Most offenders: Large women appearing 'normal'

They would be a lot easier to spot if they looked crazy or dangerous, but the person who abducts an infant from a hospital is more likely to look just like every other visitor or family member stepping off the elevator. If you look a little more closely, however, there is a profile that can help your staff watch for suspicious behavior.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) provides this list of common characteristics of people who have abducted babies from health care facilities:

· female;

· 14 to 45 years old;

· overweight;

· no criminal record;

· gainfully employed;

· outwardly appears normal;

· compulsive;

· has low self-esteem;

· fakes one or more pregnancies;

· relies on manipulation and lying in her personal relationships.

The abductor often wishes to "replace" an infant she has lost, or she is unable to give birth herself. The stolen infant also may be used to salvage a relationship with a husband or boyfriend, who often is gullible and convinced the woman had been pregnant and produced the child herself. In some cases, the abductor may be involved in a fertility program at or near the hospital where she takes the baby, the NCMEC says.

The skin color of the baby almost always matches the abductor's. In the few cases in which it does not, the baby's skin color usually matches that of the abductor's husband or boyfriend.

Most of the abducted infants are no more than 7 days old. There appears to be no strong gender preference. The abductor usually takes good care of the baby once it is abducted.

In many cases, the mother does not consider the abductor to be a stranger. The abductor may have visited the nursery and the mother many times, establishing her cover as an employee, becoming familiar with hospital procedure, and fulfilling her compulsive need to see the child. The abductor often will be wearing a uniform or other staff attire, impersonating a nurse, lab technician, social worker, photographer, or other professional.

The abductor often will visit the mother or nursery just to see or hold the infant, remarking on how adorable the child is but having no clear reason for stopping by even if she is impersonating an employee. Certain types of comments should raise suspicions, such as these:

· When is feeding time?

· When are the babies taken to the mothers?

· Where are the emergency exits?

· Where do the stairwells lead?

· How late are visitors allowed on the floor?

· Do babies stay with mothers at all times?

The NCMEC also lists these reasons to suspect an abduction:

· Someone is carrying an infant in the hospital, instead of using a bassinet.

· A "mother" is leaving the hospital on foot instead of in a wheelchair.

· Someone is carrying a large package, such as a gym bag, off the obstetrics floor (especially if the woman is cradling the package or talking to it).