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Your Position: Home - Furniture - Best High Chair Buying Guide

Best High Chair Buying Guide

When you’re expecting your first child, you know a high chair is one of many baby items you must buy. But take one look at the high chair section at Buy Buy Baby or Walmart—or search on Amazon—and you can easily feel overwhelmed by the array of models, features, styles, and materials. That doesn’t even include the high-end chairs that mommy bloggers, influencers, and friends on social media will hawk at you.

Consumer Reports is here to help. Our expert tests and high chair ratings can help you find a sturdy, stable baby high chair that fits your budget and can stand up to heavy use, spills, and regular cleaning. To hone your search, use our high chair buying guide to understand safety features as well as design factors that are important to you.

Solid Starts is an independent organization that does not accept affiliate revenue or corporate kickbacks to review products. Any recommendations here are our own thoughts and opinions and free from conflict of interest.

Starting solids soon? Check out our guides on starting solids and our course video on infant rescue. Knowledge will bring confidence.

Starting solids is often synonymous with buying or researching high chairs. Like many baby products, there are hundreds of high chair options on the market. This page explains what our licensed professionals consider the most important components, including safety, development, and swallowing, as well tips to help you choose the right high chair for your family.

Do I need a high chair? Do babies really need high chairs?

Not necessarily. There are alternative ways to establish a safe eating environment for babies; however, a high chair with a totally upright seat and adjustable footplate is often the easiest way to make sure baby is in the proper and safe position for eating. Continue reading for what to look for in a high chair, and how to check baby’s sitting posture.

High Chair Alternatives

A high chair is a luxury for many families and often out of reach for purchasing. Although the safest place for a baby to eat is a supportive high chair, here are some ways to ensure baby is as safe as possible when starting solids:

Seated on a lap.

The easiest and free alternative to a high chair is having baby sit on an adult’s lap.

  • Position baby’s back snuggly against your body.

  • Always keep one arm around their waist.

  • Scoot your chair as close to the table as possible with baby facing the table.

  • Make sure baby is sitting high enough so that both of baby's forearms rest comfortably on the table in front of them.

  • If the table is in line with their armpits, baby is too low. Try sitting on a pillow to boost yourself (and subsequently the baby) a bit higher in the chair. Avoid placing a pillow in your lap for baby to sit atop.

Maya, 5 months, sitting properly in dad’s lap.Maya, 5 months, sitting properly in dad’s lap and facing the table.

In this position—with an adult arm around the baby’s waist and bottom planted firmly on the adult’s lap—the adult provides strong back support for upright sitting, as well as stability at the trunk and hips. Optionally, you can allow baby to straddle one thigh and let baby’s feet firmly plant on the chair.

Although this option can get messy for the adult, this ensures baby’s safety while exploring solid foods, no special chair needed. Keep in mind that babies are resilient. The photos below show how babies can be safe and successful in a variety of sitting positions.

Seated on the floor with support.

  • Positioning baby on the floor with support is another option when a high chair is unavailable.

  • This position is only appropriate if baby has excellent sitting balance and is strong enough to reach and grasp items and bring them to their mouth while in a supported seating position. Check out the pictures of Kildah (6 months) and Maeve (7 months) below for examples of suitable seating posture.

  • Optionally, offer a makeshift table on the floor. If baby’s knees are bent (like Maeve’s knees in the picture below), try a shoe box or small, flat item about 6-10 inches tall. If baby’s legs are straight (like Kildah’s below), try a small stool, tray, or stand with legs.

Kildah, 6 months. The couch behind Kildah provides additional support for safety.Maeve, 7 months. The caregiver behind Maeve offers extra balance support.

High Chair Positioning for Babies

Seating position is the most important thing to consider when baby is in a high chair. Proper positioning for feeding is crucial for swallowing safety. Additionally, seating position impacts a baby’s ability to use their arms and hands and chew.

Maya, 5 months, demonstrates proper positioning in her high chair.

Proper positioning includes the following:

  • Shoulder and hip alignment: back should be completely straight, shoulders in line with hips

  • Bent knees with the ability to bear weight forward into the feet

  • Ability to reach with the arms/hands to easily reach food on the tray

  • Weight forward, pressing through the feet. This often creates about a 90-degree angle through the ankles, but rather than the angle, look for the postural position of the feet pressing into the footplate.

Maeve, 8 months, demonstrates proper positioning in her high chair.

Assessing high chair positioning

Look from the side to best assess baby’s position in a high chair. Even in a high chair marketed with a “completely upright seat,” assess the alignment of baby’s shoulders and hips to ensure they are truly upright.

