Pregnant Ladies Beware: Hospital Baby Mix-Ups Happen More Than You Think

22 October 2015
 Categories: Law, Articles


New mothers have a lot to worry about immediately after delivering their baby. They're focused on determining the health of their newborn, making sure the infant is eating properly, and tending to phone calls and visitors anxious to meet their new child. Furthermore, all of this comes at a time when the mother is healing from the pains of childbirth and sometimes under the influence of pain medication. 

There's another worry that new mothers should have, though, that is often overlooked at a time of such commotion -- making sure the hospital that delivered their baby doesn't misidentify him or her at any point in time between birth and when they leave the hospital.

The Frequency Of Baby Mix-Ups

It is estimated that as many as 1 out of every 1,000 newborns, or 24,000 infants per year, are confused with another baby at some point in time before they leave the hospital. Some of these mix-ups last only momentarily, but some may never be noticed, leaving parents to raise children that are not biologically their own.

A newborn has a 36 percent better chance of not being misidentified if the hospital they were born at incorporates their mother's first name on their identification bracelet, but some hospitals only use the baby's gender and last name on the bracelet. Furthermore, there is always a chance that hospital staff members in charge of delivering babies to and from their mothers for routine care might simply neglect to check the identification bracelet of the baby, or the bracelet may fall or be torn off.

The Effects Of Baby Mix-Ups

A baby who has been misidentified is in immediate danger. To begin, they could be given a medication meant to treat an illness they don't have. If the baby is allergic to something, it won't show up on their charts, since the charts actually belong to another baby. If the baby is breastfed by another mother, and that mother is HIV or hepatitis C positive, she could transmit her disease to the misidentified child.

And then there are the emotional consequences of a baby mix-up. It is likely distressing for a new mother to learn that they have been loving, caring for, and bonding with a stranger's child. At the same time, they're worried at the thought of what their biological newborn may have been subjected to during the time they were assumed to be a different child.

Of course, these consequences all come when the identification is noticed while the baby is still at the hospital. There's also a chance that the mishap won't be discovered for years, in which case the children involved can be caught in the midst of a custody battle and left to feel confused about who is technically their mother and/or father.

What To Do If Your Baby Is Misidentified

If you're about to have a baby, make sure the hospital that you will deliver at identifies your baby by its gender, as well as your first and last name. Ideally, your baby should also have an identification number assigned specifically to them, and all of this information should also appear on the identification bracelet that you are given to wear.

If possible, watch while the identification bracelet is placed on your baby's wrist; this should be done immediately after delivery. 

If, after having your baby, you suspect that he or she has been misidentified, listen to your instinct.  In the past, mothers who have suspected and raised concern about their child's identity have been hushed with excuses. For example, when one hospital in France switched 2 babies (one with more hair, one with less), the mother whose biological baby had more hair was given the short-haired child and told that incubator lights had made their baby's hair shorten. The mother whose biological child had less hair was given the lush-haired baby and told that incubator lights made the hair grow.

If you have any doubts about being given the right baby to care for while at the hospital, order a maternity test as soon as possible and get in touch with a medical malpractice lawyer to begin the process of correctly identifying your baby and seeking compensation for the pain and suffering of both you and your child. If you baby was misidentified but the error was caught before he or she left the hospital, you still have a case. If you spent any time at all bonding with a newborn child that wasn't yours, you're entitled to compensation for the emotional distress that followed the incident.

For more information, contact experienced medical malpractice lawyers in your area.