Babies are being handed to the wrong mothers who are unknowingly breastfeeding another woman's child, with a string of dangerous hospital blunders in New South Wales exposing both mums and newborns to disease.
In one shocking case uncovered in an investigation ... a newborn baby had to have its stomach pumped after being given month-old breastmilk from a woman who was not the child's mother.
At least 26 cases where babies have been wrongly identified have occurred in NSW public maternity wards in the past three years. Staff shortages and the failure by some midwives to check identification tags have been blamed for the errors.
After a year-long investigation, documents released under Freedom of Information reveal the extent of the bungles.
One of the most serious cases was at Blacktown Hospital ... with a baby given unnecessary medication because of incorrect identification tags.
In another incident, a 10-hour-old baby girl was given to the wrong mother to be breastfed at Westmead Hospital ... because staff did not check the identification tags properly.
At least half of the errors ... occurred in the Sydney South West Area Health Service ...
It is the same health service which tried to hide its mistakes by refusing to release the documents until ordered by the Ombudsman.
Documents released by the hospitals reveal mothers have been left distraught after being told,or discovering themselves, the child they were breastfeeding was not theirs.
... NSW Health's breast-milk safe management policy advises staff to double-check ID tags on the baby's ankles and wrists against the mother. Expressed milk should be cross checked with the mother and ideally stored in a fridge in her room ...
These problems can be avoided by birthing at home. If a woman births in hospital, it is important to avoid separation from the baby, even if she is tired. Midwives typically care for 8-15 women on afternoon and night shifts and this can obviously impact patient care. It does not excuse the issue, but with a huge shortage of midwives, keeping your new baby with you can help minimise your chances of being handed someone else's baby, or having your baby handed to another mother.