Babywise and the Adopted Child

We had friends who implemented Babywise and were eager to do so ourselves when we adopted our son, but were unsure what to do with an already established routine from the children’s home and forming a proper attachment/bonding. 

At 10 weeks old we were able to bring him home and were filled with joy. Even though this is considered early in adoption circles, we only wished it was from day one, as we would have loved to have known him his whole life. 

The house mother at the children’s home he stayed at gave us very little information. “He eats every 3 hours, 24 hours a day, we even wake him up for it if needed. And likes to be in arms as much as possible. He eats ____ per hour.” That’s it! Off we went with this little person that we knew not much else about. 

I remember feeling this pit of my stomach fear. Would we be able to reshape these habits? 

That first day, I kept wanting to pick up the phone and call the house mother to get more information. Finally it was my husband that said lovingly and firmly, “We are his parents now, we set the way forward”. And so we did. 

First things first, we figured out how much really was a full feeding for him. Turns out he was eating too little and thus very upset after meals. 

After we knew he wasn’t hungry, we worked on the shock we noticed he was in, so we “wore him” for days (only during awake times). Yes, this may seem very non-Babywise. But, we firmly believed that Babywise is about being Parent-Directed. He needed to get to know a new home, new smells, and a consistant set of caregivers. We as the parents felt that he needed this most in his transition. And it didn’t ruin our plan.

Next we set him on a daytime schedule. Within weeks, it was visible what how the routine made him feel secure. In this routine, we could get to know him better as opposed to chaos. I would even say as adoptive parents, this gave us confidence that we DID have the capacity to know our son and read his cries even if he wasn’t from my body.

Then we worked on the nights, setting firm bedtime and morning wake time. He had never even had the chance to STTN since he was always woken up just to keep the schedule going for the whole children’s home. (Which I am grateful for the care they gave him, and understand that they want to be sure no baby goes hungry because they fell through the cracks. But it is the difference between institutional care and a home.) At nights we let him sleep and surprisingly HE DID! He managed at first about 5-6 hours and we were overjoyed. Slowly, we worked on stretching it out to a full 10-12 hour night. 

It wasn’t easy but I’m pleased to report that with in a month of being home, he was eating well, gaining weight appropriately, happy during awake times, napping well, and most importantly sleeping a solid 12 hour night. 

He’s now over 13 months old and affectionately called “the champ sleeper”. He’s a wonderful child who is well bonded and knows his mama and pappa love him. He gives affection, laughs, plays well, and is a joy for other people in his life (family, babysitters, church friends, etc). You would never know we got a late start on Babywise. 


6 thoughts on “Babywise and the Adopted Child”

  1. Thank you so much for posting an adoption blog post! My husband & I will be adopting in the next few years & I wasn't sure how bonding & Babywise could work. This was a great encouragement! Would love to see posts from more adoptive families, especially those who adopted internationally. Thanks again!

  2. I also thank you for the adoption post! We are on the waiting list and should be bringing home a baby from the hospital. It's encouraging to hear it can be done. 🙂

  3. Great post. I recognized a lot. We are taking care of an abandoned baby who came to live with us (probably temporarily) when he was 4,5 months old. He was used to being nursed on demand. He was used to co-sleeping. He was used to no schedule at all. During the first three days, he cried a lot and we held him a lot, because (like Mary) we felt he had to overcome the shock of being in a total different environment first. After 3 days, we saw he was really doing very well and started slowly to put him on a feeding/sleeping schedule. In the beginning, we had to wake him him up many times because it was time to be fed. In two weeks time, our little boy was totally used to the schedule and feeling very secure with it. Now he is almost 6 months (5 weeks with us) and on an almost perfect 4hours schedule. I love this! It really works. Thanks! R.

  4. Hi Val,
    My husband, Nick, and I will be adopting our first child – a newborn – in April. I’m very drawn to the Babywise method, but have heard that Babywearing has incredible benefits in terms of facilitating newborn-parent bonding. I see that you also adopted a newborn. Do you have any advice on babywearing vs. babywise and whether you can merge the two?

    • Hello!

      This is actually a guest post by Mary (you can see her name at the bottom), so I don’t have that experience. But I will say so far as bonding, you spend so much time with your baby holding them and caring for them that I don’t think you need to add in extra time to create a bond. A newborn eats 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. If it is 8 times and baby takes 30 minutes to eat each time, then you are holding for 4 hours a day JUST to feed.

      You could definitely wear if you feel that is the best thing to do for your baby. You might have some new training you need to do down the road (most likely will have some training to do), but if you feel babywearing is best, then that is worth it!


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