  1. After you place baby in the high chair, walk to the side and look at where their shoulders are in relationship to their hips/pelvis.

  2. Correct positioning: If the shoulders are in line with the hips or slightly forward, indicating baby's weight is centered over the hips or slightly forward.

  3. Incorrect or reclined positioning: If the shoulders are behind the hips, baby’s weight is behind them, and baby is reclined.

  4. Incorrect positioning: Baby is not developmentally strong enough to start solids if they frequently lose balance forward or are unable to lean forward and return to sitting without assistance. Check out the readiness page or our Starting Solids video course for more information.

Correct positioning is crucial for swallowing safety. When a baby is reclined—even slightly reclined—their weight is shifted backwards and gravity pulls in that direction. As such, when in a reclined position, food placed in the mouth is more likely to move backwards towards the throat as gravity pulls in that direction. The tongue is also impacted by this gravitational pull and can fall slightly backwards in the mouth and inhibit the tongue’s ability to control and manage the food.

When baby sits upright with shoulders directly above the hips or leaning slightly forward with weight bearing through the feet, gravity supports the tongue to move flexibly and better control the food in the mouth. In this position, food is more likely to move forward and out of the mouth.

Maeve, 8 months, demonstrates proper positioning with the shoulders directly above the hips.Maya, 5 months, leans backward and demonstrates poor positioning for feeding.

Upright Seat vs. Reclining Baby High Chairs

Whatever high chair you choose should have a totally upright seat.

Many high chairs on the market have a recline feature for babies who can’t maintain upright sitting balance. If baby is unable to stay sitting tall when in an upright high chair, they are not ready for solid foods. (See Readiness for Solids.) Research in both typically developing and special needs populations shows that reclining a baby increases the risk for aspiration, liquid or food entering the lungs (causing respiratory infection), and middle ear infections.

Most of the reclinable high chairs have full back and head support. Although this seems helpful, this amount of support isn’t necessary. Baby should be able to hold their head and neck upright independently when you start solid food. If the child is unable to hold their head and neck upright without reclining the chair, they are not ready for solid foods. Reclining the chair is unsafe for swallowing.

Reclining chairs for babies with special developmental needs or hypotonia

If baby has special developmental needs or hypotonia, a slightly reclined position may be safe to use while eating. Before using, it’s important to determining how much recline and if any additional lateral supports are necessary. Assessing positional safety will require the trained eyes of a pediatric feeding therapist or developmental specialist like a physical therapist. Do not explore solid foods without professional support if the child is unable to maintain their head and neck upright when not reclined.

Rather than a reclined seat, a chair with complete head and neck support may be key to safely introducing solids to babies with developmental delays. If the child has special developmental needs, work with a pediatric therapist—occupational (OT), physical (PT), or speech-language (SLP)—to determine the appropriate upright positioning device for your baby.

Modifying a high chair to better support baby

Safe seating in a high chair includes four elements:

  • Ability for baby to sit upright

  • Ability for baby to reach the tray (i.e., butt high enough in the seat)

  • Ability for baby to sit straight and in the middle of the seat

  • Ability to safely reach the footrest

Sitting upright

Assess baby’s position in the high chair like described above. If baby’s shoulders are behind their hips, you can help them shift their weight forward by placing a folded towel or blanket behind them in the chair—either near the pelvis or along baby’s entire back. You may need to adjust the tray to give them space to sit comfortably, but this small change in alignment puts them at a biomechanical advantage for eating safely.

Maya, 5 months, demonstrates proper positioning with a blanket roll supporting her back.Maya, 5 months, demonstrates proper positioning supported by a lower pelvic towel roll.

Reaching the tray and sitting midline

If baby is losing their balance to one side or the other, check to make sure their butt is high enough in the chair. Many babies will gain upright stability with both forearms on the tray, and the tray aligned at belly height rather than nipple height. If the table or tray is in line with, or only slightly below baby’s armpits, they need a boost. Try placing a book underneath the butt to lift them up in the high chair. The tray or table should line up with their belly for the most biomechanical advantage for reaching and grasping.

Placing a book in the high chair seat can give baby just enough boost to appropriately reach the table or tray.

If baby still struggles to hold themselves in the center despite this boost, consider waiting a week or so before starting solids while baby gets a bit stronger. Some parents use rolled towels or blankets next to baby’s hips in the chair to provide some lateral support to keep baby sitting in the center. However, if a ton of support is necessary, it’s best to wait for signs of readiness.

Juliana, 8 months, could use a few more adjustments to improve her positioning in this standard, high back, infant high chair.

