The New Mom’s (and Dad’s!) Guide to Grocery Shopping

I was talking to a new dad who just had his 4 month old daughter to himself for a few days for the first time. He mentioned that there was just no way that he could have made it to the grocery store with her by himself (even though his wife does it weekly!).

The conversation brought back fond memories of my own first grocery outing alone with my son. I remember it well: he was about a month old, and had been having a pattern of cluster nursing for a couple of hours at a time, then peacefully napping for some time afterwards. After a few good cluster nursing sessions, I figured he would surely be done, and maybe would even fall asleep in the car. I put on my Sleepy Wrap (still under the impression that it would be easy to transfer him from car seat into the wrap and back- as well as loading the groceries), packed up my son, and got into the car.

I arrived at the grocery store and put my son into my wrap. So far, so good. I put my diaper bag over my shoulder and strolled cool and collected into the store. I picked up my cart, went to the produce section, thinking how lovely it all was, when my son decided to start squaking. Okay, we can still do this. Then the squaks turned to screaming. Hmmmm… Do I keep going?

No, it would have taken me at least 20 minutes to accomplish my shopping, and I didn’t think I could take all of those stares from passersby (sympathetic in intention as they may well have been). I quickly returned my cart and walked right back out of the store.

No big deal. He must be hungry again, so I’ll feed him here and then go back in, I thought. I nursed him in the front seat of my little Honda Civic in the parking lot. Then, I thought better of going right back. I decided to wait 5 minutes and see if he was really done. Sure enough, he still wanted to eat. I threw in the towel, strapped my son back into the car seat, drove him home, and nursed him there once again.

My timing and ability to deal with things has gotten a little bit better with each trip. I’ll admit, it’s still a hassle to get my shopping done by myself, but I think I’ve got it about as streamlined as I can for right now. More seasoned moms might chuckle at this post, because I’m still far from those heroic women who march with great determination through the store with 4 children in tow! However, I hope that some of what I’ve learned can help new moms to have a less stressful and more effective grocery trip. Here are some things that have helped me a lot!

  • In the very beginning, just send your hubby, mom, or good friend to pick up what you need. If you want to brave it but your baby is still very young and unpredictable, it might be best to shop with a buddy just in case you need to tend to him. Don’t worry about having it all together just yet. If all else fails, leave the baby home with your partner or a sitter while you run to the store by yourself.
  • Once your baby is a little more predictable, go at the baby’s best time. For me, this is when my son has just woken up and nursed, right after his noontime nap. I know that I’ll usually have about 2 hours of happy, alert, awake time at this point. For some moms, it might be a completely different time. For example, if you have a colicky baby, maybe the car ride to the store will get your her to sleep and you can shop calmly while she snoozes in her seat. Do whatever works for you and your baby, but try not to go when you know it’s only going to be a frustrating struggle.
  • Get prepared for shopping. Make sure your reusable shopping bags are easily grabbable along with the carseat, that your money and coupons are in a quickly opened pocket in your wallet, and that if you have a frequent shopper’s savings card you put it on your key ring or somewhere where you can find it in a flash. You don’t want to have to be digging at the check out when you’ve got a fussy baby. Likewise, if you shop at Aldi’s where you have to put a quarter in the shopping cart to use it, put a quarter in your pocket beforehand, so you’re not standing there trying to open your diaper bag and search through your change with a heavy loaded carseat hanging off the other arm in the wind and the cold by the carts.
  • Get prepared for the baby. Always make sure your diaper bag is fully packed so you don’t have a blowout at the store with no extra outfits handy- yes, even for a quick trip. You never know when poop disaster may strike. If you think your baby might get hungry while you’re out, carry a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula in case of a food “emergency.” I once found myself steering a cart through Target with one hand and bottle-feeding my baby mommy’s milk with the other. Put a toy in your baby’s car seat (or attach a hanging one to the handle) to entertain the little one. If your baby takes a binky, make sure it’s handy. Whatever your baby needs, make sure you’ve got it all there in one place so you’re not left searching or coping with a screaming child through the aisles.
  • Park next to a cart return station. This way, you won’t have to lug your carseat back a far distance after returning your cart.
  • Carry your child in whatever way is most convenient to you. I thought I’d want to use my wrap or my Snugli, but I found it was really easiest to just put the car seat on top of the cart. We still get plenty of interaction.
  • Play it safe. I don’t want to sound paranoid, but you should never walk away from the cart or let your toddler wander for a moment. I always keep my eyes (and usually one hand) on my baby. Something can happen in an instant when you’re not looking. I’d rather be safe than sorry.
  • Finally, make it fun. My little guy loves looking at all the lights and colors at the store. I tell him about what I’m buying and show him many items before I put them in the cart. I read him my grocery list. I sing songs to him or have him “dance” with his arms to whatever’s on the speakers. Yes, I know I might look doofy to onlookers, but my son and I are learning and playing together, and that’s what’s important.

Please add your own tips and tricks! I would love to learn from more experienced moms!

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