State investigating after baby given wrong breast milk at day care

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A West Lafayette mother is raising concerns after her breast milk was given to the wrong baby at a church day care.

The state Family and Social Services Administration is investigating the incident, which happened March 8 at Dayspring Daycare and Preschool Ministry.

Cindy Harris, mother of 11-month-old twins, said the day care contacted her to tell her the milk intended for her baby ended up being fed to another child.

"The day care said another baby had been given my breast milk," said Harris. "I didn't really know how to react. I was surprised and upset with the way they handled the situation."

Dayspring asked Harris to undergo a slew of tests for things like HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

"I felt kind of violated they would ask me that," said Harris. "If they can't keep your breast milk straight, how are they supposed to keep your medical records private?"

Harris told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney she agreed to testing, but is waiting for the family who received the wrong milk to contact her.

"Initially (the day care) asked me to have my medical record faxed to the day care," said Harris. "They wanted me to supply a sample of my breast milk to do testing. I don't think anyone would want to give a sample of their blood and say sure, test my blood for whatever you want and it's not even in your medical record."

Harris pulled her twins out of Dayspring and contacted FSSA.

Although Dayspring is an unlicensed registered ministry, FSSA can regulate and investigate some health and safety issues.

If they are able to validate the complaint, the agency could cite the provider for not providing food that is free from spoilage/damage/filth/contamination.        

Dayspring President Jeff Johns refused an on-camera interview with Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney, but told Kenney the bottle was labeled incorrectly, with an initial instead of a name.

The day care released a statement.

"We ask all parents to label bottles and accessories with first and last name as well as the date and time the bottle was created," read the statement from Johns. "The bottle involved in the incident was not labeled correctly. This bottle was labeled only with an initial and fed to a child whose first name began with the same initial."

Harris said at the time of the incident, the day care asked parents to label the bottle with initials, rather than full names.

"They labeled the bottle," said Harris. "It actually was rubbing off and they re-labeled it under the label they put on the bottle."

Johns told Kenney the day care is updating its procedures and training for workers.

"Since the incident, we have placed a stronger emphasis on our staff reviewing the labeling of bottles when children are received as checked in by parents," wrote Johns in a statement. "We have also reviewed and revised our systems for aiding parents with labeling which includes providing the necessary labels and writing utensils.  All bottles continue to be stored in refrigerators that have temperatures recorded three times daily."

Dayspring contacted the Indiana Milk Bank and doctors following the incident, as well as the parents of the child who received the wrong milk.

Registered ministries and licensed centers are required to report to the state when a child is given the wrong breast milk, but home day cares are not required to do so, according to FSSA spokeswoman Marni Lemons.

Cindy Harris' twins now attend a licensed center, which has a system in place for labeling bottles.

"They require a full name and date and it's all written in a handbook," said Harris. "I'm not trying to say all ministries are bad, but parents should be aware that not all day cares are safe for their child. Our 3-year-old goes to a preschool ministry."

Registered ministries are not required to follow child-to-staff ratios, but licensed homes and centers do have to follow staffing regulations.

The Indiana Association for Child Care Resource and Referral says it's crucial for infants to get the right breast milk or formula.

"It's important because there might be allergies a child has, such as regular formula versus soy," said Lisa Henley, Director of Child Care Quality Initiatives. "A good thing to know is the risk of disease transmission is very low."

An estimated 73 percent of Hoosier mothers start out breastfeeding, and 60 percent reach their personal goals for breastfeeding.

Henley recommends asking your child care facility for a copy of their breastfeeding policy, including specifically how bottles are labeled and stored.

Experts recommend day cares label milk with the baby's full name, as well as the date and time the milk was expressed.

"Some child care providers, beyond making sure that all bottles are labeled, also do a color coding, so that's an extra step," said Henley. 

Henley said free training is available for Indiana day cares on proper breastfeeding handling, but not everyone takes advantage.

"It varies from child care to child care whether they're really trained on it," said Henley.  "Not only can we provide them with training, but we have a pre-assessment so we can go on site and assess their whole environment."

When mishaps happen, Henley said the Centers for Disease Control recommends testing for HIV and other diseases.

More information:

Resources for breastfeeding mothers

Find local child care resources and support for families seeking or using child care

Proper handling and storage of breast milk

Surgeon General's call to action on breastfeeding

Interpretive Guide for Child Care Center Rules

Interpretive Guide for Child Care Home Rules

Interpretive Guide for Unlicensed Registered Child Care Ministries

Indiana Breast Milk Procedures

Indiana Regulations around Infant Feeding

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