Skip to main content

Food stages – what they are and how to know what your baby can eat

Just when you get the hang of bottle or breastfeeding, your child is ready to start on solid baby food. While introducing your baby to solid food is an exciting milestone, it can also be quite nerve wracking for first (and even second and third-time parents, too). To make things more complicated, many well-known baby food brands list stages on their products that don’t always align with one another. There are varying beliefs about which foods to introduce first while the consistency go age-based foods tends to be more agreed upon. Of course, make sure to ask your pediatrician if you have any questions about what’s safe to feed your baby. The best way to make the process manageable and palatable for everyone involved is to become well informed about what baby food stages are and what’s included so you have a clear picture of what’s safe to feed your baby at every age. It’s important to note that infants under 12 months should never be fed honey due to risks associated with botulism, or overfed because it may increase abdominal discomfort, and cause crying.

Stage 1

Stage one foods are the first solid foods your baby will eat. These foods are typically introduced around the four-six month mark. Babies’ digestive systems are not equipped to eat solid food prior to this point so even if your three month old expresses interest in your lunch, it’s best to let them feast with their eyes only until they are a bit older. According to the CDC, the AAP recommends children be introduced to foods other than breast milk or infant formula when they are about 6 months old. The World Health Organization also agrees with the six month age marker for solid foods. Your pediatrician may give you the green light at four months and it’s up to you to determine whether you want to get started or wait till six months.

Babies store iron from their time in utero but these levels begin to drop around nine months. Many iron-fortified cereals are recommended as first foods but you can also skip these and start off with naturally iron-rich vegetable, meat, and fruit purees. Generally, the best first fruits and vegetables to feed your baby are ones that are easy to puree to a safe consistency. This includes bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, peaches, and apples. For meats, pureed turkey or chicken work well. Make sure the consistency of all stage one purees is thin and doesn’t contain any chunks. Add a little breastmilk or formula to ensure these first purees are easy for your little one to eat.

baby eating food
Natee K Jindakum / Shutterstock

Stage 2

Stage two foods are typically introduced around the six to eight month mark depending on when your baby started on solid foods. How do you know if your baby is ready? If your baby is easily eating and swallowing stage 1 foods. Stage two foods include all of the stage one foods with the addition of even more fruit and vegetable options like mango, blueberries, broccoli, zucchini, strawberries, beets, parsnips, asparagus, and chickpeas. At this stage it’s advised to start introducing common allergens as well such as egg yolks, cheese, yogurt, and almond butter. Be sure to watch your baby closely for allergic reactions after feeding any new foods. The fun part is that now your baby can begin having combinations of purees rather than just one at a time.

These stage two foods can have a slightly thicker texture than stage one foods. The idea is to start to introduce the feeling of chewing and swallowing foods with a thicker consistency while being mindful that your baby is still adapting from an all-liquid diet and may not have many teeth yet. Once your baby develops the pincer grasp, it’s a sign that they are able to eat small cereals like Cheerios and puffs.

bowls of baby food
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Stage 3

Stage three begins around nine to twelve months when your baby should be able to eat almost any food so long as its cut up in small enough pieces and soft enough to be easily chewed. Typically, a younger baby, like a six month old should not be eating stage three baby foods unless they are pureed to a stage two texture.

For stage three foods, babies can start eating pasta cut up into small pieces, shredded and ground meats, tofu, and scrambled eggs. The menu opens up considerably at this point and your baby should be able to eat most of the foods you are already eating as a family.

toddler food on tray
ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

Editors' Recommendations

Natalie Ehrlich
Former Digital Trends Contributor
9 amazing sweet potato baby food combinations your child will love
Food combos to switch up the boring meals
Baby with sweet potatoes

It's always an exciting time when your baby can start eating solid foods. Most doctors recommend waiting until baby is six months old before starting. Once you get the OK from your pediatrician, your little one is ready to start on solid foods -- a whole new world opens up for them (and you).

Sweet potatoes are a perfect first food for your baby to try. They’re inexpensive, easy to cook, and mash up well. They’re on the sweeter side, so most babies take a liking to sweet potatoes over other veggies. More importantly, sweet potatoes are filled with Vitamin C, potassium, beta-carotene, and fiber your baby needs as they grow and develop.

Read more
Can babies have nightmares? What you need to know
How to help your baby when they have a bad dream
Toddler being comforted in bed after a nightmare.

Can babies have nightmares? It may seem unlikely that your little one may be experiencing bad dreams, but if your baby has woken up crying for no apparent reason, you may wonder if a nightmare was the cause.

Often when we think of nightmares, we think of how they're subconsciously caused by our fears, or by something scary we may have watched on television. Since babies aren't watching scary movies and are mostly exposed to positive and comforting stimuli, parents often wonder if babies can have nightmares and what they can do to help soothe them back to sleep. We shed some light on why your baby may be waking up upset and what you can do to make their nights as peaceful as possible.

Read more
When can babies have chocolate milk? This is when it’s safe to let your child indulge
How to introduce this beverage to your child
A glass of chocolate milk with a straw

Introducing your baby to new foods is a fun milestone for every parent. Watching your little ones as they experience new tastes and textures is an exciting part of their development. Many parents know when they can begin to introduce milk to their babies, but may wonder if the same rules apply to chocolate milk. Are little babes old enough to try it yet? When can babies have chocolate milk? It can be quite the job to keep up with what babies can have and at what age. So, for this delectable treat, we will help you find out when little ones can indulge in a glass.

Babies shouldn't have sweets or milk if they're not at least a year old. But even if they've celebrated that first birthday, there are other factors to consider.

Read more