EastEnders is planning to show two episodes featuring a cot death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) during peak viewing time on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
The episodes are expected to provoke thousands of complaints with its most horrific festive episode ever.
The scenes show a character cuddling her dead baby then swapping him with the living newborn son of her neighbours.
Critics fear the sensationalist plot is nothing more than tasteless ratings chasing device.
But the show's executive producer yesterday defended the scenes and said he was 'proud' of the 'bold storyline' which provided 'high drama'.
The shocking footage features character Ronnie Mitchell (played by Samantha Janus) holding the hand of her dead baby James, before cuddling him and then swapping him with the newborn son of characters Kat and Alfie Moon, called Tommy.
Ronnie, who has already had one miscarriage and a daughter die in her arms after being hit by a car, discovers her dead child after she and the baby have been napping during the afternoon. Realising he is dead she desperately asks the baby: 'Are you cold? Are you cold? I will get you a blanket... Open your eyes wake up.. Daddy's coming home soon.'
She is then seen wandering around Albert Square clutching her baby's lifeless body which is covered in a blanket before going to the Queen Vic pub where she makes the switch after hearing the live baby crying through an open window.
The filming of the scenes is believed to have been so harrowing that some of the cast on EastEnders were being offered counselling. It was claimed most of the crew had never shot anything so sensitive.
The BBC said it has worked with cot death charity FSID on the storyline and that later episodes would provide more educational information, which would include information to help parents on the issue.
Speaking in the Daily Mail, the show's executive producer Bryan Kirkwood said: 'I think it is high drama and that's what EastEnders has a 25-year history of delivering - big gritty stories and stories that chime with the audience.'
He said: 'I take every storyline in isolation. I believe we have embarked on an undoubtedly bold storyline but I would like to see what the audience reaction is before I comment.'
Also in the two episodes Kat is seen in a blood-strewn bed after complications from after pregnancy.
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US to ban drop-side cots after child deaths – should the UK follow?
Is the BBC doing a service by tackling cot death or is this insensitive sensationalism? We want your comments.