Are Highchair Footrests Really Necessary?
When you first start shopping for highchairs, there's a lot of factors to consider - portability, easy to clean, look, price. When I was shopping for our first highchair 7 years ago, adjustable footrests definitely weren't on my radar! If they had been, I might have noticed that a lot of highchair don't have footrests, so how important can they really be?
Since starting Yeah Baby Goods, I've taken a deep dive into what makes a good highchair and learned just how important footrests are. The two primary benefits are that it helps the child 1) maintain a proper posture and 2) sit more comfortably. When these things are happening, the baby can focus on the fine motor skills needed to eat, such as picking up food, chewing and swallowing. Alternatively, a lack of foot support can negatively affect their behavior.
Signs Your Baby Is Missing A Footrest
Without a footrest, babies don't have firm underground support to keep the rest of their body stable. The whole time they are in the highchair, they are working to find balance and keep their core upright (which is especially tiresome for babies who haven't mastered sitting on their own). This can lead to issues such as:
- Kicking legs
- Constant fidgeting and wobbling
- Disinterest in food
- Showing signs of hunger, but not finishing meals
- Whining and fussing throughout the meal
- Resisting getting in the highchair or trying to escape
Of course, some babies don't seem at all bothered by the lack of a footrest. Even if they aren't acting troubled, you might see other signs that they are affected.
Some babies will cross their legs when they are in a highchair without foot support. This behavior is an attempt to find stability with the lower part of their body.
You may also see babies holding onto to the tray or armrest of the highchair to keep their balance and compensate for the lack of a stable underground.
After a while, when babies get tired of the work, they may start to slouch in order to let their body rest against one of the sides.
The Benefits of a Footrest
When their feet are well-supported, babies don't have to worry (subconsciously) about finding balance and can concentrate on the act of learning how to eat! They can focus on the smaller muscles in their hands and mouth that control fine motor skills like grasping, pinching, biting and chewing. Swallowing is also a fine motor skill, which is why footrests help facilitate a safer swallow. Comfortable babies will be willing to stay in their highchair longer, which gives them more time to practice hand-to-mouth coordination.
With all these benefits, it's pretty crazy that so many highchairs on the market don't have footrests! If you are seeing any of the issues above and your highchair doesn't have a footrest, adding foot support is a great place to start! If you have the super popular $20 IKEA highchair, we make adjustable wooden footrests that attach right on. If you already have a footrest and your baby still seems unstable in their seat, try adding a cushion for additional core support. These work in all kinds of highchairs, and can also be used in activity centers, shopping carts, swings or anywhere else your baby might need a little extra support!