Does Formula Upset Baby’s Stomach?

Written By:
Jessie Paluch
Jessie Paluch

Attorney Jessie Paluch, founder of TruLaw, has over 25 years of experience as a personal injury and mass tort attorney, and previously worked as an international tax attorney at Deloitte. Jessie collaborates with attorneys nationwide — enabling her to share reliable, up-to-date legal information with our readers.

This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy and clarity by the team of writers and legal experts at TruLaw and is as accurate as possible. This content should not be taken as legal advice from an attorney. If you would like to learn more about our owner and experienced injury lawyer, Jessie Paluch, you can do so here.

TruLaw does everything possible to make sure the information in this article is up to date and accurate. If you need specific legal advice about your case, contact us by using the chat on the bottom of this page. This article should not be taken as advice from an attorney.

Does Formula Upset Baby’s Stomach?

While many babies tolerate infant formula quite well, it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms in others.

Gas, diarrhea, and an upset stomach are all possible signs that an infant is not tolerating the formula product they are receiving.

baby bottle

Premature infants are particularly at risk of developing a potentially serious gastrointestinal illness called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after being fed certain instant formulas containing cow’s milk, like Similac and Enfamil.

NICUs often use baby formula to provide preterm and underweight newborns with extra nutrients to get their weight up and help them grow.

However, studies have shown that preterm infants who receive donor breast milk are less likely to develop NEC than those who receive bovine milk-based baby formula.

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Upset Stomach and Other Side Effects of Baby Formula

There are numerous reasons why an infant may experience an upset stomach after receiving formula.

If the infant is allergic to one of the ingredients in the formula, an upset stomach might be a sign of an allergic reaction.

For example, if the infant has a soy allergy and is fed soy-based infant formula, they might experience gastrointestinal issues in response to the allergy.

An allergic reaction could spawn other symptoms as well, including rashes and a stuffy nose.

Many times, switching formulas will relieve these reactions.

In some cases, allergic reactions can be more severe.

If an infant has a dairy allergy and receives cow’s milk-based formula, they could develop hives, swelling, and vomiting.

If the reaction appears to be serious, the infant will likely require urgent medical care.

An upset stomach can also occur if a baby consumes infant formula that is contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella.

Recently, Abbott Laboratories, the manufacturer of infant formula products like Similac, issued a recall for some of their products that were found to be contaminated with Cronobacter bacteria, which led to a number of infections.

Imported or unregulated baby formula products that have not been evaluated by the FDA may not contain adequate nutrition and, as a result, could lead to malnourishment and other symptoms.

Homemade formula products that lack the nutrients an infant needs to develop can also be harmful.

For example, infant formula that doesn’t contain the proper amounts of iron can cause an infant to develop iron-deficiency anemia, which can lead to cognitive difficulties and other complications.

Upset Stomach and NEC

scooping formula out of a can

Perhaps the most serious potential side effect of infant formula is NEC.

While NEC has many potential causes, including underdeveloped intestines and intestinal injuries, bovine milk-based formulas can contribute to the disease as well.

NEC rarely occurs in full-term infants, but preterm infants are frequently diagnosed with the illness.

In addition to an upset stomach, NEC can cause other symptoms such as abdominal pain and swelling, vomiting, bloody stools and diarrhea, changes in body temperature, respiratory changes, refusal to eat, and inability to gain weight.

NEC occurs when bacteria cause inflammation in the intestines and begin to erode the intestinal wall.

This can result in tissue death and, in severe cases, perforations in the intestinal lining.

If perforations occur, bacteria can escape into the abdominal cavity and infect other organs.

If it passes into the bloodstream, it can lead to a life-threatening condition known as sepsis.

In some cases, antibiotics and other non-surgical remedies are sufficient to treat NEC, but when tissue death has occurred, or perforations have formed, surgical intervention might be necessary to restore function to the intestines.

Can Changing Formulas Cause Upset Stomach?

If an infant has a certain food allergy, is showing signs of formula intolerance, or is facing other medical issues, their pediatrician might recommend changing formulas.

For example, if an infant has a dairy allergy, their pediatrician might suggest switching to soy-based formula products.

Switching formulas can cause an upset stomach and other minor gastrointestinal issues, including changes to stool consistency.

When introducing an infant to a new formula, it is important for parents to be on the lookout for signs of intolerance.

Symptoms include gas, vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea.

More serious signs of intolerance include bloody waste, a stuffy nose, and wheezing after consuming the formula.

There are two primary ways to transition from one baby formula to another.

Infants who are transitioning from standard infant formula to powdered formula, or a formula that is gentler on the digestive system, can typically do so “cold turkey” without any transition time between the different formulas.

However, infants who are transitioning from powdered formula to standard formula may benefit from transitioning over time.

During the transition period, parents should combine the two formulas during feedings, slowly increasing the amount of the new formula while decreasing the amount of the original formula to mitigate side effects like an upset stomach.

TruLaw and its team of seasoned lawyers fight on behalf of individuals harmed by drugs, devices, chemicals, and other products.

To date, TruLaw and its partner law firms have successfully collected over $3 billion through verdicts and settlements in all 50 states.

If you believe your baby has suffered NEC due to cow’s milk-based formulas such as Enfamil and Similac, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit.

Use our Instant Case Evaluator now, before the state of limitations expires, to find out if you are eligible for a Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) lawsuit.

Written By:
Jessie Paluch
Jessie Paluch

Experienced Attorney & Legal SaaS CEO

With over 25 years of legal experience, Jessie is an Illinois lawyer, a CPA, and a mother of three.  She spent the first decade of her career working as an international tax attorney at Deloitte.

In 2009, Jessie co-founded her own law firm with her husband – which has scaled to over 30 employees since its conception.

In 2016, Jessie founded TruLaw, which allows her to collaborate with attorneys and legal experts across the United States on a daily basis. This hypervaluable network of experts is what enables her to share reliable legal information with her readers!

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