Why does my child cry in a High chair?
Updated: Jan 16
Yes, we feel you! We totally understand how frustrating this is! Your child doesn’t seem to fancy the High Chair all that much and is giving clear signs of protest when being placed in a High Chair. And while some children are just occasionally troublesome, others seem to have built up a deeply rooted High Chair aversion and become hysterical even with the slightest hunch of High Chair time.
But why is that? Why is it that your child has come to dislike the High Chair that much? Unfortunately there is not a single answer that covers it all, simply because every child experiences the world through her or his lens and because each lens is different. What is perfectly fine for one child might be the other child’s reason to create havoc.
Since there are so many causes to this issue, we’ve put together a list of all the triggers as well as some potential solutions that you can try to help your child to like the High Chair again.
After reading this article, you will have a clear idea of what could bother your little one and how you can act to alter the situation for the better.
1.Your child is uncomfortable in a High Chair.
We kick off this list with an issue that seems so obvious that we often tend to overlook it. After all, this bespoke piece of furniture is especially designed to make your baby feel comfortable and happy, so it must be some other issue, right? At least that is what the manufacturers are telling you to believe.
Unfortunately, “designed for” only goes so far and the meaning of being comfortable is different for every living soul on this planet. Furthermore, being comfortable is not only about how soft the padding is, it is also about how one feels emotionally in a certain place and setting.
Let’s dive right into the different reasons your child might be uncomfortable in his or her High Chair:
1. The High Chair has sharp edges and brims
Some children are really sensitive to the little things in life. In fact, an estimated 20% if the population is highly sensitive (I used to be the child that corrected its shoe’s Velcros to make sure they were perfectly aligned, or I would just lose my mind).
This means that seemingly unimportant details like sharp edges, brims or splinters (or crooked Velcros) can be the cause of discomfort for your child. When being exposed to these types of annoyances for a longer period of time you can rest assured that the boiling point will be reached and the future connotation with that product or situation is everything but great.
So, before you decide to purchase or make use of a particular High Chair, it won’t harm to do a little comfort check yourself to see if there is anything that might become an issue for your little one. Just a quick sweep with your hands can give a fairly good idea of how comfortable the seat, the armrests, the tray and back support really are, especially around the corners and edges.
If you find any splinters or brims, you can just sand them down to smoothen things out or you can use a towel to cover it up, making sure everything feels comfy.
2. The High Chair surfaces feel cold on the skin
We have to admit that this is a bit of an extraordinary trigger but nevertheless it is something that can have an influence. Placing your baby in a High Chair, wearing nothing but a diaper is cute and convenient as no clothes are getting dirty. (just the baby)
However, imagine this: You are a little human that has been cuddled in a warm embrace and all of a sudden, you are being placed, bare skin, in a cold High Chair. Bye bye cozy warmth, hello cold lonely High Chair. This (for a young child) ‘big’, sudden change can be enough to trigger an unpleasant emotion, that is now linked to the High Chair.
If your baby starts to cry right away when being placed in a High Chair, this might be the trigger you are looking for. Luckily it is easily resolved with some warm clothes or a fluffy towel to create a warm nest. We found that a towel that has been warmed on a radiator does an excellent job of making your baby feel calm. It’s worth the try!
3. Your child is strapped in too tight in the High Chair
It is paramount that your child is safely strapped into the High Chair, making sure he or she isn’t going to escape. On the other hand, it is just as important to make sure that the strapping isn’t overdone. The straps should be fitted snug, while leaving room enough for 2 fingers to go underneath the straps.
If you strap your child in like a race pilot is strapped into a formula 1 race car, there is a good chance she or he will feel trapped and wants to get out of there ASAP. You know what happens next, right?
It is good practice to check this every time you use the High Chair and make sure that you are giving enough slack as your little one is growing. A thicker set of clothes means there is less free space as well.
Also make sure that the straps are nicely aligned with the body of your child. Twisted straps can be really annoying, trust me I know! (yes, a twisted safety belt in the car bothers me beyond any limits, call me crazy if you like)
4. Your child is not ready to sit in a High Chair yet
As parents we feel proud when our little one is reaching a new milestone. So proud, that we often fail to see that we are pushing our little miracle into a new milestone too soon. This happens a lot with the starting point of using a High Chair. We tend to think that it will help our child to learn how to sit and develop more quickly.
