Help Save International Adoption by Signing this White House Petition

Baby Care Guide

  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
You may use the stars on the left to rate and leave feedback for the current article. No registration is required. Waiting for 5 votes 3.7 of 5 stars (3 votes) — Thanks for your vote

Please fill out the following optional information before submitting your rating:

"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.

Join the Parenting discussion boards.


  • Support baby's head and neck with your hand or arm under his neck
  • Always buckle baby into rear facing infant seat secured in back seat
  • Never shake a baby for any reason. Infants are susceptible to "shaken baby syndrome" serious injury or death can occur as a result of being shaken.
  • Do not engage in physical or dangerous activities or cook with a baby in a carrier.
  • Never leave an infant seat unattended on an elevated surface such as a table or counter top.
  • Do not handle hot items (soup, coffee, etc) while holding baby.
  • Never leave baby unattended in carriers, swings, baby seats, stroller or items.
  • Never leave baby for any reason when near water.
  • Place baby on back or side for sleep on firm mattress without pillows, heavy blanket, or large stuffed toys.
  • Never take your hands or eyes off baby while on changing table.

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.

Sponge Baths:

  • Gather all supplies before starting bath- fill basin with warm water.
  • Undress baby and wrap him in towel on padded surface exposing only the area you are working with at one time.
  • Wet washcloth with warm water (no soap) Wipe eyes from inside corner to outside corner and pat face dry.
  • Wash baby's neck, face chest, arms, and legs with warm water and mild soap, rinse and pat dry.
  • Lay baby on stomach and wash his neck back and legs, rinse and pat dry.
  • Bundle baby in towel and hold using one arm to support head and neck. Cradle baby over basin to shampoo, rinse and pat dry with towel.
  • Remove diaper and wash diaper area (no soap on newly circumcised penis) Rinse with washcloth wiping front to back and pat dry.

Tub Baths:

  • Gather supplies before starting water. Use small towel or bath sponge to prevent slipping. Add just a few inches of warm water.
  • Cradle baby and gently slide him into water supporting head with one hand or arm under neck. Do not move arm away while bathing.
  • Start with eyes as with sponge bath and work to diaper area.
  • Shampoo last and wrap in dry towel immediately.

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.

Circumcision Care
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:

  • Fever over 100 (degrees) F
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Disinterest in feeding/ baby is lethargic
  • High pitched crying inconsolability
  • Rash
  • Yellow/ orange skin or eyes
  • Unusual discharge from eyes, nose, ears, navel, genitals

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 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 library, books available through

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:

  • How thrilled you were went you heard about your child.
  • Songs or poetry your family shared while waiting
  • What you thought about the first time you saw your child.
  • The celebrations your family shared after your child arrived.
  • The first days after your child came home to join the family.I created a book for my child with pictures of him and a story that told about my expectations and dreams and how he surpassed every one. He was so proud of his book that he took it to every "sharing" day at school for years.

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.

Visitor Comments (0) - Be the first to comment
Adding your comments contributes to the adoption community. Please keep all comments on topic and civil. Visitors are invited to comment and vote for or flag comments based on appropriateness and helpfulness. All comments must adhere to our commenting rules and are subject to moderation.

To see local Parenting resources, please select a location (U.S. only):

Need a Home Study?
Adoption Photolisting
Stanley (TX / 16 / M)
Stanley is a youth who is quite friendly, personable, and respectful to strangers. He expresses himself comfortably with others. Stanley enjoys building Legos into diverse figures... [more]
Directory of Adoption Professionals
Find a professional
for all of your adoption needs including:

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

Settings Help Feedback
Template Settings
Width: 1024     1280
Choose a Location:
Choose a Theme: