Best highchairs for baby-led weaning

Best highchairs for baby led weaning

Baby-led weaning can be hard on a highchair! With all the smushed, splatted, dropped and sometimes thrown food, you’ll definitely want to find a highchair that reduces the time you spend cleaning. 

What to look for in a highchair for BLW

There are a few factors that make a good highchair for babies who feed themselves (and their parents who clean up after them!):

  • A “solid” design - few crevices, creases and cracks for food to find its way into. This is the trickiest quality to find, as many highchairs try to get clever with separated sections on the tray which often mean seams that food can seep into. They are a real pain to clean!

  • Easy to wash pieces - ideally you can bung the tray right into the dishwasher, the harness should be washable (they often look the grubbiest), and the seat cover (if there is one) should be easily wipeable. Whatever you do, don't go for fabric coverings - you will curse them! 

  • Fits like a glove - If your baby looks lost in the expansive space of the highchair seat, there’s more risk of baby not being fully upright whilst eating. Upright posture is one of the most important factors in safe eating, so baby should be snug in their seat with a harness to keep them in place, at least until they are very confident sitters. (By the way, I’ve always been perplexed with highchairs that have a reclining position - whatever in the world for?!)

  • Grows with baby - weaning is a many-staged journey, so you should consider making your investment in a highchair last into the toddler years. Many children use highchairs until they are 2 or 3 years old. Aside from a buggy and cot, a highchair is one of the biggest ticket items you’ll likely buy for your wee one, so you want to make it last as long as you plan on using it!

  • Easy to pull up to the table - Since BLW is all about sharing family foods, and encouraging baby to join in at mealtimes, you may want to consider getting a high chair that you can pull right up to the table. Ideally you’re not banishing baby to the corner while the family sits closer together for dinner! The idea is include baby in all the social aspects of sharing food together. Models without trays allow baby to use the tabletop directly, which you may prefer. You can also get devices which attach baby to a dining room chair. But at minimum, choose a highchair with a small ‘footprint’ so you can manoeuvre it easy to join the table with you.

Of course, there are many other factors you’ll likely want to consider in a highchair, like colour and style, size, ability to collapse or fold, portability, foot rests, etc, but the list above is really focused on baby-led weaning highchair essentials. 

The highchairs our family used

Baby Snug: Starting out

We started out with a Mamas & Papas Baby Snug. I absolutely loved this chair for a few reasons:

  • When we first began BLW, wee man wasn’t yet in the rhythm of joining mealtimes. So meal time was usually a quite intimate affair between us, sat on the floor in his Snug, together on his splash mat. I loved having him sat right in front of me, at eye level, so we could ‘chat’ while he dug into his food. It ended up being the best part of my days on maternity leave. Just me, wee man, and some delicious grub.

  • It was SO easy to clean. No seams or cracks, just one solid piece. I could throw the tray into the dishwasher - or more often, I would just take it off and set it on the kitchen counter, along with the splash mat, as soon as he told me he was finished his meal, so I could return to clean it when he went for a nap. Then I’d just wipe everything down with hot soapy water or with Milton wipes and we’d be ready for round 2.

  • Wee man was just that - really wee. He was a bit on the small side since he’d been born, and I shuddered at the thought of him in a great big high chair! Snug was just as it sounded - snug - which was perfect for his size and made me feel more confident about his eating safely. 

I was really sad when wee man outgrew it - by a year, he’d fully figured out how to pick the tray off the Snug (which made for some interesting flinging incidents), and at one point he decided to attempt to stand while the tray was on his lap (messy incident no. 92803984). So while the Baby Snug is fantastic - especially for smaller babes like wee man - it did not grow with him. I don’t regret the investment though, as we continued to use it as a seat. You can remove the seat insert liner to make more room for baby as they get bigger!

Juice High Chair: Going pro

So we swapped for a Mamas & Papas Juice highchair. At this point, wee man was beginning to join more family meals and its adjustable height allowed for sitting wee man at the exact height of our table.

Juice is collapsable so we could make more room in our small dining area, and has a mesh storage net underneath, to keep spare baby serving ware, wipes and more.

Cleaning wise, Juice is pretty simple as there was a detachable tray which could go in the dishwasher and a removable harness I could stick in the wash as well (this was often the part that would get the dirtiest!).

This highchair served us well right up until the point that wee man could sit in an ‘adult’ chair at the dining table. 

