Mom Alert! Similac/Enfamil Linked to Life-Threatening NEC

By October 21, 2021News

Being a mom is hard. Being a mom of a premature baby is even harder. And if your newly born infant is in the NICU, then there is nothing in the world you wouldn’t do to protect your baby and make sure he or she gets home safely.

That’s why we are alerting you today about serious health issues related to popular formulas promoted for use with preterm, low birth weight infants.

The issue is that formulas made from cow’s milk are just not safe for our preemies who have immature gastrointestinal tracts and immune systems. 

Household names Similac® and Enfamil® are surfacing in headlines since an Alabama newspaper, The Madison Record (June 4), reported parents of preemie infants fed with Similac® and Enfamil® cow’s milk formulas alleged the formulas caused their babies to die of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

NEC what?

· neh·kruh·tai·zuhng en·tr·ow·kuh·lai·tuhs · It goes like this: Certain cow’s milk-based formulas, including Similac® and Enfamil®, are believed to slow passage through immature intestines.The intestine is unable to hold more waste. Gastric acid sits curdling in the newborn’s stomach, creating inflammation and causing bacteria to build up. If not treated quickly, the bacteria build up can kills and/or perforates (creates a hole) in the intestinal and colon tissue, leaking bacteria and bile into the abdomen that rots tissue and leaches into the bloodstream (sepsis). This is NEC.

NIH reveals that NEC, in cases involving preterm, LBW infants, leads to surgery in 20–40% of cases and fatality in 25–50%. The exact cause is uncertain, but distinct correlations offer clues: 1.) NEC mostly attacks preterm LBW; 2.) cases often occur in “clusters,” affecting several infants in the same hospital nursery; 3.) a surprising incidence of NEC has recently been linked to Similac® and Enfamil® cow’s milk-based formulas.

Who’s responsible for this?

Similac®, manufactured by Abbott Labs (1885) and Enfamil®, manufactured by Mead Johnson Nutritionals, or MJN, (1905) are cow’s milk-based formulas for premature, LBW infants that have been linked to NEC.

Many hospitals and NICUs use these products to supplement infant feedings, either in place of or along with breastfeeding. They can also be purchased for at-home use.  But it isn’t your doctor’s fault, and it isn’t yours either.

And why are we just now hearing about this?

Because documents suggest that Abbott and MJN flat out lied. They lied to you, to medical professionals, and to hospitals. That’s why the doctor’s and nurse’s in the NICU did not warn parents about these risks, they were not warned either.

Preliminary internal research by both companies linked their cow’s milk formulas to NEC before both launched their modern product lines in 1959. Never mind, they were/are still promoted as safe and gentle, and at times even suggested as being superior to breast milk. Together the two companies claim 80% of US sales in the infant nutrition industry, approaching a staggering $40 billion. 

Consumers expect the FDA to regulate these products, but because baby formula is regulated as a food rather than a drug, manufacturers do not need FDA approval to go to market. But the first study linking formula and NEC was published over 30 years ago, back in 1990. And in a 2011 report, the US Surgeon General acknowledged the association between formula and NEC for our vulnerable preemies. Instead of warning the public, the manufacturers decided to hide this information, leaving it to third-party competitors or consumers to blow the whistle. Similac® and Enfamil® slipped through the cracks for 60 years, perhaps because together they monopolize and mutually protect. 

And yet there are safe alternatives: donor breast milk is available when the mother cannot pump and Prolacta, a formula not based on cow’s milk, has been available for years.

If your premature infant was fed formula, suffered abdominal injuries, and developed NEC, please contact us right away.  Symptoms of NEC include: 

  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Diarrhea with bloody stool
  • Green or yellow vomit
  • Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Changes in body temperature and breathing
  • Refusing to eat 
  • Lack of weight gain
  • Lethargy

Even after surgical intervention, a NEC diagnosis can lead to other serious issues including:

  • Perforations (holes) in the baby’s intestines or bowel
  • Intestinal scarring
  • Intestinal strictures (narrowed passageways)
  • Short-bowel syndrome
  • Trouble absorbing nutrients and calories from food
  • Sepsis (a severe infection)
  • Death

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