Bottle Feeding Premature Babies Are at Risk for NEC

Home » Bottle Feeding Premature Babies Are at Risk for NEC
April 10, 2023
Edward Smith

Link Between Baby Formula and NEC

Cow’s milk and certain baby formula brands, including Similac and Enfamil, have been linked to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature infants. Parents with premature infants have seen their children develop this life-threatening illness nationwide.

Lawsuits rise nationally as parents fight against this negligence by leading baby formula manufacturers. The bottom line is that the manufacturers were aware of the link to NEC and failed to warn parents. If this happens to your child, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the maker of the baby formula.

What Is Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) affects mostly premature infants, developing within two to six weeks after delivery. It is an inflammatory gastrointestinal condition that results in the death of intestinal tissue.

This can cause the intestine to perforate, leaving a hole through which bacteria can enter the abdominal cavity. A full-term baby who develops NEC may have a congenital disability.

What Statistics Exist for NEC in the United States?

A baby born before 37 weeks gestation occurred in one out of every 10 births in 2020 in the United States. Of this number, roughly 1.8 percent developed necrotizing enterocolitis, and NEC is a leading cause of death in preemies.

What Are the Types of Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

There are several types of NEC:

  • Transfusion-related: Thirty-three percent of premature babies who require a transfusion often develop NEC within three days.
  • Infants born before 28 weeks of gestation are most likely to suffer from this condition. Usually, it appears suddenly two to six weeks post-delivery.
  • Term infants: NEC mostly appears in infants with congenital disabilities like heart defects.
  • Neonatal units: On occasion, NEC outbreaks happen in neonatal units. Some bacteria that cause the outbreak include E. Coli.
  • Infant formula: Some parents, scientists, and doctors believe infant formula is involved in developing necrotizing enterocolitis. Several lawsuits are actively being pursued in the courts.

What Are the Causes of NEC?

Doctors are unsure why some babies develop NEC, and others do not. What is known is that immune system development may have a great deal to do with a premature infant developing NEC. With weaker digestive and immune systems, a premature infant has difficulty fighting off any type of infection.

In addition, a premature infant may have to get by with less oxygen-carrying blood in the intestines. The lack of oxygen can cause intestinal tissue damage, making it a good place for bacterial migration to the abdominal cavity or the bloodstream. Since 10 percent of all premature infants develop NEC, the problem is apparent.

Cow’s milk has been implicated in NEC development in premature infants. This is because cow’s milk provides a nidus leading to septic, bacterial overgrowth in the infant’s stomach. The bacteria continue to multiply and can perforate the intestine.

What Are the Complications of NEC?

Some of the complications seen with necrotizing enterocolitis are:

  • Strictures in the intestines: Areas of the intestine can be narrowed by NEC, making it hard for food to pass. This occurs in 33 percent of afflicted infants and may require surgery to correct.
  • Peritonitis develops: Peritonitis can develop after bacteria leak into the abdominal cavity due to a perforation in the NEC-affected intestine. This leads to sepsis or an overwhelming infection, which may be life-threatening and require surgical and medical intervention.
  • Developmental delays: Necrotizing enterocolitis may cause problems with the growth and neurological development of the baby.
  • Short-gut disorder makes it hard for the baby to absorb nutrients and fluids. This problem makes it necessary for continuing care to ensure the child receives the nutrition they need. They may also require tube feedings in some cases.

How Do You Know If Your Infant Is Suffering From Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Symptoms commonly seen in NEC are:

  • Episodes of diarrhea and blood in the stool
  • Abdominal swelling and pain
  • Vomit that is yellow or green
  • Blood pressure changes
  • Low heart rate
  • Breathing issues
  • Body temperature decrease
  • Problems eating and putting on weight
  • Fatigue

What Is the Relationship Between NEC and Baby Formula?

Multiple studies show that premature babies given these baby formulas have a much higher risk of developing NEC than those fed breast milk. The risk can be lowered if the babies are fed both baby formula and breast milk.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Surgeon General warned about feeding premature infants Similac. They did this because the bovine-based formula increased the risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis.

Was Similac Recalled?

Despite the risk of developing NEC, Similac and other types of baby formulas in the United States are still sold. The Food and Drug Administration had yet to recall the products in 2022. This puts parents in a difficult situation. Thus, some premature babies are still fed these milk-based products due to insufficient information.

Lawsuits Against Abbott Are Mounting

The number of lawsuits against Abbott is increasing. It is reasonably confident that the lawsuits will join together as multi-district litigation (MDL) used to hasten the handling of complex cases. These are not class-action lawsuits since the issues are separate from one another.

The lawsuits focus on the following:

  • Failure to warn
  • False representation
  • Deceitful, fraudulent representation
  • Warranty breach
  • Wrongful death
  • Product liability
  • NICU contamination

Does Enfamil Sell a Lot of Baby Formula?

Enfamil, made by Mead Johnson, and Similac have roughly the same market share. Like Abbot, Mead Johnson was aware of the link between using bovine-based baby formula and NEC for years but did nothing to warn parents of the problem. The fundamental question here is why the manufacturers did not provide a warning on their product. The easy answer is that their market presence would be affected, causing them to lose revenue.

Are Doctors to Blame?

They are not entirely blameless. Over the years, malpractice lawsuits were filed, and physicians claimed they were not told about the link between NEC and baby formula. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of a manufacturer to warn consumers of a problem with their product, most certainly one that can kill an infant.

Product Liability Lawsuits

Manufacturers are obligated to ensure their product is safe. When they shirk that responsibility, an injured party or the parents of an infant have the right to file a product liability lawsuit.

In California, where strict liability applies, the defendant’s negligence need not be proven. Instead, the plaintiff must show that the product was used as intended and caused harm to the user.

The manufacturing process and the design of the product can be faulty. Also, manufacturers must warn users of any potentially dangerous outcome linked to the product’s use. If this is not done, the injured party can sue the manufacturer for liability. Your injury lawyer will be able to guide you through this process.

Please watch the following video in which attorney Ed Smith explains how to choose a personal injury lawyer:

Sacramento Products Liability Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento products liability lawyer. When you or a family member is injured by a faulty product or a failure to warn, you need the understanding an attorney can provide. Call us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. You can also reach out to us online.

Whether it’s a product liability lawsuit or a car accident, the staff and attorneys at treat your loss as they would their own. As our investigators and lawyers work to build a robust lawsuit, nothing is ever left to chance.

Get to know us in a free case review, and we will learn about your claim and answer all your questions. You are never charged a fee until you win. We will not stop until you receive the compensation, respect, and justice you deserve.

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