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Baby Food Stages and Steps

Expert Q&A

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Updated April 11, 2014

Q. I see the stages for baby foods such as 1st foods, 2nd foods and 3rd foods. I have seen different charts that tell when they should eat certain foods and how much of them they should get at each month, however, when I go to the grocery store, I see the labels that say 1, 2, or 3, and I get confused. At which age group are each of them for and when I should switch between them? How many months should my baby be in order to start each of the groups? Dez, Houston, TX

A. This can be a confusing topic. The problem is that each company that makes baby food uses a different label for each 'stage' of food. Since these stages aren't standardized, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in their Guide to Your Child's Nutrition, advises that 'two rules apply across the board: Begin with stage 1 foods for beginners, and don't offer your child toddler foods, which often contain chunks, until he is an experienced eater.'

Baby Food Stages and Steps

Foods that you might first start your 4-6 month old baby on include:
  • Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 1
  • Earth's Best 1st Beginner Foods
  • Gerber 1st Foods
  • Heinz Step 1 Beginner Foods
These include single ingredient foods, like rice cereal, and pureed fruits and vegetables.

Next, when your baby is 7-8 months old, he can eat '2' baby foods, which include single ingredient and combination foods that are strained, instead or being pureed. Examples include Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 2 Apples & Bananas, Gerber 2nd Foods Garden Vegetables, Heinz Strained Vegetables, and Earth's Best Corn and Butternut Squash.

When your baby is 9-12 months old, he should be ready for '3' baby foods. These foods have more texture and small chunks to encourage chewing. Examples of '3' foods include Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 3 Chicken Lasagna, Gerber 3rd Foods Broccoli & Carrots with Cheese, Heinz Vegetables Beef & Spaghetti (Junior Foods), and Earth's Best Chunky Orchard Fruit (Chunky Blend). These jars of baby food are easy to spot because they are usually bigger than stage 1 and 2 baby foods, since your baby likely has a bigger appetite by the time he is ready for these foods.

Lastly, your baby will progress to '4' foods or table food at the end of his first year or beginning of his second year. At this point, you may be feeding your baby the food that the rest of the family is eating, or you might continue to buy commercially prepared toddler foods. These include Beech-Nut Naturals Table Time Peach Dices In White Grape Juice From Concentrate and Heinz Step 4 Toddler Cuisine Chicken & Stars with Vegetables & Gravy.

Baby Food Stages and Steps for Your Baby

Keep in mind that the age recommendations for when you start each stage are just general guidelines. Some babies are ready for '2' foods before they are 7-8 months, while others might not be ready for them until they are 9-10 months old. Instead of starting each stage of baby food at these ages, it is usually more important that your baby advances through the different stages in his own good time. Be sure to talk to your Pediatrician if your child gets 'stuck' in any one particular stage and can't handle the foods in the next stage.

Baby Food Books and Products

The following books and resources about baby food may also be helpful:
Related Video
Switching to Solid Baby Food Tips

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