Skip to main content

NewFolks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Stage 2 vs. Stage 3: which foods can your child eat?

New parents don’t always have time to mind the details or read up on the latest parenting science especially as it relates to serving baby food. Most of the time, they’re just trying to make sure the diaper pail is still upright. This can sometimes be the case when it comes to your baby’s transition from milk or formula to solid baby food.

Pediatricians recommend a gradual approach. Current guidance outlines four distinct stages of solid food, which begin at around 4 months of age and progress forward over a roughly eight-month period. The change can feel like a slog, but it’s gradual for a reason. Your baby’s system needs time to safely acclimate to some pretty big changes to their tiny, vulnerable, and ever-changing systems.

During this transition, parental confusion or even impatience can understandably arise. This may be particularly true during the middle two baby food stages. Stage 2 and Stage 3 both call for special food preparations or products, which at first may seem similar or interchangeable. But there are key differences to baby food stages that every new parent should understand.

Female pediatrician examines a baby
Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock

Here, we’re taking a quick look at the four baby food stages, then examining the specific differences between stages 2 and 3. We will then offer some examples of products that are available on the market if you choose to purchase your baby food (and of course, you can always make your own if you desire).

As always, when in doubt contact your pediatrician or another healthcare provider who can answer questions and help you find the solution that best fits you and your child.

The baby food stages

Remember that the time frames listed here are general and approximate. The main measurement to remember before you move to a new stage is whether your baby has mastered the current one.

  • Stage 1: 4 to 6 months (watery puree of a single ingredient)
  • Stage 2: 6 to 9 months (thicker texture, but still pureed or strained)
  • Stage 3: 10 to 12 months (mushy texture containing small, soft chunks)
  • Stage 4: After 12 months (baby-sized chunks, no puree or mush necessary)

The first and fourth stages are the most self-explanatory of the bunch, but let’s now look at stages 2 and 3 in-depth and determine the differences between them — and what your baby can safely eat and when.

szefei / Shutterstock

Stage 2 baby food

Stage 1 baby food is known for a texture so highly pureed that it almost reaches a liquid stage. Stage 2 essentially means the food has a thicker consistency, resembling just a bit more the “regular food” that adults and older children eat. It is still pureed or finely blended, though, so it is still easy for babies to eat and digest, but also contains soft chunks or is simply thicker.

The goal behind Stage 2 is largely physical or mechanical: It helps the baby gradually develop the ability to chew, swallow, and digest solid foods.

Stage 2 baby food can be bought at the store or made at home. Also, unlike Stage 1 food, Stage 2 can combine different foods — say, pureed chicken and broccoli.

Examples of Stage 2 baby food include:

Stage 3 baby food

Stage 3 is when babies no longer need food to be so heavily pureed. If it’s nutritious and cut into a mushy consistency, it’s more or less fair game (though you may want to steer clear of the jalapeños for just a little while longer).

Mashup some ripe fruit or cut up some veggie or lean meat. Soft cheese is perfectly acceptable at this stage, as are scrambled eggs or tofu. Now’s the time to experiment (again, within reason) to find out what your baby likes or doesn’t.

Can a 6-month-old eat Stage 3 food? It’s a common question, and while that may be more convenient, skipping or jumping up a level is not considered safe unless your little one can chew and swallow at his or her current stage without difficulty. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the different food stages and — most importantly — your baby’s eating behaviors.

Examples of Stage 3 food include:

When it comes to feeding your baby, you’ll want to be sure to give them the most nutritious foods possible that are also appropriate for their age and eating behaviors. By paying attention to the different baby food stages, you’ll be one step ahead of the game.

Scott Harris
Scott Harris is a freelance writer based near Washington, DC, with more than a decade of experience covering health…
How to give your child an oatmeal bath – you’ll be surprised what this homemade method can do
DIY an oatmeal bath and soothe your kiddo's skin issues
A parent giving a baby a bath

From rashes to bumps to whatever that thing is that itches — if your child has something going on with their skin, you want a way to calm the ailment down that doesn't require heavy medications. A tried-and-trusted method for easing upset skin conditions is an oatmeal bath.

Parents have been soaking their kids in oaty bathwater to treat the symptoms of certain skin issues for a reason — because it works. But before you open up your cabinet to shake some Quaker Oats into the tub, there are details about how to give your child an oatmeal bath you'll need to know first, and we're here to help.

Read more
Is your baby not eating solid foods? Here’s what could be going on
Should you worry if the little one isn't eating solid foods? Find out here
Baby in a highchair at the table eating.

When babies are first introduced to solid foods, they tend to already prefer what they like. Some little ones like vegetables, while others prefer the sweet taste of fruits. Babies usually take to eating solid foods quite quickly and enjoy experiencing the new flavors. Let's face it, once a baby starts on solid food, all they want to do is eat everything you put in front of them. But what happens when your baby's not eating solids?

It can be confusing for a parent when their munchkin, who seems to enjoy food so much, suddenly refuses to eat solids. Or, when their little one begins eating solids, but then stops eating them entirely. This commonly happens with kids and isn't something to be too concerned about or cause panic. Let's go over why your hungry hippo is rejecting solid foods and if there's anything you should do about it.

Read more
Your baby fell off the bed! Do these things immediately to ensure proper care for your child
Have a little roly poly? Here's what to do if baby rolls off the bed
A mother changing a baby on a bed.

Parents are only human and sometimes things happen in the blink of an eye. If you've ever put your baby down on a bed and turned your back for even a quick second only to have your baby fall off the bed, you know this is true. In fact, babies falling off beds is the leading cause of injuries for children. You happen to have your baby lying there — away from the edge, no less. You turn around for just a few seconds and then you hear that telltale cry.

What do you do? First, you’ll need to keep from panicking. Taking a deep breath and making some initial observations is a vital step to ensure your baby gets the right help. Once you've calmed down imagining your little one going over the edge, we have advice for you to follow in case this unfortunate accident happens to your child.

Read more