Shopping with Twins in Tow

How to Manage Baby Twins and A Shopping Cart and Maintain Your Sanity

Twins Lyla and Amaris. Photo reprinted with permission of ellie breden.

As a parent of baby twins, you’ll face many challenges. Sleepless nights, mountains of dirty diapers, simultaneous screaming ... all of the trials of infancy are doubled. And in the middle of these trying times, it can be a struggle to complete basic tasks. What seems to be a fairly manageable chore with one baby, is a daunting mission when you’re juggling two babies. For example, shopping. When there’s only one of you, but two of them, how do you manage to transport both babies, a bag, and your purchases?

Here are some strategies for shopping with twins in tow...

Timing is Everything

To ensure success when you’re shopping with twins, find the right time. There are two factors to consider when identifying the ideal time to shop, and you’ll need to coordinate both elements. First, what works with your babies’ schedules? Many parents of multiples strive to employ regular schedules with their babies, and one result of this strategy is that they can anticipate when their babies are most likely to be hungry, sleepy or grumpy. Can you ascertain what time of day will  be most favorable for your twinfants? The ideal time will be different for every family, and will likely change over time as your babies grow and develop. Avoid shopping when you know your babies will get fussy ... for example, right before a feeding, or when they’re overtired. If the stimulation of a shopping trip will interrupt a nap, that’s not a good time to shop.

However, if you have twins that will doze in their stroller or car seats, you can time your shopping trip to incorporate a nap time.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t always run according to your twins’ schedule. The other component to timing a shopping outing is store operations. The ideal time for your twins may be 6 am, but you’re not going to accomplish much at the mall at that hour.

Similarly, your expedition will take twice as long if you have to battle traffic or long lines at the grocery store if you hit the store during rush hour. So identify quiet, less crowded times during operating hours ... and try to find a window of time that also meshes with your twins’ schedules.

Plan and Prepare

Like many activities in life, preparation is the key to success. As the saying goes, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” Your shopping expedition will be much more efficient if you do a little prep and planning.  Make a list. Plot a route so that you don’t have to backtrack through the store.  Shopping with twins in tow can leave you feeling frazzled, and a list will help you keep on task. And ensure that you don’t arrive home having forgotten any essential items!

Park Strategically

Your shopping success strategy begins even before you enter the store. Where you park can help ease your transition from the car to the building, Parking lots are filled with dangers and with twins,  you literally have your hands full managing two children.

Don’t look for a parking spot closest to the building. Rather, try to park near a shopping cart corral, if they are located in the parking lot. You’ll have a cart right at hand rather than having to wrangle the babies into the building to find one. You can leave the babies strapped safely in their seats in the car while you grab a cart. If you’re going to utilize a shopping cart to hold your purchases, it’s easier to acquire one that’s been returned to a corral in the parking lot, and quicker to return it once you’ve completed your shopping.

Even if you’re not using a shopping cart for your errands, parking near the cart corral can be advantageous. Often, there’s a bit of extra space so that you don’t have another vehicle crowded next to your car, giving you more room to maneuver your babies in and out of a double stroller. And, there’s less worry about other cars coming in and out of parking spaces next to you ... at least on that one side of your car.

Shopping Options

So what do you do with the babies while you’re shopping? There are several approaches, and the right strategy will depend on the age and size of your babies.

  1. Forgo the Cart! Use your double stroller for a dual purpose. If you’re just buying a few things, and you have a stroller with ample storage, you can push the babies in their stroller and load up the stroller with your purchases. This is a great option for younger babies in car seat carriers, especially if you use a travel system stroller. However, it really restricts your purchasing power; you’re limited to only a few, small items. You won’t get far if you need to stock up at a warehouse store like Sam’s Club, BJs or Costco.
  2. Double Stroller/Cart Combo: It may be awkward, but it can be done. Keep the babies in their stroller, and use a cart for the groceries. For this approach, you’ll need a fairly lightweight, maneuverable stroller that you can push with one hand. And it works best with a smaller, lighter grocery cart (particularly one that rolls straight!) Most moms who utilize this approach recommend a push/pull technique: push the babies in the stroller and pull the shopping cart with the groceries. You might get some strange looks from other shoppers, but if you persevere, you’ll get your shopping done ... and  those strangers are probably admiring your Super Mom capabilities anyway!
  3. Kids in the Cart: If your babies are still in infant carrier car seats, they can go straight from the car into the cart. (That’s why you want to park near the cart corral!) While some carts are designed to accommodate an infant seat in the front of the basket, you’ve got TWO babies in seats. You’ll have to put one in the main basket compartment. So then what do you do with the food? Gently place it around the car seat (no tossing cans or jars into the basket!) Again, space limitations will restrict the quantity and size of your purchases, but careful arrangement will allow you to maximize your load.
    While plenty of parents of twins use this technique, shopping carts have their drawbacks. Be advised that several organizations recommend against using car seat carriers in shopping carts due to the risk of falls. Always keep a close eye on your children when they’re in a shopping cart. Once your babies outgrow their car seats, the ride in a shopping cart becomes a bit tricker. Double shopping carts are available in some stores, and moms of twins everywhere rejoice when they score one. 
  4. Carrier/Cart Combo: An alternative to putting both babies in the shopping cart is to use a baby carrier (such as a sling for infants, or a backpack carrier for an older baby) for one baby, and position the other in the cart. This approach does keep your hands free, and also provides an opportunity for snuggling. You’ll have to use your own judgment to ascertain which baby will ride where ... if possible try to alternate so that each child gets carrier time.  so that each child gets carrier time. 

Alternatives to Shopping with Twins

Sometimes, it’s just too much of a hassle to shop with twins. Fortunately, you have other options. Consider online shopping. While it may not be a feasible alternative for day-to-day grocery needs, you can use online ordering to shop for some of your bigger, bulkier items and nonperishables. Think diapers, cleaning supplies, 

You can even get groceries delivered. Services such as Peapod and Netgrocer allow you to shop for food online, and then have it delivered to your home, saving you a trip to the store. This is an excellent option when it’s simply too difficult to get out and about with baby twins. In addition, many local stores offer an online ordering program where you can select your groceries online, then pick up your items at the store. You’ll still have to take the babies out in the car, but will avoid the challenges of navigating the store with them. 

Finally, consider getting some help while you shop. This is an ideal opportunity for employing a young teen as a mother’s helper, an extra set of hands to assist you during the shopping process. He or she can even sit in the car with the babies while you shop inside, or accompany you into the store and push an extra cart. It’s well worth the cost, and a good way for younger babysitters to obtain some experience with baby care. 

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