When beginning 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 as they relate to baby food—and the ages and recommended recipes that correspond to each.
Baby Food Stages, Explained
Labeling food for baby with stages helps parents offer foods in a specific order of textures from thinner and very smooth to 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 main ingredient. You can thin them further with additional water, breastmilk, or formula, and they’re sometimes described as “drippy”. Think: Very thin pureed soup.
Baby may push some of the food out of 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 continue 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. Store the baby food in the fridge or freezer for future meals.
You’ll choose ONE ingredient to blend up—a fruit, a veggie, or beans. See the list below. You can make enough for a few days or make a double batch to freeze more baby food for future weeks. The nutrition information will vary based on which ingredients you use.
The initial portion on this recipe is small to avoid potential waste, though increase it according to the hunger of your child. Their appetite is your best guide for how much is the right amount for them to eat.
Soaking the rice is optional but recommended. It may help it be a little easier for baby to digest, but as long as you cook the rice until very soft, it is not 100% necessary if you’re short on time. The directions, timing, and liquid used here are based on soaking the rice and using the short grain brown rice from Lundberg.
There’s no one right serving size for every child, so start with a smaller amount and offer more as indicated by baby. When they turn their head or close their mouth, end the meal—it’s usually pretty obvious when they want to be done!
Transform nutrient-rich quinoa into a delicious baby food—with options for older kids and parents to share it—using this simple method. (Find flavor variations and storage tips too.)
This fluffy peanut butter puree should have the consistency of yogurt and be easy for a baby to move around in their mouths. Remember to offer just a little at a time.
You can serve this as wedges, a thick mash, or a thinner puree to your baby or toddler. (Adults will love the wedges too!)
This easy baby food is rich in healthy fats, super smooth, and has a mellow flavor. This is a great puree to make when you’re eating something like tacos…so you can have some too!
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
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.
TIP: Save time and energy by trying out the awesome Intro to Veggie Pack from Amara Organic Baby Food. You get 30 meals packed with a wide range of veggies including greens, squash, peas, sweet potatoes, and more. It’s a great way to offer more variety without the work! (sponsored)
Stage 2 Recipes to Try
You can easily double (or triple!) the recipe to make more servings. It uses a 1 to 1 ratio of yogurt to applesauce so you can easily scale it up. Mix these up the night before you plan to serve them.
Made with a base of just two ingredients, this Apple Yogurt takes just seconds to make—and is a delicious breakfast or snack option.
Learn the easiest way to make flavorful Zucchini Baby Food—with options for baby-led weaning zucchini and also zucchini puree—with one simple method. Plus: Find storage and serving tips.
The serving size for baby food can vary widely based on the age and appetite of the baby, so follow baby’s cues for being done—they will close their mouth and/or turn their head or start to fuss. End the meal when you see those things happen.
Serve small portions by the spoonful or in a reusable pouch to babies and toddlers.
Frozen bananas give the smoothie a creamy, naturally sweet base, though you can make this with a fresh banana as long as the other fruit is frozen. It’s easy to add whatever berries or fruit you have on hand, so customize it for your kiddo.
This makes two toddler-size servings or one serving for a hungrier smoothie-lover!
TIP: Check out my Best Baby Food Combinations too!
Stage 3 Baby Food
This includes thicker mashed foods with even more texture and usually includes multiple ingredients. There will 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 3 is an easy time to start using more of the food you’re making for the rest of the family (if you haven’t already) 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 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. Aim for foods that are soft and easy to squish between your fingers. Dice up foods like meatballs into about the size of two peas so they are easy for baby to pick up and eat.
You can season the cooked egg with a little salt, butter or cheese if you’d like, but it’s very good as is. See the Note about the heat setting when cooking in a microwave.
These soft breakfast egg cups are packed with protein and vitamins—and can be made ahead of time! Add any veggie you like, whether carrots, butternut squash, broccoli, or spinach.
This bright green pesto is cheesy and mild, making it a perfect sauce for a quick dinner of pasta and peas!
With an easy method and the option to flavor with a range of fruit, Chia Seed Oatmeal is a delicious, nutritious breakfast for kids…and us parents! See the flavor options for ways to customize this recipe for your family.
This recipe makes one small batch of super tender 2-Ingredient Pancakes. It usually makes 1-2 little-kid-size servings. To make more, simply double the recipe. These are delicate pancakes with a texture that’s sort of custardy like French toast, so be gentle when flipping them. See the NOTES at the bottom for the flavor variations.
Adding beans and extra veggies helps make this easy baby pasta satisfying, nutritious, and yummy. Serve it more or less saucy as you like. (You can even freeze the sauce for easy future meals.)
Choose one veggie to add from the flavor options below according to what you have on hand or what your family likes best.
Make this without the optional flavors for a simple, yet yummy side dish that’s easy for your little ones to eat since the grains hold together well. Add just ginger, or add ginger and the optional spices at the end for more flavor. We like adding raisins to the mix when we add the extra spices!
TIP: Find full info about Stage 3 Baby Foods here.
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 for ages 9-10 months (ish) and up.
Frequently Asked Questions
At the store or in looking up recipes online, you’ll typically see Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3 baby foods. Sometimes you’ll also see Stage 4, though in most cases that is more like regular food.
Usually, Stage 1 baby food corresponds with 6+ months, Stage 2 baby food corresponds with 7-8+ months, and Stage 3 baby food corresponds with 9+ months.
If you are using a traditional method of starting solids, you can use these to progress through baby food textures safely. (Parents using the Baby-Led Weaning style of feeding go a different route.)
Best Tips for Success
- 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—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-sleeve 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.
- You may also like Master List of Baby Food Recipes, First Foods for Baby, Carrot Baby Food, and Master List of Baby Snacks.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this post, so please comment below!
This post was first published January 2021.