A newborn baby has been breastfed by a stranger after a NSW hospital bungled the identities of two newborns, devastating one mother and potentially exposing the newborn to health risks.
NSW health authorities have apologised to two mothers who gave birth at Gosford Hospital after their babies were unintentionally mixed up.
The newborns, whose mothers shared a hospital room, were taken to the maternity nursery to provide their mothers with rest on August 18.
But one of the babies, Ellie, was returned to the wrong mother.
The woman breastfed the baby girl while her own daughter remained in the hospital nursery.
A midwife broke the news to Ellie's mother, Stefanie Phillips, who was devastated to discover her newborn had been breastfed by a stranger.
"[I was told] the other mother has breastfed your daughter for two hours and got photos with her … skin-on-skin, did everything I wanted to do with her," Ms Phillips told Seven News.
Maternal blood tests have been carried out on both mothers to screen for any possible medical adverse effects that could have been passed onto the baby breastfed by the wrong mother.
Ms Phillips has not been able to get Ellie to take her breast since the incident and has been bottle feeding her formula.
Hospital officials later apologised to Ms Phillips for the mix up, she said.
"I was very overwhelmed, I had just become a new mum. I didn't know what to say in that situation," she said.
Ms Phillips' partner said the hospital failed to offer the couple appropriate support.
"We only had 'are you all right? Are you all right,'" Francesco Messina told Seven News.
It appears the identification bracelets on the newborn babies were not cross-checked against the mother's name.
Central Coast Local Health District chief executive Matt Hanrahan said it was "very concerning that a routine identification check was not performed on this occasion".
"All newborn babies are provided with identification bands and it is standard protocol that the baby's band is cross-checked against that of the mother's after periods of separation such as the provision of respite for new mums," Mr Hanrahan said.
Both families have received apologies in-person from senior staff of the Central Coast Local Health District.
Midwifery staff at the hospital will receive procedure matching training to ensure NSW Health policies on separating mothers and babies, as well as identification, are reinforced, Mr hanrahan said.
The news of the mix up comes four days after North Shore Private confirmed a similar mix up occurred earlier this year at the Sydney hospital.
"A baby was handed to a patient who was not the mother of the baby," read a statement from the hospital.
But the mistake was rectified before the mothers breastfed the wrong babies.
"Fortunately, North Shore Private quickly resolved the situation in accordance with its policies and procedures," the statement from the hospital read.