There are still a few old-fashioned wood high chairs out there with a removable tray or arms that lift the tray over a baby's head. Some have modern conveniences, such as a cushioned, wipe-clean seat pad, a three-point harness, a clear, dishwasher-safe, pullout tray insert that protects the wood finish, and most important, a center crotch post, which helps to prevent a child from slipping out of the chair. But many wood high chairs aren't always as comfortable or cushy for babies as the latest, form-fitting models on the market now, and many of them might not meet the latest safety standards. Unless a wood chair is a hybrid of the old (in timeless design only) and the new (see Features), we say don't use it.
Some chairs are loaded with features, such as adjustable trays with dishwasher-safe inserts that make cleanup a cinch, seat backs that recline to multiple positions, and chair heights that accommodate your growing baby and give you some flexibility to feed your baby at different levels. Others are basic models that don't even fold. At the very minimum, you'll want a stable, sturdy high chair that can stand up to spilling, kicking, and regular cleaning for at least a year. You'll probably use a high chair for less time than you'd think. Although high chairs are intended for infancy up to about 3 (typical top weight is 40 to 50 pounds), some babies can't bear to sit in a high chair once they become adventurous toddlers.
Fortunately, many high chairs now on the market convert to toddler chairs once your child is ready to sit at the table with the rest of the family. You'll typically make the switch by removing the tray and adjusting the chair height so that you can scoot your toddler right up to the table. That's a good thing because a regular kitchen or dining-room chair is likely to put your child at chin level to the table. You'll need some kind of transitional chair; you might as well get the most mileage you can from a high chair.
Look carefully at the high chairs you're considering to make sure that the one you want will suit your needs. Midpriced high chairs (see Types) generally are the best value and have the best combination of useful features, so start there. You might not know what high chair will suit you best until you try using one. Keep your receipt or packing slip, or if you register for one, ask for a gift receipt to be included so you can return the chair if it doesn't work out. Some high chairs have 26 or more parts. If you're not handy, you might want to buy a high chair that comes fully assembled.
Look for certification, too. A certification sticker on a high chair shows that the model meets the ASTM voluntary standard, and that its manufacturer takes part in the certification program administered by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. Certified high chairs are required to have a passive restraint, such as a crotch post, a locking device that prevents accidental folding, secure caps and plugs, sturdy, break-resistant trays, legs wide enough to increase stability (but not so wide that you trip over them), no springs or scissoring actions that could harm little fingers, and no small parts that could come loose. Safety belts must pass force tests. JPMA-certified high chairs include models by Baby Trend, Bergeron by Design, Chicco, Dorel Juvenile Group (Cosco, Eddie Bauer, and Safety 1st), Evenflo, Fisher-Price, Graco, Kolcraft, Peg-Prego, Scandinavian Child (Anka and Svan), Stokke, Summer Infant, and Tri-Chair.
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