Not sure when to introduce baby food to your little one? In this article, you’ll learn about how to support your baby’s diet, nutrient needs, and growth and development through stage 1 and stage 2 solid baby foods. Most babies are ready for solids when they’re around 4 to 6 months old, but your baby might have their own unique timelines. We’ll walk you through the signs that it’s time to start weaning from a liquid milk diet and begin to introduce the tastes, textures and flavors of solids through fruit and vegetable purees. And speaking of purees, we’re also giving you all our best tips for reducing single-use packaging (hint: it has something to do with opting for endlessly reusable Stasher bowls) so that you can make and store baby food in a way that’s good for your baby and better for the planet.
Is your baby ready for solids?
First, the million-dollar question: when do babies start eating solid food? The answer is nuanced, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most babies are ready for solid baby food between 4 and 6 months old. Importantly though, babies can develop at different rates, so it’s a good idea to follow your own baby’s lead when it comes to introducing solid foods. Look for common signs of readiness, like if your baby can hold their head up for a long time and sit up on their own (or mostly), if they’re interested in mealtime, if they seem hungry between nursing sessions, and if they don’t push food out of their mouth via the tongue-thrust reflex.
What should you feed your baby?
The two major categories of baby food – stage 1 and stage 2 baby food – loosely align with your baby’s age and hinge on their textural needs. When a baby is first displaying signs of readiness for solid foods, start simple by gradually introducing stage 1 foods: extra-smooth, super simple purees made from one ingredient. Common first foods include avocado, banana, carrot, and sweet potato purees – in other words, fruits and vegetables that supplement your little one’s nutrient needs and support their growth and development. To ensure that your baby is getting all the nutrients they need, experts recommend breastfeeding your baby or giving them formula alongside their new foods until they’re at least 1 year old.
By around 6 to 9 months, your baby will likely be ready for stage 2 baby food, which differs from stage 1 food in that the purees should be a thicker consistency (think: food that’s strained, mashed, or in very soft pieces rather than whipped to a silky smooth puree) and can include multiple ingredients. As with stage 1, look for foods that are brimming with essential nutrients – like iron rich spinach-apple puree – to encourage healthy development while also introducing your little one to new flavors and textures.
Here are 10 healthy and nutritious homemade baby food recipes to get you started.
Look out for allergies
By introducing new foods to your baby slowly, and one at a time, you're helping your little one gradually experience new flavors and textures. But more importantly, this gradual introduction of single-ingredient foods allows you to keep an eye out of a reaction and pinpoint allergies. Potential signs of an allergic reaction in your baby can include gas and bloating that seems different than what your baby usually experiences, diarrhea, a rash appearing anywhere on the body, watery eyes or a runny nose, and unusual irritability. You can start to use ingredients in combination in stage 2, once your baby is around the 6- to 9-month mark, but in stage 1 it’s important to offer one ingredient at a time so that you can uncover any food allergies or sensitivities.
Some foods, like honey and cow’s milk, should be avoided until your baby is 1 year old to prevent possible botulism from honey and malnutrition that can occur due to dairy milk being introduced too soon.
H2: How to store baby food
There are a few food safety best practices to adhere to when storing baby food, regardless of if it’s store-bought baby food or a homemade puree. In general, homemade baby food – or store-bought baby food that’s been opened – can stay fresh in the fridge in air-tight food containers like Stasher bowls for two days, or in the freezer for 2 months. After this point, be sure to discard leftovers to prevent harmful bacteria from forming and to ensure that you’re always giving your baby fresh-tasting food. Likewise, don’t refreeze baby food once it’s thawed (you can, however, thaw frozen baby food, cook it, and then refreeze it in a Stasher bowl for that one cycle.) We’re big fans of going the homemade route when it comes to baby food: it’s more cost effective, fresher, and helps to keep single-use packaging from ending up in landfills. By making homemade baby food when possible and opting for sustainable, endlessly reusable storage containers like Stasher bowls and bags, you’re doing your part to care for your baby and Mother Earth!
To recap, most babies are ready for solid foods between 4 and 6 months old in the form of super smooth, one-ingredient purees. By 6 to 9 months, babies’ textural needs shift and they can have thicker purees that have been mashed or strained to allow for soft chunks. But no matter if baby food is store bought or homemade, stage 1 or stage 2, be mindful about food safety. Fresh or opened food can last in an airtight Stasher bag or bowl for two days in the fridge, or 2 months in the freezer. After that, discard it, and whip up something new.