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12 MUST HAVES BEFORE ACCEPTING AN
INFANT FOSTER CARE PLACEMENT
There are so many sleepers available for babies these days. When fostering infants, you will need to have a crib before you can receive placement for infants. A playpen or bassinet typically won’t be allowed as the sole available sleeping space in the state’s eyes. Our state used to require a crib before a license could be completed. Now they only require instant access to a crib upon receiving placement – whether that means you have funds available to run out and purchase one, or you have one you can get from a friend that night.
Most cribs now are convertible to toddler beds, and can even become head/foot boards for a full size bed in the future. You can find cribs in great condition secondhand as well – just make sure that, especially if you are fostering, they meet modern regulations. Don’t forget to grab your mattress, waterproof mattress protector, and simple crib sheets (you will want more than one), and forget about all the extra or plushy stuff. It’s unnecessary and not the safest for baby to sleep with!
Our state also requires each foster child to have drawers designated to only them for their personal items. This can also include a dresser or cubby shelf unit with fabric drawers designated to the child. Although, if you purchase a sturdy piece of furniture it can double as a changing station simply by adding a changing pad to the top – saving room in the nursery for other items.
A Car Seat
We love using a milestone car seat! We have been open to fostering infants and children up to five years old. Although we have decided to stick with infants at the moment, convertible items make it possible for us to readily accept young children, or to simply allow our infants to grow in the items we already have. This milestone car seat we purchased converts from a rear-facing seat for babies as small as five pounds ALL the way up to a child who needs only a booster seat.
A Diaper Bag is a must-have to carry all the necessary baby items while you are out and about on the many visits and appointments you will have. This one is great!
Yes, it goes without saying babies need to be clothed, and this is one of the funnest baby essentials to shop for. Having a few sets of simple onesies are nice to have on hand for pairing with outfits, or for having as a spare change of clothes for common mishaps. As foster parents, we kept a handful of gender neutral onesies, short sleeve and long sleeve, on hand in sizes 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months and 9-12 months.
We also learned it would have been great to have sizes Preemie and Newborn readily available in our nursery as well. When fostering infants you never know what placement call you will receive, and with varying health issues these babies deal with, you just never know what size you will actually need when your placement arrives.
If I could add something else to this list I would add hats and baby mittens. The hats help keep baby heads warm, especially some babies who are effected by drug exposure in terms of being cold and shivering often. As for the mittens, little baby fingers are so hard to clip and keep short, and baby mittens can stop them from scratching their face up.
Diapers and Wipes
These are a no-brainer with babies. I love purchasing our diapers and wipes through the Honest company. Their diapers have NO toxic chemicals and are made without all the junk that has been linked to skin irritations in babies. Babies sit in their diapers 24/7 and I want nothing but nontoxic, quality products on their bare bottoms. What I love about the Honest company is that they have a bundle autoship package that includes wipes and give a great discount when the month’s worth of diapers are purchased together. I found that these weren’t much more expensive, and at times a better deal, than other diaper subscription packages on Amazon purchasing Huggies or Pampers.
Plus, like I said, they include wipes AND they have SUUUPER cute designs – without all the other yuck other brands use to make their diapers. And can we talk about their wipes for a minute? SUPERIOR to EVERY. OTHER. BRAND! Period. They are thick and get the job done. They don’t feel soapy or slimy, and don’t slip out of my hand like other wipes do. Trust me, you will notice the difference. The ingredients in these wipes are so clean I even love using them myself on my face, and they hold well enough to clean baby hands, faces, and even countertops and changing stations. I use less wipes than I need to use with other brands and I don’t have to worry about what’s in them.
And again, the autoship package saves money, and they offer SUUUPER cute designs! You can’t beat it. I have also used Seventh Generation diapers, which are readily available at most stores, as well as a subscription package on Amazon. But again, I love the HONEST wipes. I have used seventh generation wipes and feel comfortable with the ingredients, but they just don’t hold up the same.
Bottles and Feeding Supplies
I love that they make so many different kinds of bottles that offer relief from babies with colic and gassy tummies. We used Playtex Ventaire, and loved them. The downside – you can’t use them in a bottle warmer because the air vents are on the bottom. We tried that once. It was a fail. We still used them with our first, and even with our second baby, because we loved them so much. The bottle heating wasn’t much of an issue since we had a water cooler with a hot water option to avoid using the microwave for each bottle feeding. My sister used Dr. Brown’s bottles for colic and loved them as well!
A bottle drying rack and a brush specifically for cleaning bottles were great investments as well. It felt like we mixed and cleaned bottles all day long. Having the right tools made this much easier! We had our first baby before we installed the water softener in our home. In the Phoenix area, our water was so hard that using the dishwasher was not an option. I felt like I had to re-clean everything that came out of the dishwasher! The bottle brush and drying rack were necessary for us. Then of course, you may also want to think about grabbing burp cloths and baby bibs to keep baby clothes (and yours!) clean while burping, between feedings, and from the drool that comes with teething.
You may come from a stance that you don’t want your babies to use pacifiers for fear of attachment to them. You may also have biological children you didn’t use pacifiers with for various reasons, including the choice to disregard the use of pacifiers to help with your baby’s breastfeeding latch. When fostering infants, pacifiers can, or dare I say WILL, be necessary for soothing an infant with an abusive background.
