When can baby sit on high chair: Essential signs to look for

By Penelope Henderson, MSc, RNutr/ 02/07/2024
A happy baby sitting in a high chair with a bib

When it comes to feeding time for your little one, a highchair becomes an essential piece of furniture. But when can your baby sit on high chair is age and stage dependent to ensure they sit safely. It’s important to look out for certain signs of readiness before introducing this new seating.

In this blog, we will explore the developmental milestones that indicate when your baby is ready for a highchair, discuss how they should be properly seated to ensure their safety and comfort, and provide key considerations to keep in mind when choosing the perfect chair for your little one. Find out exactly what you need to know here.

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When can a baby sit in a high chair?

It depends on the highchair and the purpose. To use a highchair for feeding then the age will typically be around 6 months for most babies but could be a bit earlier. So the typical age range for babies to sit on a highchair is 4 – 6 months. 

 There are some highchairs that are able to recline so they are suitable for newborns and can be adjusted as they grow. However these are not suitable for feeding until they are at an appropriate age and have the right skills. 

a young baby in a reclining high chair

Are they developmentally ready?

Babies need to be developmentally ready before they can safely sit in a highchair for feeding. The two essential signs are:

  • They have good head control and stability 
  • They can sit up independently with little support 

If they are showing other signs such as developing fine motor skills required to start handling utensils, self-feed. Or increased curiosity and attentiveness during mealtimes. These are good indications they are ready for starting solids but need to be able to hold their head steady and sit independently with little support. Typically from 7- 9 months they will be able to sit completely independently. 

Can you put a 4 month old in a highchair?

Yes, if they are ready but it really depends on the individual baby. All babies develop at different rates and if they have reached the important development milestones for feeding then it should be fine. 

My baby is 6 months old, ready for weaning but not ready to sit in a highchair. What do I feed them in?

Most highchairs are designed for older babies and toddlers so this is a common problem. I recommend purchasing a baby insert with a harness to have them seated correctly. 

Can we feed in a bumbo chair?

There are different types of bumbo chairs or seats. I wouldn’t recommend feeding your baby in a bumbo floor seat. The floor seat is recommended for babies 3 – 12 mths when they can’t sit unaided. These are meant for short periods of time when they want to see what’s going on around them but can’t yet sit up themselves. 

There is also a multi-seat and the recommended bumbo chair age is 6 – 36 months. This is a different design and meant for babies who can sit unaided. If they are developmentally ready then they can be fed in this.

Proper Sitting Skills: How to ensure they are sitting correctly. 

Sitting in the right position is vital when feeding as it ensures good postural stability and comfort, so babies can focus on learning to eat rather than trying to support their body and keep upright. 

Ensure they are sitting in the correct position with a 90 degree angle to their hips, knees and ankles. So this should look something like this infographic below: 

infographic of how to sit your baby in a high chair using the correct seated position. 90 degree at hips, knees and ankles

Is sitting up too early bad for baby?

If you place your baby in the sitting up position before they are ready it prevents them from moving about and attaining it themselves. They will also be unable to stay upright without support and slump or fall to the side. This doesn’t encourage a sense of security.

How long can a baby sit in a high chair?

If they are sitting properly in a highchair then they should be comfortable enough to sit for a short period of time whilst feeding. Babies and toddlers will want to start moving around and getting out before too long anyway so you wouldn’t expect them to stay for long periods of time. 

Safety First: Baby highchair safety tips

As you introduce your baby to a highchair remember these safety measures you can put in place:

  • Before even using, check that it is all in good working order and no damage.
  • Always follow the user manual instructions for setting the highchair up.
  • Ensure proper positioning of your baby in the highchair. I.e sitting correctly
  • Ensure straps are secured properly.
  • Don’t position the highchair close to a wall or another object like a chair that they can kick against with their feet. They could knock it all over.
  • Make sure they are in clear view at all times.
  • For foldable highchairs – ensure the locking mechanism has been used correctly to safely store it away.

Can you leave baby in highchair?

  • Never leave your baby in a highchair unattended. If they are being fed then there is a risk of them choking whilst being left with food. If left with other items to play with there are also other risks associated with putting things in their mouths.

