You will often come across charts that list baby foods, how much babies should eat at each stage, and when you should introduce them into your child’s diet. It would be helpful if baby foods were clearly and consistently labeled so that parents could quickly decide how to choose products that meet their infant’s needs when using commercial products, but brands are different in this regard.
This can be confusing when using a combination of prepared and homemade foods, or when combining baby-led feeding with commercial foods.
Other brands simply use the label “1,” “2,” or “3,” a term that some companies use to indicate the age of the infant, while others use the term to define the stage of readiness for a particular food.
Infant Food Stages and Steps by Age
The American Academy of Pediatrics Association does not specifically discuss stages or steps, but advises: “It is important for your baby to get used to the process of eatingーsitting up, taking food from a spoon, resting in between bites, and stopping when full. These early experiences will help your child develop good eating habits throughout his or her life.”
Most popular brands come in four stages, from 4 to 6 months to 12 months or older. These stages are not standardized, but can be explained in the following way:
Stage 1: 4 to 6 months
Foods that begin at 4 to 6 months of age include single-ingredient foods, such as rice, fruit or vegetable purees
Some examples of popular brands include:
Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 1
The best first beginner food on the planet
Heinz Step 1 Beginner Foods
Stage 2: 7 to 8 months
When babies are 7 to 8 months old, they can eat “2” baby foods, which include single-ingredient and blended foods rather than gumbo.
Examples of Stage 2 foods include:
Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 2 Apples and Bananas
Earth’s Best Corn and Chinese Pumpkin
Second Food Garden Vegetables
Stage 3: 9 to 12 months
At 9 to 12 months of age, babies should be ready for the “3” baby foods. These foods have more texture and smaller pieces to encourage chewing.
Examples of Stage 3 foods include:
Beech Nut Natural Foods Stage 3 Chicken Lasagna
Earth’s Best Chunky Orchard Fruit (chunky mix)
Stage 3 foods broccoli and carrots with cheese
Heinz Vegetable Beef and Pasta (kid’s food)
These jars of baby food are easy to spot because they are usually larger than the first and second stage varieties, as babies tend to have a larger appetite when they prepare these foods.
Stage 4: After 12 months
Babies progress to “4 kinds” of food or table foods at the end of the first year or the beginning of the second year. At this point, you may be feeding your baby foods that other family members are eating, or you may continue to buy commercial foods for toddlers.
Table of peach content in Beech Nut White Grape Juice Concentrate
The best toddler breakfasts, snacks and entrees on the planet
Apple Mango Vanilla Brown Rice
Heinz Step 4 Toddler Cooking with Chicken and Star Vegetables and Gravy
Age Recommendations for Introducing Solid Foods
Keep in mind that the age recommendations when you start each stage are just general guidelines. Some babies are ready for Stage 2 by 7 to 8 months of age, while others may not be ready by 9 to 10 months of age.
Rather than starting each stage of baby food at the ages listed, it is usually more important that babies move through the different stages in their own good time. Your pediatrician can also help guide you on whether your baby needs extra time to process a stage or texture.
The first steps in starting solids at 4 to 6 months of age vary greatly from baby to baby, depending on your baby, but one thing that remains the same is that your baby should be able to sit up first and have good head and neck control.
If your child gets “stuck” at a particular stage and cannot handle the next stage of food, be sure to talk to your pediatrician.