Stages of baby food explained

Jars and food items for babies in a supermarket

You are in the baby food aisle and there are so many options. It can be stressful. The foods have bright labels to entice you to buy with all sorts of information on them. They all have an age or stage on them, but what does that mean?

Stages of baby food

Some manufacturers use stages. Stage 1 being the smooth puree up to stage 3 or 4 which are the more textured version. They are all pretty mushy!

There is no consistency across manufacturers on stages and there is no legal requirement for what each stage is. All foods marketed to the under 3s come under the same legislation regardless of the stage on the packaging.

Some people like to follow the stages because it helps them progress through the textures. The key thing to remember is that you need to progress through onto homemade food. Staying on mushy food for too long can increase fussiness.

Ages on baby food

Although solids can be introduced from 4 months (and should not be introduced before), the recommendation is to introduce solids around 6 months. Manufacturers put 4 months on products to say that children shouldn’t have them before 4 months. This does not mean we should wean at 4 months. There is a move away from labelling from 4 months but sometimes it still happens.

Other products may say from 6 months, 7th months, 12 months etc. Again there is no legal definition of these and no consistency across manufacturers but it does relate to the consistency with the 4 or 6 month foods being the smoothest.

Is there any harm giving a baby of 6 months meals labelled for 12 months?

No, they all have to follow strict legislation. They all follow the same regulations when it comes to pesticide levels, salt levels and adding sugar. BUT it is important to remember that snacks labelled from 12 months are labelled that way because babies don’t need snacks before 12 months. These foods shouldn’t be included in meals regularly as they often replace whole foods like fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates. Uniform snacks can limit a child’s willingness to try new things.

Is puree safer for little babies?

There is no evidence that the stage 1 foods are safer than the stage 2 foods. Remember though that all food provided to babies should be soft and cut long and thin for little babies to reduce the risk of choking. Foods like grapes should be cut in quarters, carrots should be cut into sticks and cooked, nuts should be provided ground or in nut butter for example.

Is there anything else to think about?

Absolutely. Don’t assume that food marketed to babies is good for babies all the time. Ideally we want babies to have a range of foods and get used to a range of different textures. Commercial foods can be helpful for when you are out and about and need something quick but aren’t great all of the time. They are also really expensive and heavy on packaging and processing which isn’t great for the environment.

Where can I find more information about weaning?

You are in the right place. There are lots of articles on this website to guide you. You may also like to book a place on the First Foods Course which covers all you need to know about introducing solids right up to the toddler years.


The stages and ages on baby foods give us an idea of how smooth they are in texture but they aren’t a standard, regulated part of food labelling. As long as you are following the list of foods to avoid (click here for that list), and not including snacks for the under 1s then the ages are guides rather than recommendations. It’s important to ensure your child has variety in both food and texture. And, commercial baby foods should be considered a sometimes food rather than the norm.

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