The curse of the awkward highchair

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Not an ideal highchair situation.

I like food. A lot. I might even call myself a “foodie,” even though that term drums up images of smug hipsters drooling over organic microgreen smoothies and matcha green tea donuts. I tend plan my next meal while I’m eating my current one, and read menus for restaurants that I’ll never visit just for fun. I’m the kind of person who walks into Waitrose for a loaf of bread and some milk, and walks out having spent £40 on artisan cheeses, cold-pressed juices and lentil crisps.

Adrian and I used to go out to eat a lot before we had the Popple, and we hoped to keep up our restaurant habit after she was born. However, it quickly became clear that she wasn’t going to sleep peacefully in her pram while we ate a civilised meal. The few times we did go out to eat, she would howl with fury while we took turns passing her back and forth so the other person could shovel their food into their mouth as quickly as possible. It was stressful and expensive, so we decided it wasn’t worth it – until we weaned her.

Once she started eating solid food and joining us at the table for mealtimes, we figured we could start taking her out to eat with us. It sounded simple. All we had to do was pack something for her to eat, her sippy cup and a bib. It should totally work. But we hadn’t anticipated one obstacle:

The awkward cafe highchair.

Most highchairs in cafes are wooden or hard plastic, uncomfortable-looking, and tray-less. They’re also not designed for 2nd percentile babies. The Popple usually can’t quite reach the table from the highchair, which is a problem, because we’re doing baby-led weaning. She’s used to having food spread out all over her tray for her to pick up at her own pace, squish through her fingers and wave around a bit.

If we want her to be able to eat in a cafe, we often need to get creative with her ‘tray’. A tupperware lid. The platter my tea came on. A bread plate. One of us holds the ‘tray’ in front of her, trying to catch stray bits of food, while the other person eats. Not surprisingly, most of her lunch ends up on the floor. I have to get down on my hands and knees when she’s finished, picking up chunks of cheesy flapjacks and with a wet wipe and avoiding eye contact with the wait staff.

I can’t be the only one with a small, messy baby. So here’s my question: can anyone recommend a portable travel highchair? It needs to be small or collapsable, give her some height and have a tray – obviously.

The few times we’ve found a cafe with a highchair that’s a reasonable height or has a tray, it’s given us a sense of what eating out with a baby SHOULD be like – my husband and I eating our dishes AT THE SAME TIME at a normal pace, while the Popple picks through her food happily, throwing only some of it on the floor. It’s not quite a civilised meal, but it’ll do.

24 Replies to “The curse of the awkward highchair”

  1. Oh I don’t miss the curse of the highchair. We had a good one from Mothercare, which you just strapped to a normal chair. It was compact to carry around and youngest seemed really happy in it. It also meant that you didn’t have to worry about the state of the highchairs that you would find in some cafes *shudders* My sister-in-law has a really good one that actually clips onto the table but I am not sure what brand that is. It works really well though as the child is always at the right height 🙂 x #twinklytuesday

    1. Something that straps to a table would be ideal – the height is a really big issue since the Popple is really short for her age.

  2. I can’t help I’m sorry, I never got my head around high chairs portable or otherwise…but it sounds like there were some good suggestions on Twitter. Good luck! There are few things I enjoy more than eating out with my toddler and husband x

  3. We had something from Ikea that you could strap on a normal chair … Whether they still make it I don’t know! Good luck with finding one that works for you

    1. Love this! It’s a bit pricey but basically exactly what I’m looking for.

  4. rightroyalmother says: Reply

    I just put NC on my knee – I am usually too knackered to actually remember that cafes have high chairs! #twinklytuesday

    1. I wish the Popple would sit on my knee – she just squirms her way off and tries to go running around. She can’t sit still unless she’s actually strapped in!

      1. rightroyalmother says: Reply

        Sorry, still trying to figure out how to access WP reader, hence delay in replying! NC is getting squirmier by the day so won’t be long before that doesn’t work!

