Cow-Based Milk Baby Formula Could Potentially Lead to a Fatal Intestinal Infection in Premature Newborns.

In 2020, one in ten babies were born prematurely. With 3.6 million births that year, that accounts for around 360,000 premature births. Many parents and medical professionals often recommend formula to support premature infants’ underdeveloped bodies and raise their initial birth weight. However, recent evidence suggests that some types of formula could trigger a severe and potentially deadly intestinal condition called necrotizing enterocolitis. 

What is Necrotizing Enterocolitis?

Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) is an intestinal condition that primarily affects premature and medically fragile newborn infants. It begins when bacteria inflames the baby’s intestinal wall, weakening or killing  (necrotizing) tissues of the intestine. Due to this, stool can enter the abdomen. This can cause severe infection in the blood that is potentially be fatal. Every year, tens of thousands of infants in the U.S. develop NEC, and hundreds die.

Evidence spanning back to 30 years ago suggests that there can be a common, preventable catalyst in NEC cases: manufactured baby formula made with bovine – or cow’s milk. Bovine fortifiers may be added to formula or breast milk at the hospital to aid in weight gain for premature babies and could be the cause of your baby’s NEC.

Formula with Cow’s Milk A Contributing Factor to NEC

A 1990 study of 926 preterm infants revealed that NEC was 6 to 10 times more common in formula-fed babies than in those fed breast milk alone. Hospitals are aware of these studies yet still choose to use formula with bovine-milk-based fortifiers because they are lower cost than human-milk-based fortifiers. 

Unfortunately, that decision may have caused NEC in your baby or could cause it in the future. Furthermore, the companies that manufacture these bovine-based formulas, such as Abbott Laboratories and Mead Johnson & Company, have never included any warning or disclosure of its potentially deadly effects. This includes baby formula brands such as Similac and Enfamil.

This has resulted in more incidents of NEC in premature babies that could have easily been prevented.

In August 2021, the FDA initiated a recall of 80,000 units of formula due to the increased risk of NEC in premature babies. However, many other Similac and Enfamil products are still on the market for unsuspecting parents to purchase for their newborns.

What Signs of NEC Should I Look Out For?

Signs and symptoms of NEC could mimic infant intestinal issues. They include:

  • a swollen, red, or tender belly
  • trouble feeding
  • food staying in the stomach longer than expected
  • constipation
  • diarrhea and/or dark or bloody stools
  • decreased activity or lethargy
  • a low or unstable body temperature
  • green vomit (containing bile)
  • apnea (pauses in breathing)
  • bradycardia (slowed heart rate)
  • hypotension (low blood pressure)


If you suspect that your baby has NEC, you should immediately consult a doctor. An X-Ray could accurately detect the presence of NEC in your baby’s abdomen. 

Long-Term Complications of NEC

NEC can weaken and potentially kill intestinal tissue, allowing waste to leak through holes into a premature infant’s abdomen. This could be life-threatening and cause severe damage that could last a lifetime. Complications with NEC include:

  • developmental delay
  • possibility of multiple corrective surgeries
  • failure to thrive
  • ongoing intestinal problems
  • intestinal stricture or narrowing
  • bowel obstruction
  • anemia
  • intestinal perforation
  • sepsis

Should I File a Lawsuit?

If your premature baby developed NEC due to bovine-based formula, it is easy to feel overwhelming guilt and helplessness – especially for new parents. However, this is not your fault, and there are organizations to blame that must be held accountable.

Your family should not suffer due to a trusted formula manufacturer’s negligence or a hospital cutting corners, and litigation is always an option. The first step is hiring the best representation for you, your family, and your little one.

Kansas City Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) Lawsuit Attorneys

If you or a loved one’s premature newborn baby has suffered or is suffering from necrotizing enterocolitis due to cow’s-milk-based formula, you may have a case. The Goss Law Firm will help ensure that you and your family receive the compensation and justice that you deserve for your experience.

Free consultation: Call us at 816-888-5000 or complete the contact form below to learn more about how we can help.

The Goss Law Firm — Your Kansas City NEC Attorneys