"The adoptive child enters through the threshold of our home and into our heart at the same moment and remains there forever."
You have pictured this child in your mind forever and sometimes in a moment's notice your dream has become a reality. Where do you begin? What do you need to do first and have right now, and what will you learn over time? This crash course is intended to provide support for those times when you wish that your new addition had come with an instruction manual.
Preparing for the arrival of the adoptive child is an experience that is filled with hopes and dreams that may have extended far beyond the nine months of a typical pregnancy. That dream which may have spanned years of expectation can occur within a moment. As long as your heart is ready, the rest will fall into place. The process of planning for your adoptive child has involved a home study, legal paper work, the emotional journey of connection to the birth parents who have chosen you, and has evolved into a dream come true. Adrenaline replaces anxiety and you take on your role as parents, unaffected by lack of sleep, your focus is summed up in a word- family.
Building confidence in caring for baby comes as the reward of successfully meeting your baby's needs. There is a lot to learn, a few basics to master, and instincts that you will learn to trust. The first few weeks with your newborn may seem frozen in time, like they have flown by, and as though you can't remember life before his arrival all at the same time. This is a time of getting to know one another that will last a lifetime. Within a few weeks, your dedication to listening to your baby and your intuition will make you an expert about your baby. The goal in care giving is to keep your baby safe and comfortable, and to use each experience to develop a bond that comes from the process of spending time close to one another.
Knowing what to expect from a newborn can be a challenge due to the unique personality that comes with every child. It can be comforting to new parents to have an idea of what is average. Newborns typically sleep 16 ½ hours a day, will take 2 to 3 ounces of formula every three to four hours, have six to eight wet diapers, at least two bowel movements per day and cry for reasons that range from hunger to fatigue to boredom. Most babies can be soothed by being held close, rocking rhythmic motion, a walk or ride, something to suck on in between feedings, or a warm bath. You will quickly learn which works for different situations. You have accepted the role as your baby's advocate. As you learn about your baby and study his patterns of behavior you will quickly be able to differentiate a cry for hunger from a cry that indicates that it is time for a nap. Responding to your baby's cry is your first means of communication. He learns trust for you while you learn to trust your instinctive response and to follow natural intuition.
Feeding the newborn serves needs that are physical and emotional. Time spent with baby during feeding provides an opportunity for bonding as well as nutrition. Formula fed babies typically take 2 to 3 ounces every three to four hours increasing to 4 ounces per feeding by one month. Your pediatrician will address needs for special formula if necessary and information is available to adoptive parents who choose to breast feed their adoptive child. Solid foods will be introduced at approximately six months of age and will be discussed during well baby visits with your health care provider. Babies need to burp during feeding in order to expel air swallowed during feeding. There are several positions used for burping: Upright- with head cradled on your shoulder and his bottom resting on your forearm. Sitting on your lap- facing to either side. Lay baby on tummy, on your lap. Pat your baby's back gently for a few seconds while you steady him with other hand.
Bathing the newborn may be an intimidating experience at first but can prove to be a favorite activity over time if you hang in there. Newborns will need to lose their umbilical cord stump before enjoying a tub bath. Sponge baths are an excellent introduction for both babies and parents.
Umbilical Cord Care
Your health care provider will typically advise you on cord care.
Keep area around the umbilical cord stump clean and dry by wiping with a clean cotton swap. Fold the diaper so that it does not rub or irritate the stump. Wait for tub bathing until cord falls off. Report signs of: bleeding, redness, discharge, swelling or odor to doctor.
Your doctor will discuss follow up care for circumcision after procedure is completed. The most important fact to remember is that tub bathing will need to wait until the circumcision is healed and the umbilical cord stump has fallen off. Special instruction will also be given with regard to diaper changes.
Sleep is a commodity when a newborn arrives. You can expect your newborn to sleep an average of 16 ½ hours per day at first with the need to feed every 2-3 hours. That number of hours decreases over the next few months and in a couple of months he may settle into a pattern of daytime naps and four to six hour stretches during the night…or not.
The atmosphere of comfort, bathing, and bedtime rituals such as soft music, lower lighting and rocking promise to provide enjoyment for both baby and parents. These are the moments that memories are made of.
Growth and Development are subjects that cover chapters and books We have included a separate section on growth and development due to the extensive nature of this subject. Growth guidelines are also addressed during each visit with your health care team. They are measured in percentiles of height and weight and are tracked to insure that your baby is thriving. As adoptive parents, it is important to share any pertinent information about the medical history of your child's birth parents with your doctor. It becomes easy to forget that you haven't given birth to your child over time. Issues that are significant about his health history and biological history need to be shared in your visits with the pediatrician and dentist. Your child's growth will be monitored and his development noted with each visit. Babies develop skills at different rates while falling into categories that allow them to be evaluated.
Call the Doctor according to the guidelines provided by your health care provider. General guidelines are:
Talking about adoption with your child. Explaining the miracle that has brought you together as a family can seem to be a story too awesome for words. There are books to explore about the gift of adoption written for adults and children, articles to read, poetry to enjoy (see Adoption Poetry.com). There are many theories and opinions about when and how to share the story of your child's adoption. There are articles on the subject contained in the Adoption.com library, books available through AdoptionProducts.com.
The fact that your family has been built through adoption should be discussed openly and cannot be covered in one conversation. One area where the experts agree is timing- the sooner the better age three to four seems to be the youngest age that a child can understand the concept of being born to a mother other than you. It is suggested that the information be simple and positive. Children love to hear their adoption story. Here are a few suggestions about what to include:
In The Psychology of Adoption, psychologist David Brodzinsky explains the process: "They generally are told about being adopted in the context of a warm, loving, and protective environment. Thus the emotional climate surrounding the telling process is one which fosters acceptance and positive self-regard." Take care to provide your child with adequate information about his adoption without talking about it constantly. Your child will give you cues when "enough is enough". Adoptive children need balance in the area of the adoption discussion and will let you know when they are at risk for overload.
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Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.