The baby spent five days at the bottom of the eight-foot-deep stormwater drain before being discovered when a group of passing cyclists heard his cries on Sunday morning.

It is believed that the baby had been squeezed through a narrow opening before plummeting to the bottom of the drain, situated beside the M7 motorway in the suburb of Quakers Hill.

It took six men – including three police officers – to lift a heavy concrete slab in order to rescue the malnourished and dehydrated infant, who is currently in a serious but stable condition at Westmead Children’s Hospital.

Police traced and arrested the child’s mother, Saifale Nai, after studying hospital records and knocking on doors in the area. She did not appear in court to answer the charge of attempted murder. Her lawyer did not enter a plea and bail was formally refused by the magistrate. 

Police said in a statement that they believed the baby had been born on Monday, November 17, and was then placed in the drain the following day.

The child’s survival is being viewed as a near-miracle as Sydney has been baking in record temperatures of around 40C.

David Otte, one of the cyclists who heard the baby’s cries, told the Daily Telegraph: “We actually thought it was a kitten at first, but when we went down there we could hear exactly what it was – you could definitely tell it was a baby screaming.”

Tasmanian senator Helen Polley, of the opposition Labor Party, has reiterated her call for emergency hatches to be introduced at Australian hospitals, police stations and fire stations, so that babies can be safely abandoned. She has also called for a repeal of the laws that make child abandonment a criminal offence.

The latest incident is the second case of a newborn being abandoned in Queensland in a week. Another baby – since nicknamed Moses – was found on the doorstep of a family home near Brisbane on Saturday.