Newborn babies given to wrong parents, wrong breast milk given to infants at Queensland hospitals

Patrick Condren

New figures obtained exclusively by 7 News have revealed newborn babies have been given to the wrong patients in Queensland hospitals and dozens of babies born have been given the wrong breast milk.

The mantra 'breast is best' has long been drummed into new parents, but an alarming number of breast feeding mistakes are being made in Queensland public hospitals.

"It would be very distressing for this to happen to any mother," said Health Minister Cameron Dick.

The mantra 'breast is best' has long been drummed into new parents, but an alarming number of breast feeding mistakes are being made in Queensland public hospitals. Photo: 7 News

Over the past five years there have been 110 cases of infants being given the wrong expressed breast milk, nearly given the wrong milk or the milk was incorrectly labelled.

In six instances, babies were actually fed by the wrong mother and twice infants were given to the wrong parents.

Fortunately the mistake was discovered before the families were discharged from hospital and sent home.

"These errors i hope can be avoided in the future to avoid any distress to Queensland mothers," Mr Dick said.

"If we can put more staff there it'll take the pressure of them to avoid mistakes."

In six instances, babies were actually fed by the wrong mother and twice infants were given to the wrong parents. Photo: 7 News

Mr Dick's office says there are no statewide protocols in place for what to do if the incorrect breast milk is given to a baby, but local health authorities should have procedures in place.

"The message is absolutely 'don't panic', let the doctors and nurses know so that we can perform testing on both the mother and the child," said Dr Gino Pecoraro from the Australian Medical Association Queensland.

In New South Wales, if a child has been mistakenly fed another child's bottle of expressed breast milk the possible exposure to HIV or other infectious diseases should be treated just as if an accidental exposure to other body fluids had occurred.

"The risk of getting HIV from breast milk is only about 15 percent if you breast feed for around six months of so..so one episode is considerably less than that," said Dr Pecoraro.