Baby Food Stages and Steps—Gerber Labels Explained

See What Is Meant by 1st Foods, 2nd Foods, and Stages

Young mother feeding her baby boy in high chair.
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Do you wonder how to interpret the labels on baby food and compare them to stages you see on charts? You'll often encounter charts listing baby foods as "1st foods," "2nd foods," and "3rd foods," with how much of them a baby should eat at each age. However, when you go to the grocery store, you see the labels that say 1, 2, or 3. Do these terms mean the same thing?

The problem is that each company that makes baby food uses a different label for each "stage" of food.

These stages aren't standardized. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in their "Guide to Your Child's Nutrition," advises that "Two rules apply across the board: Begin with stage 1 foods for beginners, and don't offer your child toddler foods, which often contain chunks, until he is an experienced eater."

Baby Food Stages and Steps

Stage 1: Age 4 to 6 Months
Foods that you might first start your baby on at age 4 to 6 months include single ingredient foods, like rice cereal or pureed fruits or vegetables. Examples include:

  • Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 1
  • Earth's Best 1st Beginner Foods
  • Gerber 1st Foods
  • Heinz Step 1 Beginner Foods

Stage 2: Age 7 to 8 Months
When your baby is 7 to 8 months old, he can eat "2" baby foods, which include single ingredient and combination foods that are strained instead of being pureed. Examples include:

  • Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 2 Apples & Bananas
  • Gerber 2nd Foods Garden Vegetables
  • Heinz Strained Vegetables
  • Earth's Best Corn and Butternut Squash.

Stage 3: Age 9 to 12 Months
When your baby is 9 to 12 months old, he should be ready for "3" baby foods. These foods have more texture and small chunks to encourage chewing. Examples of '3' foods include:

  • Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 3 Chicken Lasagna
  • Gerber 3rd Foods Broccoli & Carrots with Cheese
  • Heinz Vegetables Beef & Spaghetti (Junior Foods)
  • Earth's Best Chunky Orchard Fruit (Chunky Blend).

These jars of baby food are easy to spot because they are usually bigger than stage 1 and 2 baby foods since your baby likely has a bigger appetite by the time he is ready for these foods.

Stage 4: After Age 12 Months
Your baby will progress to "4" foods or table food at the end of his first year or beginning of his second year. At this point, you may be feeding your baby the food that the rest of the family is eating, or you might continue to buy commercially prepared toddler foods. These include:

  • Beech-Nut Naturals Table Time Peach Dices In White Grape Juice From Concentrate
  • Heinz Step 4 Toddler Cuisine Chicken & Stars with Vegetables & Gravy.

Baby Food Stages and Steps for Your Baby

Keep in mind that the age recommendations for when you start each stage are just general guidelines. Some babies are ready for "2" foods before they are 7 to 8 months old, while others might not be ready for them until they are 9 to 10 months old. Instead of starting each stage of baby food at these ages, it is usually more important that your baby advances through the different stages in his own good time.

Be sure to talk to your pediatrician if your child gets "stuck" in any one particular stage and can't handle the foods in the next stage.

Sources:

Patient Education: Starting Solid Foods During Infancy (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/starting-solid-foods-during-infancy-beyond-the-basics.

Starting Solid Foods. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx.

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