Newborn Care: What to Expect With Your Adopted Baby

by | Mar 20, 2024 | Adoptive Families Blog

Adoptive mother savors the moment after following newborn care tips for sleepingMany new adoptive parents are surprised at the adjustment to having a newborn baby. Those first few months of newborn care could be challenging, but knowing what to expect can make it easier.
While it’s necessary to prepare for the details required to adopt safely and smoothly, it’s also worth investing in preparation for life as a new adoptive parent. After all, every adoption journey comes with the dream of life AFTER adoption!
Keep reading to get basic newborn care and baby safety tips, as well as what you can expect when you bring your adopted newborn to their forever home.

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Sleep, what sleep?

In those first few weeks after birth, your baby will sleep a lot, but they will wake up when they need to be fed. Most newborns wake up two to four times a night, as babies have shorter sleep cycles than adults.
Usually, by three months old, most babies settle into a pattern of longer awake and sleep times. But until then, be prepared to get up a few times a night to feed your little one.
Sleep can be a big challenge with a newborn, but following safe sleep recommendations can prevent many Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) fatalities. To practice safe sleep:

  • Place your baby on his back to sleep
  • Make sure your baby has his own sleep space with no other people.
  • Use a crib, bassinet, or play yard with a firm, flat mattress, and a fitted sheet.
  • Avoid letting your infant sleep on a couch, armchair, or in a seating device, like a swing or car safety seat (if they fall asleep while riding in the car, that’s OK).
  • Keep loose blankets, stuffed toys, pillows, and bumpers out of the sleep space.
  • If your baby’s crib is a hand-me-down, check the CPSC website to make sure your crib hasn’t been recalled.

Feeding Your Newborn

Because you’ll need to feed your newborn every few hours during the day and night, you might as well be comfortable. Stick a rocking chair or glider in your baby’s room for you to sit in as you feed and burp your newborn.
A comfortable chair to sit in will help you relax during those middle-of-the-night feedings. Generally, bottle-fed babies take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to feed. If you’re nursing, it will take around the same amount of time.
Newborns are notorious for falling asleep while they’re eating, so you might need to keep waking up your baby so they can finish eating. Unfortunately, this need to wake them up can drag the length of feedings out to an hour or longer. The feedings can be a sweet experience, but if you’re exhausted, they seem to take forever.

Enjoy This Moment

Try to focus on the moment. Pray or sing a little song to your baby. Many adoptive moms keep magazines or a book by the chair they’ll sit in to feed their baby to occupy the time. Others catch up on emails or social media on their phone. It’s really up to you what works best. Most of all, remember that your sweet baby will move out of the newborn stage in a few months into a new phase, so enjoy it while you can.

Baby Safety and Feeding

Feeding a newborn is a full-time commitment! It’s also a great opportunity to begin forming a bond with your adopted baby. Consider these baby safety tips for feeding a newborn:

  • Provide only breast milk or infant formula in a bottle. Healthy newborns don’t need cereal, water, or juice.
  • Don’t force your baby to finish a bottle if he shows signs of fullness.
  • Hold your baby close when you feed her a bottle.
  • Avoid propping or leaving the bottle in your baby’s mouth, as it can increase the risk of choking, tooth decay, and ear infections. She may also eat more than she needs.
  • Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle because milk could pool around her teeth and cause tooth decay.


Another unexpected aspect of having a newborn is feeling isolated and lonely. Most doctors recommend you wait until your adopted newborn is several months old before taking them into a crowded public area like your church, a movie theater, or a mall.
Experts suggest that you limit visitors both indoors and outdoors because your newborn’s immune system is still developing. As a result, their bodies aren’t able to fight off infections as well as adults. So it’s suggested you keep the visitors at home to your immediate family only.
Because of these restrictions, your social life will take a hit. You’ll probably miss seeing friends and family for a few months. But you can stay connected by phone, text, or video chat. Set up a weekly conversation with other moms who have gone through the newborn stage. If the weather is pleasant, take your baby out for a walk in the baby carrier or stroller. The fresh air will be good for both of you.
Adoptive parents gaze at their newborn baby

Give Yourself Some Grace

When you bring your adopted newborn home, there will be adjustments. You will expect some adjustments, but others not so much. Remember, you’re in a transitional stage right now. No matter how much you prepare, there are always surprises.
Don’t be too hard on yourself during this significant change. Take naps, eat well, and get some exercise. Ask your partner to watch the baby so you can go for a run or a walk in the park. Becoming a parent is a big deal, so allow yourself the space you need to adjust.

Accept Offers of Help

If your family or friends offer their help, it’s because they want to make things easier. When people offer to help, accept their offer.
Whether it’s meals, shopping for you, or picking up your kids at school, say yes! You don’t need to do it all by yourself.
Having the time in those tough early months to rest, shower, and sleep can go a long way in improving your outlook. It’s incredible how hard it can be to find time to shower when you have a newborn, but those 10 minutes alone in a nice, hot shower can do wonders.

Learn About Newborn Care in Expecting 101…You’re Adopting

Valerie Trumbower, a Certified Postpartum Doula, has developed a unique course for hopeful adoptive parents, called “Expecting 101…you’re adopting!” This course offers future adoptive parents a place to learn about bonding with a baby, newborn feeding, understanding baby’s cries, infant CPR, and more.
Information about New Parents Academy's course Expecting're adopting!Valerie created “Expecting 101…you’re adopting!” with adoptive couples in mind so that they don’t have to wade through pregnancy and postpartum tips that often come with other newborn preparation classes.
Valerie’s experience with newborn care and new parent care allows adopting parents a place to arm themselves with information to help them embrace the early days with the baby they are waiting to adopt. She shares strategies to bond with the baby, what baby gear you need to have when you meet your baby, and which essentials you’ll need to buy for the first month or so until you’re sure everything is official.

In “Expecting 101…you’re adopting!,” you’ll get the basics like how to burp and swaddle as well as answers the most-asked questions, like “How do we know if our baby is getting enough to eat?” and “Should we call our pediatrician about his?” Plus, when you sign up for this course, you have access for two years, so you can watch it now before you’re matched to learn what to expect when it comes to life with a newborn. And then, you can re-watch sections when your baby arrives and you have questions or need a bit of a refresher!
You’ve waited for months or maybe even years for your sweet baby to come home. As you begin your new life as a parent, there are bound to be adjustments. But, remember, you’re not alone. So take a moment today to prepare for more than just the paperwork and process to GET to your adoption dream by signing up for Expecting 101…you’re adopting. Plus, you can use coupon code LIFETIME to get 20% off your course fee!

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 17, 2021, and has since been updated. 

Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.

Written by Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.

Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).

Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.

“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!

Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.

I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.

It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”

Read More About Mardie Caldwell

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