What To Do If Your Baby Hates His Highchair!

Posted on Dec 13 2009 - 3:57pm by Christine
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Of all the problems associated with feeding babies, one of the most difficult to deal with is the baby that won’t sit in his highchair!

If YOUR little one screams at the sight of his highchair, spends all of the time that he’s IN his highchair trying to get OUT – and you’ve resorted to following him around with  a spoon so you can sneak in the odd mouthful of food at every opportune moment – then today’s post is for you!

One of the best approaches to use in order to fix the problem of a baby refusing to sit in his highchair is to identify the cause of his distress.

Here are some possible reasons that he may be resisting the highchair… along with some possible solutions!

He may simply be uncomfortable

Whilst this is less likely with older babies who can sit well and seem to be comfortable just about anywhere, for younger babies this could well be the cause.

If you are introducing solids between 4 to 6 months of age, your little one may not be sitting well and will require additional support. Whilst some highchairs recline to accommodate younger babies, some are really only suited to those who can support themselves.

If you are constantly repositioning your baby or if he is always sliding into an uncomfortable position when in his highchair, either consider in investing in (or borrowing) a highchair more suitable for younger babies, or feeding him on your lap.

Some parents like to use a Bumbo Baby Seat for feeding younger babies, as it provides a lot of support.

He may not be hungry

It sounds obvious, but faced with an unhappy, screaming infant, we sometimes tend to overlook the obvious!

If it’s possible that you’re trying to impose a feeding schedule on your baby that simply doesn’t suit him, then we’d really recommend learning to spot the signals that indicate he’s hungry and allowing those signals to dictate mealtimes.

Never force your baby to eat – this can turn mealtimes into a battle-ground – and that’s no fun for either of you.

He may feel lonely

If you are feeding your baby at a different time to the rest of the family, then he may see his mealtimes as somewhat lonely – and resist them.

Many parents find that their babies will sit in the highchair much more readily if they will be eating with the rest of the family. Of course, it may not be possible to coordinate your baby’s mealtimes with everyone else’s – but at least try to sit with him and have a light snack or even a cup of coffee!

He may be going through a ‘clingy’ phase

If so, then even the separation caused by placing him in a highchair may be too much for him to handle.

Again, sit with your baby and interact with him to reassure him that you won’t be leaving him (and resist the urge to do chores during the time he’s in his highchair). Later, when he’s more comfortable with using his highchair, you may find that he’s happy to sit there with finger foods whilst you wash the dishes (but NEVER leave your baby alone to eat, of course and ensure he’s always in your line of sight).

He may just be impatient!

Our youngest child is like this – he wants his food and he wants it NOW, otherwise he’ll scream in his highchair and bang the table non-stop!

The solution is to always be prepared and have the food ready before you put him in the highchair. If that’s not always possible – and he’s eating finger foods – be sure to have a non-filling snack to offer him, which will keep him occupied until his meal arrives (we’ve used crisped rice cereal MANY times for this purpose!).

He may be bored

This is often the case with older babies who’d rather be off playing and crawling than be strapped to a chair!

So try to make mealtimes as much fun as possible, with lots of praise and smiles. You might find that a good highchair toy comes in really handy. And DON’T try to keep your little one in his seat for an unreasonably long time. Allow him to eat, then set him free!

He may want to assert his independence

If you are spoon-feeding your baby, then try offering him finger foods instead!

You may find that he finds feeding himself far more enjoyable – and consequently he’ll be far less likely to scream at the sight of his highchair.

He may not want to feel like a baby any more

And this can happen a lot earlier than you may think, sometimes at around 12 months or so, particularly if there are older siblings around!

You may find that removing the highchair tray, lowering the seat and pushing your little one up to the table with everyone else works wonders. Alternatively, you might like to invest in a low table and chair (we recommend choosing one with arms to keep your baby contained), or use a booster seat with a regular dining chair.

If your baby won’t sit in his highchair, DON’T:

  • let him eat whilst crawling or toddling around. This is not only a choking hazard, it’s also counter-productive, as the more you allow him to do it, the less likely it is that he’ll ever consent to being placed in a highchair at mealtimes!
  • use other equipment (like activity centres or door bouncers) for feeding your baby. Again, this will lead him to reason that if food can be had anywhere, why allow himself to be strapped into a highchair?

Instead, reinforce the idea that the highchair equals food (and therefore make it more attractive to your baby) by waiting until he’s hungry before you use it, ONLY feeding him in the highchair and giving him LOADS of praise when he successfully gets through a meal!

Our favourite highchairs (US and UK)

More common feeding problems…

Introducing textured/lumpy foods

My baby won’t eat from a spoon

My baby won’t eat vegetables

Coping with a messy eater

Do you have any good tips for helping little ones feel happier in their highchairs? Or do you prefer to ‘go with the flow’ and allow your baby to eat on your lap or elsewhere rather than face the mealtime battles?

Please do leave a comment and let us know!

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3 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Amy January 6, 2010 at 11:36 am -

    We tried a portable booster style high chair that straps to a normal adult dining chair, our 14 month old is alot happier and very proud of herself sat in a big chair! Ours has a detachable tray so she can either eat off of that or from the big table. Now she goes up to it and asks to “SAT” in it even when it is not mealtimes!

  2. Saani Bennetts July 21, 2017 at 5:04 am -

    What a great article. I love it. So many common-sense ideas. All the articles about high chairs are about how to choose a high chair, but nothing on what if your baby doesn’t actually like it. So useful!!!

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