Clocks to dictate Y2k baby contest

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THE MUCH-HYPED millennium baby boom will cause more chaos than already predicted unless clocks are set accurately, according to two paediatricians.

Couples racing to have a baby on the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000 could miss out on lucrative media deals if their hospital has not kept its clocks in order. Many couples tried to conceive during the first week in April to ensure their baby had the best chance of being the first to be born in the 21st century.

Although proof of being the "first baby" born in the new millennium relies on an accurate labour-room clock, a letter to the British Medical Journal from Dr Jonathan Round of Gravesend Hospital in Kent and Dr Nigel Kennea of St George's Medical School, London, said they had found the clocks were often wrong.

They conducted a study of the clocks in their labour ward, where 2,600 babies are born each year, and found that all six clocks were slow by an average of 94 seconds.

"Most parents expect the clocks to be accurate and might be surprised if their babies become five minutes older during transfer to a neonatal intensive care unit from the labour ward," they said. But seconds are vital to couples vying for first place in the millennium baby race.

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "If parents are concerned about the accuracy of the clocks they could take radio in with them and listen to the Greenwich pips at midnight."