I’ve always joked that the only guarantee with parenting is that there’s always someone stepping up to tell you you’re doing it wrong. This isn’t an argument for or against breastfeeding or using formula. Consider it more of an exercise in caution. Everyone wants an opinion on how you should raise your kids, from what kind of diapers you should use to how often you should bathe them. This is definitely the case when it comes to how you should or shouldn’t feed them.
Mothers know that the way we choose to nurture our babies is a choice for us to make, not the court of public opinion. When it comes to premature little bundles of joy, we also know that it’s important to exercise an abundance of caution and it’s our job to make sure that however we choose to nurture them, we’re doing so armed with knowledge.
What is it
Necrotizing Enterocolitis, or NEC, is a disease that causes intestinal inflammation. There is no exact cause but instances are higher in babies born prematurely. Health scientists believe that bacteria in the gut can lead to it and that babies born preterm are more susceptible because their immune systems aren’t quite developed yet.
Some of the most common symptoms include bloated tummy, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, or feeding problems. If you notice your baby exhibiting one or more than one of these symptoms, do not panic. Some of these are common and can be ruled out as gas or sour stomach.
However, if they continue for more than a day or are observed frequently, you might want to dig a little deeper. Doctors can diagnose NEC by performing an ultrasound to check for inflammation in the intestines. They can also do a series of blood tests or urine and stool samples to check for bacteria.
- Risk Factors
Even though experts haven’t yet pinpointed an exact cause, some factors can increase the risk of infection
- Exposure to an outbreak
- Premature birth
- Blood transfusion
- Baby formula
While almost every risk factor mentioned is unavoidable in most circumstances, the one we can definitely control is using baby formula. If you find yourself in a position where you need or choose to use formula fully, or even as a supplement, please make sure you’re choosing one that is healthy for your little one.
Links between formula and NEC
As mentioned above, knowledge is power and you don’t know what you don’t know. When it comes to what you put in your child’s body, the more you know, the less likely you are to inadvertently harm them.
More and more studies are showing a link between NEC and the use of cow’s milk-based formulas in premature babies. This isn’t to say you can’t use formulas at all, but take care in using one that is specifically designed with your preemie’s health in mind.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that human breast milk is the safest option for babies born prematurely, but in the event that you can’t express it on your own or get it from a human milk donor, both Similac and Enfamil have products that use human milk fortifiers.
Take extra caution in reading the labels because these two formula giants are also the target of messy lawsuits involving infants that contracted NEC as a result of using formula.
The good news is that Necrotizing Enterocolitis is highly treatable and the survival rate is rather high if it’s caught early. Your pediatrician will recommend resting the intestines and nourishment will be administered intravenously. Depending on the severity, a round of antibiotics might be enough. In more severe cases, your baby may need to undergo surgery to remove the damaged portion of the intestine
Should your infant end up being diagnosed, you may be able to seek recourse. An injury attorney who specializes in these cases, such as Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, may be able to help you receive compensation for damages.
Most babies recover fully from NEC, but for more severe instances, and especially for premature babies who’ve had a section of the bowel or intestine removed, the damage can linger. One of the most common long-term side effects is malabsorption, in which the damaged area around the removal site simply doesn’t absorb nutrients. Infants can also experience blockages down the road that will need to be addressed.
Again, none of this is meant to scare you. Motherhood is scary enough. But it’s important to be armed with information when it comes to your baby’s health. No matter what method you choose, there will always be things to consider and we know your baby’s safety is of utmost concern. Hang in there, momma.