3, ranging in age from 13 years to 20 months. I learned to NEVER put the car seat on the grocery cart long ago, but even with my 3rd child I would have exasperated checkers and baggers at the store tell me ‘the baby in the car seat can go on the seat of the cart’ just so they could fit all the bagged groceries into the same cart and not have to fill a separate one or help me out, etc… I informed them ‘nicely’ that no, car seats are not meant for the seat of the cart…I got lots of eye rolls but safety of my child comes first. I wish there were more awareness out there for this…

  7. I have done this, more times than I care to admit. Now, I wear him when I can. I feel okay putting him inside the big part of the cart, like Scott did in the IG photo you posted. The first time I ever went shopping with my first I stopped another mother in the store and asked what she did with her baby. Good for you for saying something. I hope she reacted well.

  8. In all honesty I am a huge advocate for car seat safety…but until I had my 2nd baby I had no clue that this was a “no no” you hear the click…I always had my hands on the car seat to while steering the shopping cart anyway, but I honestly had no clue that you weren’t supposed to do this. It makes it so so hard to shop, but baby’s safety always comes first. You really almost have to send daddy/husband to go shopping because the amount we need it’s impossible to do with a bucket seat in the cart. Maybe stores should start adapting and having an approved bucket seat attachment?

  9. Courtney Helms on

    Wouldn’t it be great if retail shops posted warnings on the carts or even at store entrances?

  10. Honestly I never really knew you weren’t supposed to put the car seat in the front of the grocery cart. It seems like I read the the type of carseat I purchased was meant to go there, even though it never really fit right. I did usually put them in sideways which seemed a little more secure or in the back of the cart if I didn’t need a ton of stuff. I’m lucky we never had any accidents. Thanks for posting this warning!

  11. Ashley Gwen Whidden on

    I always get the carts with a car seat dock built in. You set the seat in and strap it. Simple and safe. And if they don’t have one, she will get held, in a baby wearer, or in the basket.

  12. Angela Cooke Batterman on

    A school friend of my daughter lost her infant son when the baby’s seat somehow took a nose dive out of the grocery cart upper section. It made the national news. It was a horrible accident. I NEVER hesitate to tell mothers that story plus a similar one about a child who was standing in the cart and got over balanced and hit the pavement. I really don’t care what the mother may say or how she reacts, I speak to them to save lives. I couldn’t bare not saying something and seeing something horrible happen moments later. Speak out.

  13. on

    I had no idea! I’ve even regularly complained about how so few stores have carts that the car seat snaps in on at the right angle! Thank you so much for the warning!

  14. Cynthia Longley Richards on

    It always makes me cringe! One day i saw a woman with the car seat across the back part of the cart, on an angle. I just don’t understand why people don’t see the danger in this. I just put baby in the Ergo and we’re off. I hate lugging that damn carseat around so I do it as little as possible. Plus, the where does the food go, if baby’s in the back of the cart?

  15. Bethany Tucciarone on

    I read this a billion different places when I was pregnant with my first baby, and am always surprised when I see others doing this. I even was shopping once with my son in his car seat in the basket and someone commented that I would have more room for groceries if I moved the seat. Duh.

  16. Also always keep the roll bar up, I know a lot of people think the handle to an infant seat is just a handle but from experience that bar acts as a roll bar in case the seat falls. My husband and I were trying to unlock the for and I had set my daughter and her seat down on the step. My husband stepped back and the seat flipped down the stairs, which were only three little ones but if it wasn’t for that roll bar she could have been hurt

  17. Carmen Bradshaw on

    For a while my little one wouldn’t tolerate wearing, so the days I needed to do a big trip I’d put her in her stroller and then pull the cart behind me. Definitely more cumbersome, but it works and it’s safe 🙂

  18. Megan Thomas on

    This is actually really bad advice!!! It says plain-as-day on the warning label of every single cart NOT to put your child in the large basket place. It doesn’t suddenly become safe if it is an infant in a car seat. The safest place for baby or any other child isn’t in the cart at all unless they are old enough and small enough to sit up in the front where the seat belt is. The inner part of the cart moves and can easily trap baby if you leave him in the car seat in the large part and of course tipping over is always a concern as these things are not sturdy. WEAR your baby or put him in a STROLLER.

  19. I was that mom who put her kid in the car seat in that part of the cart, sometimes (I really thought some of them clicked together). But usually it was placed in the big part of the cart because the two parts didn’t line up. I was never as happy about a milestone as the day that she was able to sit up in the cart front. Belted in, because she’s a wiggly one.
    But we always put her car seat on top of the restaurant booth tables, even when it left less space and annoyed the wait staff.
    (please don’t scold me folks–we really didn’t know better, and we are an educated later in life couple. I feel like I read everything possible before having her)

  20. My car seat doesn’t fit on top of shopping carts! I generally wear my daughter because of all the horror stories about shopping carts and babies. I was curious one day and tried to put my car seat on top. It doesn’t even fit! It leans waaaaaay back. It’s scary.

  21. Pingback: Have a seat, my friends! | Tots Eat Lots

  22. Thank you for this post. If I had known how dangerous it could be I would never have had the following mistake when my child was tiny. When she was a very young baby I snapped her on like everyone else and had loosened her straps for a reason I can’t remember. I didn’t immediately refasten them since she couldn’t move yet or so I thought. She did a tiny little stretch and the car seat flipped over dumping her into the cart on her face. Thankfully she was ok even though to this day years later I still feel bad about that moment. It was the worst moment of my life. So moms if you take this lightly and think oh whatever take it from a mom who had snapped them on a million times. It only takes a split second for it to go horribly wrong. Just don’t do it!

  23. Victoria Montgomery on

    I am a new mom of a beautiful 3 month old girl. Today I had her buckled in the carseat and like I had done many times before, set the carseat in that front basket part, as there’s a little notch that just seems to be so perfect for carts as you said! And yes in fact I’ve even heard the little click with certain carts, so I am assured she’s safe.
    Today I was leaving a store and the heavy glass door swung back at me/my daughter in her carseat in the cart and knocked her carseat to the ground. She landed face first on the linoleum floor. There was a brief second of silence when I couldn’t even see her, as the carseat was completely upside down (and the had the little handle on top folded down to not obstruct my vision while pushing her in the cart).. Then I flipped her over, unbuckled her, and both of us just sat there crying. I took her to the er where she had a CT scan that revealed some slight bleeding outside of her skull where a bump and bruise had shown up, and a tiny bit of bleeding inside of her skull as well. She is acting normal like nothing happened and looks to be fine, but they’re keeping her overnight for observation.

    I’m begging all parents here.. For the sake of the child you love more than life itself.. Do NOT put the carseat on top of carts, even though you might see practically every other shopper doing it. I got lucky, but I have read that others have sadly perished during such incidents.

  24. Suzanne Marie on

    We always put the carseat inside the back of the cart… we just bought less stuff and went more often 😀 I see people putting it in the front of the cart all the time. I guess some people don’t understand basic physics based on the shape of the cart and making it heavy on one side.

  25. Shana Sundin Hutchens on

    Oh. For. The. Love. My well-adored and always very well cared for children are now 25, 22 and 18. Each one of them spent countless trips to the grocery on top of the grocery cart – which yes, it did latch. Seriously. I am so thankful that I am not a young parent in the year 2016. Everything is apparently so over-the-top dangerous =/

  26. Yes, that is why I love It was designed to fit any infant seat or just baby so you don’t have to put seat in front. And safety tested. It’s genius.

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