So that great moment is about to happen. Your baby is going to start coming off his exclusive milk diet and you are going to begin introducing solid food. What a magical and exciting moment! Oh wait, you are a parent in 2018. You therefore have another trend/expense/requirement (delete as appropriate) – led decision to make about which high chair you are going to buy before going anywhere near a carrot and a hand blender.
These days you can get literally hundreds of different varieties, from the fabulous but wallet-creaking Bloom chairs (they look like toffee apples on sticks..in a good way..) right down to the basic-but-stylish Ikea ANTILOP (the chair du jour of most European restaurants due to their immensely easy wipe-clean properties). If you have a budget in mind, the choice may be a little easier. However, if you are more led by style, ergonomics or practical benefits of a high chair you may well end up in, literally, a bit of a mess.
I happened to be window shopping by a charity shop one day while extremely heavily pregnant and noticed a second hand Stokke Tripp Trapp inside for £10. This was, in my mind, amazing value – you won’t get much change from £200 buying new- and this one, with a bit of a clean would come up just fine. Lugging the damn thing home was a mission – imagine a 9 month pregnant woman hauling a surprisingly heavy wooden structure down a street…no wonder so many people stopped to ask if I needed a hand.
Anyway, this thing turned out to be a godsend at the newborn stage. We bought a second hand newborn set (Stokke work on a modular system so all parts need to be purchased separately) and this was a game changer – suddenly I could pop my tiny baby into his cosy seat and he could watch me do chores, or simply snooze while I grabbed a shower. It worked so much better than a bouncer because it was robust, seemed to take up less space, and made me feel much closer to my baby with him being up at standing height so I could talk to him and watch him more easily. You can see the newborn sets on the Stokke website here: https://www.stokke.com/GBR/en-gb/highchairs/187101.html?cgid=15134#forcelisting=true&start=1
Staying with Stokke, we moved him into the baby set at 5 months old. This is basically a plastic frame that fits onto your chair which means that the baby can sit upright at the table with you at mealtimes. Here is the link: https://www.stokke.com/GBR/en-gb/highchairs/159305.html?cgid=15134#sz=36&start=37
We also chose to buy a Stokke tray as there would be occasions where our baby would be eating in the kitchen, and sadly we do not have a kitchen table in our bijou London flat. There is no denying that the whole setup looked amazing, and I loved having something stylish in my flat which didn’t scream out ” Hi! I’m a high chair” everytime I walked past.
Unfortunately things began to unravel from here. Firstly, I found that I was forever washing my cushions (again bought separately) which meant having to dismantle the baby set. The cushions are not cheap but do offer a perfect fit, but I felt like I needed two sets as one would constantly be in the wash and this would have been expensive.
I also had some problems with the Stokke tray – for some reason there is a rough coating on the tray which means NOTHING sticks to it, including suction plates. This is a major issue in my book, and meant that for a couple of weeks mealtimes would be an awkward performance of my child taking more interest in trying to unlatch my hand from his plate as I desperately tried to hold it on the tray. Needless to say we needed to move the focus back onto food itself, and away from my own battle of wills against my child’s crockery.
In addition to these woes, this all coincided with the weather improving slightly and us wanting to eat in the garden. Lugging that Stokke around was like pulling a hungry Labrador away from a leg of lamb. Basically, hard work and heavy going.
My mum mentioned that she had an old Ikea high chair in her loft and I jumped at the chance to borrow it. It was the basic ANTILOP design which at £14 must be one of the cheapest on the market: https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/products/chairs-stools-benches/high-chairs/antilop-highchair-with-tray-white-silver-colour-spr-29067293/ Let’s face it, it is not an aesthetic dream, but it is minimal, has a stylish colour palette and, most importantly for us, was painless to move around and dismantle. In fact, we rapidly grew to love it.
The tray (which comes with the chair, so no added expense) does have a suction-friendly surface. Although light in construction, the chair does feel robust and I feel that my baby is safe sitting in it. It is also incredibly easy to clean – and deconstructs easily so that you can transport it from room to room, or in the car for family trips. Like most things from Ikea, you kind of wish you didn’t like it as much as you do, and your life is definitely better having it in your possession.
It is worth noting, however, that the IKEA high chair does have a shelf life. What I love about the Stokke is that it will come back into use when my baby no longer needs the baby set and just needs a bit of a height boost at the dinner table. I like the idea that the chair can grow with him, and I am already researching places that will paint it for us when he is a little older so it can match his bedroom.
So how does this help when choosing a high chair? My recommendation is to think about the way YOU live and not get dragged in by irresistible offers or beautiful designs. Borrow chairs off a friend before buying to see how it fits into your lifestyle. Try and put it in the car. Clean it. Do your homework – will you be buying endless attachments and accessories?
But also, invest. That thing will be sitting in your kitchen longer than you will ever want it to be there and will soon be covered in soup and Weetabix no matter how many times you clean it. You need something that you are happy to look at every single day and that your baby is happy to sit in. It will be your lifeline when you need a wee and there is nowhere else to put baby. For us, having two chairs is perfect as it offers both short term practicality and long term durability. You must make up your own mind though. Good luck!