How Will I Be Able to Tell Which Baby Is Mine in the Nursery

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The big day has finally arrived–your baby is born! Now comes the amazing beginning of getting to know your new child. From bonding to baby-swap fears, some new parents worry about how they’ll recognize their newborn’s face among other babies in the nursery.

Will My Baby Stay in the Nursery?

Although TV shows often still show rows of babies in hospital nurseries, many hospitals have moved away from this standard. Your hospital may not even have a general nursery at all, just a NICU nursery. Instead, it is increasingly common for babies to “room in” with their mothers.

This may come as a relief. Or, you may wonder how you’re supposed to get any sleep with a newborn in the room! Spoiler: You probably won’t get a lot of shut-eye, but you wouldn’t even if the baby stays in a nursery. If you’re breastfeeding, the baby will need to eat every few hours, round the clock. Meanwhile, doctors and nurses also need to monitor your vitals regularly and get your consent for standard newborn tests. You’re in for a lot of interruptions.

Rooming in is a great idea if possible because you get more time for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding practice. But in some cases, such as if your baby is in the NICU or your hospital does offer a general nursery option, the baby may sleep in a different room.

How Do Hospitals Prevent Baby Mix-Ups?

Hospitals want new parents to go home with the right baby. From the moment you cut the cord, the hospital team uses other ways to connect you to your newborn.

  1. Wrist and ankle tags: Both you and your baby wear identification tags on your wrist. Your baby also has one on her ankle (in case the wrist tag slips off). Generally, the medical team tags the baby immediately after birth, in your presence.
  2. Bassinet labels: Your baby’s bassinet in the nursery will also have identification information, so everyone knows where each newborn belongs.
  3. Security cameras: Hospital nurseries use video monitors to track activity.
  4. No-carrying rules: After the baby’s born, you may be surprised to hear you can’t carry him for a little walk in the hallway. There are a few reasons for this. One, new parents are exhausted from giving birth (or supporting their partners) and may be more likely to faint. Two, carrying a baby in arms is a red flag for hospital staff. Standard procedure is to push babies in their bassinets in hallways.
  5. Anti-abduction procedures: Hospitals make plans and run drills to practice what to do if there is a suspected abduction attempt. This includes locking down exits and activating certain search procedures. This is an incredibly rare and unlikely scenario, but hospitals practice what to do to keep babies in their ward safe.

I Don’t Recognize My Baby. Am I a Bad Parent?

You gaze into your baby’s face, waiting for that flash of intuition that proves you’d recognize your little one anywhere and…nothing. The baby’s cute, but sort of red and purple and squishy. What’s going on? Are you failing to bond?

No, of course not. For some parents, initial bonding starts the second the baby’s born. Other parents need some recovery time before bonding begins. For everyone, this is a brand-new face. Becoming a parent may not come with a mystical ability to identify your baby’s features instantly in a crowd of other newborns.

Other senses, like smell and the sound of your baby’s whimpers and cries, may trigger your instincts as a parents. Spending lots of time with your baby will help you learn their cues faster. Soon, you’ll know your baby’s face, cry, and sweet smell anywhere.

Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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