Baby Safety Month Tip - Research the Risks of Your Infant Formula
September is Baby Safety Month, championed by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA). This month aims to help educate parents and caregivers on the safe selection and use of children's products while encouraging those around us to become safety ambassadors. As a family-focused law firm, we are committed to doing everything possible to keep your family safe, especially our youngest family members. To help you review and reinforce the best practices to keep your little one safe, Meyers & Flowers has been posting baby safety tips throughout September. This week’s Baby Safety Month tip:
Research the Risks of Your Infant Formula
When your child is born prematurely each day is a milestone and it can be upsetting to see your baby have a setback when they seem to be doing well. Premature babies may have trouble nursing or need additional nutrients to catch up on growth and development. This is when parents may turn to formula feeding from major infant formula brands like Similac and Enfamil which market their products as a nutritionally complete human milk alternative to help your baby gain weight. These manufacturing giants have created high-calorie cow’s milk-based products designed specifically for premature babies.
However, studies and scientific research have shown the risk of premature infants developing Necrotizing Enterocolitis is substantially heightened when fed cow’s milk-based formulas, such as Similac and Enfamil. Manufacturers have failed to properly warn physicians, medical providers, and parents that their product could significantly increase the risk of NEC and death among premature infants. This is why it is important for parents to weigh all of the risks associated with formula feeding before trusting a product.
What is Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC)?
Unfortunately, nearly all families impacted by NEC have one thing in common: they had never heard of the disease and the risk it posed to their baby until they received the diagnosis. NEC is a life-threatening gastrointestinal disorder that causes a severe inflammatory process that can lead to intestinal necrosis, multi-system organ failure, and death. The multifactorial disease mainly affects babies born prematurely and develops within the first two to four weeks of life showing symptoms, including:
- Diarrhea with bloody stool
- Abdominal pain, swelling of distension
- Refusing to eat and lack of weight gain
- A swollen, red, or tender belly
- Changes in heart rate, blood pressure, or body temperature
How is Necrotizing Enterocolitis Diagnosed and Treated?
After symptoms arise, NEC can be confirmed by a doctor through a blood test checking for signs of infection or an abdominal x-ray to identify abnormal gas patterns associated with the condition as well as a fecal occult blood test. Depending on the severity of the condition, antibiotic treatment or alternative feeding may be sufficient, but if there is severe intestinal damage or inflammation of the abdominal wall surgery may be required.
In serious cases, the child may be at risk of bowel perforation – a serious medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention, including surgery, and has a high mortality rate. Once diagnosed, many babies only live for a few hours or days and survivors can have lifelong complications. Necrotizing Enterocolitis is the most common cause of death in hospitalized premature infants after two weeks of age.
How is Cow-Milk Based Formula and Necrotizing Enterocolitis Linked?
Breast milk is often called the “perfect food” for a baby’s digestion system as breast milk’s components – lactose, protein, and fat – are easily digestible for newborns, but especially for medically fragile babies. Premature babies have immature gastrointestinal tracts, causing difficulties with digestion, so they need food that is easy for their developing gut to break down.
When preemies are fed cow’s milk-based proteins, the food is difficult for the baby’s fragile gut to fully digest as infant bodies are not designed to process bovine protein. As a result, bacteria can develop and invade the large or small intestine leading to the lining of the intestines becoming inflamed or infected.
Studies as far back as 1990, show that NEC is more common in babies who received cow’s milk or bovine fortifiers. Some of the earliest research that studied 926 preterm infants found that exclusively formula-fed babies were six to ten times more likely to develop NEC than those fed breast milk alone. Another study conducted in 2017, concluded that premature infants who received a human milk-based diet had a significantly lower incidence of NEC and mortality.
Which Formulas are Cow’s Milk-Based?
Almost every major brand offers a bovine-based formula. Although, the attorneys at Meyers & Flowers are looking to file claims against Chicago headquartered Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson & Company. The infant formula giants produce and distribute products under the brand names: Enfamil and Similac.
How Meyers & Flowers is Helping
Meyers & Flowers is currently investigating potential baby formula lawsuits on behalf of parents whose babies have suffered serious injuries or death from Necrotizing Enterocolitis after being fed cow’s milk-based formula. With more than two decades protecting the rights of individuals from all walks of life, our team of product liability attorneys is prepared to advocate for your baby and family. Your family may be entitled to compensation to cover medical bills and other damages related to this preventable tragedy.
If you believe your baby suffered necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) resulting in serious harm after being fed cow’s milk-based formula, please contact us today to explore your legal options.