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What It's Really Like to Adopt a Newborn

What It's Really Like to Adopt a Newborn

Parents who want to adopt often have a “fairy tale” version of adoption stuck in their heads. They read about it and they discuss it with loved ones, but spend most of their time and energy excited about how wonderful it is going to be when they finally get to bring their newborn home.

When the adoption process begins, they get a better idea of what is involved. They start to take a more somber approach to the situation – learning more about the related technicalities and challenges of adopting a child. Some immediately feel overwhelmed by paperwork, endless research and annoying red tape. They do a lot of the same preparations that parents expecting to give birth to a baby enjoy: picking out a name, creating a nursery for their baby, etc. But there’s one major difference – couples that are giving birth to a baby have a due date. Adoptive parents have no due date. They wait.

When the wait is over –and the baby is finally placed in the arms of the adoptive parents, many are quite ready for the fairy tale portion of the story to begin. But most must wait a little bit longer. Babies, particularly if they are past the newborn stage, can present specific challenges when they are “brought home.” It’s transformative. This is the point at which adoptive parents discover what it’s really like to adopt a newborn. It’s amazing, but it also comes with a unique set of challenges that parents must quickly learn to navigate.

How Adoptive Parents Can Navigate their Newborn’s Homecoming:

  1. Accept that there may appear to be developmental delays. Also, be aware that sometimes development delays are more a coping mechanism for the major changes that just occurred than anything else. If developmental delays actually exist know that many can improve on their own through nurturing and developmental experiences. Interact with your child both verbally and nonverbally and try to play with them. If necessary, look into the availability of a local early intervention program in your area (home-based developmental and behavioral support programs for children three and under).
  2. Many recently adopted newborns will experience some form of sleep struggle. Some may have never slept alone. Some may have shared a crib with another baby prior to adoption. Some may have slept alongside their caregiver. It is useful to know what type of sleeping arrangements the baby was accustomed to prior to coming home. Adopted children often have anxiety symptoms that come out at night so anything you can do to avoid added stress at night is useful.
  3. In some cases, newborns will eat excessively or refuse to eat. Consider the change in environment, the time difference, the level of nutritional intake and level of stimulation that your baby experienced previously, etc. all these changes can impact eating habits. Some babies will deal with the change by eating too much while others will deal with it by not eating very much at all. Babies who had limited access to food may sometimes develop overeating habits or even hoarding tendencies. Feeding your baby can be a great way to bond – a way to demonstrate your love for her and win trust. Feeding problems will usually improve on their own as soon as they adjust to the fact that food is available regularly. After two months, if there is still an obvious feeding problem, address it with a trusted pediatrician.
  4. Limit post-adoptive caretaking responsibilities to nuclear family members for at least the first month after bringing your baby home in order to allow your baby to identify you as “family” rather than another caretaker.
  5. Take your time when finding the right pediatrician. Meet a few pediatricians prior to bringing your baby home so you already have your doctor before the homecoming.
Get in touch with one of the experienced adoption lawyers at Arizona Family Law Attorneys today if you have other questions about how to navigate the adoption process and prepare for your baby’s first homecoming.
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