When baby formula becomes deadly: Necrotizing enterocolitis

Enfamil and Similac are household names. This cow’s milk-based baby formula has been used in millions of homes. Unfortunately, preterm (or “premature”) babies who ingest this formula are at risk of contracting necrotizing enterocolitis, and many have died.

preterm baby being bottle fed

What is necrotizing enterocolitis?

It is a disease that primarily affects the intestines, which become infected and cause inflammation. Ultimately this illness can destroy intestinal tissue and cause permanent damage.
Pediatrics Nationwide estimates that approximately 50% of premature infants who develop necrotizing enterocolitis (or NEC) will die from this disorder. Surviving babies may have devastating long-term effects from this disease, such as serious neurodevelopmental conditions, short bowel syndrome, and growth failure.

Why are pre-term babies suffering from necrotizing enterocolitis with baby formula?

Preterm babies do not yet produce the enzymes needed to break down cow’s milk in their system, hence making formulas such as Similac and Enfamil dangerous for consumption.

Multiple scientific studies have highlighted the risks associated with feeding cow’s milk-based formulas to premature infants. One study in 2014 found that premature infants had a 320% greater chance of developing NEC when they were on a cow’s milk diet versus premature infants who were fed breast milk.

Why are preterm babies being given cow’s milk-based formula, if it’s dangerous?

Simply put, many companies have failed to warn medical providers and hospitals of the life-threatening risks associated with their products. Products with improper labeling and warnings include Similac Special Care, Similac Neosure, Enfamil NeuroPro Enfacare, Enfacare Powder, among others.

baby with necrotizing enterocolitis

How do I know if my baby is suffering from necrotizing enterocolitis?

Symptoms include:

  • An inability to digest food
  • Stomach bloating or swelling (abdominal distention)
  • Stomach discoloration, usually bluish or reddish in color
  • Baby seems to experience pain when their abdomen is touched
  • Blood is present in the stool
  • A marked change in the volume or frequency of their stool
  • Diarrhea, with change in the color and consistency of the stool
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting a greenish-yellow liquid
  • Body temperature fluctuations
  • Episodes of low heart rate or apnea, which is a temporary stop in breathing

Complications from advanced necrotizing enterocolitis:

  • The blood pressure may drop, and the pulse may become weak.
  • Infants may develop fluid in the abdominal cavity or infection of the tissue lining the stomach (a condition called peritonitis), and they could go into shock.
  • The affected area of the intestine may also develop a hole or perforation in the wall requiring emergency surgery.
  • Pressure from the abdomen can cause a severe difficulty in breathing. In this case, the infant may need support from a breathing machine, or respirator.

What do I do next?

First and foremost, if you believe that your baby is suffering from NEC, seek medical attention immediately.

Major baby food manufacturers should be held accountable for improper labeling and a failure to warn hospitals, medical professionals, and parents of this dangerous and deadly condition. We are accepting cases for infants born prior to 36 weeks gestation who were fed the cow’s milk formulas (such as Similac or Enfamil) and were later diagnosed with NEC.

Allen & Allen offers free consultations, and our Necrotizing Enterocolitis attorneys look forward to reviewing the details of your unique situation. Call us today at 866-388-1307.