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The baby who won't sit in his high chair - food challenges

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
baby refusing to sit in highchair, baby feeding, solid food, weaning, separation anxiety,
This lovely little blog came courtesy of another of my sleep proteges, Xander. Now he's great at sleeping. Sleeps through and his parents are delighted. But he's developed an annoying little habit of refusing to sit in his high chair to eat. This is a common problem and it creates unhappy meal times. He'll sit for a few minutes then scream his little head off until mum lets him out. 

In fact, he'll eat anywhere but ... He eats in the bath, being chased down the corridor. You get the picture. He's on the run. He's now 10 months old (and a Leo, a lot of my bubba's are!) and so he's getting big and strong and his parents are running out of ideas.

Now I love a challenge. So I've put my thinking cap on and here are a few things to think about.


1. Is it the high chair that's the problem?

Is it comfortable? From what I can remember it's a wooden one. It may need a cushion or two or a different high chair.

Older babies and toddlers respond better to a booster seat at the table. They feel more grown up. A booster seat can be used from 9 months old. So I think this is a viable option for Xander. Make sure the booster seat is strapped down to the chair and the child/baby is strapped correctly into the booster seat. Read more on boosters here:

Try and get a high chair that's got a tray that keeps them firmly in with no option for wriggling out. Make sure they're strapped in the high chair safely. Try and avoid Bumbos unless using the safety harness and tray correctly as there have been several head injuries caused by babies launching themselves out of them. High chairs are a much safer option.

2. It's really important to sit and eat with him.

You might remember Miss Ava and the food throwing in the YouTube video below.

If we eat with them, even a piece of fruit (chopped up on a plate so it's like their food) they're much more likely to be compliant, eat and sit still. Remember that eating with your baby/child encourages them to make better food choices and increases food intake by 25%.

3. Try baby led weaning/finger foods

It gives them a sense of control and again encourages them to eat. Purees and being fed makes a lot of babies reject food. I even heard of a baby who growled at his mum every time she tried to feed him with the spoon. Now he really was saying something big!!! So mum listened, stopped the purees and feeding with the spoon and we've now got a very happy little bubba.

Feeding is part of relationship building. Read more

And here's some babies demonstrating baby led weaning:

4. Don't feed in the bath or chasing them down the corridor

Then he's in control and he won't have a bar of the high chair. If you're desperate try a favourite toy in the highchair. No aeroplane games though, force feeding or coercion. That all leads to trouble.

5. Is he actually hungry?

I know it seems like an interesting question but if he's not hungry he won't eat whatever you do. Make sure you have the food all ready to go. So that once he's in the highchair it's all moving quickly. Some babies really hate waiting like a lot of adults do.

6. Limit mealtimes to 15-20 minutes.

After that they're usually full and bored and then you'll get whinging and food throwing. Once they throw/mess with food remove from the highchair.

7. Are you giving him food that he likes?

If you are, then it's not the food that's the problem.

8. Praise eating in the high chair.

Go to town on the praise until you get the desired behaviour. It's really important to use labelled praiseToo often we say good, clever etc. What we need to say instead are things like, "Good job Xander for sitting in your highchair" or "I like how you sat still in the highchair". Keep it simple with eye contact and be present. Clap your hands, high fives help as well. It takes 7-10 days to change behaviour so be patient if it's not working instantly, it will.

Babies may not be able to say many words but they understand heaps and they understand praise from a very early age. Eye contact is very powerful when giving praise. Watch how he/she reacts when you do these things.

I have a blog on how to use labelled praise you can read here:

9. TV off and being in the moment with him really important.

No iPhone, computer or any other distractions.

10. Sit at the table with him.

Preferably sit next to or opposite him so you have eye contact and are near. Eat with him, even sharing food from the same plate. Our food is more attractive to a baby than his own. Read more here: 

11. Behavioural training

If none of these things is the issue or provides a solution it's a good idea to try some behavioural training. Use a timer and set it on day 1 for 1 minute, day 2 for 2 minutes, day 3 for 3 minutes etc. Praise +++ compliance and comment on the timer and how well he's done in the highchair. Give a reward for high chair sitting, something he really really likes and will work towards! By day 10 you should be winning.

So hopefully I've given a few ideas. If there are any ideas out there I've not thought of please let me know. I desperately feel a need to help this mummy and Xander out. I'll let you know how Xander gets along and what things worked for him and his mummy.


Baby not sleeping?

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FOODS that promote sleep

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ENVIRONMENT: getting it right

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SLEEP METHODS: secret tips that will change your life

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