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Does Baby Formula Cause NEC? Shocking Answer!

by | Dec 6, 2021 | Infant Formula/NEC

Does Baby Formula Cause NEC?

Baby Formula Lawsuit AttorneysThe birth of a new baby brings joy and happiness to families. When a baby is born prematurely, though,the joy may be tempered by tension and concern for the infant’s health. There is growing concern whether baby formula may case NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis). Does infant formula cause NEC? That is the question we will take a look at in this article.

According to the March of Dimes, more than 380,000 premature infants are delivered in the United States each year. In the United States, one out of every ten newborns was delivered prematurely, before the 37th week of pregnancy. As is standard protocol in most hospitals, all premature infants will go straight to the neonatal intensive care unit. Babies fed breast milk are significantly less likely to develop necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

The greater the danger of death or major impairment, the sooner a baby is delivered. Breathing issues, gastrointestinal disorders, low blood sugar, dehydration, weight loss, and jaundice are just a few of the medical ailments that the premature infants may suffer. Premature infants often have slow development.

These premature babies digestive systems are generally undeveloped, and they have difficulty sucking and swallowing. A preterm infant must be closely monitored to ensure that he grows properly and completely, just like any other healthy youngster.

In most cases, mother’s milk is the recommended feeding strategy for babies. Doctors may propose donor milk, which is milk supplied by another breastfeeding mother in specific instances. Premature infants, on the other hand, may have trouble latching on and feeding. They often demand additional nourishment or customised dietary strategies to cope with their medical concerns. As a result, neonatologists and paediatricians may advise infant formula feeding as a means of providing or supplementing nutrients.

Non-milk-based cow’s supplementary infant formula is frequently recommended by doctors. However, certain baby formula, particularly those manufactured for preterm infants by Enfamil and Similac, include high-calorie cow’s milk-based ingredients. Premature infants may be more susceptible to necrotizing enterocolitis as a result of several factors (NEC).

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The gastrointestinal illness necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) typically affects preterm infants. It mainly affects preterm babies’ intestines. Bacteria infiltrate the intestinal wall. Local infection and inflammation result, which may ultimately burst through and damage the intestinal wall.

The end outcome might be widespread illness and death. “necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) affects 5-12 percent of extremely low birth weight babies, leads to surgery in 20-40 percent of cases, and is deadly in 25-50 percent of cases,” according to study published in Advances in Nutrition.

Necrotizing enterocolitis affects one out of every 2,000 to 4,000 babies, or 1% to 5% of neonatal critical care unit hospitalizations. It occurs in 5-10% of preterm infants but is uncommon in full-term babies. necrotizing enterocolitis diagnoses account for one to five percent of ICU hospitalizations, According to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. This illness usually strikes within the first two weeks of life when the baby has started receiving formula feeding.

Many ideas exist to explain why necrotizing enterocolitis mostly affects preterm babies. Prematurity and infant formula feeding, on the other hand, are consistently linked to necrotizing enterocolitis in research. By 36 weeks of pregnancy, the majority of preterm infants have developed lungs. There are exceptions to this since infants grow at various speeds.

Premature babies usually have undeveloped lungs and immature intestines when they are born. As a result, the lungs are unable to effectively oxygenate the blood. The intestines aren’t getting enough oxygen. As a result, the intestinal wall lining is damaged due to a lack of oxygen. Bacteria that would normally dwell within the gut infect and inflame the intestinal wall.

In the neonatal intensive care unit, many premature infants are fed infant formula (NICU). Doctors may recommend tube feeding in certain circumstances because they are unable to suck or swallow. The greater the risk of NEC, the more preterm the baby is and the lower the birth rate. NEC is thought to be caused by cow’s milk-based formula, according to several specialists.

Infants who are at a higher risk of developing the disease include:

  • Premature babies
  • Infants who are given infant formula instead of breast milk.
  • Infants in a nursery where there has been an epidemic. Despite all of the measures used to avoid the spread of infection, the illness may occasionally afflict numerous premature babies in the same nursery.
  • Infants who have been hospitalised or who have had blood transfusions


The actual cause of necrotizing enterocolitis is unknown. Human milk is known to include vital growth hormones, antibodies, and immunological cells, according to researchers. Because of the danger of NEC linked with the use of cow’s milk products, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement in 2012 stating that “all preterm babies should be given an exclusive human milk diet.” Human milk was also proven to minimise the incidence of NEC in preterm infants, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Breast milk has several advantages for babies , including promoting the development of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. It includes antibodies that support a baby’s immune system as well as anti- inflammatory proteins. However, the intestines of a preterm child may be underdeveloped, preventing the baby from digesting cow’s-milk proteins and other substances in baby formula.

Researchers investigated 926 premature babies in 1990, 51 of whom had necrotizing enterocolitis . They came to the conclusion that breast milk protects babies against NEC. They discovered that babies who were only given infant formula were considerably more likely to develop NEC than those who were provided breast milk.

The illness is uncommon in infantsborn beyond 30 weeks of pregnancy; nevertheless, NEC was 20 times more likely among babies who did not get breast milk. NEC was “6 to 10 times more prevalent in formula-fed babies than in those given breast milk alone, and necrotizing enterocolitis was 3 times more common in those fed formula and breast milk,” according to the research.

“Extremely preterm babies given human donor milk are less likely to develop the severe intestinal illness necrotizing enterocolitis than babies fed a normal premature baby formula produced from cow’s milk,” according to a study published in 2011.

A more recent research looked at 12 full trials with 1,871 infants. Based on the findings, they discovered that giving artificial infant formula to preterm babies resulted in quicker development but significantly increased the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis.

