When babies are born, an incredible joy surrounds families. As mothers begin to recover and feed their newborns, decisions are made about breastfeeding or formula feeding. Some mothers and babies experience difficulties breastfeeding through no fault of their own. Or, if a baby arrives before their expected due date, they may need specialized medical care in the hospital, with many receiving baby formula to ensure that the infants get everything they need to grow and thrive.
Baby formula is a perfectly adequate alternative to breastfeeding, and millions of babies each year are fed formula. There are many different types of baby formula, with FDA-approved options to suit parents’ preferences, and most types of formula are safe alternatives to breastfeeding.
However, research shows that premature babies, those born before 37 weeks, who are fed cow’s milk baby formula are at an increased risk of serious complications. Commonly these complications include a gastrointestinal disease called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is amongst the most dangerous intestinal problems and can be fatal if untreated or delayed treatment, especially in newborns fighting to survive.
Premature babies often struggle with low oxygen levels, low blood pressure and low blood circulation. NEC causes the small or large intestine to become inflamed. As cow’s milk-based formula is more difficult to digest, babies with inflamed bowels may find it more difficult to absorb nutrients through their intestines. Recognizing NEC early in infants and immediately beginning treatment is vital.
NEC Symptoms in Babies
NEC can be difficult to diagnose as many symptoms are close to other digestive issues that newborns may have. Typically, the symptoms begin within two weeks after birth. If your baby experiences any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
- Diarrhea, constipation and/or bloody stool
- Trouble feeding or food remaining in the stomach too long
- Green vomit or stomach fluid
- Swollen, red or tender belly
- Slow/unstable body temperature
- Lethargy and low heart rate/blood pressure
- Pauses in breathing (apnea)
Diagnosing and Treating NEC
Doctors diagnose NEC in babies in several ways. They may order blood tests and use abdominal X-rays to look for air bubbles in the intestines. Once a baby is diagnosed with NEC, treatment should begin immediately. An IV will be used to deliver nutrition instead of drinking and swallowing formula. The medical team may decide to insert a tube into the infant’s stomach to help keep the stomach empty. Antibiotics may also be used. Ideally, surgery will not be needed. But in serious cases, doctors may operate and remove diseased portions of the bowels. NEC can lead to serious and long-term complications.
Mounting Lawsuits Against Baby Formula Manufacturers
NEC lawsuits have been filed against baby formula manufacturers, including Abbott Laboratories, which makes Similac brand formula, and Mead Nutrition, which manufactures Enfamil. In the lawsuits, the plaintiffs allege that the manufacturers knew about the risks of NEC but promoted cow’s milk-based baby formula as a safe alternative. They claim a failure to warn, negligent misrepresentation, selling a defective product, wrongful death, and more.
With the number of NEC lawsuits increasing across the country, Abbott Laboratories and Mead Nutrition asked to consolidate the lawsuits into multidistrict litigation (MDL). The defendants and plaintiffs supported the motion to consolidate the lawsuits. MDL is a way to streamline similar court cases that could involve hundreds or thousands of plaintiffs.
The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) created and assigned NEC lawsuits into MDL No, 3026, which will be conducted in the Northern District of Illinois. As a judge with experience in multidistrict litigation, Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer has been assigned this case.
Legal Options for Parents of Infants with NEC
As parents, if you believe your baby may have developed NEC after consuming baby formula, know that you have legal options. Consider contacting a lawyer handling NEC cases to have your questions answered. Severe cases of NEC can cause lifelong complications. You can determine if seeking justice and compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering is possible by talking to a knowledgeable NEC lawyer. Call Childers, Schlueter & Smith at 1-800-641-0098 or contact us online to begin a free case review.
At Childers, Schlueter & Smith, our attorneys are dedicated to helping victims of personal injury and/or those who have lost a loved one to wrongful death determine their legal options. We are a distinguished law firm that is driven by years of experience and exceptional results. If you or someone you know has been injured due to another’s negligence, please contact our firm to discuss your legal options.