Sadly, the opposite is true. Placing your child in a High Chair too soon is actually bad for her or his development and creates discomfort, not only at the moment being but also down the road.
Your child won’t be able to sit up straight by itself and ends up in a slouched and uncomfortable position. It won’t take long before the complaining starts and if you force this often enough, your child and the High Chair won’t be able to become friends.
Make sure not to place your child in a High Chair until she or he is fully ready. This means: your child can sit up straight, without support, for at least 30 minutes. You can expect this to happen around 6 to 9 months.
5. Your child is sitting too long in its High Chair
In the previous paragraph, we talked about that minimum threshold of being able to sit up straight for at least 30 minutes and there is good reason for that. Unlike adults, sitting up straight requires a lot of energy and coordination, especially in those first few months.
This means that leaving your child in a High Chair too long can cause it to start slouching again making him or her feel uncomfortable. When you see the first signs of slouching and complaining, it is time to set your child free to crawl back into the wilderness again. As time goes by and your child gets stronger, you can increase the time of each High Chair session.
6. The High Chair ergonomics are poor
The role of good ergonomics is often underestimated but your child will let you know when things are off. Having the right kind of support (even though your child should be able to sit up straight without it) can make a huge difference in the perceived level of comfort for your child.
We all know how nice it is to have a good back support and we all know what it feels like to have a bad one. Perhaps the biggest issue with High Chair ergonomics is the lack of a decent, adjustable footrest. Without it, your child will feel unstable and constantly has to focus on finding its balance. Not comfortable and very exhausting for sure. Your child will let you know!
To solve this, look for a High Chair with a footrest, or build one yourself if your High Chair lacks one. The more adjustable the High Chair is, the better you can fit it to the needs of your little one. You can find out more about footrests and the big influence it has on your child in this article we wrote.
2.Your child doesn’t like the change from playtime to High Chair
For adults it is easy to make the switch from any given activity to another without too much of a fuss, especially when we can have a meal. For young children on the other hand, being pulled out of their world of fantasy and playtime all of a sudden, can be a bit too much.
To make that transition a bit smoother, you can implement a routine that allows your child to gradually flow from playtime to mealtime. Cleaning up some toys together, showing that you are preparing the meal, washing your hands together. These are all small activities that you can do to initiate the coming change.
Your child will feel more involved in the whole process and will not experience the transition in such an abrupt way. After the meal you can do the reverse, teaching your child that after meal time there comes play time again.
3.Your child feels lonely in its High Chair
One of the bigger reasons your child is not happy with its High Chair is because he or she is feeling lonely. In this paragraph you will see just how sensitive your child can be when it comes to those little details that we tend to overlook because of our busy parenting schedules.
Some parents place their child into a High Chair when they are still setting the table and preparing some of the food. No big deal, but often that means that your little one is sitting in its High Chair by itself in the dining room, even if it’s just for brief moments.
To solve this it can help to only place your child in the High Chair after other members of the family are already seated to keep your little one company. Another thing you can try is turn the High Chair facing towards you and the kitchen so that your little one can always keep an eye on you and learn what you are doing.
The same is true when you use the High Chair to safely park your child when you are doing some shores in the house. Even though it is a great solution to ensure your child is safe, it also means that your child can feel like it's being left alone and leaving your child in a High Chair unattended is never a good thing to do.
To keep the child-High Chair relationship in a positive state, you can opt for a High Chair with castors so your little one can join you in every room you go. Alternatively you can use the play-penn and some toys so your child is able to entertain himself while you are gone.
This last one is also the least obvious to notice. Your child can even feel lonely when everybody is sitting at the table together and he or she is sitting in a High Chair next to the table. It’s that little bit of extra distance, created by the High Chair and the tray, that can be enough to generate that feeling of loneliness.
When your child is constantly reaching out for you and feels comfortable sitting in your lap during meals, you can try to work with a Hook-on High Chair or a Booster Seat to close that distance to the dining table. We find that the Hook-on High Chair is the best solution to bring your little one right up to the edge of the table top.
If you would like to know more about Hook-on High Chairs and their compatibility with your kitchen or dining table, please read this illustrated article we wrote.