Potential risks for your baby

  • High chair can tip over. Make sure the chair is stable and not on wobbly or on uneven ground as they may be able to tip over if they move about. 
  • High chair can roll away. For highchairs with wheels – ensure the locks are on the wheels once positioned in the correct place, otherwise you could find them rolling away and crashing into something.
  • Standing up in the highchair. Use a safety harness at all times to prevent them being able to stand up or climb out and cause a tople. 
A baby climbing out of his high chair onto the foot rest
  • Pinching fingers Strap harnesses have joints and latches. It is easy for little fingers to get caught in them whilst doing them up. Keep little fingers away whilst doing them up.

Benefits of using a highchair

Transitioning to a highchair and using it at family mealtimes around a table has many benefits. Even if they are just starting solids and not eating the same as the family members it still provides many benefits including:

  • Social interaction and bonding with the family 
  • They start to learn how to eat and model table manners.
  • Build independence to feed themselves
  • Provides a safe place to sit – Highchairs don’t just have to be used for mealtimes. They can provide a safe place for them to sit and play with things at the table. 

If you are looking to purchase a highchair then my recommendations of what to look for and my number one choice are below.

Expert Advice: Nutritionist considerations for a high chair.

When I first weaned my two boys I found it quite overwhelming the amount of highchairs on the market to choose from. In choosing the right high chair consider the following: 

  • Design – more of a personal preference but you want one that looks appealing. Those with fabric on the seating ideally need to be removable and washable as they will get very dirty.
A good high chair with a tray, harness and footrest
  • Foot rest – A must for your baby to sit properly. You can either purchase a highchair with a footrest or improvise and put something steady under their feet.

I recommend the Nibble and rest foot rest that is strong, adjustable and which fits the ikea highchair.

  • Ease of cleaning – Having a removable tray to clean or one with few places for crumbs to hide are important if you don’t want to be spending ages cleaning. Removable and washable seat covers are a good idea too.
  • Durability – how long will it last? You will need a highchair for at least two years, probably longer.
  • Safety features – Ensure it has straps so they can’t slip out and stay securely put. Ideally a three or 5 point safety harness is the most secure. 

Highchairs that are bought in the UK should comply with safety standards. Childrens High Chairs, Requirements and test methods. 

  • Size – If space is limited then you will want a smaller one or one that can be folded away. 
  • Wheels – will make it easier to move around. They are not a must but can be helpful. However they need to be locked into place when not being moved about otherwise accidents could happen. 
  • Versatility – is very important if you don’t want to be finding other chairs or solutions for when they outgrow their highchair. Ones that offer adjustable seat heights and grow with your child make them useful for many more years. A high chair age limit is typically until the child reaches 3-5 years or you can get one that grows with your child and will last until about 10- 12 years. 

Also some have removable trays which can be removed once they start to use the table. 

Expert high chair choice

The one highchair I would purchase again today would be the Stokke Tripp Trapp. It is an investment but will last longer than other highchairs. This chair is unique because the seat and footplate can be adjusted as they grow. They can last into adulthood, if you desire. I used mine until they were about 10 – 12 years old. When they have outgrown them you should be able to resell it with ease. They are a fantastic design, strong, stylish, durable and offer everything you need in a high chair.

If they are not ready for feeding but would like to have them at the table then you can purchase the Stokke newborn set insert, suitable for newborns until they can start sitting up unaided around 6 months. Then you can use the baby insert from 6 – 36 months until they have outgrown this. Then the insert can be taken away and size adjustments made.

Tips for getting started: How to make baby sit on high chair

  • Start off by introducing the highchair in short bursts to get them used to it. 
  • The first time using the highchair, strap them in for a few minutes and then next time a little longer and gradually build it up so they get used to it. 
  • Give them something to play with like some weaning utensils, bowl and cup. Preparing them for the next stage.

Finally, if you would like to know more about getting started with weaning then you might like to check out my blog: How to start weaning and best first weaning foods

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MEET THE AUTHOR
Author Penelope Henderson

Hi I’m Penelope Henderson RNutr Registered Nutritionist specialising in children’s nutrition and responsive feeding therapy.

I am a mum of 2, with over 15 years of experience in nutrition. I support parents to feel confident in how and what to feed their child. I hope you find my recipes and nutrition posts useful, so you can enjoy stress free cooking and mealtimes.

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