If you’re getting ready for weaning then it’s likely you’re thinking about equipment, and highchairs! I’ve written before all about weaning equipment for babies and simple tips for starting weaning. But today I wanted to write a separate blog post about one of the real weaning fundamentals: the highchair itself! I realised that parents can have lots of questions about this so here are all the answers in one place! I hope you find the advice useful.
When do babies start using a highchair?
Your baby can start using a highchair from around 6 months of age when they are ready to start weaning. Some highchairs have adaptations so that babies even earlier can lay in highchairs and come to the table for family mealtimes, which is also a great idea too.
The 3 main signs of readiness for your baby to start weaning onto solid foods are:
- They can stay in a sitting position and hold their head steady
- They can co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at the food, pick it up and bring it to their mouth, all by themselves
- They can swallow food. Babies who are not ready will push their food back out with their tongue, so they get more round their face than they do in their mouths
These signs sometimes confuse parents – so check out my blog on this topic where I break down the “developmentally ready” signs a little more.
What if baby slumps or can’t sit up straight?
Think “right angles” when you put your baby in their highchair. Their feet to hips should be at right angles and so should their knees to torso (see picture above). It’s best that your baby’s feet are supported really well by a foot stool too, to help them sit up nice and straight. Dangling feet isn’t a comfortable way for anyone to eat, especially a baby who is only just learning to hold themselves up well and who is practicing new skills around eating. If their feet are dangling, it’s more likely they will be learning forward or backwards and therefore they may not be holding their chest, shoulders and oesophagus up to be able to efficiently and effectively eat and swallow. Your baby is going to be learning a new skill so you want to get them in the most comfortable position you can and a footrest can really make a difference with this. That way they can focus on learning to pick up food, bring it up to their mouth, develop their hand-eye coordination, plus concentrate on their biting and oral motor skills.
Sometimes there might be plenty of room in a highchair seat and cushions or a highchair insert can help your baby to be a little more comfortable and be a little more sturdy. If your baby needs this, that’s OK and can help them to stay upright more easily, as long as it isn’t propping them up entirely!
Additionally it’s good if a chair has some back support to help little ones sit up nicely.
What to look for in a highchair
My top three recommendations for buying a highchair are:
- Look for one with a removable tray – a tray can be handy for early days of weaning or even if you want to take baby out and feed them in the garden (if possible), which I did a lot in the early days with Raffy. However having a removable one will also allow you to bring them up to the table with the family so that you can more easily include your baby in family meals. This is a really important part of having a highchair for me.
A Tripp Trapp chair or equivalent works particularly well for pushing baby up to the kitchen table because it doesn’t have sides and baby can usually slide in quite easily.
- Look for longevity – In an ideal world you don’t want to buy a one-weaning wonder highchair that you can’t use beyond the first 18 months or so. A chair that grows with your child has more longevity. Again, the Tripp Trapp chair is a good solution as it is depth-and-height adjustable and you can move the foot stool and seat to different positions as needed, but there are other options that are similar on the market too. If your highchair doesn’t have a foot stool you can buy one separately to attach to it: for example, there are lots of foot stools available online through different sellers that attach to this inexpensive IKEA highchair.
- An easy-clean design is also top of the list to avoid build-up of bacteria on your baby’s highchair. Both plastic and wood are easily wipeable but consider the highchair’s design before purchasing and check you can get into the nooks and crannies with a cloth. Smooth, simple lines are the easiest to clean.
- It’s also important to have a highchair with straps so your baby can be safe and secure in the highchair. Some straps are easier to use than others, so do a little research on this before-hand. Both the Ikea and the Tripp Trapp chairs come with straps that you can add on yourself and that are adjustable. Regardless of straps, always sit with your baby when they are feeding in their highchair
When is my baby too old for a highchair?
All little ones are different developmentally and this has an impact on when they are physically ready to come out of their highchair. Watch your child for signs of readiness but many toddlers are able to swap their chair for a booster seat and sit at the table from around 18 months to 2 years. I found that with mine they were starting to want to climb out of the highchair and also climbing in easily (with some support) and were able to sit up really easily and steadily on their own in other chairs.
You have to be careful with this as the highchair is there to keep your baby safe in the seat and strapped in, but once you notice them being able to get up and down from chairs themselves, sit steadily and still and they are getting a little big for the baby seats in highchairs, it might be time to move on. Raffy didn’t move out of the baby seat until he was around 2 and Ada was a similar age. Another benefit of the Tripp Trapp is that you can simply remove the baby seat and it becomes a stall that kids can easily climb in and out of, that has back support and a footrest still. Both my two still use this highchair to this day and they are 3 and 6 years of age.
If you’d like to read more about equipment and signs of readiness, you may like to download my free factsheet on getting prepared for weaning. And, of course, I have both my online weaning course and my book to support you all on your weaning journey. I hope you found this blog useful as you prepare for the exciting step of choosing your little one’s highchair.