  5. I really can’t remember what it was like eating out with my daughter when she was in a highchair, those times ar a blur or I didn’t get out much! Still can’t eat a civilised meal in peace with a five year old though! #bestandworst

  6. Ooh I’m not sure of one to recommend but I can relate to how nasty and crappy the ones are when you are out 🙁 the mess goes everywhere eh? I’m like you…love my food and eating out!! Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x

    1. They never look too clean, do they? And yes, the food goes absolutely everywhere – I get really embarrassed because we’re ‘those’ people with the messy baby.

  7. Ah ha! Another 2nd percentile baby…yep, we have exactly this problem with Dangermouse – usually screw up a jumper and wedge it behind her to move her forward a bit. High tech! Feel your pain…we have experienced Dangermouse basically sliding out of one leg hole she was so tiny when we started weaning!
    #bestandworst

    1. I’ll have to try the jumper trick, since most highchairs clearly aren’t designed with our tiny babies in mind!

  8. I ditched my big Chico chair fo the IKEA really cheap one when mine were old enough to sit unsupported fo this reason, in the IKEA vision they can sit right up at the table. How about a seat that fits over a chair. Like this polar gear one. I had friends who had these (or similar versions) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Polar-Gear-Harness-Travel-Booster/dp/B00863FJW2/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1460010332&sr=8-4&keywords=chair+baby+seat Good luck! TY for linking up with #FamilyFun 🌸

    1. I like the price, that’s for sure! If it gives her enough height so that she could reach the table, it might work.

  9. I love this post, I know what you mean about difficult highchairs…even with a 91st percentile baby and spoonfeeding they are tricky. I tend to take my IKEA Antilop insert with me so that I can slip it into the wooden highchairs to avoid my little one slumping to the side. We were in a restaurant the other day and their high chair fixed to the table, this meant that our little one has the table top to place her food on. It was pretty similar to this http://baby-travel.uk.com/products/isafe-baby-fast-fit-booster-seat-yummyluv-table-highchair-buon-cena?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=googlepla&variant=443452993&gclid=Cj0KEQjwipi4BRD7t6zGl6m75IgBEiQAn7CfF6-nLCa9UyV4h8MGuSrQt3XXiBT6Q0iLd3E0kTfgmX0aApzE8P8HAQ. I hope you manage to find what you are looking for? Claire x #FamilyFun

    1. That might be a good option – then I know she’ll definitely be able to reach the table!

  10. We used a bumper seat but they are not really portable – so not a very good suggestion! I know that feeling of shovelling food down and passing the baby back and forwards. As they get older more challenging as they then don’t want to sit down at all and won’t eat or only want your food! 🙂

  11. Oh my goodness those high chairs are the Bain of my life, having had two smaller than average babies. I am always packing the sides with coats and scarfs so they can sit properly and drip feeding them the food, such a nightmare. The latest issue I have with them is the older one tried to climb out of it, which is pretty easy given the lack of tray issue! I too am on the lookout for a decent and not too expensive portable one. If you find one I’d love to hear about it! Good luck lol xxx#familyfun

    1. People have given me a lot of good suggestions – will let you know if I find the perfect portable highchair!

  12. Its a bloody nightmare isn’t it??? But then it’s like do we complain there is some sort of high chair or complain there is none at all! If I can grab a sofa, I wedge her in the corner of that providing its a wipeable one! Otherwise, it’s awkward highchairs all round… in need of a portable bumbo so get designing. Also… looovvveee cheese too!!

    #familyfun

    1. Cheese is the best, isn’t it? I like our Bumbo but it’s not really practical for carting around when we’re going out.

  13. twotinyhands says: Reply

    Oh I feel your pain!! 25 percentile here and it is still a pain. I’ve found the ikea ones the best and I know which cafes have them!! Sounds like you have loads of suggestions already!? Hope you’ve found something? X

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