Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a condition that affects between 1 in every 2000 and 1 in every 4000 premature infants. It occurs mostly in formula-fed babies within their second or third week of life. Near-term and full-term babies may also develop NEC, which is characterized by a damaged intestinal tract. The damage may be as simple as a mucosal injury, or as serious as necrosis and perforation. The mortality rate for NEC is approximately 50%. Parents of premature infants, in particular, should be on the watch for the symptoms of necrotizing enterocolitis.

1. Feeding Intolerance

Infants with NEC often have difficulty tolerating formula. Parents, nurses, and doctors may try sensitive formula or formula with alternatives to cow’s milk, such as goat’s milk or soy and find the infant still shows intolerance. Signs of feeding intolerance include crying during or after a feeding, gagging while feeding, gas, excessive spitting up or vomiting. In severe cases, doctors may opt to replace bottle feeding with a feeding tube to ensure the infant receives adequate nutrition.

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