Hospital Accused of Switched-at-Birth Breastfeeding Blunder in Lawsuit

By Chris Glorioso

A New Jersey mother is suing the hospital where she gave birth, claiming nurses gave her the wrong newborn to breastfeed.

Melissa Richman, 39, of Ridgewood, says The Valley Hospital failed to double-check identification bracelets when maternity ward staff retrieved her hours-old baby for a 4:30 a.m. feeding. Twenty minutes into breastfeeding the infant, Richman says the nurse came back with shocking news.

“She actually said there was a terrible mistake. This was not your baby.”

In their lawsuit against The Valley Hospital, Melissa Richman and her husband David say the breastfeeding mixup deprived their newborn daughter of colostrum, the nutrient-rich milk produced by a new mother in the hours immediately following childbirth.

“She was frustrated and upset because there was really nothing left for her,” Melissa Richman said of her newborn.

“I had just nursed this other baby for 20 minutes so I was probably totally depleted,” she said.

The I-Team reviewed an 87-page medical file describing Melissa Richman’s childbirth and post-partum care. It makes no obvious mention of the breastfeeding mixup.

Rosemarie Arnold, the attorney representing Melissa Richman and her husband David, said those medical records raise the troubling possibility that parents of the mystery baby may not know their infant was drinking another mother’s milk.

“Who is the other baby? Is the other baby healthy? Who are those other parents?” said Arnold. “Maybe they’re out there and maybe they’re watching this and they’re going to say to themselves, ‘Oh, my God, that is us!'”

“It should be inconceivable that something like this could happen,” said David Richman.

Maureen Curran, a spokeswoman for The Valley Hospital, declined to comment on the lawsuit or on the medical center’s policies regarding the checking of patient ID bracelets before handing newborns over to parents.