Reaching the footrest

For baby to reach the footrest, they need to sit upright with their weight shifted forward, and the lower legs hanging, knees bent at 90 degrees. Before modifying the footrest, first assess baby’s upright sitting (see above). After making any modifications to encourage correct positioning, adjust the height of the footplate to meet baby’s feet. A pasta box, cardboard box, or book are often great options to raise the height. Keep in mind that the goal is for baby to weight bear into the footrest, so any addition to the footrest should be securely taped to the footrest/chair.

A book on the footplate helps Maya, 5 months, bear weight through her feet.

High chair too low, high chair too high

When assessing baby’s posture in the high chair, also consider their position in relation to the table or tray, as well as their feet on the footplate.

  • If the table/tray is too high, you’ll notice that baby has a hard time reaching and grasping food items.

  • If the table/tray is in line with, or only slightly below baby’s armpits, baby needs a boost. Try placing a book underneath their butt to lift them up in the high chair.

  • The tray/table should be lined up with their belly for the most effective reaching and grasping.

Mila, 6 months, would benefit from a towel under her butt to raise her up in the seat.

Removable tray

Babies learn by watching and imitating what you do. They learn to eat the same way—babies need to watch you eat and participated in family mealtimes to learn how to eat. Using a high chair with a removable tray makes it easier to pull the chair up to the table and help develop the habit of family meals.

High chair safety harness or safety strap

High chair systems are equipped with straps or harness systems to make sure a child is safe and secure. An estimated 5,100+ infants are evaluated every year in emergency departments in the United States after falling from a highchair. Always use high chairs as the manufacturer recommends, including properly securing safety straps or harnesses, to keep your child safe and secure in their chair.

High chair harness systems are often three- or five-point, with a waist strap and pommel or crotch strap, as well as additional straps over the shoulders.

  • For young babies and new eaters, high chair harness straps are critical to ensuring the child is safe. At this age, high chair harness straps also assist in postural control, helping the child remain totally upright, and preventing falls when tired or overly wiggly and playful.

  • For older babies and toddlers, harness straps are no longer needed for postural control, and instead help corral an active young toddler. As toddlers learn to stand and climb, the strapping system helps keep the toddler in the chair, but this is also the time to consider transitioning to a more developmentally appropriate seating system. (See our Toddler High Chair Transitions guide.)

Does baby need a footrest on a high chair? Do I have to buy a high chair with a footrest?

The simple answer is no; however, a high chair with a footrest helps create the safest eating environment possible.

Baby should be sitting in a 90-90-90 position, which is therapy jargon referring to the ankles, knees, and hips at 90-degree angles. The child’s center of gravity or weight should be neutral or forward with feet firmly planted on the footplate.

A stable, adjustable footplate provides the best base for the rest of the body, allowing the chewing and swallowing muscles to do their job. The nerdy therapy phase is “what happens at the hips, happens at the lips.” This means, a stable core equals stable, thorough chewing. This 90-90-90 position provides the most stability for the head and neck while swallowing and enables the arms and hands to reach and grasp most effectively.

When a child’s feet have nothing beneath them for support or if they just lightly touch the footplate, the child’s weight centers back on the butt. In this position, the pelvis is tilted backwards, reducing postural stability, and impacting the position of the body, neck, and head. A rear-tilting pelvis position also limits a child’s ability to use smaller muscles, such as their hands, lips, tongue, and jaw. Combined, this all leads to less control of the chewing and swallowing muscles.

In all, it’s much easier for a baby to reach and grasp food when their body is supported—and this starts with feet planted on a stable surface. Keep in mind, some babies eat fine without a supportive footplate, but for others, the additional effort of using more tummy and back muscles makes eating a bit too challenging to enjoy.

Beau, 7 months, sits with perfect posture for eating: his shoulders are in line with his hips, his knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, and he can put weight through his feet. This table is slightly high for him to reach, but functional.

How to add a footplate to a high chair

Currently own a high chair without a footrest, or baby can’t reach the footrest? Consider these ways to adjust the chair or environment to provide baby with a stable footrest to bear weight through their feet.

Footplate for multi seat or floor seat chairs

Adie & Max, 6 months, sit in booster chairs on the floor. Max's chair positions his back better than Adie's chair does.

When modifying a multi seat or floor seat chair, consider how much of baby’s thighs are supported by the chair and the position of the backrest. For example, in the photo above, both Max (left) and Adie (right) have most of their thighs and part of their calves supported by the chair. This sitting position, called long sit, tends to place a baby’s weight more backwards.

  • In this picture, Adie’s shoulders (right) are slightly behind her hips—sitting with her legs straight out in this position places most of her weight behind her.

