The Different Stages of Baby Food
Our guide will help you figure out when your baby is ready to start solids, which foods to serve and to avoid, and the products you’ll need to make mealtimes easy and fun.
Introducing solids is an exciting time for most parents – they just can’t wait to see the look on their baby’s face when they try avocado mush, sweet potatoes or sweet banana for the first time! But on the flip side, figuring out when their little one is ready to start eating and which foods are safe to start with can be a bit daunting. Typically, introducing baby food can be broken up into 4 different levels. Here are the baby food stages and ages:
- Stage 1: Single-ingredient purees with a thin consistency (4-6 months)
- Stage 2: Multiple-ingredient purees with a thicker consistency (6-8 months)
- Stage 3: Blended foods with chunks or soft finger foods (9-12 months)
The following recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) take the guesswork out of the process and go into more detail about the different stages and timing.
When Can Babies Eat Baby Food?
Your baby may be ready anytime between the ages of four and six months, but should definitely be eating solids by six months. Signs that it’s time to change your baby’s diet include when your baby:
- Your baby can hold their head up when sitting in a high chair
- Your baby opens their mouth when you offer food
- Your baby’s tongue thrust reflex has disappeared (they no longer push the food back out of their mouth with their tongue and they’re able to swallow it)
- Your baby has doubled their birth weight and weighs at least 13 pounds
Again, by six months of age, babies should be eating solid foods because their iron stores go down and they no longer get the iron they need from breastmilk or formula alone.
Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for the first six months and continuing to breastfeed after introducing solid food until at least 12 months. While the AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, not every baby is exclusively breastfed and some may be ready for solids earlier than others.
What Baby Foods to Start With & How to Feed?
Commercial baby cereals are often introduced first, but the AAP says there’s no medical evidence that there’s an advantage to introducing solids in a particular order. While babies do have a natural preference for sweet foods, there isn’t any research to support the commonly held view that offering fruit first will make them reject vegetables.
For your baby’s first foods you may choose to start with commercial rice cereals, homemade brown rice cereal, or homemade pureed veggies or fruit from the food processor. Start by offering half a teaspoon of puree, which you can mix with breast milk or formula for a smoother consistency. If your baby turns away the first time you try, don’t force it — just try again in a few days.
Once your baby is used to one food, you can gradually start offering other foods. But only offer one new food at a time so you can identify which one is the culprit if your baby has an allergic reaction or an upset tummy.
Within a few months, your little one’s daily diet should include a variety of healthy foods, such as meat, fish, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and full-fat cheese and yogurt.
When Can I Give My Baby Finger Foods?
As soon as a baby can sit upright and bring their hands to their mouth, they’re ready to start eating some finger foods. There’s even a new school of thought known as baby-led weaning (BLW) that advocates skipping pureed food altogether and allowing children to feed themselves finger foods as soon as they start eating solids. BLW is very popular in the UK and Australia, but it’s only starting to emerge in the U.S.
The important thing to remember when introducing finger foods at any age is that the food should be soft, easy to swallow and cut into small pieces. Good choices include soft, steamed vegetables, small pieces of banana, well-cooked pasta and scrambled eggs. You should avoid foods that pose a choking hazard, such as nuts, hard fruit, raw vegetables and popcorn.
If you follow these guidelines and supervise them at all times while they’re eating, they’re no more likely to choke than babies who are fed pureed foods, according to a study published in Pediatrics in 2016.
Are There Any Foods to Avoid?
While there’s no evidence that waiting to introduce allergy-causing foods such as peanuts, dairy, soy, eggs and fish beyond the age of four to six months prevents food allergies, it’s wise to hold off if your family has a history of allergies.
Avoid giving your baby any processed foods that are high in salt, sugar and preservatives, such as French fries, chips, cookies and cakes. They have no nutritional value and could set your child up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits.
There are some foods you should avoid giving babies before a certain age:
- No juice in the first year and only 4oz of 100% fruit juice per day after 12 months because too much juice can cause poor nutrition, obesity and tooth decay
- No honey before 12 months because of the risk of a rare illness known as botulism
- No cow’s milk, goat’s milk or soy milk before 12 months because babies can’t digest it properly
- No low-fat or nonfat dairy before age two because it provides too much protein and too many minerals
- No raw milk and other unpasteurized products for children of any age
- No hard foods such as whole nuts and raw carrots before age three because they’re choking hazards
How Much Should My Baby Eat?
Once your baby has gotten the hang of solids, they should be eating approximately 4oz of food at each meal. But each baby has a different appetite, so don’t force them to eat more if they close their mouth or turn away from the spoon – these are clear cues that they’ve had enough. As they grow and their appetite increases, gradually offer more food at each meal as well as healthy snacks between meals.
Does My Baby Need Water?
As a general rule, babies get enough fluids from breast milk or formula. But once they start solids, you can give them small amounts of cooled, boiled water with meals or even between meals if the weather is very hot.
Baby Food Products
There are a few products we recommend during these different baby food stages to help make the process even easier:
- High chair
- Suction meal mat
- Suction bowl and utentsils
- Baby spoons
- Baby food steamer
We absolutely love the following feeding products that make mealtimes a breeze.
A good high chair can make the difference between mealtime hell and a peaceful moment of family bliss. The modern Stokke Clikk hig chair falls into the latter category with its comfortable and easy-to-clean ergonomic design. It will look great in your home and last for years thanks to its solid European beech wood construction – and it’s free from harmful chemicals, too.
This amazing placemat-and-bowl combo is called Happy Bowl for a reason – its no-mess design will put a smile on your face! It will stop messy babies and tricky toddlers in their tracks with its 100% food-grade silicone construction that suctions directly to the table or high-chair tray. No more spills and messes!
Available in more colors
Say goodbye to all the nasties in plastic suction bowls – Avanchy’s Bamboo Stay Put Suction Bowl & Baby Spoon is made from biodegradable bamboo and food-grade silicone. It grips better than most suction bowls, too. You’ll need to release it from the table with the childproof vacuum relief lever.
Available in more colors
Made from lightweight bamboo, Avanchy Bamboo Baby Spoons have an ergonomic handle that fits perfectly into your baby’s hand. These baby spoons are a eco-friendly alternative to plastic spoons, and make excellent teething toys once baby cuts their first tooth!
Available in more colors
How adorable is this Loulou Lollipop Silicone Bib with built-in crumb catcher? More than just being super adorable it’s made from BPA-free food-grade silicone, and it’s stain-resistant and dishwasher-safe to boot.
Available in more colors
Whatever baby food stage your little one is at, this handy kitchen gadget prepares fruits, vegetables, meat or fish in 15 minutes. Ideal for every day meals, the Babycook makes it easy to prepare healthy and nutritious meals for the whole family, quickly, with little mess and without lots of pots and pans to wash.
Is Your Baby Teething?
As babies begin to teeth, they will also develop a natural inclination to soothe their gums by endlessly chewing and gumming any objects they can get their hands on. See our guide to choosing non-toxic teethers.