European formulas are made for the different stages of the first year that help babies through their milestones. What does 1, 2, and 3 really mean? And what about PRE? Once you understand what these stages mean to you and your baby, it will help you when your baby comes to that stage.
PRE does not stand for premature babies or preemies. Stage PRE is designed for babies from birth to three months. A baby’s digestive system is still developing after birth as the muscles and organs are learning how to take in and keep down nourishment. There is no starch, no fillers, and all of the European baby formulas use only organic lactose for carbohydrates. It is easier to digest yet still satisfies the nutritional needs of a newborn. While it is gentle for newborns on day one, it is also ideal for babies who are nursing who need a supplemental feed. It also helps when a mother needs to wean off the breast to an organic baby formula that is just right for their little one.
Stage 1 is the universal baby formula for every baby. It is called “first milk” because it can be the first milk formula that you offer your baby from birth on. It has all of the nutrition and calories every baby needs from day one until they wean off of formula and start solids exclusively. It is perfect for the bottle, but can also be the liquid used for infant cereals and porridges. Many parents prefer using Stage 1 from European baby formula companies for the entire first year because it does not contain any starch. If you nurse for the first six months as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians, you can transition your baby from breast to bottle with Stage 1 if you choose.
Stage 2 formula is made for babies six months and on because it has more nutrients for a growing baby that a newborn does not need yet. Often the biggest difference between Stage 1 and Stage 2 is nutrient content such as iron or calcium. Another difference is carbohydrate content. While it may contain a starch such as organic maltodextrin, your baby’s digestive system is more developed to handle the difference after six months of age. By Stage 2, your baby is sitting up and moving more. They are often burning more energy and may not feel as satisfied with a liquid diet as they use to be. Formula is still important to their diet as they discover solids, but you don’t want to give them more than what they need. It is good for a hungry baby who can benefit from a thicker formula that leaves them satisfied, including through the night.
Stage 3 formula is made for babies ten months and on. If your baby is hungry, even with solid foods and formula, you can opt for Stage 3 for the short term. This is also a good way to ensure that your baby is getting the nutrients they need if they are not eating enough of the finger foods you offer. It does have more nutrients for your baby’s ever-growing development, but it still has all of the goodness that comes from the European baby formula your baby has enjoyed for the past months.
Some of the European baby formula manufacturers offer Stage 4, or “Kindermilch” for children after their first birthday. It is sometimes referred to as toddler milk. Even though your baby may be at the age where they can start whole milk, your child may need the complex set of nutrients in toddler milk to complement their solid foods. Both Hipp and Holle offer Kindermilch for this age group.
Do you need to make the switch from one stage to another? That is the kind of decision you have to make. You can consult your pediatrician regarding the extra vitamins and minerals, but it all depends on your baby and their eating habits. A hungrier baby would be better off with a thicker formula from a higher stage that stays with them longer than extra ounces that make them feel too full. Breast milk changes with your baby’s development, so it is good to know that you can change your formula for the same reason.
Keep in mind that if you need to transition between stages, you do not have to do it right at the month milestone. You may have some of Stage 1 left before you are ready to start Stage 2. It is up to you if you make the switch right away or combine the two for a gradual change.