10 Helpful Tips for Foster Parents of Infants

Foster parenting has been a huge learning experience for our family. If you and your family are thinking about fostering infants or about to take your first placement I am sharing 10 tips that I hope will be useful and helpful. 

Hospital Pickup versus Home Drop Off

If you have the option to pick up your placement from the hospital do it. The nurses will be able to provide you with lots of helpful information. Ask questions because they will be able to give you more background information on your child as well as feeding tips, routine, and medical concerns. For little ones coming from the hospital be sure to note what type of nipple was used on the bottle for feeds. This was something that we struggled with and finally ended up buying a package of disposable nipples that fit on the Dr. Brown bottles we had already purchased.

WIC

Make an appointment with WIC as soon as you know you are getting a placement. I had no idea just what a valuable resource this would be for our family. Our little one was provided 12 cans of formula each month when he was placed with us through WIC. While this didn’t cover all the formula that he needed for the month it greatly helped to reduce our out of pocket expense. His formula cost for the first 30 days we had him was $400. Having breastfed I had no idea just how expensive formula can be. I love WIC and think it is such an amazing resource and having nothing but good things to say. The staff was kind and resourceful and I was able to gain additional information from them about our baby because he had been brought to WIC previously before he was placed with us.

Know Your Community Resources

Your foster care agency should have given you a list of organizations in your community that can provide additional resources. Be sure to go over that list. In Arizona there are several great organizations that offer assistance to families who provide foster care. I called Helen’s Hope Chest within the first few days of placement and made an appointment for our family. Helen’s Hope Chest offers clothes, shoes, diapers, toys, quilts, and books to foster children in Arizona. Even our biological children got to pick out an outfit each visit. All our kids love Helen’s Hope Chest! Our first visit was epic and they even had our baby’s special formula on hand and gave us several cans. God is so good! When a scheduled visit is within 3 months of your child’s birthday they get to pick out a toy from the birthday room. It is truly a special place.

Get Comfortable in the Doctor’s Office

I feel like we our pediatricians and therapy office became our second home for the first few months. If your baby has a large amount of medical needs be prepared to spend several hours each week at the hospital, pediatrician’s office, and with an occupational and physical therapist. I packed snacks and water bottles for myself and our children in addition to the diapers and formula I packed for the baby. Be sure to take a notebook so you can write down any important information for the baby’s medical care. With so many appointments it was helpful for me to put our notice to provider in a clear heavy duty sheet protector that could easily be pulled out of the diaper bag when needed. I found these dry erase pockets at the dollar store that worked perfectly.

Sleep

The question we were asked about the most by our friends and family was how we were all sleeping. I will be honest, the first few months were rough. We had a crib set up in our room for the first 3 weeks but soon realized that we were on edge over every little noise that the baby made. We decided to transition him to his own room which worked so much better. Nighttime sleep is dependent on many different factors. Our first goal was to establish a daytime routine that created an opportunity for naps and a consistent feeding schedule. This will look differently depending on the age of your infant and if there is any ongoing medical concerns. I very loosely followed the schedule I had used with our children when they were the equivalent age to our foster baby. However you decide to setup your sleeping arrangement be sure to purchase a white noise machine for all the bedrooms in your home and blackout curtains.

A nightlight is super helpful as well to keep the light dim in the room when you have nighttime feeds, to change a diaper, or to just offer extra snuggles. We worked really hard to try and bond with our baby by responding to any noise he made when he first came to us. He didn’t cry to have his basic needs met for weeks. Not even when he was wet at night and had soaked his jammies or crib. It was heartbreaking. My advice would be to respond to any noise you hear at first to let your child know you will come. Even if its 2am and you have just fallen asleep because you were up an hour ago feeding the baby a bottle. If you are married you and your spouse can take turns each night getting up with the baby to guarantee you are both getting more hours of sleep at least every other night.

It may feel uncomfortable for your baby to be held and cuddling might not feel natural to them right away. Bottle feeding is the perfect time to practice cuddling, especially right before bedtime. Dim the lights in their room, turn on the white noise machine, and hold them close. Be sure to switch which side you are holding them on when they are halfway through with their bottle. This helps with brain development and a skill which is called crossing the midline. Once the bottle is finished be sure to hold them upright, sing a song or two, and rub their back for at least 10 minutes to release any air bubbles before you place them in their crib. It might sound simple but these little things will quickly help establish a routine for your little one.

Baths

Our little one did not like baths, at all. They were shocking to him and he whimpered the entire time. It was awful to see how terrified and uncomfortable he was in the bath water. From bathing my other babies bath time had always been pleasant and enjoyable. We opted for washcloth baths instead and placed him in the Shnuggle, which is the best baby bathtub ever invented, without water. Gradually each bath time we would add a small amount of water to the bottom of the tub. Now he loves baths and it is his happiest time. He would stay for hours in the tub if we let him.

Identifying Your Child’s Triggers

Just like our experience with the bathtub you will need to be ready to see your child terrified over things that are simply not terrifying to the average kid. Foster children have been through the traumatic experience of being removed from their home. You don’t know what they have seen, smelled, or heard and because of that there is no way to predict what might cause them to become upset or fearful. It is your job as a foster parent to provide the stability they crave especially at this delicate age to create the resiliency they will need in the future. Take a deep breath when this happens, evaluate the situation, see if you can discover the triggers, and then decide from there how to work towards a solution.

Early Intervention

All states have early intervention programs for children 3 and under. As a foster child your baby will be evaluated to see if they meet the program criteria for kids with developmental disabilities. These programs are wonderful because the therapist comes to your home. The only downside is they can take months to get a therapist actually into your home to start treatment. If you and your pediatrician are sure your child needs physical or occupational therapy you can go to any therapist that will accept your child’s medical insurance for an evaluation. We had our child in both physical and occupational therapy within the first few weeks of placement.

Family Visits

The goal of fostering is to get your baby reunified with their family. Keep in mind your child will have visits starting within in the first week of placement. It will be helpful to pack a bag that can be taken with your child when they are transported to a family visit. Think of things that will make the visit more pleasant for both the parents and baby. A fun book for mom to read aloud, a blanket to cuddle with, an extra outfit in case of a diaper blowout, and if it is ok with your child’s case manger maybe a note to say hello and let them know how their child is doing in your care. When getting your little one ready for visits with mom and dad here are several suggestions for what to pack.

  • Ready to use formula with bottle nipple
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Extra Outfit
  • Blanket
  • Pacifier
  • Toys
  • Book
  • Note for parents (be sure to check with case manger if this is allowed)

Be a Team Player

Be kind and gracious to all those who are entering your home. Remember you are all on the same team and trying to give this little person the best chance at being reunited with their family. If someone is coming over during lunch time offer lunch to be provided. Pray for everyone involved in your child’s case. I don’t think Josh and I realized how much we would come to love all the people who entered our home during this process. This may not be the experience you have but you can still show Christ love by being kind and hospitable.

I have been blown away seeing how Jesus has changed my heart and mind and I am so glad I stepped out in faith when I felt convicted by the Lord in this area. Becoming a foster parent is a huge gift that you can give a family. It can radically alter, not just a child’s life but an entire family by giving the parents a chance to get the services they need to get their child home.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing! I hope we may get to foster or adopt one day and it has been really interesting following your story to get an idea of what it might be like.

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