Infants who receive greater than 50% of mother’s own milk (MOM) in the 2 weeks after birth have a significantly decreased risk of NEC.
May 17, 2021
World NEC Awareness Day is May 17th. NEC is a dangerous disease that primarily affects premature infants. Brown, Christie & Green seeks to inform parents, healthcare providers and the community at large about this disease.
NEC is the most common intestinal disease affecting premature infants. However, parents are often not advised about the risks of NEC from cow-based formula and fortifiers.
The Dangers of NEC
NEC is a disease that develops when inflammation builds up in the intestines causing damage to the intestinal walls and, eventually, tissue death (necrosis). Tissue death can cause perforations in the bowels, allowing waste to enter the abdominal cavity and bloodstream. This makes infants incredibly sick and can threaten their lives.
Infants with NEC often require surgery to remove dead tissue and repair the intestines. Many infants suffer complications like sepsis, peritonitis, bowel perforation, liver problems and short bowel syndrome.
Up to 50% of infants who develop NEC do not survive the illness. Those that do often suffer from long-term medical conditions including cerebral palsy and gastrointestinal complications.
Research Suggests Infant Formula as Cause of NEC
Part of bringing awareness to NEC is identifying possible causes of the disease and ensuring that families have access to this information so they can make the best, most informed decisions possible for their families.
To that end, the patient advocates at Brown, Christie & Green are investigating the link between cow’s milk-based formulas and NEC. There is extensive research that supports a link between feeding premature infants cow’s milk-based formulas instead of human milk in the first days and weeks of life and development of NEC.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all newborns be fed exclusively human breast milk for the first six months of life. The AAP policy statement says,
“Hospital routines to encourage and support the initiation and sustaining of exclusive breastfeeding should be based on the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed WHO/UNICEF “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.”
One study published in Seminars of Perinatology says that,
“Infants who receive greater than 50% of mother’s own milk (MOM) in the 2 weeks after birth have a significantly decreased risk of NEC.”
If MOM is unavailable, research supports that human donor milk fed to premature infants can also reduce the risk of NEC. A systematic review of literature on the topic shows that,
“donor human milk is associated with a lower risk of NEC than bovine-based formula.”
As research continues, law firms and patient advocate groups will continue to support families and provide as much information as possible about risks like NEC. If you have questions about NEC, contact Brown, Christie & Green to learn more.
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