Woman Breastfeeds Wrong Baby; Could It Happen to You?

Julie Ryan Evans
12

baby in nurseryLast week in Australia, a mother was given the wrong baby to breastfeed.

Hunter-Joe Harris was brought to feed in the middle of the night to a woman who thought he was hers. He wasn't, and it wasn't until he had nursed for 20 seconds or so that the mix-up was caught by midwives.

While the accidental wet nurse was tested for various diseases, the boy's family will have to wait for five long months for results that show if he contracted anything from her.

A shocking, isolated incident? Not quite.

In this one hospital, nine babies have been misidentified over the past three years. None has been switched at birth (that anyone knows about at least), but some have been given the wrong identification tags and others the wrong expressed breast milk. Last year, 57 infants were misidentified in Queensland hospitals.

And it's not just in Australia that it happens.

A similar incident happened a couple of years ago in Chicago when a woman, Jennifer Spiegel, also breastfed a baby given to her by mistake.

“She (the nurse) said, 'The baby you're feeding isn't yours,'” Spiegel told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It was just an awful, internal feeling.”

Can you imagine?

Actually, I can imagine, because I was brought the wrong baby less than two years ago in a Florida hospital.

After giving birth to a baby girl, who was taken to the special care nursery for a few hours, they brought me a BOY.

They wheeled his incubator right up to my bed and exclaimed, "Here he is!"

Shock, horror, outrage -- a million emotions went flooding through my already hormonal body. But mostly, I was incredulous.

HOW -- with all the electronic monitoring bracelets and bells and alarms -- could they bring me someone else's baby?

I eventually got MY baby girl, and they offered a host of reasons as to why they would have caught the mistake before anything happened.

But I always wonder.

This mistake was easy to catch because the baby was the opposite sex. But what if it had been a girl? A girl with lots of dark hair? How long could a mistake like that really go unnoticed?

For the most part, babies are safe and secure in hospitals, and cases like this make headlines because they are such anomalies. But still, they also make you wonder how many -- like mine -- don't make headlines but happen ... and also perhaps make you study your children's faces a little more closely.

Did you worry about your baby being misidentified while in the hospital?


Image via Matt Culpepper/Flickr

 

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