We’ve all thought we were swapped at birth at one point or another. Whether our insensitive parents simply didn’t understand our creative needs or they denied us that beloved hundred dollar tech because they lack any semblance of the modern world, there were surely angst driven moments in everyone’s life when they felt like they must belong to another family. Really though, how commonly do babies get switched at birth? More importantly, how can new moms prevent it? I decided to look into this, and the truth is that it’s a pretty outdated problem. However, studies show that there are approximately two or three babies switched at birth every year.

When you think about the hospital setting, there is a lot of room for error. Especially when a baby has a medical issue, he or she will be whisked away and eventually placed in an incubator or bassinet until cleared for safe discharge. At the same time, hospitals should be extra careful about this and take extra measures to save parents and children from the inevitable emotional pain of a switch. If you’re in the process of choosing the hospital where you’ll give birth, consider evaluating the preventative measures taken by the nurses. When you give birth, they should take finger prints or footprints. That way, they can compare the print to the actual appendage should there be any confusion. They should also identify the mother as labor begins so that a match up isn’t just with a name, but with DNA and fingerprints as well. For added protection, ask the hospital if they print wristbands for each baby. With modern technology, this is an easy process, and it’s likely why so few switches happen lately. Before a baby could have his name, time of birth, sex and mother’s name right on his wrist, it was much easier to accidentally confuse him with another screaming newborn.

When babies are switched, the hospital staff often realizes it within hours, and before the family leaves the hospital, they’ll be switched back. However, there have been some cases when children are raised into their teens before the family realizes there was a mistake. In those cases, a court ruling is often conducted to determine what course of action is best for the child. Assuming you choose a reputable hospital, babies who are switched at birth will remain a horror story only in the movies.

Source: Jennifer Foote: What's Best for Babies Switched at Birth - The Role of the Court, Rights of Non-Biological Parents, and Mandatory Mediation of the Custodial. Hein Online 2009

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