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Shopping cart covers

Shopping cart cover buying guide

Last updated: November 2012
Getting started

Getting started

Shopping cart covers are intended for children old enough to sit up (about 6 months to 3 years). To minimize germs, it's best to wash the cover after every use. But you can stop the spread of germs more effectively by thoroughly cleaning the cart seat with disinfectant wipes before you buckle up your baby for a ride.

A shopping cart cover should also keep your child safely seated. The safest models feature two straps, one to secure her to the cart and the other to secure the cover to the cart.

Where the germs come from

Shopping carts can harbor many germs, some of which come from previous passengers. Some kids gnaw on cart handles, touch them with dirty hands, or wear a leaky diaper while sitting in a cart. Other shoppers leave germs on cart handles, too, sometimes even from the blood of raw meat, according to Kelly Reynolds, an associate professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Reynolds is also the lead author of a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research that found that most shopping carts teem with germs. Blood from raw meat can carry salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter, and can infect children who chew on or touch cart handles and then put their fingers in their mouth.

Reynolds said that many germs, including those that cause MRSA (an antibiotic-resistant infection) can "survive very well on fabric." That's why he recommends washing shopping cart covers in hot water with a bleach-based disinfectant, and drying them completely every time they're used.

If you don't think you can commit to washing the cover after each use, skip this purchase and use the sanitizing wipes many stores provide, or bring your own to wipe the shopping cart handle and seat before placing your child inside. Sanitizing wipes can do a good job of reducing the germ load.

Even after wiping, discourage your baby from gnawing on the handle by bringing along a favorite teething toy. Wiping the cart is a good practice even for older children, who may want to ride in the small plastic cars or seats that some stores attach to their carts. Before you let them grab that plastic steering wheel, wipe it down. Some stores now offer miniature carts that older children can push around the store themselves. When you wipe off your cart handle, take a moment to wipe off the junior-sized cart handle as well. And remember: Everyone should wash up after a trip to the store.

Recommendations

Cleanliness issues aside, shopping cart covers can make for a cozy ride for the very young. If that's important to you, go with a cover that has ample padding and provides good cart coverage (no exposed metal or plastic). Buy a cover with a dual safety-belt system (one that keeps baby in place and another to attach the cover to the cart)--and use both every time you shop.

Jennifer Battista, the mother of a 2-year-old son, said she bought a shopping cart cover as soon as he could safely sit up on his own, at around 7 months. While she likes the protection it offers from germ-laden carts, she also likes its system of two safety belts. "It has one belt attached to the cover that we use, it has holes for the legs, and it has a Velcro strap that goes under the cart to hold it together. I definitely think it's safer. It keeps him pretty contained within the seat, so he's not going to fall out of the cart. And the toys on it are nice, too, because it keeps him occupied while we are shopping."

Types

There are two basic safety belt/strap options. One has a detachable strap that threads through the back of a cart's seat to keep your baby secure. But the safer option is a cover that has two straps, one to secure your baby to the cart and another to secure the cover to the cart.

The safety straps on most cart covers are designed to be used instead of the built-in safety belt on shopping cart seats. Make sure the cover straps are secure every time you use them. It can be hard to get some straps to stay in place and you might need practice to get them just right.

Low-end shopping-cart covers


These range from $16 to $20, and have quilted cotton fabric without batting. You can find a few covers without thick padding, such as the Shopping Cart Seat Cover by Baby Boom, for about $8.

High-end shopping-cart covers


These covers tend to be more thickly padded and offer such extras as pockets for holding your cell phone and more deluxe straps and cushioning. They range in price from about $25 to as much as $90 or more. The Buggy Bagg Elite Shopping Cart Cover, for example, offers designer fabrics and retails for $89.95 at online stores.

Doubles


Some covers are suitable for twins or two small children of different ages. These are especially popular with parents who shop at discount club stores, some of which feature shopping carts with a built-in seat for two children.

The Itzy Ritzy-Shopping Cart /High Chair Cover, for example, which sells for $67.99, has reversible fabric and can fit a double shopping cart seat. The manufacturer says it can be used for two children but it comes with only one safety belt.

From supermarket to restaurant

Some cart covers are also designed to be used on high chairs you'll find at many family-friendly restaurants. The Jeep Shopping Cart and High Chair Cover is an example that sells for about $25. Remember, you'll need to wash the cover after every use, whether on a cart or a high chair.

Features


Choose a shopping cart cover that's easy to install--even with one hand. Here are some other things to consider.

Safety belts


You'll find two basic safety belt/strap options. One is a cover that has a detachable strap that you thread through the back of the seat to secure your baby to the cart. The other option, which we think is safer, is a cover that has two straps, one to secure your baby to the cart and another to secure the cover to the cart. Some attach to the cart with fabric ties rather than straps. For safety, any fastener that secures the cover to the cart should be out of your child's reach. And keep in mind that the straps are not permanently attached on all cart covers, leading some parents to complain that it's easy to lose them.

