Every family or parent wants to have healthy babies to have a quality life. Sadly, for some parents the wish does not come true, especially when they have a preterm newborn. These parents are forced to opt for baby formula to feed the preemies because of its nutritional value which makes it a supper substitute for breast milk. Nonetheless, many families are suing baby formula makers for the severe gastrointestinal system condition the product is causing. Luckily, you can opt for legal redress for the harm to your family. This blog provides the information you need to understand your case and decide the right channel to file a lawsuit.

Problems With NEC Infant Formula

Millions of infants are born nationwide annually. Most of these families are lucky because they undergo labor and delivery without any complications or need of medical intervention. Sadly, other families do not deliver healthy babies. According to statistics, 10% of all babies born annually, representing 380,000 babies, arrive before 37 weeks. These babies often need medical intervention because they are susceptible to medical complications like breathing issues, gastrointestinal problems, and brain hemorrhages.

One common medical condition caused by preterm arrival is Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC). The condition results from a bacterial infection in the gastrointestinal system causing large and small intestine inflammation in infants born prematurely. The illness affects one out of every one thousand premature newborns, with half of those who develop the disease dying. Preterm babies feeding on formula milk instead of breastfeeding are at a considerable risk of developing the condition.

When babies arrive prematurely, they go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where medical experts administer formula milk days following delivery. Baby formulas are milk substitutes that contain vital and extra nutrition and vitamins. When it comes to full-gestation babies, baby formula has proved to be health-friendly because it does not cause serious health problems. However, for premature arrivals, the formula has proved to increase the dangers of NEC development, primarily among preterm infants

According to the American Association of Pediatrics, parents should exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months of their life because of the health benefits linked with a mother’s breast milk. When mothers cannot breastfeed for reasons best known to them, they rely on baby formulas as an alternative to breast milk because it is usually safe. Nonetheless, formula milk increases the risk of NEC conditions for preterm arrivals. A study conducted on premature infants fed baby formula only proved 138% more likely to cause NEC illness.

Also, recent scientific research found that premature infants fed formula milk are twice at risk of suffering from NEC than those consuming breast milk from donors. The two leading brands of formula milk are Similac and Enfamil, manufactured by Mead Johnson and Abbott Laboratories. Parents whose preterm babies consumed Similac or Enfamil and developed NEC are now suing the formula makers for negligence. In their lawsuits, the parents claim that the manufacturers were aware that exclusive feeding of baby formula to preemie babies increased the risk of NEC but failed to warn families and medical facilities, denying them a choice.

Definition of NEC In Infants

Necrotizing enterocolitis inflames the colon’s tissue, killing it and creating a hole in the intestinal wall. The disease primarily affects preterm infants or those weighing at most three pounds because their gastrointestinal system is yet to grow, plus the weak immune system that makes it challenging to fight bacteria causing infections. Also, poor blood and oxygen flow in the body increases the danger of developing NEC.

Nevertheless, when a preterm arrival is born with an underdeveloped gastrointestinal system, breastmilk consumption either from the mother or donor improves immunity and is easier to break down during digestion. Unfortunately, the case is not the same for baby formula made from cow’s milk because it is difficult to digest, age notwithstanding.  

Doctors theorize that insufficient oxygen and blood at birth increases the risk of NEC diagnosis. Further, low oxygen levels cause a decrease in blood circulation in various body parts, causing inflammation of the intestines. Also, if your baby’s intestines have an existing infection, necrotizing enterocolitis is likely to develop.

How do you know your baby has developed NEC? The signs indicate your child has this condition include stomach bloating, vomiting, and bloody stool. Typically, the signs begin to show two weeks after birth. Additionally, when the bacteria infection on the small and large intestines is severe, the infant can have breathing complications and a low pulse. Other common signs of NEC in infants are fatigue, low blood pressure, and diarrhea.

NEC is dangerous and life-threatening even when an infant experiences mild symptoms. Therefore, there is a need to ensure an infant receives treatment on time because failure to obtain prompt treatment results in a fatal blood infection known as Sepsis, which eventually results in death.

Once you have observed the above symptoms on your infant, you should go for medical intervention immediately for early diagnosis and treatment. After the examination, the doctor will order a blood test conducted for diagnosis. Besides, air bubbles in the intestines are an indication of NEC. Therefore, the doctor will recommend an abdominal x-ray to confirm if these bubbles are present in the intestines. If the x-ray spots the air bubbles, they will commence NEC treatment immediately. The first treatment involves stopping all forms of oral feeding. The nutrition obtained through oral feeding will be replaced by intravenous nutrient administration using the IV. Besides, the medical experts could insert a tube in the infant’s stomach to keep it empty and aggressively use antibiotics to fight the infection.

Note that when a timely diagnosis for NEC does not occur, it will take time to stop the infection, leaving dead tissues in intestinal tissues. If this is the case, surgery will be necessary to remove the dead tissue and repair the holes in the intestinal walls. However, when a large portion of the tissue is finished, the surgery will entirely remove the intestines. The operation will change your quality of life completely, not to mention the post-surgery complications. Sadly, several infants undergo more surgical procedures in the future because of the illness, further affecting life quality.

Best Baby Formulas for Preterm Infant

As you have seen from above, not every formula out there is suitable for your infant. The best way to pick the best baby formula is to check those brands approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before the sale. The neonatal population is vulnerable, and the best way the FDA ensures babies consume standard formula with the proper nutrition is through strict regulations.  Very few companies produce all the baby formulas nationwide. The infants' formula brands made in the country are classified into two; those whose consumption is supervised by a medical professional and the over-the-counter ones for the premature babies discharged from the hospital.

