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Mother given wrong baby to breast feed

Wednesday, 17th March, 2010

A newborn baby and a mother have been screened for diseases and two women have been counselled after the baby was mistakenly given to the wrong mother to breast feed.

The incident happened at the local hospital's maternity ward on Saturday after a registered nurse gave the infant to the wrong mother to be fed. The mother began feeding the infant before she realised it was not her baby. The baby, which was correctly tagged with a name bracelet on both its ankles, is believed to have been a different sex to the baby of the mother who fed it.

A spokesperson for the Greater Western Area Health Service said the infant and the mother involved have since had the first of two screenings for transmissible diseases. "Screening has occurred for the baby and mother involved and the screening will be repeated in three months time," the health service said. "The Health Service will also make follow-up contact with the families involved."

While the GWAHS did not say what the baby and mother had been screened for it is believed to be AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, which can be passed through breast milk.

The GWAHS said the mix up was caused by human error and it has now apologised to both families."The health service has apologised to the patients and provided counselling and advice for further support to both patients and the staff involved," it said."The incident is a serious one and the health service will make every effort to ensure this mistake does not happen again."

But a woman, who did not want to be named, told the BDT that she was mistakenly given a baby that was not hers about eight years ago. She said she was shocked that the hospital had given her the wrong baby and was horrified to hear that it had happened again, this time with more serious consequences. The woman said after giving birth to her first child, the infant was taken away to allow a bleed to be stopped and for her to sleep. She said in the morning, when the newborn was ready to be fed, a nurse at the hospital brought a child over to her but that it was not her baby.

"They wheeled it over to me but it looked really strange and I said that's not my baby," she said. "Then they said 'oh my God it isn't either, I'm so sorry' and took her away. "I didn't pick (the baby) up or touch (it)."

The woman said after that incident she did not want her baby to leave her side, afraid of what may happen. "I didn't really want them to take (my baby) anymore I just wanted (my baby) to be in my room - I was a bit concerned," she said. "I didn't think they'd lose (my baby) but I wanted (my baby) near me. "It's quite shocking that they did bring me the wrong baby."

The woman, who said she knew the woman whose baby was fed by the wrong mother, said the mother would be horrified by what had happened, especially as it was her first baby.

"She'd be pretty upset about something like (this) - it's her first baby," she said. "I would have been devastated and disgusted if that happened to my (baby). "(I would be worried) if the baby would get sick but it's also that bond between mother and child - someone else has been feeding them."

The GWAHS said staff will now be reminded of a NSW Health policy for the safe management of breast milk which says that "breast milk is a body fluid which has the potential for the possible transmission of infectious pathogens if contaminated and/or given to the wrong infant." The policy also says "always check the name of baby using the identification tags on the baby before giving the baby to the mother to feed when mother and baby have been separated".

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