Your five-month-old just started sitting up on her playmat and is showing tons of interest in your fettuccini alfredo. Congrats! She’s ready to try solid foods. Unless you’re trying baby led weaning, your best bet is to start with pureed foods and slowly thickening the consistency as your baby gets comfortable with chewing (err, gumming) and swallowing. Follow the three baby food stages, which you can use as a general rule of thumb to introduce your kiddo to the exciting world of solids.
You can begin stage one (which consists of thin, single-ingredient purees) as soon as your kid’s pediatrician gives the OK. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the doctor will make sure your child is sitting with little or no support, has good control of her head and will open her mouth and lean forward when food is offered. This will typically happen anywhere from 4 to 6 months. She’s ready for stage two (thicker mashed food made of multiple ingredients) after she has had a month or two of practice eating stage one foods and seems comfortable eating and swallowing, or her doctor feels she is ready. This typically happens around 6 to 8 months. Stage three (chewable chunks) can begin around 9 to 12 months, and includes thick blended foods and small, cut-up pieces of easy-to-chew table food.
Babies can try lots of different foods, and eating a varied diet is encouraged—but some things are off the table until they’re older. Steer clear of honey (which can cause infant botulism until babies turn one), anything containing added sugar or salt, cow’s milk, refined grains like white bread or rice, unpasteurized foods, fish that’s high in mercury (like swordfish), smoked and cured meats (like bacon) and choking hazards (including grapes, raw apples, bell peppers, raisins and whole peas). Check with your doctor for a comprehensive list of choking hazards and other foods to avoid.
Ready to start? Here’s everything you need to know about the three stages of baby food.