High Chair vs. Booster
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Dear Dr. Vicki:
A question arose in my house this week, and wanted your thoughts… our 9-month old is a great and easy kid. The last few days, he fights us when we try to put him in to his high-chair to feed him. He arches his back and squirms like crazy. We know he’s hungry, and once we get him buckled in, he settles down, and eats well, doesn’t complain or try to get out.
The issue is that we basically have to overpower him against his will to get him in the chair. I’ve tried just out-waiting him to see if he’ll get hungry enough to go in, but that doesn’t work, and my wife thinks it’s bad. I think it’s bad to overpower the little guy against his will, worried it will take his “edge” away.
Dr. Vicki’s reply:
Resisting the high chair is very common in toddlers, although 9 months is a bit younger than the average. I surmise he is active and is sitting and may be crawling or even taking a few attempts at standing? Any of these kinds of independence-seeking behaviors can result in not wanting to be crammed into a confined space. In that case, I would strongly suggest not forcing him (unless it’s mandatory, like a car seat.) If you are trying to put him in with the tray in place, I would take off the tray and sit him in like a chair, strapped and move the chair up to the table with a cute plastic placemat to get his attention. He may actually need to be transferred to a booster seat if my first suggestion isn’t effective.
The other possible cause of his behavior may be that he is entering one of the clingy stages of development (this is around the time of ‘stranger anxiety’ and he may not like the barrier of the seat/tray from mom and/or dad.) Again, taking away the barrier may help. In some cases, parents have tried holding their baby on their lap for a few meals with gradual transition back to the chair—however, I don’t recommend doing this to calm a fit, or it could be reinforcing the fit. Do it at the first resistance/reluctance rather than after his behavior works into a fevered pitch.
I do not recommend really forcing him. If he still resists, I would suggest putting him on the floor (without toys, etc.,) and the 2 of you sit for dinner and once he is not getting attention, he may be more compliant when you again invite him to join you at the table. This is the start of many years where you will want to encourage compliance without breaking their spirit. Finding creative ways to problem-solve is the key, as well as diverting attention. It’s a fine balance—welcome to the eternal juggling act of parenting!