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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.
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.
10 No-Cook Homemade Baby Food Recipes
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. Find our favorite options for adding yummy flavor to this baby oatmeal, too.
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.
Best Apple Puree (with Flavor Combinations + Storage Tips))
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!
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)
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.
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 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.
How to Make Eggs in the Microwave
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.
Forget takeout—deliver this popular Indian dish to your table instead. Shredded chicken thighs are coated in a rich, buttery sauce with hints of tomatoes, ginger, and garam masala—a messy but very flavorful finger food. Adapted from The Multi-Cooker Baby Food Cookbook.
The Best 2-Ingredient Pancakes (Baby and Toddler Approved)
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.
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!
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.”