"Make sure it fits in the bath." These were the sage words of wisdom imparted to me by my sister, who has two boys older than my son. I had asked her for advice on buying a highchair. The reason, she explained, was that you could then just pop it in the bath and hose it down to clean it. At this point I began to think that maybe babies were a bit messier when it came to eating than I might be thinking.
I took her advice and made sure that the highchair we got was small enough when folded up to fit in the bath. There were a couple of other things I looked for in a high chair. A removable tray - so you can just pull it off and wash it in the sink. Height adjustable was good too, so the chair could be at sofa level and at table level. The back reclined a little bit, but I didn't actually look for this feature. It came in handy though as I found that son sometimes fell asleep in the high chair. If it was just a little nap I could lean him back, put the foot rest up, and let him snooze.
So, what else do you need to know about the wonderful world of highchairs?
You have a while before buying one, so use the time to do the research. I liked those wooden ones that you could just pull up to the table, but that as only really good for meals we had at the table. Plus they were really expensive by comparison and I was never lucky enough (or perhaps I just got to the sales late) to snag one second hand. Definitely looking out on Freecycle, at nearly-new sales like the NCT ones, and in charity shops. The NCT don't cover everywhere unfortunately, but that doesn't mean there won't be a similar sort of sale being held in a church hall near you. For example, around where I live there are the Sell It Mama sales.
When exactly are you going to need a high chair? Well in theory you can use one from as soon as they're competent at sitting up unaided. Even if they're not on solids, they can sit in the chair and you can put toys on the tray. Current guidelines are six months for their first solids, although really these are just guidelines. When I first started to give my son solids, we used his baby bouncer chair. I know other people who used their Bumbo for this purpose too. You're only giving them tiny amounts of food. At some point though, some sort of proper sized outfit is really going to be quite helpful.
Look at the high chair you're about to buy. How easy will it be to clean? I went for a wipeable cover. This means you can be sure it will be dry by the time the next meal comes around. What I didn't look at closely enough was the straps. These were adjustable, which is good. You want to look for a five point harness - two straps over the shoulders, two around the waist, and the strap that comes up between the legs. These will all click together like the harness in a carseat.
I found though that the food really does get stuck in the little adjuster bits on the straps. It can get really mucky, and it was only possible to clean these properly by sticking it in the bath or hosing it down outside on the patio.
Consider the size of the chair closely, and make sure it will fit in your house. A friend of mine bought a really lovely high chair, that reclined, and looked fabulous. And then had to take it back as it took up nearly all the spare space in their kitchen, and it wasn't easy to move into the lounge when she wanted it.
That said, the more static types of high chair can be handy if you have the space. You pay more money, but you do get features like being able to lie it flat (handy if they fall asleep).
The majority of highchairs though will be either convertible, or folding. Or maybe a little bit of both.Try the chair out if you can, and see how easy it is to fold up. I wish I had - mine is a Mothercare model, and while I was pretty pleased with it in lots of ways, it took both hands to reduce hieght and fold the chair, and I did manage to actually take the skin off the palm of my hand once.
The Stokke Tripp Trapp is an example of a high chair designed to pull up to the table, instead of using a tray. It is also a convertible high chair, and can be lowered into a seat for small children, older children and even adults.
Costing a fraction of the price, the OBaby Wooden Highchair also works in a similar. Other brand names to look for in type of high chair are Hauck and Babydan. They don't tend to be as versatile though - they may not convert into a seat for example.
How about just using the dining chairs you alread have? This is a good option for smaller flats and houses. Or for when you're out at the grandparents or on holiday. You've a couple of options here. First there are booster seats like the Baby Polar Gear Go Anywhere Booster, and the Concord Lima.
We used one of these when on holiday. The cloth ones wrap around baby, and the chair. As they're fabric and velcro, they're lightweight, and don't take up much space in your suitcase. I did quickly discover though that actually you need to take two of them with you. Babies, as you know, like to get messy when they eat. Which meant I had to wash it after every meal. This was just a rinse out really in the sink, but there was also the drying time to take into account.
Finally, here's a little gadget that might come in handy. The Kaboost Chair Booster will raise the height of a dining chair, making it easier for baby or toddler to reach the table.