Although experts don’t agree entirely on what causes NEC, it is clear that many factors play a role. These factors include:
- An immature immune system that responds in a way that is not helpful to bacteria
- A lack of good bacteria in the intestine to outweigh the effects of bad bacteria. A mix (i.e. diversity) of bacteria in the bowel helps the baby to best respond to infections.
- A vulnerable or weak intestine (because of immaturity)
- The use of formula instead of breast milk; breast milk provides essential benefits to help the baby develop healthy bacteria in the intestine, makes the layers in the intestine strong and benefits the immune system.
- Lack of oxygen (seen in difficult deliveries or in babies with heart problems)