Updated: Jun 6
Important checks before you invest.
Author: Anna Ritan, Paediatric Dietitian and APD
There are so many different high chairs with so many features, but what should you spend your money on, and does it matter?
This blog will take you through some of the key features of a great high chair and why positioning for eating is so important for babies.
Good Positioning and why it is important
Setting up a supportive physical feeding environment for starting solids can make a big difference to your baby's mealtime success. An optimal sitting position is super important as this will allow your baby to:
- Hold their head up straight and steady with good alignment over their shoulders (no leaning to the side)
- Sit at a right angle where their bum and pelvis are positioned directly under their hips for a good upright sitting position and stability.
- Hold their torso upright to keep their airway unrestricted.
- Be able to reach forward to grab food and use their arms and hands freely.
- Focus on the task of eating, as opposed to focusing on keeping themselves stable.
What to look for in a high chair
Is there an adjustable footrest for all ages, or can a footrest be added?
Having a footrest is crucial for good trunk control in the sitting position. A footrest can either be built into a high chair, or you can set up your own using a rolled-up towel, setting up the high chair over a chair or stool, or by buying and attaching a footrest. There is less wobbling and slouching if a child's feet are supported.
Top Tip: A footrest that is adjustable is going to mean that the highchair will last you longer, all children benefit from a footrest even toddlers and older children.
Avoid: No Foot Rest
Here your baby will have their feet dangling in mid-air, this is actually really uncomfortable (for adults as well as children) and means they will find it harder to stay upright, tire easily, and may even become frustrated in the highchair.
It is harder to maintain a good upright position and trunk control, which will allow your baby to coordinate their muscles and movements for eating.
If they are focusing on balance and stability, they are not able to focus on eating.
Yes: to a footrest that baby can reach and ankles are at a 90-degree angle
Height of the tray? Can your baby see their food?
Tray position is important as this will help your child to see and freely interact with the food in front of them. Ideally, you want to make sure that the tray of the high chair is at chest height or below, making it easy for your baby to see, reach and touch food.
Your baby should have their back supported with the back of the high chair and preferably not a big gap between them and the tray.
Top Tip: Check that the tray can be removed for easy cleaning, also if the tray can be removed, this will allow you to eventually position the highchair at the table which can help toddlers with their eating.
There should be some back and side support in the high chair to help keep your baby supported in the upright position, they are going to be sitting upright for the meal, so some supports at the side and the back can help to prevent them from leaning and getting tired in the highchair. If the high chair you chose does have a lot of room around the seat and back, you can add extra supports with a rolled-up towel on either side of the hips, or purchase some high chair inserts.
Top Tip: Some high chairs come with a recline feature, which is unnecessary. Giving a baby solid foods (even puree) in a reclined position can increase the risk of choking, and make it difficult for a baby to coordinate their muscles for safe swallowing.
Is the highchair going to be easy to clean
Believe me, you will want a high chair that is easy to clean with just a few wipes, and not too many parts where food can easily get squished or stuck. A removable tray, removable padding, and removable straps are also going to make the high chair easier to clean.
Safety and Harness
Firstly I recommend never leaving a baby unsupervised in a high chair.
Straps will be important to keep your child from climbing out, especially for older babies or toddlers.
Some straps connect over the hips only, while others connect over the arms and hips, either way, make sure your baby can freely use their arms and hands and can reach the tray when they are strapped in.
The perfect high chair does not exist:
That is okay, you can choose one that fits your budget and then make modifications to suit your baby, by buying inserts, using rolled-up towels, and adding supports with a footrest.
Here are 3 of the best examples of high chairs on the market (at the moment) that can be easily modified:
Stokke Trip Trap
I love the adjustable footrest with so many different height settings, you can make this suit a baby of any length (and will last through toddler years).
This is the best highchair when investing long-term.
For a baby, you will need to purchase the baby seat and the tray to go with the chair, and even then you may find your baby needs some additional support like a rolled-up flannel on either side of the hips for extra support.
Ikea Antilop High Chair
The Ikea chair is budget-friendly and easy to clean and you can also purchase the inserts from Ikea to give your baby a nice snug fit in the chair. You will need to purchase the heigth adjustable footrest from an online store.
Peg Perego Prima Papa
The cover is easy to wipe down and can be completely removed for cleaning, along with the straps.
Your baby at 6 months of age will likely need some extra support in this chair either with a folded towel under the bottom to make sure the tray is chest height or lower, or rolled-up flannels on either side of the hips for some extra stability, and something under the feet as the footrest is not adjustable (you can use a thick exercise band around the footrest or even use a pool noodle cut with two slits to fit on top) but they will grow into it. I also like this chair because the seat can raise up or down and the tray can be removed so it can fit directly under a table for toddler eating.
For more information on optimal eating positions, feeding environments, responsive feeding and so much more, check out my starting solids guide. All the information you need in one place, including how to introduce food allergens, build nutritious meals, and feeding routines.