A private hospital in Sydney gave a mother the wrong newborn.

This could have ended very, very badly.

Just days after giving birth, a new mother was handed the wrong baby by staff in a mix-up at Sydney’s North Shore Private hospital.

The mistake was realised before the mother breastfed the newborn who was not hers – a circumstance that could have exposed the baby to health risks and emotionally traumatised two new mums.

North Shore Private Hospital confirmed “a baby was handed to a patient who was not the mother of the baby” but said the situation was quickly resolved “in accordance with (the hospital’s) policies and procedures”, News Limited reports.

Image via Twitter.

The mix-up, revealed by an anonymous tip to radio station 2UE last week, occurred months ago.

Judith Kiejda, the assistant secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, said this kind of mix-up was “rare, but even once is too much”.

“It should never happen and it’s bad when it does but at least it got picked up really quickly before any connection between the baby and the wrong mother,” she said.

Hospital staff are required to place identity bands on newborns as soon as they are born.

While it is not known how the mix-up occurred, Ms Kiejda said it was likely human error due to overstretched personnel and staff shortages.

newborn hospital feet istock post
Image via iStock.

If the woman had breastfed the newborn, both the baby and she would have had to undergo blood tests due to the risk of HIV and hepatitis C infection.

“The biggest risk is the emotional trauma that can happen to mother and father,” Western Sydney University Midwifery Professor Hannah Dahlen told News Limited.

“If the mother had started to cuddle and bond or if she’s put it to her breast then there’s a terrible feeling of ‘I couldn’t recognise my own baby’.”

Prof Dahlen said babies knew the smell of their mother, but would take a breastfeed from another woman over nothing.