4.Your child might be impatient to start eating
For some children it can’t happen fast enough. They’ve already learned that being placed in a High Chair equals food in their little tummy. So, that’s what they expect the moment you put them in there. If you are not fast enough, they will start to complain and get squirmish, giving you the idea that they dislike the High Chair, while all they want is food, and they want it yesterday!
You can recognize that this is the issue if your child calms down the moment you start to feed him or her. This doesn’t mean that you should always have everything ready to start feeding right away as it is part of the learning process that not everything happens right off the bat as soon as your child wants something.
On the other hand, if you are not in the mood for theater, you can always provide some finger food to entertain your child until the main course is ready. Small bits of vegetables or fruit are a great way to discover the world of food with their eyes and their mouth.
5.Your child is not hungry
It rarely happens but sometimes your child is just not that hungry. Usually this is paired with your child not feeling too well. Because the stomach is a bit upset or she or he is becoming a bit ill, just like we don’t feel hungry when we are developing the flu.
Overall your child will look a bit apathetic and when being placed in a High Chair he or she might start to cry or try to escape. You can do a temperature check and let your little one continue to play. If the temperature is too high or there is no sign of apatite after a couple of hours, you should contact a pediatrician.
6.Your child is just bored in its High Chair
For a child, mealtimes are not that much about spending quality time together as it is for adults. Even though it is important for them to be involved in this family activity, they won’t be able to enjoy sitting at the table for as long as you do.
If they are done eating and they are ready to go play again, don’t force them to sit in the High Chair for too long. As they become a bit older, you can teach them to wait for everybody to finish their meal before leaving the table but in those early months it is OK to give them some extra space.
7.Your child wants to be just like the grown ups
As your child is growing a bit older and learning to stay seated at the table until everybody is done eating, she or he might want to copy other behavior as well. While everybody is sitting on a normal chair, your child might want to be like the grown ups and sit on a normal chair as well. This behavior can occur more quickly with children that have older siblings as they often set the standards for their little brother or sister.
Sometimes you can keep your child in the High Chair a little longer by letting him or her know that the High Chair is only for special kids. If that doesn’t work anymore, it might be the time to make the switch to a Booster Seat or pillow so they can join the rest of the family at the table.
8.Your child is just tired and needs some sleep
We all know how annoying a tired child can become but whether they are annoying because they are tired or hungry is not always easy to tell. Sometimes it is even a combination of both which makes it extra difficult for you to decide what to do.
In any case, none of this has to do with a malfunctioning or bad High Chair which is a small victory in itself. The only remedy in this case is food or sleep. When your child is refusing the food and rubbing his or her eyes, it is bedtime!
How can you get your baby to like the High Chair?
Getting your child to like the High Chair is sometimes a slow, step by step process that you should try to implement as soon as possible. The longer you wait the harder it will get as the connotation your child has with the High Chair will add up over time, whether that is a good or a bad one.
Try to provide a slow introduction to the High Chair by showing your child what you bought. You can make it something special for your child by letting him or her put some stickers on it or by placing one of their stuffed animals in it and pretending to feed it.
In the beginning it is good practice to only place your child in the High Chair when it’s hungry so they can build that link of being fed. If you have the food ready and there is enough interaction, your child will have nothing but positive links to its High Chair.
In case there are any signs of distress, you can always bring along the favorite stuffed animal or read a book with beautiful images to calm down your child and continue the feeding. If your child is done and the experience has been pleasant, you can close off the meal with plenty of cheers to reinforce that good experience. Over time your child will get used to it and the complaining will stop.
What not to do if your child doesn’t like the High Chair.
If you child just can’t get used to its High Chair, no matter how hard you have tried, you can always look for other solutions to have him or her seated during a meal. It’s important to make sure however, that you are not using something that is not suited for feeding solids.
Avoid using bouncers or rocker chairs as these seats are not designed to feed a child solids. The recline function can even induce suffocation. Instead go for a Booster Seat or a Hook-on High Chair or in a worst case scenario, have your child sit on your lap.
Try to avoid letting your child get its way all of the time and teach them certain activities require certain actions. The more you allow your child to do what he or she wants the harder it gets over time.
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