What to feed your baby and when can become an entire journey for new parents. There are many options from baby-led weaning to following baby food stages to a hybrid of the two. And everyone has an opinion of their own. Which makes sense! After all, every baby and every family is unique.

So here’s what you need to know about baby food stages so you can choose the best diet for you and your family. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. There’s more than one right way to introduce your baby to solids.

All babies start out with breastfeeding, formula, or a combo of the two. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding should be your baby’s only source of nutrients for at least six months. They also suggest that it should still be part of your baby’s diet through at least the first year.

It takes time for babies to get adjusted to solid food so breastmilk and formula are the best back-ups to make sure they still get what they need to keep growing.

When Is My Baby Ready For Solid Food?

There are a few key signs to watch out for before starting your baby on solids. Think of this as the pre-work before the first stage of baby food. Your baby should be able to:

  • Sit and hold up their head with some control. Without stronger neck muscles it can be very difficult for your baby to try solids.
  • Express curiosity towards solid food.
  • Swallow. Food or fluid slipping out of your baby’s mouth? They may not have the mouth muscles needed to move food in their mouth.

What Are Baby Food Stages?

As you begin shopping for baby food or looking at homemade baby puree recipes, you may notice that they’re labeled with stages.

These numbers are useful tools to help you organize how you’re feeding your baby. The stages refer to the consistency and texture of the food. As your baby goes through each stage, food gets thicker and chunkier. Until eventually, they’re eating cooked foods similar to you.

Stage 1 (4 to 6 months): Thin Purees

Some babies can begin the first stage as early as four months. At this point, a baby will be consuming thin purees. They should be drippy, almost liquid, like breastmilk or formula. There should be no chunks. Usually, these purees are just a single ingredient.

The thinness makes it easy for your baby to transition into trying new foods. You can go store-bought, homemade, organic. The AAP doesn’t think you have to start with one particular food. If you’re blending at home and want it thinner, mix with formula or breastmilk to thin it down and still get nutrients.

During this stage, try small spoonfuls so your baby can get used to swallowing.

Stage 2 (6 to 9 months): Pureed & Mashed Combos

Once your baby is used to Stage 1 purees, you can move on to thicker purees or mashed foods. While they’re thicker, there still likely won’t be any big chunks. A lot of Stage 2 foods are combinations of two foods.

Here babies may begin trying more proteins: meats, beans, or fish. Think of this stage as the time to begin exploring your baby’s palate. Let them try more mashes and strained foods. See what they like.

If your baby isn’t ready to try something new, it’s okay to slow down. If your baby is very resistant, feel free to reach out to their pediatrician.

Stage 3 (9 to 12 months): Chunks, Pieces & Finger Foods

This can be a very fun stage for parents and kids. Homemade Stage 3 baby food or store-bought organic Stage 3 baby food opens up the culinary world to your baby. Now that they have more fine motor skills and maybe even some preferences, you can begin having them try foods with more texture and try feeding themselves.

If you want recipes, look for baby-led weaning food options from leading child nutritionists on what you can feed your growing child. This stage has more complex food so that your baby can prep for the transition to table food.

Make sure to keep an eye on your baby’s overall nutrition to ensure a balance of what they need.

Stage 4 (12 months and up): Table Food

Some models work with just three stages of baby food. You may see labels for Stage 4 though. Stage 4 is essentially table food. If your baby has successfully adapted to the three stages and is expressing curiosity about your food, they may be ready to start having versions of your meals.

Every child will reach this stage at a different time. But get excited when they do—you have a big kid now! Your next step in your parenting journey is to find quality, caring child care. Sittercity is here to help. Find your next child care provider today.

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