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Grafton and Tweed mums given wrong babies to feed

MOTHERS in Grafton and Tweed hospitals have been mistakenly given the wrong babies to breast feed in recent years.

NSW Health has confirmed two of the seven breast-feeding mix-ups reported in recent days happened on the state's North Coast.

The figures, which Labor obtained under freedom of information laws, show the potentially dangerous errors between 2011 and 2005, a NSW Health spokesman said.

"Incident reports from hospitals indicate that a baby was given to the wrong mother to be breastfed on seven occasions in the four years from 2011 and 2015," he said.

"These incidents were reported as expressed breast-milk errors and in all cases the error was discovered soon after the incidents occurred."

The blunders happened at Grafton, Tweed, Wollongong, Campbelltown, John Hunter, Westmead and Gosford hospitals.

As soon as staff realised a baby had been given to the wrong mother to feed, the families were advised.

"NSW Health applies strict protocol for identification of newborns to avoid the possibility of babies being lost, misplaced or switched while in hospital," the spokesman said.

Those strategies included placing identification bands around babies' ankles as soon as practical after their admission to hospital.

"Maternity services in NSW public hospitals do not separate mothers and babies either in the birthing unit or on the maternity ward unless there is a medical reason that necessitates the baby being transferred to higher level care..." the spokesman said.

"In the rare cases where babies were given to the wrong mother to feed, immediate serology testing and breast milk screening was done, and the mother was offered support and counselling."

The Australian Breastfeeding Association says denying a baby its mother's breast milk can deprive it of antibodies important for protecting it against disease and building immunity.

"Mix-ups also carry a small risk of transmission of illness and the much greater threat of psychological damage," the spokesman said.

-APN NEWSDESK

Topics:  baby birth breast feeding editors picks error hospitals newborn nsw nsw health



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