 

 

BLW-friendly highchairs

If I was in the market for a chair today, I’d still definitely consider the Snug and Juice combo as I did love them both. But given there are a few others on the market now that seem to fit the needs of a BLW family, here are my recommendations that fit all budget ranges, from low to high: 

Portable Seats and Boosters

What I loved about Snug is that it could travel with us when we went on holiday. But it was too bulky to consider bringing it along to a restaurant, and also needed to be sat on the floor rather than at the dining table. Here are a few seat options you could consider for eating-on-the-go: 

What highchairs do you recommend?

I hope that you've found this helpful - I know making the big baby investments can be daunting. I'd love to hear if you've found a highchair or seat perfect for baby-led weaning - leave a comment below!

Learn how to introduce solids to your baby

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Baby's First Foods: Nutrition Guide

First Foods Nutrition Guide: Everything you need to know about vitamins and nutrients for babies over 6 months old

At around six months of age, babies start to require more - more energy, more nutrients, and more protein  - than milk alone provides. Of course, this isn’t something that happens overnight, but instead their nutritional needs gradually increase over the course of their first year. So, the introduction of first foods begins to complement their milk intake and provide all the goodness they’ll need to power the massive amounts of energy they need to grow and develop in their first year. 

Learn about the nutrients to supplement over the first year, how to create balanced meals and how much and often baby should be eating. And scroll to the end of the post for a download you can keep and print as a reference! 

Baby’s nutritional needs at six months: Nutrients to keep an eye on 

There are a few nutrients that you should be mindful of for growing babes: iron, vitamin A and vitamin D.  

Iron

Why it's important: Iron is used to make haemoglobin, which moves oxygen through the blood to the cells. If you don’t have enough iron, you can develop anaemia, which means oxygen isn’t well transported to your body’s organs and muscles. Iron is critical in brain development for babies and children. Babies with iron deficiency will sometimes be less active, have less energy, and may develop more slowly.

How much iron does baby need? Babies are born with a reserve of iron, which they took from mum when in the womb. For healthy, full-term babies, this starts to dwindle sometime between 6 and 12 months. From 7-12 months, aim for 11mg of iron a day. The need then decreases slightly to 7mg iron a day for children 1-3 years. Check with your GP to confirm the requirements for your baby. 

How to supplement baby iron intake: Great sources of iron include:

  • Breastmilk

  • Meats, especially red meats like beef

  • Veg including squash, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, seaweed, greens, tomato

  • Fish including tuna, sardines, tinned salmon

  • Dried fruits including figs, apricots, prunes and raisins (do not feed whole to baby - instead mince and add to meals)

  • Grains including fortified oats, brown rice, cornmeal, bran, quinoa, amaranth, millet, cracked wheat

  • Beans and lentils

  • Food additives like brewer’s yeast and blackstrap molasses

  • Egg yolks

Always couple non-meat iron-rich foods with vitamin C foods (fruits and veg!), to help baby absorb the iron. Great sources of vitamin C:

  • Breastmilk

  • Fruits - berries, citrus, peaches, apples, bananas

  • Veg - spinach, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes


Vitamin A

Why it's important: Vitamin A helps to grow cells and tissues in the body (especially hair, nails and skin), and is also important for growth of bones, infection prevention and vision.

How much vitamin A does my baby need? The UK National Health Service recommends a daily supplement of 233mg of vitamin A. From 1-3 years of age, vitamin A needed is at 300mcg or 1,000 IU. Check with your GP to confirm the requirements for your baby. 

How to supplement Vitamin A intake: If you’re breastfeeding, the British Nutrition Foundation recommends giving baby a supplement of vitamin A from six months of age. If you're formula feeding at least 500ml/day, typically infant milks have this added to the ingredients, but do check. 

Good sources of vitamin A in foods include: 

  • Veg like carrots, sweet potato, squash, spinach, kale, broccoli, peas

  • Fruits like apricots, cantaloupe, mango, peaches

  • Grains like fortified oats


Vitamin D

Why it's important: Vitamin D helps us to absorb phosphorous and calcium - both are important for strong and healthy bone development.

How much vitamin D does baby need? In the US, the AAP recommends that all children (birth through adolescence) receive 400 IU (10mcg) vitamin D per day. Canada has similar recommendations (with greater amounts recommended in winter for those in more northern regions). Vitamin D recommendations in European countries vary. (Source: KellyMom) Check with your GP to confirm the requirements for your baby.