Preterm children placed in the neonatal intensive care unit primarily feed on Similac Special Care and Enfamil Premature Formulas. However, after discharge from the hospital, they can consume other preemie infant formulas. Some products from these manufacturers have been named in the lawsuit filed. Enfamil NeuroPro EnfaCare Infant Formula, Enfamil Human Milk Fortifier, and Enfacare Power are some of the Enfamil brands that have been named in the suit. Similac’s formula brands are Similac Neosure, Similac Human Milk Fortifier, and Similac Special Care.

Parents are customarily besieged with free samples of baby formulas and gifts from manufacturers immediately after delivery. All formula makers claim to have the best products with a nutritional value equivalent to breastmilk. Again, hospitals do the same when discharging parents with preterm births or underweight infants. They issue parents with infant sample formulas and brochures describing the product from these companies. Happy that their babies will obtain the extra nutrients they need to grow and develop, parents go and purchase the formula brands based on their needs, unfamiliar with the health repercussions the product can have on their infants. Many parents are new to NEC, its source, and its effects on a baby’s health. So, when you are one of the parents whose babies have developed NEC due to formula consumption, you should file a claim seeking compensation from the manufacturers for failing to warn during their marketing on the effects of the formulas on the infant when used exclusively.

NEC Lawsuits Against Infant Formula Manufacturers

After exclusively feeding on Similac and Enfamil formulas, families and infants who have developed NEC are filing product liability suits against the companies Similac and Enfamil for negligence stemming from their failure to warn the public. One of these product liability suits against the manufacturers of the products was filed in Illinois during this year’s summer. The plaintiffs, including families who have lost their babies to the disease, claim that the makers of the formulas had a duty to the public to inform them of the product’s risk of causing NEC but willingly breached the duty by continuing to market it as safe and an appropriate substitute for breastmilk. Additionally, the product liability claims allege that the product’s safety warning signs are unclear. Still, the company forged ahead to promote its product as a superior alternative for breastmilk.

The Illinois lawsuit is just a drop in the ocean because multiple suits are being filed against Abbott and Mead nationwide. These companies have found themselves on the receiving end by victims of NEC illness linked with baby formula. The plaintiffs are suing the companies because of refusing to adequately warn of the product’s health risks, negligent misrepresentation of facts, selling a faulty product, wrongful death, and many more. Many plaintiffs complain of injuries or death caused by a product from a common manufacturer. So, there is a possibility the cases can be combined into multidistrict litigation to be handled by a single judge. Also, several plaintiffs are suing separately, and these cases are being consolidated to form an MDL class action.  

Also, recent scientific research demonstrates that premature infants obtain more health benefits from breastmilk as opposed to milk-based formulas made from cow milk. The study compares two infants, one fed exclusively on infant formulas and another on human milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics researchers found from the survey that a baby who consumed breastmilk had a higher score for motor, mental and social skills than the one that fed exclusively on formulas. However, not all preterm infants can enjoy breast milk benefits because their mothers cannot produce milk due to the premature arrival and lack of access to donor milk. Under these circumstances, a parent is forced to forego their infant's benefits from breastmilk and instead use formulas.

Sadly, baby formulas like Similac Preemie and Enfamil preemie baby formulas are advertised by their makers as healthy and safe for consumption. No wonder many families and medical facilities nationwide go for them as substitutes for human milk. It happens because many do not know whether other formulas are health-friendly out there. The good news is that a human-milk infant formula is available, derived from donor breast milk. One manufacturer of the human-milk infant formulas is Prolacta. However, you are less likely to find their product in hospitals than Similac and Enfamil, who are the household names for formula brands.  

Studies demonstrate a direct link or connection between premature infants who exclusively fed on cow-milk-based baby formulas and NEC. So, when you provided your preemie with the formula days after arrival and subsequently developed NEC, you should reach out to a product liability attorney to review your case and decide on the proper legal course of action. Recall, the disease could be mild or severe. An infant will not require an operation to remove dead intestine tissue because the infection does minimal damage if the condition is benign. Even in these cases where the preemie does not require surgery, a preterm infant can suffer long-term effects, not to mention massive medical bills.  Even when the actions by the makers of the formula were not malicious, if they were aware of the connection between formula and NEC, you could sue them and obtain a favorable ruling.

The first meeting with your attorney enables you to discuss your case and raise any queries you will have regarding the lawsuit. Luckily, attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation, and when it comes to payment, they are paid on a lien or contingent basis. You will only pay them a percentage of the total compensation after winning the case. It is worth noting that the attorney takes more time reviewing the minor's medical records to determine if the evidence is strong enough to win compensation. Usually, the damages they will be pursuing include doctor’s bills, lost income, and pain and anguish. With new NEC lawsuits being filed around the country, it has become apparent how the makers of the formulas knew its potential risks but still chose to market it as safe. 

Find An Experienced Product Liability Legal Team Near Me

It can be extremely stressful to learn that your preemie’s NEC condition was caused by defective production of baby formula. Ideally, these formulas should be made and packaged to ensure the infants obtain the extra nutritional benefits to grow. So, it is okay to sue if your baby develops the condition after feeding exclusively on formula milk. With the assistance of Consumer Alert Now, you will receive the expertise and legal guidance you need to obtain compensation. call us today at 800-511-0747 to evaluate your case.