Can your baby sleep in a High Chair?
Updated: Jan 16
Every parent has at least once experienced their child falling asleep in a High Chair, or anywhere else for that matter. Knowing how difficult it can be to get your child to sleep, it is very tempting to just leave them in the High Chair instead of interrupting their well deserved nap to place them in a crib.
But is this the best you can do for your child or is it better to briefly wake them up for a quick transition to the horizontal world? We had the same question since our child was a High Chair napping ninja, so we talked to our pediatrician to figure out what is the smartest thing to do. This is what she told us:
Sleeping in a High Chair obstructs the airways and hinders proper breathing. It’s very uncomfortable and it won’t allow your child to get the deep sleep it needs. When you place your child in a crib right after a meal, always check if there is no food left in his or her mouth to prevent suffocation.
Even though it looks kind of cute when your pumpkin is sleeping in a High Chair (or in the process of falling asleep), it is definitely something you don’t want them to be doing after every meal.
There are just too many risks involved and the benefits of that shallow sleep are too little. Below we will look a bit deeper into the matter to clarify why High Chairs are just for eating and not for sleeping.
What are the risks of sleeping in a High Chair?
Besides a poor sleep, there are other risks of sleeping in a High Chair that you need to know of, as this can have long term consequences on the life quality of your child and yourself.
Below we made a list of those risks and explained them in detail:
Neck & back pain: Falling asleep in a sitting position puts a lot of unnecessary strain on the neck and back muscles of your child. This can make the muscles feel sore and stiff, which in turn will make your child feel unhappy. In the long term this can undermine further good quality sleep which will have a negative effect on your child's development and the well being of your family.
Shallow sleep: For children it is paramount to have good sleep as this is the time when their development gets the biggest boosts. Multiple scientific studies indicate that children who get the right amount of sleep have a better mental and physical health. This means their attention span, the ability to learn and remember are better than with children who lack sleep. Children that don’t get enough sleep also have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and in the long run, even depression.
Injury: Letting your child nap in a High Chair might feel like a convenient thing to do. However, it is easy to loose your attention while doing other shores. Children who are in a High Chair should always be under the supervision of their parents as most accidents with High Chairs happen when children are being left alone. Older siblings might climb the chair while playing, or the dog is curious and jumps against the High Chair, tipping the High Chair over with the risk of serious head injury. If you place your child in a crib, you eliminate this risk completely.
Suffocation: Children often fall asleep right after a meal. When they fall asleep during a meal, there is a chance there is still food in their mouth, this can lead to suffocation. It's better to take them out of the High Chair and check their mouth for food before placing them in a crib.
Can my baby sleep in a High Chair with a recline function?
We’ve seen it all too often with friends. Their child falls asleep in the High Chair, they recline the back and let the child take a nap. After all, they are not sitting up anymore, right?
Letting your child sleep in a reclined High Chair is not a smart thing to do. High Chairs with a recline function are not meant for sleeping but for bottle feeding infants or for babies to just hang around while awake. The best position for sleeping is horizontal when placed in a crib.
The recline function of the High Chair will not allow for a full extension of the spine and the neck which is necessary for open airways and easy breathing during sleep.
If I stay near my child when he or she sleeps in a High Chair is that OK?
On many fora you will find parents that claim it is OK for their children to sleep in a High Chair as long as they keep an eye on them. We understand the logic behind it but keeping an eye on your child when she or he is sleeping in a High Chair does not make it any better in terms of sleep quality and the effect it has on the health of your child.
Where should I place my baby if he or she falls asleep?
The best way to teach your child good sleeping habits is to offer it a comfortable sleeping zone. There should be a designated area with a crib where you can control the conditions for good sleeping. This means: a separate room that is quiet and has blinds to dim the light of the sun.
This will allow for you and your family to continue with your everyday life while offering your youngest sprout a safe haven to get a high quality solid sleep. Try to create a consistent routine so that it becomes a habit for your child. The more it is a habit, the more it becomes familiar for your child and the easier it will become for him or her to fall asleep.
If your child is a High Chair sleeping ninja like ours, it is best to take her or him out of the High Chair as soon as you see the first signs of falling asleep. When the head starts to wobble, it is time to move! After a couple of times, you will become so good at it that your child will fall asleep after being placed in its crib.
Your little Napmeister will enjoy a good night rest and an optimal development trajectory and he or she will thank you with a better mood, what more can you ask for!
Why do babies fall asleep in a High Chair?
Whenever you place your child in a High Chair, it seems that the sand man is never far away, but why is that?
To start with, babies nap a lot. This is just part of their natural development as they need a lot of sleep to restore their fast developing bodies and minds. They eat, they sleep, they play and they repeat. So, the chance that your child was already tired before being placed in a High Chair is quite high.
Once they are sitting in the High Chair and they are focusing on eating, all the other distractions and stimuli they had during play are taken away and they have to do the job of getting solid foods in their belly. For us this is an easy task that we have performed thousands of times. But for a child who is just starting out with this, it is a challenge that requires a lot of energy and attention.
Once they have some food in their belly, the digestive system starts to kick in and consumes even more energy. This is also one of the reasons we get tired after eating a meal and crave for a nap.
Can you brake up the habit of a baby falling asleep in a High Chair?
If your child is falling asleep every time you place it in a High Chair for feeding, it is best to contact your pediatrician and talk about this. If it happens occasionally, it is normal and yes, you can do something to brake up that habit (although it is not really a habit).
You can create a fixed routine in your and your babies day to day life. This way you can estimate when your child will get sleepy and plan those meal times a bit ahead. Try to look for cues that your child is getting tired. If he or she starts to rub its eyes, yawn or becomes a bit annoyed, it might be time for some sleep.
We often miss those cues and start a feeding session right before your child is ready to take a nap. For children this young age, when it’s time for a nap, napping will be done, even if that means spaghetti ends up on their face.
If you enjoyed learning with us and find this article helpful, please help us spread the love and a good night rest for all babies! Thanks for reading.
Johns Hopkins All Childre’s Hospital, RachelDawkins, M.D., 2018,The importance of sleep for kids, Accessed 18/08/2020, https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/The-importance-of-sleep-for-kids
J.Fares, M. Y Fares, Y Fares, 2017, Musculoskeletal neck pain in children and adolescents: Risk factors and complications, Surgical Neurology International, Accessed 18/08/2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5445652/