Are High Chairs Necessary? (5 Things to Consider)

Do you really need an expensive high chair? Let's find out.

As a new parent, you may be overwhelmed with the number of things “they” say you must have to care for your baby.

While there’s no getting around raising little humans without cost, there may be some items you can live without. Is the high chair one of those items?

There are many reasons to consider not having a high chair. It could be a matter of:

  • Space and Storage.
  • Cost.
  • Versatility.
  • Ease of cleaning.
  • Safety.

The core of the matter is while a traditional high chair may not be right for you, your baby does need a place to eat. High chairs can be a convenient way to provide that.

Keep reading to find out what you should think about before deciding if a high chair will be necessary for your family, or a waste of money.

Related Reading: How to Find the Best High Chair for Your Baby

How Safe Is It?

Of course, the most important thing when it comes to your baby is safety. This applies even in feeding – don’t rely on a seat not designed for feeding and compromise on safety.

Though it may seem easier to use something like a swing, bouncy chair or bumbo seat at the table, the risk and safety dangers aren’t worth it.

Each year, there are numerous infants injured while sitting in a high chair, mostly from falls (1).

Regarding safety, here is what you should look for in any high chair option you go with:

  • Adjustable safety straps (three or five-point harness ideally).
  • Safe latches and closures.
  • Adjustable seat heights.
  • A crotch post.
  • No rough edges or exposed hinges.
  • Wide, stable base.
  • Wheel locks (if it has wheels).

I highly recommend checking out our guide to high chair safety to ensure you choose a safe option for the baby. The AAP offers some additional safety recommendations for the use of high chairs.

Do You Have Space?

One of the biggest downfalls of the traditional high chair is how much space it takes up even worse if it’s a full-size model with a tray which reclines and has a variety of other features.

If you’re willing to compromise on features such as reclining or having a tray, there are certainly other options available. You could choose to use a booster seat strapped to a regular kitchen chair, so you can remove it as needed.

Before considering the use of such booster seats, it is important to be sure your baby has good head control and back muscle coordination. He or she should at least be able to sit a significant amount of time without the aid of back support (not fall over while sitting). There is less trunk support with booster seats, so these are best for infants closer to a year old.
Headshot of Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Editor's Note:

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

One of the first things to decide is whether you want to have a separate tray for baby to eat off, or want them right at the table with the rest of the family. Trust me when I say there will be a mess either way, so it just depends whether you want to clean the same surface or a separate surface.

I did not find the reclining feature to be necessary and preferred to have the youngest member of the family seated right at the regular table for meals, so I chose a space-saving option without these features.

As a pediatrician, I am not sure of the purpose of a “reclining feature” on a high chair. An infant should sit upright for feeding to prevent choking.
Headshot of Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Editor's Note:

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Can I Afford A High Chair?

High chairs can be one of the biggest ticket items for your baby, right up there with a stroller, crib, and car seat. Given the limited amount of time your baby will use the high chair for, it is tempting for parents to opt for something lower-priced instead.

Of course, just holding your baby on your lap is always an option, but it impedes mom or dad’s ability to eat and can lead to more of a mess.

Similar to the issue of saving space, the portable high chair/travel booster seat is an excellent option as they are usually just a fraction of the cost. They are also more versatile as they can be used when you visit restaurants or friend’s houses, and often useful up to age 3 and beyond.

This option from Fisher-Price is fantastic, and I’ve used it with my children primarily at restaurants. Still, it would be suitable for daily use at home as well!

How Versatile Is The High Chair?

Truthfully, one of the best gifts I received when expecting my first child, was our high chair. It’s so versatile; it will grow with my child into adulthood. I’m not kidding – the friend who gave it to us still uses hers from when she was a child, only now it serves as a chair at her desk instead of a high chair.

I love this version by Stokke because its ergonomic design evolves with your child from six months to adulthood. With an adjustable seat and footrest, it’s a solid wood piece. It also helps to have a modern look and a variety of color options.

Because it can be used in different rooms of the house, not just for feeding, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it over the stand-alone high chair which is only useful in the kitchen at mealtimes.

More On This Topic
Toddlers eating at the table without high chairs5 Signs Your Baby Is Ready to Ditch Their High Chair

How Easy Is It To Clean?

Messy Baby Eating in High Chair
Image source: The Mom Story

Most traditional stand-alone high chairs are covered in a wipeable fabric for cleaning. However, the ease of cleaning these is up for debate. Especially after daily use with one or more kids, crumbs and stains in all those fabric crevices are unavoidable.

If you want something easy to clean, I suggest looking at options without fabric. It’s best if they also have a removable and dishwasher safe tray for occasional quick, deep cleanings.

Learn More
Baby girl sitting in a dirty high chairHow to Clean a High Chair (Step by Step Guide)

It’s Your Call

Don’t buy something just because “they” tell you it’s a necessary item. You know your family best, and you are the expert on your baby.

All you need is to provide baby a safe, stable place to eat, which meets your family’s needs regarding:

  • Safety.
  • Space.
  • Cost.
  • Versatility.
  • Ease of cleaning.

Whether that comes in the form of a traditional stand-alone high chair or another hybrid option, is up to you. Whichever form of chair you choose, it is most important that the baby is supervised while sitting there to reduce the possibility of injuries.

Headshot of Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Reviewed by

Dr. Leah Alexander, MD, FAAP

Leah Alexander, M.D. FAAP is board certified in General Pediatrics and began practicing pediatrics at Elizabeth Pediatric Group of New Jersey in 2000. She has been an independently contracted pediatrician with Medical Doctors Associates at Pediatricare Associates of New Jersey since 2005. Outside of the field of medicine, she has an interest in culinary arts.
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