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‘Spot-on guide' to high chairs

Sue Searle of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, UK, reviews A guide for parents with disabilities: highchairs, published by Ricability.

With both of my boys (Ryan now five and Kian nine months), one of the main things I look back on with great fondness is weaning. A messy experience, but the look on their faces with every new taste and texture was worth the time spent clearing up!

They were both weaned early (current WHO advice is that weaning should start at six months) as they were definitely showing signs of needing more than milk. They were too small to use a high chair and were fed in a stage 1 car seat on the floor - with a large sheet underneath to catch the mess. I found it easier for me to be on ground level because I was sure that I couldn't drop them or lose my balance when getting them into the chair to feed them. This worked well till their little hands were grabbing the spoons - complaining that I was not feeding them fast enough. It was then we started looking at high chairs.

Decision-making factors and features

With Ryan, many factors came into our decision - cost, could it fold, can it fit in the car (we often stay at relatives and go out to meals in restaurants that do not have their own high chairs), it had to be sturdy enough for me to be able to lean on it if required, easy to clean and easy to use safely. I was also adamant that I did not want a cutesy design (I don't do 'fluffy bunnies'). In the end - with little advice, choice or helpful staff - we bought the first high chair we saw that folded up, in a nice plain colour, and which cost under £50. So much for careful planning! It was heavy, cumbersome and quite unsuitable when I was feeling ill, but I muddled along as best I could.

Three months later I saw a fold-up booster chair with tray, which cost £20 and was exactly what I was looking for. I could use it on the floor, or attach it to a dinner chair for family meals. It folded up small and was very lightweight - perfect for travelling.

This time round we haven't yet looked at high chairs for Kian. We just bought another booster seat as I had such great experiences with it before, but I was very keen to look at the new Ricability guide for parents with disabilities - Highchairs.

An invaluable tool

The format will be very familiar to anyone who has seen the previous Ricability guides. It is glossy and colourful, with clear photographs of the products. The introduction explains exactly how the high chairs were tested, and how the testers were chosen. The explanation of the three types of high chairs available on the market is really helpful - especially for first-time parents.

I found the 'What to look for' section a great way to focus on exactly what both you and your child want/need from a high chair. In fact it would make a great, separate, shortened 'checklist' that could be taken on a shopping trip to make it easier to explain to staff what you want. The impairment-specific section of 'What to look for' was again a useful checkpoint, especially if both parents have different disabilities or a parent has multiple impairments.

The guide also contains a 'How to stay safe' section, which explains the current safety standards regulating high chairs. It also briefly mentions other ways of seating babies while feeding. The high chair summaries are brilliant: clear and to the point. The only thing I would have liked to have seen was a chair weight but otherwise it was spot on and covered everything I needed to know. This is a great guide and a must for all parents and parents-to-be - an invaluable tool to get the most from the weaning experience, for both parents and babies.

A guide for parents with disabilities: highchairs is available in print, Braille or on audiocassette from:
Ricability: 020 7427 2460. PDF version on website: www.ricability.org.uk

First published in Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood international, Issue 48, Winter 2004/5.

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