Explanation on ‘Staging’ of Infant Formulas: Things to be Noted

Explanation on ‘Staging’ of Infant Formulas: Things to be Noted

Infant Formulas are foods designed to feed babies and infants less than 12 months of age. These are normally prepared for bottle-feeding and are in a powdered form that is mixed with water or another liquid and is usually considered a substitute for breast milk.

Different stages of milk are formulated for different age groups and tailored according to that Recommended Dietary Allowances of that age group. The combination of nutrient levels is different to cater to the needs of children at different stages of growth.

 4 categories of infant formula:

  • Cow milk protein based formula
  • Soy based formula
  • Protein hydrolysate formula
  • Specialized formulas

What is important in infant formula?

Commonly available infant formulas contain purified whey and casein from cow’s milk as a protein source, a blend of vegetable oils as a source of fat, lactose as a source of carbohydrates, a mixture of vitamins and minerals.

 Different formula stages:

  • Stage Pre: Suitable from birth onwards, specifically without starch, for easy digestion.
  • Stage 1: Suitable from birth onwards.
  • Stage 2: Is for babies who are at least six months of age.

First stage infant formula and second stage infant formula are nutritionally the same. The difference between them is the type of protein that is used. First stage infant milk’s are predominately whey protein and second stage infant milks – marketed for hungrier babies, contain more casein protein.

 Below explanation is about the different stages in infant formula milk?

  • Stage 1 or starter formulas: These are suitable for babies aged up to 6 months.
  • Stage 2 or follow-on formulas: These are for babies aged 6-12 months and they often have higher iron content.
  • Stage 3 is only suitable from 10 months onward.Has slightly more calories and fat but slightly fewer carbohydrates compared to stage 2.


Babies need iron in their diet. It’s best to use a formula fortified with iron, unless your child’s health care provider says not to.

Standard cow’s milk-based formulas:

Almost all babies do well on cow’s milk-based formulas.

These formulas are made with cow’s milk protein that has been changed to be more like breast milk. They contain lactose (a type of sugar in milk) and minerals from the cow’s milk.

Vegetable oils, plus other minerals and vitamins are also in the formula.

Fussiness and colic are common problems for all babies. Most of the time, cow’s milk formulas are not the cause of these symptoms. This means that you likely do not need to switch to a different formula if your baby is fussy. If you’re not sure, talk with your infant’s provider.

Soy-based formulas:

These formulas are made using soy proteins. They do not contain lactose.

For parents who do not want their child to eat animal protein, the AAP recommends breastfeeding. Soy-based formulas are also an option.

Soy-based formulas have NOT been proven to help with milk allergies or colic. Babies who are allergic to cow’s milk may also be allergic to soy milk.

Soy-based formulas should be used for infants with galactosemia, a rare condition. These formulas can also be used for babies who can’t digest lactose, which is uncommon in children younger than 12 months.

Partially hydrolyzed formula:

Formula in which milk protein has been broken down into smaller pieces which in theory makes it easier to digest

Commonly used for infants that are formula fed that are experiencing gas, fussiness, and crying

Some of these formulas also may have a reduced amount of lactose as compared to cow’s milk formula

Hypoallergenic formulas (protein hydrolysate formulas):

This type of formula may be helpful for infants who have allergies to milk protein and for those with skin rashes or wheezing caused by allergies.

Hypoallergenic formulas are generally much more expensive than regular formulas.

Lactose-free formulas:

These formulas are also used for galactosemia and for children who can’t digest lactose.

A child who has an illness with diarrhea usually will not need lactose-free formula.

There are special formulas for babies with certain health problems. Your pediatrician will let you know if your baby needs a special formula. DOnot give these unless your pediatrician recommends it.

Reflux formulas are pre-thickened with rice starch. They are usually needed only for infants with reflux who are not gaining weight or who are very uncomfortable.

Formulas for premature and low-birth-weight infants have extra calories and minerals to meet the needs of these infants.

Special formulas may be used for infants with heart disease, malabsorption syndromes, and problems digesting fat or processing certain amino acids.

Newer formulas with no clear role:

Toddler formulas are offered as added nutrition for toddlers who are picky eaters. To date, they have not been shown to be better than whole milk and multivitamins. They are also expensive.

Most formulas can be purchased in the following forms:

Ready-to-use formulas — do not need to add water; are convenient, but cost more.

Concentrated liquid formulas — need to be mixed with water, cost less.

Powdered formulas — must be mixed with water, cost the least.


  • The AAP recommends that all infants be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula for at least 12 months.
  • Your baby will have a slightly different feeding pattern, depending on whether\they are breastfed or formula fed.
  • In general, breastfed babies tend to eat more often.
  • Formula-fed babies may need to eat about 6 to 8 times per day.
  • Start newborns with 2 to 3 ounces (60 to 90 milliliters) of formula per feeding (for a total of 16 to 24 ounces or 480 to 720 milliliters per day).
  • The baby should be up to at least 4 ounces (120 milliliters) per feeding by the end of the first month.
  • As with breastfeeding, the number of feedings will decrease as the baby gets older, but the amount of formula will increase to approximately 6 to 8 ounces (180 to 240 milliliters) per feeding.
  • On average, the baby should consume about 2½ ounces (75 milliliters) of formula for every pound (453 grams) of body weight.
  • At 4 to 6 months of age, an infant should be consuming 20 to 40 ounces (600 to 1200 milliliters) of formula and is often ready to start the transition to solid foods.


Staging of infant formulas plays vital role in meeting the nutritional needs of growing infants. Ensures infants receive the right balance of nutrients tailored to their agefrom stage 1, provides a foundations for newborns, stage 3 supports nutritional needs of active toddlers, each stage is designed to contribute to a baby’s overall well being. Staging of infant formula serves as a valuable tool in ensures that receive optimal nutrition during their formative years also contribute healthy growth and development of the next generation.

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