When can a baby sit in a restaurant High Chair?
Updated: Jan 16
Every fresh parent knows how this feels. You have been at home for 6 months, mainly taking care of your little miracle, and you are longing for a little brake from it all. A short trip to a nice restaurant would certainly do the trick! No food prepping, no worries about the dishes, just a nice meal and some quality time with the family. But will your child be ready to sit in a restaurant High Chair? This is when:
Your child can sit in a restaurant High Chair when he or she can sit unsupported for at least 30 minutes. Depending on the development of your child, this happens somewhere between 6 to 9 months. Please make sure that the High Chair meets all the safety standards as issued by the JPMA.
Going out to a restaurant with a baby is not self-evident. After all, you don’t know what type of High Chair they are using and even if you know, you most likely never tested that one before. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to make it work, even if it’s not the right fit for your child.
Read along with us and find out more about the tips and tricks that other parents do to ensure a pleasant evening at the restaurant for the whole family.
Babies and restaurant High Chairs, all you need to know.
Let us quickly talk about why it is important for your child to be able to sit up straight without support, especially in a restaurant setting.
If your child cannot support its own head and sit up straight for at least 30 minutes, she or he will end up in a slouching position when placed in a High Chair. As you can imagine, this is very uncomfortable and will lead to a frustrated child with lots of crying and antsy behavior.
Not only is this uncomfortable, above all, it is also bad for your child’s health and development process as the spine and core muscles are not strong enough to maintain a good posture. This can lead to pelvic problems with further complications down the road.
So, even when you are doing an occasional trip to the restaurant it is best not to use a High Chair until your child is ready for it. This is even more important with restaurant High Chairs as these are often more spacious and have no padding to add some support.
What are the features that indicate a safe High Chair?
Now that we have made sure to meet the first criteria, a baby that can sit unsupported, it is time to go over a small safety checklist before using the High Chair. Even though overall safety is also the responsibility of restaurant owner, they are not required to purchase new High Chairs that fit the 2018-safety standards update.
Make sure that the High Chair has a wide footprint and a sturdy stance on the floor. If it feels wobbly, it is a no-go as chances of tipping over are too high.
See if the legs lock firmly into place. For wooden High Chairs, there should be no cracks in the legs or the joint areas.
There should be a 3-point or a 5-point harness with a locking mechanism. Check if all the straps are still intact and make sure you can tighten them to snugly secure your child.
For High Chairs manufactured after 2018 it is mandatory to have a fixed crotch post so your child cannot slip out through the bottom, we strongly recommend to not use a High Chair without one.
Check if there are no brims or sharp edges that your child can reach. With wooden High Chairs you want to check for splinters. A quick gentle swipe with your hand will give you all the info you need.
The tray should be fixed to the High Chair in such a way that only you are able open or remove it.
If all of the above is OK, you can place your child in the High Chair. Once you are seated, please make sure that your child cannot push itself off from the table edge.
Are restaurant High Chairs comfortable?
Another, yet important, topic is the comfort level of restaurant High Chairs as this will influence your chances of a peaceful meal with your family.
Many restaurant owners will invest in High Chairs that are low cost, easy to clean and very straightforward. Because machine washable padding means extra work after every meal, there is often no padding and your child has to sit on a hard plastic or wooden surface.
Luckily it is quite easy for you to increase the comfort levels for your child by simply bringing either a blanket or some small pillows. Some parents just bring the High Chair cover they use at home. This way your child will feel at home in a High Chair that isn’t theirs.
Are restaurant High Chairs clean?
If you go to a restaurant, one of the first things that come to mind is the cleanliness of the seating for your child. After all, the last thing you want is to expose your child to unnecessary germs and bacteria that have accumulated meal after meal.
This cleanliness really depends on the type of restaurant that you are going to. In most cases, restaurant owners make sure to wipe down the High Chair right after use. This is where those hard, non-padded surfaces come in handy.
If you are not sure about the place that you are going to, you can always check if the High Chair is clean. In case it isn’t, just ask the staff to wipe it down one more time or you can just bring your own baby wipes and give it a quick cleaning.
In the end, having everything too sterile isn’t good either. A bit of germs and bacteria will actually strengthen your child’s immune system, which is beneficial in the long run.
Is it mandatory for a restaurant to have a High Chair?
Although it is very convenient for a restaurant to have a couple of High Chairs at site, it is not mandatory for restaurant owners to offer this. That said, if you are trying out a new restaurant it is best to give them a call and check if they have High Chairs and in the case that they do, have them reserve one for you. Not having a High Chair at your disposal can ruin a quite night out with your family.
What are the alternatives to restaurant High Chairs?
If your favorite restaurant doesn’t have a High Chair, there are always alternatives that you can bring yourself. They don’t need to be super expensive and your can also use them on other trips like visits to family or friends.
1. Foldable High Chairs
As many other parents who love going out for food every once and awhile, you can purchase a foldable High Chair that you can permanently leave in the trunk of the car or also use at home. This way you know for sure that your child will like the High Chair and it’s safe and clean enough according to your standards.
The disadvantage is that a foldable High Chair is still a rather large product to carry into a restaurant, especially if you have other children to look after.
2. Hook-on High Chairs
For those of you who are looking for something a lot more compact and light, you can choose a Hook-on High Chair as well. Most Hook-on High Chairs can be folded flat and they come with a nice carrying bag. You will hardly notice that you are taking an extra piece of equipment out for lunch.
We must say however, that Hook-on High Chairs are not suitable for just any table. This is a bit of a risk factor when you are trying out a new place, as you don’t know if the Hook-on High Chair will be compatible with the restaurant table.
For more information about Hook-on High Chairs and table compatibility you can read this in-depth illustrated article we wrote here.
3. Booster Seats
Another valid option for family meals outside the house is Booster Seats. Booster Seats allow you to increase the height of the existing restaurant furniture with a small and lightweight seat that has all the safety features that your child needs, incorporated.
As you can see, going out for dinner with your new family member require you to consider a lot of aspects that you didn’t have to do before but with a bit of planning and the right baby gear, those moments of quality time with your whole family are definitely within arms reach!
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Jennings, L, (2018), New federal standards for high chairs coming in 2019, Accessed 27/08/2020, https://www.nrn.com/operations/new-federal-standards-high-chairs-coming-2019
Consumer Product Safety Commission, (2018), CPSC Approves new federal safety standard for High Chairs, Accessed 27/08/2020, https://www.cpsc.gov/content/cpsc-approves-new-federal-safety-standard-for-high-chairs
Csaba Bálint Illés, András J. Tóth, Anna Dunay, József Lehota, András Bittsánszky, Evaluation of food safety knowledge and microbial status of food contact surfaces in schools, Journal of Food Safety, 10.1111/jfs.12480, 38, 4, (2018), Accessed 27/08/2020, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jfs.12287