I found out last week that one of my good friends is expecting her first baby. I am SO excited for her, and I can’t wait to sit down with her and talk about all the fun things she has to look forward to.

In other words, I want to give her advice.

After all, I’ve had a baby. And, so far, we’ve avoided any major missteps. So I must be an expert, right?

Okay, maybe not. And I will try to keep my unsolicited advice to a minimum. (Unless asked. Because then all bets are off, and Mary the Expert Mama is on the job!) But that minimum is definitely going to include tips for shopping with a baby.

Because though I anticipated the difficulty of feeding a newborn and I dreaded the middle-of-the-night crying (mine and hers) and I suspected diaper-changing would be a nasty business, I had NO IDEA how complicated running errands would become the second I had a baby.

I mean, I’m all for society pampering pregnant women, but I think some of those “Expecting Mother” parking spots could be transferred over to those of us with a cranky two-year-old. I’m just saying.

Today’s tips focus mostly on safety, but if you have tips for making shopping with children (or, heck, even with ONE child) easier, please share in the comments. Even this seasoned mother of one could learn a thing or two, I’m sure.

Safety Tips for Shopping with a Baby or Toddler

1. Park by the cart return. I cannot stress this enough. It will save you so much stress and turmoil. First, it helps to put the baby directly into the cart instead of lugging – or, eventually, dragging – the child into the store and then finding an empty cart. Your already-tired mom arm will thank you. Second, when it comes time to leave, you don’t have to choose between being a considerate shopper and returning your cart five spaces away or a conscientious parent and not leaving your child alone in the car while you walk five spaces away.

2.   Keep wipes everywhere. You can use baby wipes or mild disinfectant wipes; it doesn’t matter. Just keep something wet and sturdy in the car, in your purse and in the diaper bag at all times. This will come in handy for wiping off the cart handle or cleaning spit up or other nastiness in the store. Or, once your child is old enough to grab things and put them in her mouth, you can just wipe it off and put it back on the shelf. {What? Like you’ve never done that…}

3. Beware the lap belt. Speaking of cart germs, this is less a tip and more a heads up. The seat belts in shopping carts are crazy gross. I don’t know. Maybe they don’t actually carry more germs than other things, but they kind of make me gag. Even worse? When my daughter, fascinated with all things that buckle, would start out clasping and unclasping the thing and then sneak the disgusting straps into her mouth. UGH! I don’t know the solution, especially if you have a child old enough (or smart enough, as I’m sure my daughter’s case was) to undo the buckle.

4. Consider a shopping cart cover. By the time I ever saw a shopping cart cover, Annalyn had experienced so many uncomfortable and filthy carts that I figured it was pretty much a moot point. But what a clever idea! They aren’t all this expensive, but I thought this polka dot print was adorable – and who can argue with extra padding?

5. Consider not using the cart at all. Apparently (yes, I did do a little research for this post), some experts advise against putting babies in carts at all. I knew they advised against putting the infant carrier in the top part (LIKE I DID ALL THE TIME), but they even suggest not putting babies who can sit up in the cart, because they can fall out and get hurt badly. The same experts recommend wearing your baby in a carrier (a skill I never mastered, hence the dangerous cart habits) or, once they’re old enough to sit up, pushing them in those obnoxious, hard-to-maneuver (but close-to-the-ground) car or truck carts.

Obviously, I have not followed this advice and may not start even now, but I wouldn’t feel responsible unless I told you what the real experts say.

6. On your bottom, face forward, legs through the holes. I may have already had to say this to Annalyn a few dozen times. Even though it goes against many kids’ wiggly nature, don’t let them try to climb out of the seat. Buckle them in and make sure they stay properly seated. And whatever you do, don’t walk away from the cart while they’re in it. Because they will – and yes, I am speaking from experience – try to climb out the second you turn your back!

7. Hold hands or wear a harness. I’ll admit it. Before I was a parent (yes, back when I knew it all), I thought kid leashes were horrible. I would never (NEVER!) use one of those! Umm … yeah. That was before I had a curious little girl who hates riding in the cart and loves darting out in front of other shoppers. If your threats lecture about holding your hand doesn’t do the trick, you might think about a harness.

I loved what essortment.com had to say about this: “If your child is too big for a stroller, then hold his hand, or invest in a little ‘buddy bracelet’. A buddy bracelet is a restraint, but for your child’s sake, let’s call it a bracelet. They may be purchased at most law-enforcement stores, or online. Some misguided idealists may see this as a violation of a child’s right to freedom, but a child small enough to be snatched at a mall may be OK to have their freedom infringed upon for an hour or so.”

8. Attach your name and contact information to your child’s clothing. This tip was one I picked up from my research. I’d never even though to pin my name and cell phone number on Annalyn when we go shopping. But how smart is that?! (Of course, you should also couple it with the reminder to never go anywhere with strangers, even if they know Mommy and Daddy’s names…)

9.   Watch what your child touches – and puts in his mouth. I swear, my daughter has Go-Go-Gadget arms. I can be in the exact middle of the aisle (sorry, fellow shoppers) and still she manages to reach something she’s not supposed to. And don’t even get me started on the sample ladies who like to offer food to my child. Food on toothpicks. Or with peanuts. (Not that she’s allergic to peanuts, but, you know, some kids are.) I’ve actually gotten in the habit of taking a sippy cup of water and one toy into the store with us. That way she’s distracted (in theory) and avoids these temptations.

10.   Take another adult with you. Okay, this is the best and the worst tip of all, in my opinion. Yes, of course, it’s easier to shop with someone else around. Let’s face it: it is impossible to give your child 100% of your attention when you’re doing something else. Especially if that something else involves navigating the supercenter while trying to figure out where they put the bread this week. And in the split second you take your attention off her, your child can be injured or wander off or have any number of things happen to her. {I’M NOT SAYING IT WILL HAPPEN. I’M JUST SAYING IT COULD.}

So, sure, having another adult is ideal. But it’s not always doable. I know in my world, it’s darned near impossible most weeks, with our crazy schedules. While it would be best for shoppers to keep a 2:1 adult-child ratio, I’m pretty sure we’d all better just focus on the other nine tips.

The truth about shopping with babies and toddlers (and, I imagine, any age kids) is that it’s no more or less dangerous than any situation you find yourself in. But when you’re shuffling coupons and juggling groceries and trying not to sweat as you unload and reload and unload the cart again, it’s easy to forget these basic safety tips.

What tips would you give a new or expecting mom about running errands with her child?

For more information about shopping safety, visit:
http://www.parents.com/baby/safety/tips/shopping-cart-safety/
http://stayathomeparents.suite101.com/article.cfm/shopping_with_toddlers
http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-06-13-shopping-kids_N.htm
http://www.essortment.com/family/safetytipstodd_shtp.htm
http://www.essortment.com/family/childsafetytip_snln.htm
http://www.babyzone.com/safety/article/shopping-safety-tips

This post will be linked to Top Ten Tuesday at OhAmanda.com.  Images not of Annalyn are by Amy Jeffries and USACE Europe District.

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