How to supplement vitamin D intake: The best source of vitamin D is sun exposure. But because many live in countries without sufficient sun (the UK, for example!), and because it’s important to shield our babies from the heat and their skin from harmful rays, babies often don’t get enough vitamin D. 

If you’re breastfeeding, the British Nutrition Foundation recommends giving baby a supplement of vitamin D from six months of age. If you're formula feeding at least 500ml/day, typically infant milks have this added to the ingredients, but do check. 

Food sources from vitamin D are less helpful in the first year, as your baby won’t be regularly eating an amount consistent enough to keep a steady supply. But do add oily fish, eggs and fortified foods like oats to get your baby used to eating these great sources of vitamin D. 

Complementary feeding means milk PLUS solids

Milk, however, continues to be hugely important throughout the second half of their first year! Remember that for 6-12 months, the focus should be on complementary feeding, which means any benefit from food is on top of what your baby receives from breastmilk (or formula). There will be times where baby is ravenous for solids, and other days where they seem completely uninterested. Just remember that this is normal, and your milk continues to be their primary nutrition!

How often should I offer food to baby?

Parents of six month olds may be overwhelmed by the idea of attempting three meals in a day with baby. And rightly so! Particularly at 6-9 months, eating will be firstly an exploration for your baby and it’s likely that they will still be learning to actually ingest it (you can see progress with their digestion by examining their nappies!). 

Start slow: try one ‘meal’ a day, which may in fact be a single serving of one food type at first. It’s important not to overwhelm your child with too much food choice at first, so keep things simple and small. You might find they do a lot of smushing and some mouthing, but not necessarily swallowing. 

As they get to grips with solids and begin truly eating and ingesting foods, you can introduce more balanced meals, for example a ‘main course’ like meat and veg, and a ‘second course’ like natural yoghurt with stewed fruit. 

Your goal will be to work up to three meals a day, with small healthy snacks between, by the end of your baby’s first year. Thankfully, you’ll also find babies become a bit faster in terms of downing their meals - it’s not unknown for parents to spend up to two hours at the high chair at first! 

How much food should I offer baby?

Just as you do with milk feeding on demand, feed as much solid food to baby as much as they will eat! Babies have just as much knowledge of their own appetite than their parents (in fact, some would say they are more attuned than we are!) and will give you clear signs: 

  • Leaning in, reaching out, and continuing to move food to the mouth - still eating!
  • Leaning away, turning head, pushing food away, and otherwise fussing - I’m done.

Don’t plead or persuade or otherwise harass baby to eat more, even when they’ve barely touched what’s in front of them. Their appetites will be big on some days and next to nonexistent on others - and that is ok. Let baby lead the way.

If you are continuing to breastfeed as you introduce solids, and want to maintain your milk supply for baby, it’s best to always offer the breast before meal times. Try nursing an hour before offering solid foods. This way baby will be sure to get all the lovely nutrients that breastmilk provides, and also allows you to keep milk demand high to continue to supply all the breastmilk they need. KellyMom provides brilliant, research-backed resources for breastfeeding mothers through ages and stages, I highly recommend it!

How do I create a balanced meal for baby?

Although the term ‘meal’ may be a bit laughable when you first start weaning (does a lick of a peach slice count as a meal?!), you’ll soon find baby scoffing solids at every opportunity. Try to offer foods throughout the day that will meet all their nutritional needs. As they begin eating more, you’ll have even more opportunity as they move from one to three meals daily, and you can even begin introducing snacks. 

Here’s what to include in your meals:

  • Starchy foods: one portion of grains, bread, potato, or other starchy food at every meal, as infants need carbs to fuel them!

  • Veg and fruit: five portions a day, with a good mix of colours to vary the nutrients

  • Protein: one or two portions a day of eggs, meat, fish, tofu, etc

  • Fats: Aim for some healthy fats every day - this might be butter, full-fat natural yoghurt, full-fat cheese, avocado, olive oil, etc.

Some days will see your baby eating a well-balanced meal three times a day; other days you won’t get anything in them other than some buttered toast! If you’re concerned about nutrient intake, try keeping a log of foods over the course of the week (rather than just one day) and I promise you’ll feel much better 😃 

As with all things baby, check with your health professional or nutritionist if you have any concerns. 

Download the First Foods Nutrition Guide

First-Foods-Nutrition-Guide-product

Get your free PDF nutrition guide - it's yours to download so you can refer to it later!

