What Is the Difference Between First-Stage and Second-Stage Baby Food?

baby food
Vegetable puree with chicken in a bowl for baby. (Image: Wiktory/iStock/Getty Images)

The vast array of different stages and flavors of baby food on store shelves can be overwhelming, and might leave you wondering what you should feed your baby. Many brands of baby food are sold in stages, which can help you determine what kinds of foods and how much you should serve your little one. A clear understanding of the differences between first-stage and second-stage baby foods will steer you to the right choices.

Starting Solids

Between the ages of 4 and 6 months, your baby will begin to eat solid foods. She is ready for solids if she can hold her head up on her own, sit without assistance, does not push against the spoon with her tongue and shows an interest in what you are eating. First-stage foods are designed for beginning eaters and help prepare your baby for second-stage foods.

First Stage

First-stage baby foods are small 2-ounce portions made with one ingredient, such as pears or carrots, and do not contain added ingredients, such as salt or sugar. This is to help you identify the offending food if your baby has a reaction to a food, so wait two or three days between new foods. First-stage foods are blended until completely smooth so your baby can tolerate the texture as she learns how to eat from a spoon.

Second Stage

Second-stage baby foods might be made from just one type of food or from a combination of foods. Many of these foods combine two types of fruits or vegetables or a meat with a vegetable. Second-stage baby foods help your baby eat a varied diet that includes the vitamins and minerals she needs to grow and develop. As your baby gets older, she will eat more food. Second-stage baby foods contain about 4 ounces of food in each jar or container.


Since your baby might take only one or two bites of solid foods when you first offer them, be careful to prevent bacteria growth and illness by handling the remainder properly. Rather than feeding your baby straight from the jar, divide a second-stage food, placing the portion you don't expect to use right away in a separate container for storage in the refrigerator. Also, read food labels because certain brands sell dessert options that have added sugar, which adds empty calories, or entree options that contain added salt. These added ingredients might influence your baby to prefer those flavors over pure baby foods, and they are unnecessary in your baby's diet.

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