NEC Awareness Day May 17

What is NEC?

Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is an intestinal disease that primarily affects premature and medically fragile infants. NEC causes an inflammatory process that can lead to intestinal tissue damage and death.

Despite significant advances in neonatal care, the morbidity and mortality rates associated with this disease have not significantly improved in decades. Once diagnosed, many babies only live for a few hours or days, and survivors can have lifelong neurological and nutritional complications.

10-50% of babies who get NEC will die, and survivors often face life-long health challenges.
Yet, few people have even heard of the disease. Often the first time parents hear about NEC is when their baby develops it.

Can NEC be prevented?

The following appear to decrease the risk of NEC, yet none are a guarantee that a baby won’t get NEC. 

  • Avoiding the overuse of antibiotics and acid blocking agents
  • Feeding of breast milk. Breastmilk contains unique factors significantly which reduce the risk of NEC.
  • Administration of certain probiotics

Mother’s own milk is generally better at preventing NEC than donor human milk, but both mother’s milk and donor milk are better protection than formula.
Some studies have shown that the combination of human milk and probiotics is more effective prevention than formula and probiotics.

Source: NEC Society