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When Can Your Baby Sit in a High Chair?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, MD, FAAP
Is baby ready to sit upright?

Does your little one want to sit at the table with you during dinner?

Having your baby sit in a high chair with you at the table will make your life less hectic, and you may be able to eat a hot meal for a change.

But, are they ready to sit in a high chair?

There is no set age to do this; it depends mostly on what type of high chair you have, how you use it, and how ready your baby is to sit in it.

In this article, we discuss the signs your baby is ready to sit upright, and safety tips for transitioning to a high chair.

How to Tell if Your Baby is Ready for An Upright Chair

Babies will generally be ready to sit upright sometime around four to six months of age, usually closer to six months.

So how can you tell if your baby is sitting upright enough?

Well, first the head and neck should be very stable, without having to be propped up with pillows. Early in this developmental stage, babies can do this for a minute or two, but they tire if not yet ready to sustain the position on their own. Their head will flop to the side, and their body will slide a little sideways and down. You’ll know because you will instantly think of placing a pillow to support the neck, shoulders, and torso. That means they are too unstable, and it is not yet time.

Secondly, baby’s shoulders should be straight without the need to prop them to stay upright. And baby’s arms should be able to move about on their own, with hands ready to grab onto the tray to steady the torso. This ability to sit upright with very little support allows babies to use their hands freely to grab food and explore without having to expend all of their energy trying to maintain the upright position.

If you see baby’s head falling forward, shoulders slouching to the side, or sliding down in the chair without being able to stabilize the torso with their hands, then your baby is just not quite ready for full use of an upright chair yet. Keep letting them practice in a safe place with your full attention, and it won’t be long until the strength improves, and you will see that your baby is ready.

Important Note

If your baby is not able to sit upright, then they are also not ready to start solid food. The airway will not be fully open if the head and shoulders are falling to the side because the neck will not be straight, and baby will have difficulty using the muscles needed to move food around in the mouth and coordinate the swallow.

One way you can experience what this feels like is to sit with your neck bent and looking down at your lap. Now try to swallow. You will see that it just doesn’t work too well, and does not feel very comfortable either. You almost feel like you might choke a bit on your saliva, or that it might go down the wrong way when you swallow. This is an essential exercise to understand how to hold your baby while nursing or giving the baby bottle, and also before attempting to feed your baby any solid food.

It is helpful to review all of these developmental abilities so that you can be aware of what to watch for while you are trying to assess your baby’s readiness for an upright chair (1).

So if your little one can sit up well with very little support, has relatively good stability, and can hold their head up, they’re ready for both solid foods and a high chair!

Safely Transitioning To A High Chair

Here are some general high chair safety tips to follow when transitioning your little to a high chair:

  • Make sure the high chair is certified and has met the recommended safety standards. You will be able to identify this from a sticker on it from the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association) showing it meets ASTM standards. Most experts recommend against the use of a second-hand chair. If you need to use one, however, you can take note of the model name and date of manufacture to check on the government website for recalls, www.recalls.gov.
  • Fill out the registration so that may be notified in the case of a safety recall.
  • Be sure you and any other caretaker are comfortable using the high chair before putting your baby in it for the first time. Know how the locking mechanism for the legs works, how the straps adjust and lock, how the tray comes on and off, and how to fold and unfold it (if it folds).
  • Look it over just before each use to check for any damage, make sure the tray is still intact, and the chair and straps are secure.
  • At mealtimes, place your baby close enough to see, and where they feel like part of the party, but far away enough from the table to avoid reaching for a tablecloth, utensil, or any sharp, hot, or glass objects.
  • Do not place the chair near the wall, counter, or table. Your baby can use this surface to push off and tip the chair over.
  • Always use a 3- or 5-point harness to strap your baby into the chair safely. Most accidents occur when babies try to stand up or fall through. Use safety straps with any high chair at all times.
  • Make sure there is a footrest that can be adjusted to support baby’s feet.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in the high chair. Have everything you need, including drinks, wipes, and extra baby utensils nearby, but not within baby’s reach. Prepare the food ahead of time so you are not seating your baby, then moving around in the kitchen getting the food ready. It is a great thing for your baby to learn early on that when it is time to sit at the table, it is time to eat together!

Finding a High Chair

The best high chairs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. To decide if a baby is ready or not to use one in this early transition, we will look at two different kinds:

Reclining High Chairs

Depending on your high chair style, your baby may be able to sit at the table with you sooner than later. Reclining high chairs can be used when babies are as early as a few weeks old. Keep in mind, however, that these chairs are not meant for feeding infants solid food.

Reclining is meant more for just hanging out or bottle feeding (though it is always best to try and do that in your arms as if you were nursing). They must be ready to sit in a more upright position to begin taking baby food.

Upright High Chairs

If your baby is sitting up well and you are ready to start with the upright position, you can use any traditional or space-saving high chair. Look for a durable, stable, and easy-to-clean high chair with a broad base. You’ll be using it for a few years, so do a little research and try to find a durable, safe, and comfortable high chair, both for you and your baby.

Choose What Works For You

If your baby cries throughout dinner and wants to be at the table with you, it may be wise to invest in a reclining high chair early on. It will make your life less hectic, as they can play happily in their high chair while you cook, clean, and eat.

When starting your baby on solids, always be sure they are sitting upright while they eat; never use the reclining position.

If you decide to wait until they can sit up with little to no support, then any new traditional or space-saving high chair will fit your needs.

To use high chairs safely, you and any other caretakers should know how they work, always make sure they’re intact before each use, and never leave your baby unattended.

Headshot of Dr. Gina Jansheski, MD, FAAP

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Gina Jansheski, MD, FAAP

Dr. Gina Jansheski is a board-certified pediatrician with over 20 years of experience treating infants and children of all ages in many different settings. Dr. Jansheski is the mother to three sons, has sponsored a young girl in India for the past 7 years and has also devoted her time to a new charity that she founded, Helping Hands M.D. feeding street animals in Thailand and India.

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