Switched at birth? Triangle hospitals, birth centers take steps to keep moms, babies together
Posted May 17
Updated May 18
In case expecting parents need one more thing to worry about, here's something for the list: Will you actually bring the right baby home?
The answer for the vast majority of new moms: Yes.
Sure, there are switched at birth stories from decades ago. In one, a mom actually knew she brought home the wrong baby, but her husband told her to ignore it, not wanting to embarrass the doctor.
And, then, there is this story in The Washington Post from just last year. In it, a new mom recounts what happened after she learned her newborn was accidently - but briefly - given to another mother while still in the hospital.
"Conclusion: It happens," wrote Karin Tanabe, an author, freelance writer and the mother of the baby given to the wrong mother. "But seems so preventable. Because I’m pretty sure we have the right baby, but when she screams bloody murder at 2 a.m., I do still wonder."
A WRAL.com story last week shared eight ways parents can avoid getting the wrong baby accidentally at the hospital. Tips include taking a photo of the baby, which shouldn't be a problem for just about any new parent.
The story also recommends keeping the baby in your sight at all times. That's also easier these days as babies, no longer, are automatically sent to the nursery after birth or even when mom just wants a nap. Instead, the generally accepted standard of care in hospitals and birth centers is for new moms and babies to stay together as much as possible and enjoy the benefits of skin-to-skin contact.
Local hospitals and birth centers in the Triangle also take steps to ensure moms and babies stay together. Here are their methods for keeping babies and parents together.
Last year, nearly 8,000 babies were born at WakeMed's three birthing center campuses - Raleigh, Cary and north Raleigh.
Angela Newman, director of women's services at WakeMed's Cary campus, tells me that WakeMed has a patient identification policy to keep babies and parents together that is followed at all three of its campuses.
The system involves a special bracelet worn by mom, baby and a support person, often the father. Babies, for the most part, stay in the room with mom at all times, she said.
"We want them to room in," Newman said. "Our nursery is not the nursery that it used to be way back in the day."
But, if baby does need to leave the room for a medical issue or another reason, when she returns, a hospital staff member verifies that the right baby is back with the right mom by comparing information on those identification bracelets. That information includes the mom's full name, medical record number, the newborn's sex, the name of the practitioner who delivered the baby and other information.
"It’s something we take very seriously," she said.
UNC Rex in Raleigh is one of the busiest birth centers in the state with more than 5,600 babies born during fiscal year 2016. Here are the steps they take to protect babies:
"The Women’s Center at UNC REX Healthcare employs a wide range of robust security measures that help protect babies at all times," Alan Wolf, Rex's media relations manager, tells me. "Our co-workers are continuously trained to make safety of our smallest patients the top priority."
Those protocols include checking ID bracelets on babies and moms almost constantly to make sure they match.
"We use high-tech tools such as cameras and alarms and restrict access in our nurseries," he tells me. "We also hold drills several times a year that emphasize safety and security and look for ways we can improve our procedures."
David Wescott, director of marketing and communications at UNC Children’s, tells me that he doesn't feel "completely comfortable sharing the specifics of the security measures in place," but he could share some basics about what happens at the Chapel Hill hospital.
"As is the case with many hospitals, we use unique identification tags and electronic systems to monitor babies and keep them from being removed from their rooms without permission or notice," Wescott said. "Only those with the right identification are allowed in our nursery. We also do everything we can to keep babies in the same room as family 24-7 during their stay with us."
The birthing center in Durham delivers more than 3,000 babies a year.
Here's what Eve Hammett, certified nurse midwife at Duke, tells me about their protocols: "Babies are banded at birth with a unique numbered band. There are four identical bands. Two are placed on baby, one on mom, and one on support person. We minimize taking baby out of the mom's room, but always check bands before and after a baby goes to the nursery. Many babies stay with mom their entire stay and do not go to the nursery.”
The Chapel Hill center, where more than 6,000 babies have been born over the past two decades, is designed for women with low-risk pregnancies. There, they are able to deliver with the help of a certified nurse midwife. Once the baby is born, moms typical return home within six hours after delivery.
Sofia Marks, the center's administrative director, tells me that moms and babies remain together the entire time they are at the center. And, some days, only one mom is in labor at the center. So, once she delivers, there isn't even another newborn in the building to get confused with (if baby ever left his mother's side).
The center also provides full-life care for women, including annual check ups to sports physicals.
"There's no confusion whose baby is who," Marks said. "They are together the whole time."
Like the Women's Birth and Wellness Center, moms and their newborns are typically discharged four to six hours after birth at Baby + Co. in Cary. Babies, who are delivered with the help of certified nurse midwives, also stay with mom the entire time. About 25 to 30 babies are born at the center, which also provides care for women throughout their life, each month.
"We really encourage skin-to-skin contact fo the first several hours," said Elizabeth Pauley Horning, the center's community outreach manager. "Baby is with you the entire time."