What is the ’90-90-90 rule for eating’? Here’s what you need to know


Starting solids is a huge milestone in your child’s life, and it’s completely normal to have questions. From deciding when it’s time to begin to choosing between homemade or pre-made baby food (hint: both are OK)─it all feels like a lot. Current recommendations state that parents should wait until the age of 6 months to introduce solids to give time for a baby’s digestive tract to mature, but also so they can sit upright in the correct position for meals.

While these are natural milestones every child will reach at their own pace, the 90-90-90 rule takes feeding time recommendations one step further. Used by pediatric feeding specialists, this rule promotes the best and safest posture for littles when starting solids─and using the right highchair can make it easier to get it right. Here’s what you need to know.

Related: 7 simple habits that create a lifetime of healthy eating

What is the 90-90-90 rule?

The 90-90-90 rule for eating refers to the ideal posture for a child sitting at a table. This means their hips are flexed at a 90-degree angle, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and feet flat on a surface with the spine upright.

Ideal positioning isn’t just about being able to sit upright (although this is super important) but also about how the body is supported. We may think of feeding as only involving input from the mouth, but your child takes sensory information all over the body through proprioception. Proprioception is body awareness, or how the body senses and controls movement in space. As pediatric occupational therapist Marielle Marquez explains, “The 90-90-90 rule provides good proprioceptive feedback to the child’s joints, which promotes body awareness and focus.”

While it may not seem like a big deal if your child’s feet aren’t supported or if they aren’t quite sitting up straight, children are at a much higher risk of choking due to immature motor skills. Plus, the 90-90-90 rule promotes focus and concentration to reduce distractions. “When children have their feet planted flat on the floor, it helps them to feel grounded and promotes stability in the rest of their body,” Marquez explains, which promotes safe swallowing to reduce the chance of choking.

Big kids can benefit from optimal posture while sitting, too

It isn’t just your little ones who can benefit from practicing the 90-90-90 rule while eating. The same principles apply well beyond the first few years. Anyone with a child (of any age) has experienced the wiggles, but according to Marquez, the same proprioceptive input can help older children focus and remain engaged.

“90-90-90 provides the postural stability needed to write clearly and to stay alert and engaged,” she says, further explaining that the right set-up at school and home can help your child succeed in any activities that require focusing or fine motor skills.

Here’s how to implement the 90-90-90 rule for feeding at home

The right highchair or booster seat can help you naturally implement the 90-90-90 rule at home. Marquez recommends keeping your eye on how your child’s feet land on the footrest. “One of the most common challenges I find with highchairs is that there is either no footrest or it is too low for the child to actually position their feet flat on,” she says. “Some highchairs also are in a permanently reclined position, and the child can never sit fully upright at 90 degrees.”

Luckily, a few highchair brands have caught on to these professional recommendations. “The Stokke Tripp Trapp and Abiie Beyond highchairs are some of my favorites because they are so adaptable to the child’s individual body,” shares Marquez. These highchairs offer adjustable footrests, seat depth, and height to fit your child perfectly. 

Motherly editors also love the new Mockingbird highchair with its 4-position options for the footrest that allows you to adjust to your child’s size (and can last well beyond the first few meals).

Related: 7 ways to help your kids form a healthy relationship with food

These highchairs make it super easy to incorporate the 90-90-90 rule into your child’s daily routine. And just like promoting healthy eating habits, starting early helps your child develop good posture and core strength, setting them up for healthy habits in the long run.

Stokke Tripp Trapp High Chair

Stokke


$319.99

Tripp Trapp High Chair

The Stokke Tripp Trapp, a classic since its 1972 debut, combines timeless Scandinavian minimalism with exceptional functionality. Designed to grow with your child from infancy to adulthood, its ergonomic design ensures comfort at every stage. (Yes, adulthood. It can support over 240 pounds!)

The chair’s adjustable seat and footrest cater to both back and feet support, and allows baby to belly right up to the table (though you can opt for a tray accessory if you’d prefer). Extended gliders at the base prevent tipping but aren’t so unwieldy you have to worry about stubbing your toe every time you pass by. Available in a variety of colors, from natural light wood to vibrant red, it offers a mix-and-match approach to accessories, ensuring a personalized touch for any style preference.

Abiie Beyond Junior Y High Chair

Abiie


$225

Beyond Junior Y High Chair

This ultra-modern piece is not just a chair; it’s a versatile, stylish addition to your home. Designed to grow with your child from the age of 6 months all the way to adulthood, this Abiie Beyond Junior Y Chair is a long-term investment for your family. What sets it apart? Its eco-friendly design, made from top-quality European cultivated beechwood, can withstand all the playful antics of your little one.

In addition to the ergonomic design which can transform in seconds to a regular chair, we’re particularly smitten with the tray design, which fits snugly against your baby, keeping mealtime messes at bay. Even better, the removable plastic tray cover makes cleanups a breeze since you can simply pop it off and put it in the dishwasher. No more chiseling dried sweet potato out of every crevice. It also boasts a dual restraint system, adjustable for either a 5-point or 3-point harness and a ‘slip bar’ feature to prevent your child from slipping out of the chair.

It’s a blend of modern aesthetics, durable construction, and thoughtful design, making it a standout choice for families looking for a high chair that’s more than just a seat.

Mockingbird High Chair

Mockingbird


$225

High Chair

Mockingbird had modern mamas in mind when they designed their high chair. When it comes to aesthetics, this chair is chic, making it a beautiful addition to your kitchen, and its space-saving footprint ensures that you won’t be tripping over or stubbing your toe on splayed legs.

Their unique mess-free straps (yep, the only ones on the market) are coated with food-safe silicone to easily wipe those straps clean and avoid many meals’ worth of gunk caked on. The straps and the one-hand removable tray liner are both dishwasher-safe so you can swiftly clean up before your little one has the change to sling another handful of spaghetti onto the floor.

The Mockingbird High Chair is also seamless to set up and easy to use. With seat strap hooks and a quick-release buckle, getting your little one in and out is a snap. Oh, and when you’re ready to convert from the high chair to the child chair, you won’t need to dig for anything in the toolbox. This genius chair has a quick, tool-free conversion feature, so adjusting it as your child grows doesn’t have to be a big ordeal.

 

Featured experts

Marielle Marquez is a wife, mom of two, and a pediatric occupational therapist with a specialty in feeding and swallowing. Find her online at https://thrivelittle.com/.

Sources

Borowitz SM. First Bites-Why, When, and What Solid Foods to Feed Infants. Front Pediatr. 2021;9:654171. Published 2021 Mar 26. doi:10.3389/fped.2021.65417



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