  • In comparison, Max (left) is bringing his weight more forward, his shoulders are in front of his hips, and he is bearing weight through his arms on the tray. The upright, flat backrest of Max’s chair lends itself to better positioning for eating.

How to modify a multi seat or floor chair to gain a more ideal position for babies sitting similarly to Max and Adie in the photo above:

  • Try placing a textbook or other thick book on the floor below the feet.

  • Move the tray out and away from baby’s body.

  • Place a thick blanket or towel behind baby’s back, so the butt comes forward towards the edge of the seat and lets the knees come forward enough so the lower legs can hang and feet can bear weight on the book below.

Modifying footplates on high chairs with low, non-adjustable footrests

Have a high chair with a low, non-adjustable footrest? Secure a cardboard box to the footrest.

  • Support baby from the back to allow the knees to bend at 90 degrees—this might include a rolled-up towel or blanket to help straighten the back,

  • Duct tape a sturdy cardboard box to the existing footplate to make it high enough that baby’s feet can bear weight on it. Err on the side of “too high” as opposed to “too low.” A textbook can work just as well, but make sure it is secured to the footplate so it doesn’t slip when baby puts weight into the feet.

Mila, 6 months, sits low in the chair and is unable to reach the footplate.Mila sits more upright with a towel roll behind her back and is able to reach the footplate with a pasta box secured to the chair footplate.

Footplates for fast table or table mount chairs

Using a high chair that allows the legs to hang like the Inglesina chair pictured below?

  • Support baby’s feet with a stool or chair positioned below baby.

  • If the legs and thighs are mostly supported by the base of the chair, place a towel or blanket roll behind baby to scoot them forward, so they can firmly plant their feet on the stool.

Maeve, 15 months, uses a bar stool for foot positioning with the Inglesina chair. This is an excellent adaptation for a footrest.

Footplate for Ikea Antilop high chair

The Ikea Antilop chair is a common favorite among parents as it’s easy to clean, inexpensive, and somewhat space saving. However, the Antilop lacks a footplate, features a 3-point harness, and the seat might be slightly large for younger or smaller babies.

  • Footplates for the Antilop are available for purchase by outside vendors. These additions attach to the legs and create a place for the feet to rest.

  • As with other chair modifications, ensure the child is sitting forward enough in the chair for their legs to bend and bear weight on the footplate. This is often accomplished with a rolled-up towel or blanket positioned behind the child.

Hamilton, 17 months, rests his feet on a footplate attachment made by Yeah Baby Goods for the Ikea Antilop high chair, which lacks a footplate. Aftermarket footplates are available from outside vendors, including the one pictured here from Yeah Baby Goods

Footplate additions to fit any high chair

There are some products on the market applicable to other high chairs not mentioned above or adjustable for any chair. These products often require posture adjustments to help move baby’s center of gravity forward and enable them to put weight through their feet.

Best high chairs for babies: Which high chair should I get?

Solid Starts is an independent organization and does not endorse any specific high chair brand or corporation, nor do we accept corporate kickbacks or affiliate revenue to review or push products. Any recommendations here are based on our professional opinion as occupational therapists. Any reviews here are our own thoughts and opinions and free from conflict of interest.

Best high chairs for baby-led weaning

The best baby-led weaning high chair options include four main components:

  • Totally upright seat (safety)

  • Adjustable footrest (safety)

  • Removable tray

  • Easy to clean

Although many chairs meet the above qualifications, a few chairs are superb options for baby-led weaning and easily convert to a developmentally appropriate toddler chair. Here's our take on a few popular chairs.

This high chair is designed to grow with the child from infancy with an infant insert and into childhood. The Steps is a Scandinavian design with an effective adjustable footrest. This chair is light-weight, coming in around about 10lbs, making it easy to move around the home. The chair is completely upright for appropriate trunk, pelvic, and lower body alignment, and comes with a five-point harness system that accompanies the infant bucket seat. The Steps chair also positions baby quite forward with only the upper thigh on the seat, allowing the knees to appropriately bend, the lower legs to hang down, and the feet to weight bear on the footrest; however, the height and position of the footplate may pose difficulty for a taller baby—moving one step lower is too low, yet the footplate is a little too far back at the higher position and may cause baby’s feet to slide off the footrest. The tray is removable, and the chair easily pulls up to be flush with the family table. This chair looks more like a standard chair, and without the infant seat, can hold up to 187 lbs. Many vendors sell the tray and seat cushions separately.

