Even though it may seem intimidating at first, it’s not as hard as you might think to take learn how to grocery shop with a baby.
Many parents wonder how they can get errands, like grocery shopping, done with a new baby in tow. I remember trying to figure this out as a first time mom. Suddenly even simple things like picking up a few groceries seemed like a big logistical challenge!
So let’s take a look at how to have a successful trip.
Where should the baby sit?
Actually, let’s quickly start with where the baby shouldn’t sit – and that’s in an infant car seat resting on top of a shopping cart. This is a fall hazard, so please don’t do this! Lots of parents put the car seat inside the shopping cart, but this has a big disadvantage of taking up almost all of the space you need for groceries.
So, what are some better options?
In a Baby Carrier
One of the best options is using a baby carrier. This works really well as long as you feel comfortable babywearing. If you’re new to babywearing it might be worth checking out my babywearing for beginners guide to help get you started.
A baby carrier frees up your hands, and makes it possible to get lots of things including chores and errands done while keeping your baby snuggled and happy. Lots of babies are able to nap (and even nurse) in the carrier – there’s a reason why they’re so popular!
For younger babies you’re going to use a front carry position, which still leaves your hands free.
(Check out the best baby carriers for newborns post for my favorite carriers for the youngest babies).
For older babies and toddlers you can use a back carrying position, which makes grocery shopping easy! There are no little hands trying to grab for sugary cereals, which really helps to move things along.
In a shopping cart hammock
If you’re shopping with a newborn, a great option is a shopping cart hammock. Using a hammock keeps plenty of space available in the shopping cart, and is a safe way to hold your baby. The hammock simply attaches to your cart, and you can lay your baby down and strap her in.
Some reviewers mentioned that these hammocks don’t fit well in Trader Joe’s carts, so if you shop there regularly you might want to keep that in mind.
What about for older babies?
If your baby is at least six months old and has solid head control, it’s fine to carry the baby in the front of the shopping cart. Make sure that he or she is strong enough to sit upright for an extended period of time, and be aware that the buckles on the carts don’t do much at all to support your baby.
If your baby will be riding in the cart, you may want to bring along a shopping cart cover. This is if you’re the type of person who is concerned about germs in public places. I don’t happen to be that type of person, but I probably should be, and you very well are.
I think having three kids in a row has made me less concerned about germs, especially since both of my older kids bring home constant germs from school and day care. Anyway, carrier covers are available and I do think they’re probably a wise idea.
In the stroller
Another option, which is actually one of my favorites, is to use your own stroller! You can use the basket underneath to hold your groceries. I think a lot of people feel like you wouldn’t be able to fit enough under the carriage. Well I will tell you that you can fit a ton under that carriage! Although this does depend on the particular stroller.
For example, this type of stroller would be useless:
However, if you have the Chicco KeyFit Caddy Frame Stroller (which is the stroller I’ve gotten BY FAR the most use out of with all three of my kids, despite the fact that it’s the cheapest stroller I own!) – you can fit a LOT.
The stroller is part of a system that goes with the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, which is a very popular car seat choice (and what I’ve used with all three of my kids).
I’m not exaggerating here when I say that I go grocery shopping for an entire family of five using nothing but the Chicco Key Fit Caddy stroller, the cart underneath, and a sedative. Ok I don’t take a sedative but let’s be honest, sometimes it would help at Market Basket on a Saturday morning.
I do skip really bulky items like toilet paper, paper towels and diapers because those obviously are not going to fit. But that’s no big deal I just order those separately on Amazon! I’m easily able to get all of my regular groceries.
Note: The fact that stores have switched from plastic bags to paper bags does make it a little harder to carry everything to your car after checkout. It’s not a huge deal though, and it’s good for the environment, so I won’t complain. Ok I will complain, but I do agree it’s good for Mother Nature and so Mother Liz (that’s me) will just suck it up.
Tips for a Smooth Shopping Trip with a Baby
Figuring out your game plan for how to grocery shop with a baby takes a little thought, but things go much smoother if you’re prepared.
Go after a nap
It’s better to time these trips for right after the baby’s nap versus before a nap when the likelihood of crankiness is higher.
Feed the baby ahead of time
You’ll want to make sure the baby has been fed in advance, if you don’t feel like having to nurse her or pull out formula in the middle of the aisle. I know I don’t! I’m pretty sure you don’t either.
Find a parking space near the shopping cart return stall
This is easy to overlook, but really helps at the end of your trip! It’s more useful than scoring a spot close to the entrance. You want to be able to easily unload your groceries and then return the cart (like the good citizen that I know you are!) without having to then lug around your baby or car seat.
Pack a few essentials
No need to pack like you’re about to hike the Himalayas. But I would recommend having a few basics on hand:
- Bottle or nursing cover
- Wipes and diapers (most grocery stores will have a changing table in the bathroom for emergencies).
- Change of clothes (for the baby, not for you. Unless you want to pretend you’re at the Oscars and make a costume change between the pasta and frozen foods aisle. Which, if so – by all means!)
- Portable sound machine (you can also use apps on your phone as long as you have it set to airplane mode for safety reasons. However, most of us have our shopping lists on our phones, so having a portable sound machine is handy).
- Shopping cart hammock or baby carrier
Note: Some nursing covers can double as a car seat canopy and a stroller cover. This would be ideal for a shopping trip!
I used to own a large diaper bag, but over time I’ve learned that you can really carry what you need in a small bag, and I find that easier. Check out my favorite lightweight diaper bag of all time to see what I’m talking about.
Don’t be too ambitious
Keep your shopping list reasonable. The last thing you want is to get stressed out because your baby starts to meltdown and you haven’t gotten your coffee grounds yet. I’m not saying don’t get coffee (I always get coffee, I don’t care if my baby is having a colossal meltdown, I will get my coffee!) I’m just saying keep your list down to a dull roar.
Try not to go at peak shopping times
Sometimes you just have to go at a busy time, but if you can at all avoid it, don’t go when you know it’s going to be nuts in there. Saturday mornings, before a snowstorm, etc. etc. Just help yourself out in this department if you can.
It will all be fine. Really.
Learning how to grocery shop with a baby can take a little while to get the hang of. And that’s like most things in parenting! You get better with practice.
No matter how the trip goes, it will be fine. Really! If your baby does fuss a little, no big deal. We’ve all been there. And as stressful as it can feel, you’ll be out of there in no time, and you’ll learn from your experience how to tweak things for next time. Plus you’ll have something to eat for dinner, which I think we can all agree is a good goal.
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