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Before You Buy a Baby High Chair

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High chairs have come a long way from the wooden variety of yesteryear. Today's baby high chairs have a variety of features such as wheels, one-hand tray release, height adjustment and seat recline. Before you buy a high chair for your baby, take the following information into consideration.

When Should I Buy a High Chair?

Babies don't really need high chairs for feeding purposes until they start eating solid foods, usually after 6 months of age. Some parents prefer to buy a high chair early on, though, because high chairs can be useful as a landing place for baby even before the little one is throwing carrots. Even parents who are delaying the introduction of solid foods due to extended breastfeeding may find use for a high chair, which allows baby to join the family at the dinner table and see all of the action.

Is the High Chair Safe?

The number of bells and whistles on your baby high chair is a matter of personal choice, however, you should be careful to choose a high chair that is safe. Check the harnesses for security, make sure there's a bar of some sort between baby's legs to prevent slipping under the tray, and check the overall sturdiness of the high chair. If you're considering buying a used high chair, be sure to check for recalls. Several high chairs have been recalled recently, for safety issues that range from minor to very serious.

Look for Stability

A wide base and a low center of gravity are very important safety features of a high chair. Give any chair you consider a good shake and imagine how it might stand up to a wiggling baby. Is it easy to tip over? Also consider that a nice, wide base is much easier to reach under when you have to pick up cereal and other food-flinging favorites.

Check Wheels and Locking Mechanisms

A high chair with wheels is a great choice if you'll be moving baby from place to place for feeding, but wheeled high chairs should have strong locks on the wheels to prevent accidents and to keep you from having to chase the chair across the room at lunch. Make sure the wheels roll smoothly when unlocked, too. If you're looking at folding high chairs, see if the high chair could be accidentally folded while in use, and whether it stays locked when folded. Depending on where you need to store the high chair, you may want to look for one that stands upright when folded. Also check to be sure the folded high chair fits your available storage space.

Height Adjustment and Recline

A high chair with height adjustment is a good choice if you plan to use the high chair long-term. You can set the height to be easy on your arms for the first feedings, and remove the tray and adjust the high chair to booster seat height for toddlers later on. Reclining high chairs are best if you'll use the chair to hold an infant. The recline feature is also nice for toddlers, who often fall asleep over their mac and cheese after a long playdate.

Buckle Up!

Check the high chair's belts to be sure the straps are strong, durable and washable. There should be a crotch strap along with the belts that go over baby's hips, though a five-point harness with shoulder straps is safest. Steer clear of models that only have a loop to go around baby's waist - it's too easy for baby to slip out and get hurt. High chairs today must have some sort of post between baby's legs to prevent baby from sliding under the tray. Some posts are on the seat, while others are on the underside of the tray. If you need to set the tray on a table, the post on the tray can be inconvenient.

Cushy Cushions

High chairs get very grimy, so choose a model that washes well. Vinyl cushions are easy to wipe down, but sometimes have sharp edges. Run your fingers over the edges to be sure they won't cut your baby. Cloth cushions should be made of thick, durable fabric. Be sure to choose removable, machine-washable cushions. You should be able to easily remove the cushions for washing and replace them properly without any hassle. Also look for any grooves or areas around the cushions where food could collect and be hard to wipe out.

A Tray That Works

Aside from being easy to clean, the most important feature of a high chair tray is ease of use. Try operating the tray with one hand. Does the tray slide out easily? Would your baby be able to remove the tray on his / her own? Are there any hinges, holes or sharp spots that could hurt baby's fingers? Look for a tray with a high rim to keep more food on the tray and off of the floor. Trays with a dishwasher-safe topper are handy when your baby paints the whole tray with spaghetti sauce. Some of these trays don't fit in the average dishwasher, though, so you should also be sure you can easily clean the tray insert by hand.
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