Pros:

  • Excellent positioning

  • Easy to set up, adjust, and clean

  • Transitions into a fantastic toddler and older child chair

Cons:

  • Cost

  • Footprint is wide; you may trip over the legs at first

  • Footplate adjustment options are sometimes too high or too low

The Stokke Tripp Trapp is a wooden high chair and comes with a large, fully height-adjustable footplate. This chair is designed to grow with the child from infancy with an infant insert and into childhood. This chair is sturdy, weighs about 15lbs, and has a completely upright seat for appropriate trunk, pelvic, and lower body alignment. The Tripp Trapp also includes a five-point harness system that accompanies the infant bucket seat. The seat depth is fully adjustable and, by moving the seat, you can make sure baby is positioned with their back against the seatback while allowing the knees to bend at 90 degrees. The tray is removable, and the chair easily pulls up to the family table. This chair looks more like a standard chair. The chair without the infant insert can hold up to 242lbs. For some smaller babies, the infant bucket seat is still a bit big, and there is a lot of room for a baby to lean from side to side, especially with the tray removed. The harness is complicated to adjust and fit.

Pros:

  • Excellent positioning and sturdy

  • Transitions into a good toddler chair

  • Looks like a standard dining chair

Cons:

  • Set up and adjustments aren’t simple

  • Straps are difficult to adjust

  • Food gets stuck in many little corners and indentations

  • Cost

This high chair is made to grow with the child from infancy with an infant insert and into childhood. With a significantly smaller seat and a base that often must be tightened to keep stable, the Nomi is less sturdy than other chairs on the market. The chair itself weighs about 13lbs and has a fairly large footprint. What it lacks in sturdiness, Nomi makes up for in a fully height-adjustable footplate, which easily slides up and down to meet baby’s feet. The chair offers excellent positioning, with a completely upright seat for appropriate trunk, pelvic, and lower body alignment. The five-point harness system is complicated and takes some practice to learn how to clip. However, unlike the Stokke chairs, the harness is still usable when the infant bucket attachment is removed, which can be beneficial for toddlers slowly transitioning to sit without the safety supports. The tray is removable, and the chair easily pulls up to the family table. For some smaller babies, the infant bucket seat is still a bit big with room for a baby to lean from side to side, especially with the tray removed. This chair without the infant insert can hold up to 330lbs.

Pros:

  • Excellent positioning

  • Easy to clean (with the exception of fabric straps)

  • Transitions into a good toddler chair while continuing to use the straps.

  • Straps are easy to adjust

Cons:

  • Cost

  • Seat is a bit narrow and young toddlers may fall off when straps are not used

  • Screws on foot stand can come loose and the chair is sometimes wobbly

  • Harness clips somewhat difficult to close, but offer quick release

This chair has wooden legs and a stable plastic seatback with removable colorful seat covers. It weighs about 13lbs and includes a five-point safety harness. It features a smaller, four-position adjustable footrest, which works well for an older or taller infant and toddler but is often not high enough for many young infants. With a blanket roll for additional support along baby’s back, baby may be able to sit forward enough in the chair to allow the knees to bend adequately. The footplate is the right size for a lasagna or spaghetti box to sit on top and raise the height of the footplate until baby is able to reach it independently. The seat is completely upright, and slightly higher profile than the Stokke and Nomi chairs. Once turned into a toddler chair, the seat is very low profile, and looks more like a stool, which can hold up to 55lbs. The tray is removable, and the chair easily pulls up to the family table.

Pros:

  • Fairly good positioning, but requires some modifications for younger or smaller infants

  • Easy to wipe down

  • Transitions into a toddler stool

Cons:

  • Footplate is smaller and not fully adjustable

  • Shoulder pads are not removable and a little bulky for young babies

  • Toddler stool is less supportive than other transitional high chairs

Lalo the Chair has wooden legs and a plastic seatback with removable colorful seat covers. It’s very light-weight at roughly 10lbs and includes a five-point safety harness. The footrest is not fully height-adjustable, which may work fine for an older/taller infant and toddler, but it’s often not high enough for most infants.

The foot rest is small, so a pasta box may be just enough to bring up the footplate height for a smaller baby. The seat is upright, and slightly higher profile than the Stokke and Nomi chairs, with a machine washable cushion. There is a new infant insert for the seat that makes the chair better fitted for a small baby. Without the insert, baby may need a back support with a towel or blanket roll to sit completely upright in this chair. The tray is removable, and the chair easily pulls up to the family table. The chair converts to a low child play chair and can hold up to 200lbs.

Pros:

  • Removable tray and pulls up to the table

  • Transitions into a toddler chair and toddler play chair

  • Infant insert helps with posture in the chair

  • Multiple colors

Cons:

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