The JJ Cole cover features a seat restraint with a crotch strap. The Jeep Shopping Cart and High Chair Cover comes with straps that fit over a baby's shoulders, not just the waist.

Versatility


Some cart covers come with pockets for storing cups, your cell phone, keys, and coupons. Many have loops for attaching toys and teethers; others come with small toys attached.

The Leachco Prop 'R Shopper, for example, has extra "parent" pockets on the back for stowing small items, as well as loops for toys. This cover also has small cushioned pillows on either side of the seat for extra padding for baby. (You can also pick up two rolls of paper towels at the store and stuff them on either side of your child for a snugger ride.)

Some covers convert to a play mat or fold into their own bag, such as the Infantino Shop and Play. Just remember that if you take it home from the supermarket, it's going to have germs on it, so wash it before you use it as a play mat.

Many covers can also be used on restaurant high chairs or even as an emergency changing pad. You might pay more for extra features, so consider how much you'll use them before you buy. Some models are reversible, such as the JJ Cole Shopping Cart Cover, which has one side that's a cotton print and one that's nylon.

Fabric


Patterns include stripes, polka dots, animal prints, and florals. Machine-washable materials are standard, though some fabrics can only be wiped clean. The Wupzey Shopping Cart/Diner Cove, for example, is made of reversible waterproof fabric. Some covers have extra-long leg flaps to prevent pinching. Look for durable seams that will stand up to washing after every use.

Elastic rim or corners


When not in use, some cart covers roll up to become their own carrying bag. Some have a separate vinyl carrying case. A few fold up into a larger bag that can double as a carryall. Give some thought to which carrying system will be most convenient for you. Just remember that if you fold a cover up into its own bag, you'll be transferring any germs from the supermarket into the carrying bag and its contents.

Machine washable or not?

Some manufacturers say their covers are machine washable and can also go in a dryer. Others recommend that you line-dry their covers. Some are only supposed to be wiped clean, which we don't recommend since machine washing is the best way to remove germs. If you want to use your cover a lot, you'll need to wash it often. We recommend covers you can regularly wash in hot water and soap.

Brands


Balboa Baby

Shirley Pepys (founder of Noel Joanna Inc., aka “NoJo”) and her son Noel Pepys have teamed up with Dr. William Sears, best known as “America’s Pediatrician,” to create shopping cart / high chair covers, nursing covers and pillows, and adjustable slings. Available at Target, Buy Buy Baby, Babies R Us, and online at Amazon and other juvenile products sites. www.balboababy.com

Bright Starts

Since 1969, when the Bright Starts founder, a grandmother, came up with a great idea to keep infants from slipping in the bathtub, the company has been producing seat covers, high chairs, play gyms and mats, and a variety of other juvenile products. Available everywhere juvenile products are sold and online.
www.brightstarts.com

Buggy Bagg

This company began in 1999, when a mother and daughter bought $500 worth of fabric, and six months later the Buggy Bagg was patented. In 2010, the company became part of Swaddlebees, an established baby-products company, making the Buggy Bagg more widely available. Check the company’s website for a retailer near you, or visit Amazon.
www.buggybagg.info/original-buggy-baggs
www.swaddlebees.com

Infantino

Along with shopping cart / high chair covers, this California-based company also makes toys, playmats, car seat and stroller accessories, and carriers. Available at Target, Sears, Babies/Toys R Us, Walmart, and online.
www.infantino.com

Itzy Ritzy

As the name hints, this baby-product company creates hip baby, toddler, and adult products designed with “beauty, style, sophistication, function, and fun in mind.” Its list of products includes reusable snack bags, stroller seat covers, shopping cart/high chair covers, car seat covers, blankets, and more. Check company website for retailers near you, and online.
www.itzyritzy.com

J.J Cole Collections

The makers of the popular BundleMe bunting, the company also makes shopping cart covers, travel accessories for baby, diaper bags, and other nursery products. Available at Target, Babies R Us, and other retailers, and on the company’s website.
www.jjcolecollections.com

Jeep

A variety of companies are licensed to use the Jeep name on juvenile products. Available everywhere juvenile products are sold, and online.

Leachco

Inventers of the first Wriggle Wrap infant holder in 1988, the company now makes about 100 infant and toddler products, and items for expectant mothers. Available where juvenile products are sold, and online.
www.leachco.com

Wupzey

Neat Baby, LLC, parent of Wupzey products, was formed in 2006 in Huntington Beach, Calif., to create products that save time, energy, and reduce work for parents. The company also makes food catchers, bibs and overalls, high chair seat covers, floor mats, and car seat covers. Available online.
www.wupzey.com

Safety tips

It's estimated that more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for shopping cart related injuries each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). What does this mean for parents? Your No. 1 job when shopping with children is to make sure they're securely strapped in at all times. You should never walk away from the cart or leave your child unattended. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is so concerned about children falling from shopping carts it issued a statement in 2006 saying the current U.S. standard for shopping carts should be revised.

