Why Do Hospitals Take Baby Footprints?

Just like fingerprints, footprints are biometric and are unique for each baby. Hospitals started taking a newborn’s footprints around the 1960s and would include them in the baby’s medical record and then send them to the state. This was done with the sole intention of avoiding any situations like kidnapping or swapping of babies at birth.

Taking footprints help against lost or missing children, abduction, missing children after a natural disaster, or even in the case of multiple births where Baby A can be differentiated from Baby B or Baby C.

This information is very crucial for every baby even into their adult life. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), taking a baby’s footprint is considered as a new “gold standard” process for identifying infants and is also a recommendation for all hospitals to follow this procedure.

In the initial time, the baby’s footprints and mother’s fingerprints were taken together right after the baby is born and filed in the medical record of the baby. Though it’s not necessary for every hospital to follow this procedure, there are hospitals, where the number of admitted mothers and babies are relatively large, who tend to follow this procedure.

I’m sure you’ve heard of stories of babies being swapped at birth or babies being abandoned after birth. So, taking a baby’s footprints help the hospitals and the police to identify the baby.

But, why are prints of baby’s foot taken?

A newborn baby is getting his footprint taken by a nurse, shortly after birth.

Have you seen those cute little fists that newborn babies have? Well, try opening them and then keeping them straight for almost 5 minutes. You really can’t.

Newborn babies clench their fists really hard since birth and it’s only after the first 3 months that they start opening them and discovering their hands.

So, for a busy hospital and busy nurses, taking a baby’s footprint is way easier than taking their hand or fingerprints. Also, footprints have a ridge pattern that stays the same throughout the person’s life, and only the space between those ridges increases as the person grows but the pattern never changes. So, identification becomes easier.

But, there’s a downside of taking a footprint for security purposes and it’s that because the baby’s foot is so tiny and has smooth skin combined with the unskilled hospital nurse or personnel, the print doesn’t come off properly.

So, even if an expert who has studied dermatoglyphics comes to examine the print, the improper print will be very inadequate for identification purposes.

How is the footprint taken?

A document with a newborn baby's footprint taken in blue ink.

Nowadays, more than security purposes, hospitals take a baby’s footprints as a keepsake for the family. They will hold the baby’s ankle firmly and press it against an ink pad till all of the foot is covered in ink and then pressed against a blank paper.

If you ask them, they will also take the footprint on the dad’s t-shirt, or on anything that you wish to frame later. Many hospitals even send out a card with the baby’s footprint as a keepsake.

With technology being so advanced, gone are the days where hospitals use an ink sheet. Some hospitals, today, take the baby’s footprint digitally on a machine that will later print out the footprint.

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Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid,  you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best'.

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