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When Can Your Baby Sit in a High Chair?

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

Life gets a little easier once your baby can start sitting in a high chair, so we understand any eagerness to make it happen as soon as possible. But there are a few things to consider if you want to ensure your baby’s safety and comfort in their high chair.

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?

Ensure that your baby’s head and neck are 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 independently. If you notice their head begin to flop to the side or their body scrunching down when sitting, they are too unstable, and it is not yet time.

When seated, your baby’s shoulders should be straight, and their arms should be able to move about on their own. This ability to sit upright with very little support allows babies to use their hands freely to grab food and explore, without them having to expend all their energy trying to maintain the upright position.

If your baby cannot maintain this upright position without support, keep letting them practice in a safe place with your full attention. It won’t be long until their 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. Their airway will not be fully open if their head and shoulders are falling to the side. Their neck will not be straight, and your baby will have difficulty using the muscles needed to move food around in their mouth and coordinate the swallow.

One way you can experience what this feels like is to sit with your neck bent, looking down at your lap. Now try to swallow. You will see that it doesn’t work too well or feel very comfortable.

This is an essential exercise to understand how to hold your baby while nursing, offering a baby bottle, or before attempting to feed your baby any solid food.

It is helpful to review all these developmental abilities, so you can be aware of what to watch for while 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 food 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 the government website for recalls: www.recalls.gov.
  • Fill out the product registration so you 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 leg locking mechanism works, how the straps adjust and lock, how the tray attaches and comes off, and how to fold and unfold the chair (if it folds).
  • Look it over just before each use to check for any damage, making sure the tray is still intact and the chair and straps are secure.
  • At mealtimes, place your baby close enough to see your family and feel like part of the party, but far enough from the table to avoid them 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.
  • Always use a 3-point or 5-point harness to strap your baby into the chair safely. Most accidents occur when babies try to stand in their chair. Use safety straps with any high chair at all times.
  • Make sure there is a footrest that can be adjusted to support your baby’s feet.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in the high chair. Have everything you need nearby, including drinks, wipes, and extra baby utensils — but not within your 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. 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 young 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 hanging out or bottle feeding (though it is always best to hold your baby in your arms when feeding). 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 try to find a durable, safe, and comfortable high chair.


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 your baby 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 a reclined 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.