Objective: To determine whether commencement of antibiotics within 3 postnatal days in preterm, very low birth weight (VLBW; ≤1500 g) infants is associated with the development of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Study design: Preplanned statistical analyses were done to study the association between early antibiotic treatment and later NEC development, using the NEOMUNE-NeoNutriNet cohort of VLBW infants from 13 neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in 5 continents (n = 2831). NEC incidence was compared between infants who received early antibiotics and those who did not, with statistical adjustments for NICU, gestational age, birth weight, sex, delivery mode, antenatal steroid use, Apgar score, and type and initiation of enteral nutrition. Results: The incidence of NEC was 9.0% in the group of infants who did not receive early antibiotics (n = 269), compared with 3.9% in those who did receive early antibiotics (n = 2562). The incidence remained lower in the early antibiotic group after stepwise statistical adjustments for NICU (OR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.35-0.94, P < .05) and other potential confounders (OR, 0.25; 95% CI, 0.12-0.47; P < .0001). Conclusions: In this large international cohort of preterm VLBW infants, a small proportion of infants did not receive antibiotics just after birth, and these infants had a higher incidence of NEC. It is important to better understand the role of such variables as time, type, and duration of antibiotic treatment on NEC incidence, immune development, gut colonization, and antibiotic resistance in the NICU.