Babies born prematurely or with birth defects are at increased risk for a potentially life-threatening infection of the intestines called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is a fast-acting bacterial infection that inflames the intestinal tissue in babies and causes the intestinal tissue to die. NEC can be mild to fatal, and if caught early enough, the infection can be treated with antibiotics. Babies at highest risk for NEC are those babies born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or babies born with a birth defect (like a congenital heart condition, gastroschisis, or low oxygen levels at birth).
Research over the past several decades has shown that vulnerable babies fed with cow-milk-based baby formulas are at a substantially higher risk for NEC than babies fed with human breastmilk. As early as 1990, a study determined that premature babies are 6-10 times more likely to develop NEC when exclusively formula fed as compared to exclusively breastmilk fed babies. A study in 2010, found that when premature babies had an exclusive breastmilk diet, those babies were 90% less likely to develop NEC. Indeed, in 2021, the America Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement that premature infants should be exclusively fed human breastmilk because of the risk of NEC.
Despite the known risks for cow-milk based formula for at-risk infants, large manufacturers of formulas have continued to market cow-milk based products to premature and other vulnerable babies. Our office is investigating these cases. If you or someone you know has a baby who developed NEC because of the introduction of cow-milk-based formula, like Similac or Enfamil, call our office to discuss your potential claim.