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What Stage of Formula Should You Be Using?

What Stage of Formula Should You Be Using?

Formula comes not just via different brands, but also in several stages – each designed to suit a different age, from tiny newborn to a growing toddler. 

Sounds simple enough, but it can be pretty confusing, especially since each brand has its own system. So stage 3 for one brand might be 12 months+, while for others, it’s 10-12 months. Some brands have a stage pre, or a stage 4, while others don’t.

So what’s the difference between each stage, and does it really matter in terms of nutrition?

What makes each stage different?

A sleepy newborn has different nutritional needs to an active, walking 12-month old, and the balance of ingredients in each formula stage reflects this. 

Early-stage formula (either stage 1 or stage pre), designed for babies up to six months, is designed to mimic breastmilk as closely as possible, and to provide the gentle, easily-digestible milk that tiny babies need to fuel their early growth. 

From stage 2 upwards, brands often add in extra nutrients that complement solid food and give older babies the energy they need to crawl, walk and play. They’re often higher in carbs, protein and iron than newborn formulas, and can be more satisfying for hungry babies.

When should I start using a different stage?

We recommend moving to the next stage of formula for your chosen brand around the time they reach the age it’s designed for. 

Stage 2+ formulas contain more calories and nutrients to help fuel growth and development, so most parents try the next stage up within a week or two of their baby hitting the relevant age (usually 6 months for stage 2, and 10 or 12 months for stage 3 or 4).

That said, it’s not essential to move on from stage 1 formula, and doctors advise that stage 1 is totally safe for older babies as well as newborns. But you should never feed a baby under 6 months formula for an older baby – they’re not designed for newborn stomachs. 

Is stage pre formula for premature babies?

No – but if you’re confused by this, you’re not the only one. Stage pre formulas are an alternative stage 1 formula designed usually for babies up to 3 months old (or sometimes 6). 

These are gentle formulas made without starch, which the tiniest tummies often struggle to digest. If your baby doesn’t seem to be settling on regular stage 1 formula, it’s worth trying stage pre. Not all brands make it – try HiPP or Holle if you think your baby might benefit.

Need some more helping finding the right stage formula for your baby?

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