Although not all newborn intestinal disorders may be avoided, the use of bovine, or cow’s milk, is one such danger that significantly raises the chance of necrotizing enterocolitis . Babies weighing less than 2 pounds are at the highest danger. Cow’s milk is used in around 80% of infant formula and the majority of significant brands.

Premature infant formula are available from a number of major baby infant formula manufacturers. This includes infant formulas based on cow’s milk, such as Enfamil and Similac. Despite the data connecting infant formula to NEC in preterm infants, manufacturers do not give any kind of warning that their products may cause necrotizing enterocolitis . This is also true with high-calorie cow’s milk-based infant formulas created specifically for preterm babies and marketed.


The majority of necrotizing enterocolitis symptoms appear between days to weeks and vary from kid to child, while late- onset symptoms might appear several weeks after birth. Bloating or swelling of the abdomen is the most evident symptom.

Symptoms might appear gradually or unexpectedly, however the following are frequent signs and symptoms:

  • Vomiting, especially green vomit that contains bile
  • Diarrhea
  • Stools that are bloody or dark
  • Constipation and delayed gastric emptying
  • Feeding problems
  • An abdomen that is sore, red, or uncomfortable
  • Lessening of bowel noises (ileus)
  • Sleep apnea (pauses in breathing)
  • Lethargy
  • Heart rate slowed (bradycardia)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) (hypotension)
  • A body temperature that is low or fluctuates
  • Peripheral perfusion is reduced.
  • Erythema of the abdominal wall (advanced stages)
  • Collapse of the cardiovascular system (advanced stages)


The following tests may be performed:

  • X-ray of the abdomen
  • Stool for a blood test that isn’t visible
  • Blood testing for electrolytes, blood gases, and other blood tests


Necrotizing enterocolitis is a life-threatening condition. necrotizing enterocolitis may cause death in up to 40% of babies. Treatment that begins early and is vigorous may help improve the prognosis. The treatment strategy is determined on the severity of the NEC, the degree of preterm, and the baby’s general health. Medical, surgical, or a combination of both treatments may be used. Doctors would normally attempt medicinal therapies initially if the afflicted region is minor and the intestine is not ruptured.

The following are examples of medical treatment:

  • Putting an end to all regular feedings. An intravenous (IV) catheter delivers nutrition to the infant.
  • A nasogastric tube is inserted via the nose and into the stomach. The tube removes air and fluids from the baby’s stomach and intestine, reducing swelling and pain.
  • Antibiotic treatment has begun.
  • Examining stools for signs of blood.
  • Blood tests on a regular basis to check for symptoms of infection and chemical abnormalities.
  • Oxygen or assisted breathing if abdominal swelling requires it.
  • The doctor may prescribe platelet and red blood cell transfusions in certain cases.

Doctors may undertake surgery to remove the damaged portions if a kid does not respond to medicinal therapy or if the intestine is perforated. Only the damaged sections of the intestine are removed, leaving as much intestine as feasible for the infant to restore function. To remove the contaminated fluid, the surgeon may install a drain in the abdominal region.

In certain circumstances, the surgeon may make a temporary ostomy (a hole in the abdominal wall) to enable the bowel to heal. The surgeon may reattach the bowel after a few weeks or months.


Approximately half of all NEC babies who are identified and treated experience long-term health issues. Intestinal perforation, intestinal stricture (intestinal constriction), sepsis, peritonitis, liver difficulties due to the necessity for IV feeding, and short bowel syndrome in situations where the surgeon removed a considerable portion of the intestine are all possible complications.

Growth and developmental delays, difficulty absorbing nutrition, and problems with their livers and gallbladders are all long-term effects of necrotizing enterocolitis . If a newborn has surgery as a result of NEC, they may have long-term complications such as malnutrition, cerebral palsy, and brain and visual disorders.

Unfortunately, necrotizing enterocolitis is deadly in roughly 20-30% of preterm infants. Infants with NEC, on the other hand, frequently mend well with fast, appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Surgical therapy is not required for 60% to 80% of neonates with necrotizing enterocolitis. Many of them make a full recovery and go on to live regular lives.

If my kid gets NEC after ingesting cow milk-based formulas, who is responsible?

Most baby formula makers omit to mention the possible dangers or risks of premature newborn necrotizing enterocolitis on their packaging. Furthermore, it is unknown if hospitals, neonatologists, and paediatricians are aware of the possible dangers of cow’s milk-based formula.

You may be eligible to compensation if your preterm infant develops necrotizing enterocolitis as a result of a cow’s milk-based formula diet plan.


Your lawyer may go through your legal choices with you, such as:

1. A product liability claim against the formula’s creator. You may be able to sue firms who make and sell infant formula. Some of these goods were designed expressly for use by parents of preterm babies and came with no warnings about the risks.

2. A lawsuit for medical malpractice against the doctor(s) and/or the facility. Medical providers who offer these products to preemies instead of mother’s breast milk, donor human milk, or other non-milk- based cow’s formulas may be liable to you.


A lawsuit must be filed within a certain amount of time. The statute of limitations is the legal term for this. The amount of time it takes to complete a lawsuit is determined on the state and the kind of case. States may also have a statute of repose, which is a comparable but separate legislation. You will not be able to pursue financial recovery if you do not make a claim by the deadline.

The diagnosis of necrotizing enterocolitis may be terrifying for parents. They just want their child to grow up to be healthy and flourish. Premature babies are very small and delicate. It’s unfortunate that they have to go through the discomfort, medical therapy, and long-term effects of necrotizing enterocolitis . Parents should trust the people who give their baby’s meals to deliver safe and adequate formula and to tell them about any possible hazards.

If you feel your kid contracted necrotizing enterocolitis after receiving a cow’s-milk-based formula, you should contact an expert product liability attorney as quickly as possible to protect your legal rights. We are available 365/24/7 by phone.

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