Look for a safety belt

Injuries result when children climb or fall out of shopping carts because the restraint system wasn't being used, they unbuckled or wiggled out of the restraint, or the restraint was missing. Shopping carts can also tip over with a child inside, sometimes when the child tries to grab something on a shelf.

Between 2003 and 2008, more than 42,000 children under the age of 5 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries to internal organs associated with shopping cart accidents. Almost all of these cases were head injuries. Some 5,610 children were treated in emergency rooms for concussions after accidents involving shopping carts.

Children can sometimes undo the latch or buckle on their safety belt, so you'll need to keep an eye on them--and the restraint system. In a study of 70 children ages 2 to3 years, 19 were able to open one of three different types of buckles.

Shopping with newborns and infants

If you are going to bring an infant shopping, think carefully about how you will manage. Some stores offer built-in infant seats attached to the front of a cart. The ones we have seen have a version of a three-point harness (two shoulder straps plus a crotch strap), and our experts say they're OK for infants who won't be moving much. If you find an attached infant seat without this sort of harness, don't use it.

Don't try to balance your child car seat on a shopping cart or try to attach it to a cart. And you should never put an infant seat in the basket of the shopping cart. A study by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that more than 8,700 infants end up in emergency rooms each year because they've sustained an injury in car seats being used--outside of a car--in an unsafe way. The study also found that shopping carts were one of the places parents were improperly placing their infants car seats. If you aren't going to put your baby in a built-in infant seat attached to a shopping cart, another option is to put her in a wearable baby carrier, which will leave your hands free to push the cart. That said, using a front carrier safely in a supermarket also requires care. Shopping involves a lot of reaching and bending, and if you're not used to doing so with your baby in the a carrier, you could bump his head on something as you reach, or worse, he could fall out of the carrier if you don't have him strapped in properly. Practice at home until you're sure that you can use a carrier safely.

If your store doesn't have carts with an infant car seat built into them, or if you are uncomfortable using them or wearing your baby in a carrier, it might be better to simply take your child shopping in your stroller and limit your purchases. The best option of all is to leave your baby at home with a caregiver if you can.

To market, safely

Shopping cart manufacturers and other experts agree that you should never put your child inside a shopping basket. Also keep in mind that some carts are designed with a high center of gravity and a narrow wheelbase, making them top heavy when loaded and easy to tip over.

Most cart covers come with their own safety belts designed to be used instead of the belts on a cart. Make sure they're sturdy and durable, and that there's a separate belt to secure the cover to the cart. And look for belts that are easy to use, since you'll use them every time you put your baby in a shopping cart.

If you use a cover, check manufacturer guidelines

Some models, such as the Balboa Baby Shopping Cart Cover, are recommended for use with a child 6 months and older. Use common sense when determining whether or not your baby can safely sit up, because one who can't shouldn't be put in a cart, with or without a cover.

Think about where you'll use a cart cover

Shopping carts come in different sizes and shapes. If you decide that you want to use one, be sure the one you buy suits the type of cart you'll use most often. Some brands specify on the package which type of carts they fit. But if they don't, ask the sales staff for specifics, for example: "Does this shopping cart cover fit the double-seater cart at Costco?" Keep your receipt and know the store's return policy just in case it doesn't fit.

Check for ease of use

Before you buy, find out how the cover attaches to a cart, whether with Velcro straps, a buckle, or ties. Because installing a cart cover while holding your baby will be a challenge, you'll want to be able to do it quickly with one hand. Read the instructions before you buy. Once you buy the cover, try it out at home so you'll know exactly what to do in a store.

Shopping cart do's and don'ts

DO:

  • Always use safety belts to restrain your child in a cart's seat and keep an eye on her. That's the best you can do if going shopping with him can't be avoided and you decide to use a shopping cart.
  • When possible, use a stroller or soft carrier instead of a shopping cart.
  • Encourage your child to walk once he gets older. Praise him for behaving and staying near you while you shop.
  • Have another adult come with you to watch your baby in her stroller while you shop.
  • Leave your kids home with another adult on your shopping days, if you can.
  • Shop online so you don't have to trek to a store with your baby.

DON'T:

  • Leave your child alone in a shopping cart unsupervised.
  • Let your child stand up in a shopping cart.
  • Place an infant carrier or infant car seat on top of a shopping cart.
  • Let your child ride in the cart basket.
  • Let your child ride or climb on the sides or front of a cart.
  • Let older children push a cart when there's another child in it.

In addition to these do's and don'ts, the AAP recommends that parents shop at stores "that care about shopping cart safety" and do the following:

  • Offer carts with safer designs that allow children to ride closer to the ground (for example, in a small model car in front of the cart).
  • Ensure that all carts have a child restraint.
  • Have a pick-up area or help you bring your purchases to your car so you can safely take your child through the parking lot without having to use a cart.
  • Or have a supervised in-store play area for children.
   

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