Preemies Given Donor Milk Had Lower Risk of NEC, Better Growth Rates, Than Those Given Infant Formula

As families pursue Similac lawsuits and Enfamil lawsuits over failure to disclose the NEC risk for premature infants, study finds those given formula were three times as likely to be sent to NICU for suspected cases of NEC, compared to donor milk

Amid growing concerns about the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) from Similac and Enfamil, the findings of a new study indicate it is better to feed premature infants breast milk from donors, rather than using cow’s milk infant formula, indicating that it lowers the risk of the deadly gastrointestinal condition and may provide better growth rates for preemies.

Researchers from McMaster University in Ontario report that their findings, published late last month in the medical journal Pediatrics and Child Health, appear to confirm previous research that breast milk is preferable for preterm or low birth weight infants, because it reduces the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).

Infants may develop NEC if the walls of underdeveloped intestines are invaded by bacteria, leading to destruction of the bowels. This often requires emergency surgery while the baby is still in the NICU, and can be fatal in many cases.

Although cow’s milk infant formula products like Similac and Enfamil have been aggressively marketed in recent years for use among premature infants, mounting research has found infant formula may increase the risk of a NEC diagnosis for preemies, and health experts widely recommend breast milk instead of formula whenever possible.

In this latest study, researchers looked at whether pasteurized donor human milk (PDHM) worked as an alternative to formula for preterm and low birth weight infants when their own mother’s breast milk was not available. They conducted a retrospective pre-post study which compared the medical records of 127 infants who received donor milk with 120 infants in a control group.

According to the findings, preterm and low birth weight infants given formula were three times as likely to be transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for suspected NEC than those given donor milk. Of those given formula, 8.9% were sent to NICU due to concerns over NEC, compared to only 3.1% of the breast milk group.

While there was no statistical difference in feeding intolerance rates, those given donor milk had a higher average daily weight gain but were more likely to receive additional calorie supplementation.

“The data from our community NICU support the current literature that infants who receive formula are at increased risk for transfer for suspected NEC compared to those who receive PDHM,” the researchers determined. “However, in our centre, there appears to be no difference in rates of feeding intolerance, and neonates fed fortified PDHM appeared to have better growth rates. Results from this study can be used to guide the allocation of health care resources, and can be applied to other community centres.”

The research appears to support similar findings of a study also published last month in the medical journal Nutrients, which found that breast milk was the “gold standard” for nutritional support during infancy, with antimicrobial and bioactive factors which helped prevent NEC.

Similac and Enfamil Lawsuits Over Failure to Disclose NEC Risks

Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson now face dozens of baby formula NEC lawsuits that have been brought by families nationwide, alleging that false and misleading information was provided to doctors, hospitals and consumers about the risks associated with the cow’s milk products, especially among premature babies.

The Similac lawsuits and Enfamil lawsuits allege that the manufacturers knew or should have known about the increased risk of NEC for premature infants, yet continued to market and distribute the products without adequate warnings. As recently as 2016, Abbott advertised some Similac formulas as being specifically for premature and low birth-weight infants, the lawsuits note, despite the known dangers.

The families also claim the use of these formulas has displaced breast milk that infants would have otherwise received, robbing them of a primary defense against NEC, since studies have shown breast milk can serve as a protective measure.

Was your premature baby diagnosed with NEC?

Risk of this devastating condition was not adequately disclosed by manufacturers of Similac and Enfamil, according to lawsuits now being pursued

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