 

What to feed a teething baby

Many babies begin teething around the same time that they begin eating their first foods - anywhere between 6 months and their first birthday will likely see the first tooth pop through. Typically this starts with the front top and bottom teeth (central incisors), followed by the lateral incisors right next door. After that usually come the first set of molars molars (10-14 months), canine teeth (usually 1-2 years), and then molars again (2-3 years). So, it’s a long journey for your little one - and may sometimes feel like a long one for you too!

As with everything, all babies follow their own developmental path. Some are toothy well before 6 months, some after they turn one. Some experience great discomfort and some are relatively unphased by it all! 

what-to-feed-teething-baby

Signs & symptoms of teething

The symptoms very widely from baby to baby. You may even find your little one shows a different symptom for every tooth that comes through! 

  • THE DROOL. So much drool. This is where soft bandana-style bibs come in handy. Wee man would often soak the front of his shirt with dribble without them - we would change them up to six times a day at one point! 

  • GRIZZLY BEHAVIOUR AND POOR SLEEP. Your sweet little baby may become very irritable during daytime and - to the pain of parents everywhere - throughout the night. They feel unsettled and uncomfortable, and they let you know about it. 

  • ROSY CHEEKS. Baby may look red and flushed, on one or both sides of their face. The rosy area may be warmer than the rest of their face. 

  • SORE GUMS. Baby’s gums may get quite sore, and if you peep inside their mouth you may even see a reddened, irritated area where the tooth is coming through. 

  • NEED TO CHEW. Baby will want to gnaw on just about everything - from their fist to your car keys. Give them teething toys, access to a teething necklace, and/or foods which are hard enough to satisfy the urge but gentle on their sore gums. 

  • A LOW FEVER. Baby may have a slight fever from teething. Do check that this isn’t a symptom of another illness. 

  • NAPPY RASH. Parents often report that babies develop a nappy rash and a sore bottom around teething time, although some argue that this is unrelated to teething. This may be caused by lots of saliva working its way into their digestive systems and causing runny poos. Either way, checking nappies often to keep baby’s bottom dry and clean is your best defence! Metanium was a real hero for wee man during this time. He'd never had nappy rash until a molar was trying to make its way through!

  • LACK OF APPETITE. You may find your babe doesn’t have much interest in eating during heavy teething moments - and that’s ok. Keep offering foods gentle on their gums, and be sure to offer as much of mum’s milk (or formula) as they’d like, to provide them with nutrition while they are feeling poorly. Read on for some tips on what to feed during these times. 

Teething babies can be picky customers when it comes to food.

First, it’s important to keep offering food even if they are not feeling up to eating. Keep up with regular milk feeds on demand, and supplement with solids as you would normally do. If baby leaves the meal on the tray, that’s ok - try again at the next meal. You may even find if you offer up these treats, they may come to see meal time as a relief from some of the icky feelings of teething! 

Foods to offer: 

  • Cold foods: Think smoothies made with frozen fruits, cold yoghurt, cold hummus, etc. You could even freeze a banana on a stick and let baby gnaw on the cool fruit until they gum it into mush! The cool sensation can be a blessing for hot and bothered gums. 

  • Foods to suck: Sucking motions can give some temporary relief. We used to put cold chunks of watermelon flesh into a mesh feeder that wee man could suck on and it seemed to really help him. Rice cakes also went over a real treat as they would essentially dissolve in his mouth. We topped them with mashed avocado, hummus and other purees we had stashed in the freezer. 

  • Hard foods: Some babies get relief from applying pressure on their gums while eating. As with frozen foods above, you could also try making some home-made teething biscuits (avoid the store bought varieties as they often contain sugar). 

  • Soft, mushy foods: Some babies prefer not to chew or gnaw at all while teething. You could offer a pre-loaded spoon with a thick soup or puree that your baby can feed themselves, or go for softer foods like avocado slices which don’t require much chewing at all. 

What to avoid: 

  • If your baby has sore inflamed gums, citrus and other acidic foods can sting. 

  • You likely already avoid them, but take extra care not to offer salty or spicy foods as they may also cause irritation. 

Don’t stress

It can be tough to watch your little one in pain, but know that this stage - as with all others! - will indeed pass. Provide comfort, cuddles and encouragement and your baby will come through it with a beautiful toothy smile 😃  

Learn how to introduce solids to your baby

first-foods-fundamentals

Get the FREE 5-day course and learn how to wean well

Sign up for First Foods Fundamentals to start your baby-led weaning journey, step-by-step, with lessons delivered to your inbox!