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7 Baby Deaths Linked to Formula and Breastmilk Thickening Additive, Says FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants parents, caregivers and health care providers to know that SimplyThick, a product that is used to thicken formula or breastmilk for babies who have a very hard time swallowing, appears to increase the risk of the baby developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening condition.

Since May 2011 22 infants have developed NEC after being fed SimplyThick. Seven babies have died.

NEC destroys intestinal tissue. It’s unclear whether it was the SimplyThick that caused the NEC in these infants but the FDA is drawing attention to the issue.

SimplyThick is a type of thickening agent added to formula or breastmilk to help babies (and sometimes kids) who need help with swallowing and not spitting up — it’s sometimes recommended for babies with severe reflux or other problems. It’s available via medical centers or pharmacies.

The investigation into the possible dangers of SimplyThick has been going on since May 2011 — after the first cases of NEC appeared, the FDA advised against feeding SimplyThick to infants born before 37 weeks gestation. Now they’re saying that until more research is done into the cases of NEC, parents of babies of all ages should be warned about the possible risk.

According to the FDA the symptoms to watch for are:

  • bloated stomach
  • greenish-tinged vomiting
  • bloody stools

I learned about this on Facebook via the excellent breastfeeding resource Kellymom. The headline from BusinessWeek.com read that “Baby Deaths Linked to Infant Formula Additive.’ On the Faebook feed I was bummed to see knee-jerk bashing of formula. Luckily other voices prevailed. Such as, “Ladies, this type of product is for babies with medical problems (severe reflux, swallowing problems).” And, “I used this to thicken breastmilk for my daughter. I’m so sorry for the mommas, but a lose for moms and babies isn’t a “win for breastfeeding”. Some babies have medical needs and need thickener– just not THIS thickener, apparently.” A number of commentators on Kellymom had used or were using this additive so I’m hoping the word will get out quickly to consumers.

 

ON BABBLE:

Ceridwen Morris (CCE) is a childbirth educator and the co-author of the pregnancy and birth guide From The Hips. Follow her blogging on Facebook.

 

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