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Baby Formula and Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)

Our attorneys can help you file an NEC lawsuit

In the United States, nearly 1 in 10 babies is born preterm – that’s over 350,000 premature babies every year. Premature babies (often called “preemies”) need to drink special, high-calorie formula to help them gain weight and finish their development in the hospital or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Unfortunately, some of these products designed for the most vulnerable among us have hidden risks associated with a deadly disease.

Several lawsuits have already been filed by parents whose premature babies suffered or died due to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a deadly disease that affects the wall of the intestine. Our law firm is actively reviewing cases involving NEC and cow’s milk-based formula. If your baby was diagnosed with NEC, contact Dean Waite & Associates for a free consultation.

What is necrotizing enterocolitis?

Necrotizing enterocolitis is a digestive disease, most common in newborns, caused by bacteria that enter the lining of the intestines. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of NEC are internal and not easy to spot. Some of the visible signs and symptoms include:

  • Swelling, tenderness, or redness in the stomach area
  • Rapid or unusual body temperature changes
  • Abdominal pain or pressure
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Green vomit
  • Abnormal breathing (apnea)
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)

Most cases of NEC are in neonates (newborns) born before 32 weeks gestation. The disease can also appear in full-term babies who are underweight or have certain medical conditions like heart defects. Usually, NEC develops within the first two to four weeks of life.

NEC is a potentially life-threatening disease. Moreover, some babies who survive will have to contend with the long-term effects of necrotizing enterocolitis, such as lifelong digestive health problems.

Which baby formula products are linked to NEC?

Medical research has linked certain infant formulas such as Similac and Enfamil to NEC. These products are made mostly from cow’s milk, with various added ingredients to match the nutrients found in human breast milk. What exactly what causes NEC is not well understood, it’s believed that cow’s milk formulas can cause bacterial septic overload in the stomach.

Some of the products linked to NEC include:

  • Similac Special Care 20
  • Similac NeoSure
  • Similac Special Care 24
  • Similac Special Care 30
  • Similac Special Care 24 - High Protein
  • Similac Liquid Protein Fortifier
  • Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier
  • Enfamil NeuroPro EnfaCare
  • Enfamil 24 Cal

Overall, 90 percent of infants who develop NEC were fed cow’s milk-based formula. Studies have also shown that the incidence of NEC is six to 10 times higher in infants who were exclusively fed cow’s milk-based products than those who were exclusively fed human milk. Because of the risk of NEC, pediatricians have long recommended that breast milk is the best path for premature babies.

Nevertheless, manufacturers have continued to produce and sell cow’s milk-based products and put newborns at risk. A 2021 study in the British Medical Journal even suggested that manufacturers have sponsored biased trials with little transparency, perhaps intending to downplay the risks NEC. Manufacturers have also failed to provide any meaningful warning of these risks – which opens them to legal liability for illness and death.

What should I do if my child has been diagnosed with NEC?

Again, NEC is a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition. NEC treatment includes an immediate stop to feedings and a course of antibiotics to kill the infection. Babies with NEC may need a nasogastric (NG) tube to keep the stomach empty and intravenous (IV) fluids to replace the missing nutrients when feedings are stopped. Treatment may also include assisted breathing, isolation procedures, diagnostic tests to monitor the progress of the disease, and even surgery to remove part of the intestine or bowel.

Treating NEC can be a long process. NEC survivors often need more than 90 days of medical treatment in the NICU, and sometimes more than six months.

You also need to take steps to protect your child’s legal rights. If your baby has been diagnosed or you lost a child to this disease, we would be honored to listen to your story and explain your legal options. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced baby formula lawyer.