When it comes to weaning, we focus a lot on the food; however, research has shown that as well as thinking about what to feed our babies, it’s as important to consider the mealtime environment we’re creating for them. Happy, family-oriented feeding experiences early on in life can help to build healthy eating habits that our children will take with them into adulthood.
There’s a strong correlation between babies and toddlers that are included at the family table at mealtimes and a healthier food intake, reduced fussiness, and even greater food enjoyment (1). This is good news, because by making the effort to sit down and eat as a family with your baby as regularly as you can, they will learn the ropes of adventurous eating, simply by watching you, and you can enjoy this bonding time together.
A key ingredient to creating a relaxed and happy mealtime experience is choosing the right highchair – so it’s worth spending some time to find a model that will work best for your family. Here are our 5 key criteria that you may want to consider when making that all-important decision…
The primary function of a highchair is to keep your baby safe and secure, so this should be the first thing you look for when evaluating your options. Most highchair accidents occur as a result of unrestrained infants attempting to stand up in the chair (2) but this risk can be prevented altogether with a secure harness. A five-point harness is the safest option to secure your baby’s shoulders, waist, and crotch safely to the chair. To keep the straps clean you can put a bib over the top.
Other safety features to look for are a wide, non-slip stable base (to prevent topping) and a crotch post (to prevent sliding). However, no matter how secure the design is, it’s important never to leave your baby unattended in their highchair.
Unless you intend to pack the highchair away in between meals, it will be a permanent feature in your dining room or kitchen for years to come – so think of the aesthetic style that best suits your home. Are you looking for a sleek modern design, a more traditional vibe, or perhaps somewhere in between? There are loads of super stylish designs to choose from out there – it’s simply a case of finding one that will suit the personality of your house and family.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, try narrowing down your search by colour (bright statement shades, muted neutrals, or bold black accents), material (modern plastics, traditional wood, or combinations), or shape (soft curves or dramatic angles).
It’s easy to get carried away with a gorgeous design and fancy features, but try to consider how a highchair will function in terms of its usability too. How easy does it look to wipe clean, especially if there’s any fabric? Can you dismantle the parts when a deep clean is required (after a tomato sauce explosion)? Are there places where food could get easily trapped?
If you don’t have room for your highchair to feature permanently in your kitchen, there are folding options that can be neatly stored away. Or perhaps you’ll be travelling a lot with your highchair, so it needs to be folded or dismantled to easily fit in the car. Clip-on high chairs are a portable and space-saving option, provided there’s a suitable table to clamp it to.
Whilst you’ll spend a lot of time looking at your highchair, your baby will spend a lot of time sitting in it; therefore you want to ensure that the design is suitably comfy and supportive. An ergonomically shaped seat will cocoon your little one, ensuring they feel snug and content to sit for the duration of their meal. Some chairs have built-in cushions but you can also purchase separate cushion inserts for those that don’t, which can help to aid good posture if initially, the chair feels too big for your baby.
An adjustable footrest is a must-have to support your little one sitting upright because dangling feet impede their core stability. You can purchase a separate attachment if your highchair doesn’t have a built-in footrest.
Finally, this highchair will need to last your baby from the age of around 6 months (or when they can sit up) up until about 3 years (depending on when they’re ready to transition to a booster seat or chair). Therefore, unless you intend to replace it with a larger model in a year or so, consider the versatility and ability of the highchair to accommodate your growing baby.
Some models can cleverly transition to a play chair for when your child has outgrown the need to eat in a highchair. This is a bonus to get more from your investment with a chair that will grow with your little one and last for a couple more years beyond the highchair stage.
Written by Francesca Newell
Francesca Newell is a certified baby nutrition consultant having studied at the Oh Baby School of Holistic Nutrition, whose ‘real food’ philosophy is built on a foundation of traditional wisdom combined with the latest evidence-based scientific research. She supports parents in navigating the tradition from milk to solids, with a range of services for babies and toddlers between 4 and 24 months. Find out more at www.feedbabylove.co.uk
(1) Chantel L. Verhage et al., ‘The relation between family meals and health of infants and toddlers: A review’, Appetite, 127
(2) JM Mayr, U Seebacher, G Schimpl, F Fiala, ‘Highchair accidents’, Acta Paediatrica: Nurturing the Child, 88(3) (2007): 319-