A Used High Chair: Safety Hazard or Planet-Saving Device?

In the March issue of ShopSmart, put out by the publisher of Consumer Reports, experts analyzed used baby gear to determine “when you can gratefully say yes and when you should gracefully say no thanks.”  I am devoting a few posts to discussing their findings.  (I’ve already written about baby bath tubs, car seats, and cribs.)

 Here’s what ShopSmart said about secondhand high chairs:

Safe: Say yes to a hand-me-down high chair if it has a five-point harness to prevent your child from climbing out and a fixed crotch post that prevents him/her from sliding out the bottom.

Unsafe: Old fashioned wooden high chairs with removable trays or arms are considered dangerous and uncomfortable for the baby, in addition to not being up to newer product safety standards.

This time I do not have a crazy story about my rickety secondhand baby gear, but I find this advice about used high chairs rather vague.  “Old fashioned wooden high chairs with removable trays”?  Most high chairs have removable trays, so I am not sure why this is something they point out.  Also, their idea that a wooden high chair wouldn’t be comfortable for the baby has nothing to do with safety.  I do know that their advice about a five-point harness (or T-strap or T-bar) is important; many older high chairs we’ve encountered in restaurants have nothing but the tray to hold the baby in–a definite safety hazard.

So what do you think about secondhand high chairs?  Yea or nay?


  1. I think one of the differences between used/older cribs and highchairs is that when your baby is in a highchair, she is presumably eating, and if she’s eating, she’s being supervised. I think if something happened, whether she pinched herself or started moving/wiggling around/tyring to crawl out, someone is within a few seconds reach. With used cribs, your baby spends many many hours unsupervised, where if something went wrong, you wouldn’t know until much too late.

    I don’t have any concerns about using my husband’s old high chair when we visit his parents, but we said No to the heirloom rocking wicker bassinet. But that’s just our comfort level.

  2. We were planning on using my husband’s high chair from the 1970s, but the strap was unfixable. It served as a reasonable seat for our son once he was older (18 months plus) and just needed to be boosted up to table height.

    Instead, we splurged on a wooden Svan high chair. It worked well for our son and is now in use for baby #2. And it promises to convert to a desk chair afterwards, so I figured it was greener than the (much less expensive) plastic options that don’t have a second life.

    Our neighbors did score a 70s era secondhand high chair at a garage sale. The original strap needed to be replaced, but it was easier to remove and fix than my husband’s heirloom.

    I think Ainsley is right – the fact that you’re sitting next to your child while they’re in their high chair makes a difference.

  3. When my sister had her second child she was amazed that all of the “experts” told her that she should replace almost all of her gear from Baby #1 for Baby #2 because of safety issues, especially her car seats – which hadden been in any traffic accidents otherwise she would have replaced them immediately. Most of her gear for Baby #1 was new to her/current safety guideline or borrowed from her friends (they practically had a baby gear co-op going for several years!) I wonder how much of this is really safety in the case of old cribs vs. just trying to sell us new stuff when the old stuff is fine, like high chairs?

  4. So, does our homemade 5 point harness made out of dad’s old neckties count? I think the antique chairs are fine as long as you make sure the baby is strapped in well.

  5. Most hightchairs that don’t have five point harnesses can be fitted with a loose four or five point harness, that you can buy in any baby store (at least in most of Europe). The middle bar/strap should be enough to prevent the baby from sliding out below the bar. I think the important thing is that the chair is stable.

    And Condo Blues, I think someone was trying to sell you sister new stuff, as long as the gear complies with the safety standards and is clean or can be cleaned it can be used. My motto has always been, if you have to buy new, go for quality and keep using it (i.e. hand it down in case of baby stuff).

  6. Thanks for posting this useful information

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