The 3 Stages of Baby Food
Moving your baby from milk to solids is the first big feeding milestone, followed by three baby food stages. Here is what those stages are and when to advance to each new one.
You've mastered your baby's feeding routine. Whether by breast or bottle, you and your little one are on the same page when it comes to meal time -- until, suddenly, her all-liquid diet doesn't seem like enough. The best way to add solids to your baby's menu is to introduce baby food in stages, starting with liquid purees before gradually moving toward foods with soft pieces. "This enables a baby to master chewing without teeth and work up to handling whole foods as they grow teeth," explains Leslie Hoglund, a child nutrition research director with Physicians for Peace.
Not sure what each stage means? Here's the lowdown on what to feed your baby and when.
- Stage One: Purees (4 to 6 Months)
Open wide! In this first stage, your baby will get her first taste of solids. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), solids should only be introduced when your baby can sit up with support and can hold her head up without help (typically around 4 to 6 months of age). Hoglund adds, "In addition to physical signs, watch for social signs that a baby is ready to begin solid foods -- showing interest in watching others eat and acceptance of the eating process." Your baby may also open her mouth when she sees food and act hungry after nursing.
Thin purees of fruits, vegetables or single-grain cereals are best for your baby in stage one. Though your baby seems be growing right before your eyes, be sure to offer appropriate serving sizes. "A few spoonfuls are plenty for a little baby," says Sylvia Klinger, a family nutrition expert and founder of Hispanic Food Communications. She recommends mixing a teaspoon of pureed food with a few teaspoons of breast milk or formula to thin it. As your baby gets used to more texture, gradually decrease the amount of liquid used.
Add new foods to see what your baby likes and dislikes, but do so slowly. "Add fruits and vegetables one at a time," Hoglund suggests, "waiting a few days before you add another to be sure there are no food allergies or digestive issues." Signs like rash, diarrhea and vomiting may point to an allergic reaction. Contact your pediatrician if you suspect your baby has food sensitivities.
- Stage Two: Thicker Consistency (8 to 10 Months)
As your baby grows, she'll show clear signs that she's ready to move on to stage two. "The tongue thrust reflex changes to allow baby to pull food into the mouth and swallow effectively," Hoglund explains. "There will be minimal drooling and little food coming back out of baby's mouth." Your little one will probably be ready for stage two between 8 to 10 months of age.
Baby food introduced at this age is thicker and may have some small food pieces. "Babies don't have a lot of teeth [at this point], so you still want the food pretty strained," Klinger says. She recommends serving foods together, like pureed meat and veggies. Your baby may also like soft mashed foods like bananas. Klinger suggests, "Start with a teaspoon or two of each food and increase [the portions] to a quarter cup to a half cup of food, twice a day." But she recommends letting your baby decide when she's done -- if she turns her head away, stop feeding her.
- Stage Three: Soft Chunks (10 Months)
By now, your baby can hold a spoon, has more teeth and can swallow well. "Around 10 months or so, babies can handle food with chunks and soft, easy-to-chew foods," Hoglund says. Your little one may be eating a quarter cup each of fruit, vegetables and meat for dinner, a quarter cup to a half cup of two food groups (such as fruit, vegetables, grains or protein) at breakfast and lunch, and a small snack between meals, according to the AAP.
If your little one is hesitant about new foods, try feeding her when she's happy -- she'll be more receptive if she's not tired or cranky.
Need help adding some variety to your baby's diet? Here are 8 Easy Baby Food Recipes for Introducing New Foods.
Above all, have fun with it! Hoglund says, "It's a fun and messy time as babies progress in their eating skills and explore new tastes and textures."
Sandy Wallace is a mom who enjoys family, fun and sharing tips from her mom bag of tricks.
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.