When starting to think about starting solids with baby, you’ll see a lot of labels of baby food stages. Here’s what the terms Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3 mean related to baby food—and the ages and recommended recipes that correspond to each.
Baby Food Stages, Explained
The idea of labeling food for baby with stages is that it helps parents offer foods in a specific order of textures from thinner and very smooth to gradually thicker and with more texture. This allows baby to learn gradually and progress from very thin purees to finger foods by the time they reach their first birthday.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends: “…breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for your baby for about 6 months.” Or, of course formula (which seems like an oversight for them not to mention). So that’s the information I use as a starting point here.
TIP: Learn more about how to know if baby is ready to start solids here.
Stage 1 Baby Food
This includes very thin, smooth purees that are most often made with just one type of ingredient. You can thin them further with additional water, breastmilk, or formula, and are sometimes described as “drippy”. Think: Very thin pureed soup.
Baby may push some of the food out her mouth as she learns how to swallow, she may want to hold the spoon herself, or she may not be interested at all. All of these are normal parts of the learning process, so proceed following baby’s lead.
Age: 6+ months (ish) and up (though some pediatricians still recommend starting at 4 months).
TIP: Baby usually tries one food a day at the start to give her system a chance to slowly adjust to solids. (Expect diapers to change too!)
Stage 1 Recipes to Try
These are a few of my favorite early purees to offer. You can make them right before you plan to serve them, or ahead of time and store the baby food in the freezer for future meals.
TIP: Find tips on how to freeze baby food here.
Stage 2 Baby Food
This includes slightly thicker purees with more texture and may include more than one ingredient. Foods like yogurt, grains, hemp seeds, and more can be in this category. And this is a great time to be sure you’re including a lot of flavors.
You can mix savory foods together or do a sweet and savory blend. The goal in this phase is to give baby the chance to explore slightly more complex textures and get to taste a lot more flavors.
Age: 7-8+ months (ish) and up
TIP: You can also offer these purees in a pouch on occasion, by holding it up to baby’s mouth and allowing him to suck it. Remember not to use pouches exclusively or even most of the time since you want baby to develop the ability to move food around in his mouth in more ways than just sucking. They need to learn how to use their tongue to move many textures around their mouths.
Stage 2 Recipes to Try
TIP: Check out my Best Baby Food Combinations too!
Stage 3 Baby Food
This includes thicker mashed foods with even more texture and most often include multiple ingredients. There will usually be bits of food for baby to chew, and may include some foods that baby can pick up with her fingers like soft avocado or slightly mashed raspberries.
This stage is an easy one to use more of the food that you’re making for the rest of the family and simply prepare it into a chunky mash.
Age: 9 (ish) months and up
TIP: Some babies may be very hungry at this stage, so hearty purees can be a great way to help them satisfy their hunger. I made a lot of grains and pasta in simple pureed sauces for my oldest at this age!
Stage 3 Recipes to try
These are great recipes for this stage that can also be shared by the rest of the family.
This category of baby food includes small, pea-size foods that are soft (easily squishable between two fingers) and are easy for baby to pick up with their fingers once they master their “pincer grasp”. You can see a full list of the Best Early Finger Foods for Babies.
Age: 9-10 months (ish and up
At the store or in looking up recipes online, you’ll typically see Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3 baby food. Sometimes you’ll also see Stage 4, though in most cases that is more like regular food.
- Always follow the lead of your unique baby. Some may be more interested in food than others (or on some days than others). There is a lot of variation within these categories.
- Stop meals when baby turns his head, pushes away the spoon, starts to fuss, or gives any other signals that he is not interested in more food. There is no reason to force “one more bite”.
- Offer baby preloaded spoons of purees—as in put a little puree on the spoon and hand it over—if she seems interested in being more in charge of what goes into her mouth.
- Try to include iron-rich foods in baby’s diet from the start of solids.
- Long sleeved bibs can be helpful for keeping baby’s clothes clean if meals are messy.
- Always talk to your pediatrician when starting solids and for medical advice.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this post, so please comment below!