Dr. Karp’s book, Happiest Baby On The Block, talks about the 5 S’s to Soothing, and was recommended to us by three different health care professionals and social workers when we had our first placement. He was OFTEN inconsolable from gastrointestinal and feeding issues, and as well other issues that were caused from the prenatal drug exposure. One of the S’s mentioned in his book is Sucking. One of the many ways babies learn to self soothe or become soothed with the help of others is by sucking. And while a baby can’t suck on a bottle all day long, a pacifier can provide immense comfort to a trauma exposed infant. Teethers would be great to add to this list as well. They have really cool vibrating teethers too that provide extra sensory stimulation, or teethers that you can stick in the freezer for a cooling sensation on hurting gums.
With fostering I’m all about convertible items. A bath that will work for itty bitties all the way up until they are stable sitters. Again, you never know where your baby will be at size wise or developmentally. A baby bath may be necessary to have around. Baby bath essentials you will want to keep in your home are baby shampoo, lotion, wash cloths, and perhaps a hooded towel.
These high chairs are super cool! They can lean back to help you feed bottles to babies while at the table, and can still work for them until they are big enough to sit at the table with you.
I prefer a baby monitor with a camera system as opposed to the audio only monitors. There are all kinds of monitors than can track the temperature in the room and alert you of any noise or movement coming from the room. I was so scared to have a preemie baby with health concerns in our care that I almost went as far as buying an Owlet monitor, and still would! Though, this isn’t a purchase we ever made and we stuck with a camera system monitor.
Baby’s Personal Care Items
Some other common baby care must-haves include baby nail scissors, a brush, a nasal aspirator, this diaper rash cream or this one. I love the kits that contain everything I need, including an infant medicine feeder.
Digital Thermometers and Medial Care Items
Your state very well may require that you keep a well-stocked first aid kit. One thing that is nice to have with littles is a digital thermometer. From picking up germs to teething, a quick and accurate reading thermometer is necessary. You may also consider having some natural, dye-free (’cause, stains), Tylenol and Ibuprofen on hand as well for fevers and teething pain.
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+ 12 THING YOU MAY NOT HAVE THOUGHT OF
Books for the Parents
There are copious amounts of parenting books out there, and a myriad of them available in regards to raising infants. We’re not talking about those ones today. We are talking about books directly related to fostering infants and how infants with prenatal drug exposure or abuse early in life differ from a child who was not exposed to these things. Abuse, especially so early in life, can rewire the way the child’s brain works, temporarily and long-term. Three books I highly recommend you read if you foster babies is The Whole Brain Child, The Connected Child, and The Mystery of Risk.
Baby wearing is one of my favorite things to do with a brand new foster placement, and something I do for as long as they fit and aren’t too heavy. Baby wearing creates an incredible opportunity for bonding and attachment, and provides a safe and secure atmosphere for the baby. Many babies with prenatal alcohol and drug exposure find comfort in constant movement. Using a baby carrier with your little one is one of the best things you can do.
Calming Baby Lotion
Yes, we covered lotion in the previous section, but I want to discuss it a little more here. Rubbing lotion on any baby after baths can keep their skin from drying out and soft. But there are more great benefits than this! After every bath we spend extra time massaging lotion into our babies’ legs and arms to help calm their muscles from all the tremors. This extra skin-to-skin time spent with baby is also great for bonding and attachment. We especially love a lavender essential oil infused lotion that helps to calm a baby and prepare them for a good night’s rest. Which leads me to my next item…
I love The Honest Company brand lavender soap/shampoo and Lavender lotion that is becoming more and more readily available in stores, and you can sign up for their autoship program and get a better deal (35% off) with items shipped right to your door every month. However, I feel like their baby personal care products are somewhat thin and we have to use more when washing and moisturizing our babies. Although I still use this brand through toddler years, I feel like my more active littles get a better clean with the Seedlings line of baby care items.
The Seedlings line is very concentrated and we find ourselves actually able to use WAY less, or dilute the products and get double (or triple) the life out of each bottle. Young Living also offers a monthly autoship program called Essential Rewards. You cannot find these items in stores and I only trust buying them directly from their site (DO NOT BUY THEM OFF AMAZON!), but you can get them shipped to your door with 25% back on the Essential Rewards program and their products are far superior to anything else I have used.
Did you know essential oils can provide incredible relief from big emotions little ones with a traumatic past go through? We use only Young Living Therapeutic Grade essential oils in our home. You can see why here! Essential oils work quickly (within seconds!) and can support the entire body! Whether you use them for physical, emotional or mental health, they can be a lifesaver!
I cannot speak highly enough about using essential oils with foster babies and children. Essential oils are lipid soluble and small enough to pass through the blood brain barrier. Do some research to see why this is so important and why they can work better than medications! Jen O’Sullivan’s book The Essential Oil Truth: Facts Without The Hype is a great starting place, as is Lindsey Elmore’s book Essentials: 50 Answers to Common Questions About Essential Oils. Pick up a copy of Gentle Baby to learn about how you can properly use essential oils with littles.
Investing in quality essential oils and a great diffuser can do wonders for babies with a rough start in life. Click to learn about the ONLY essential oils I trust to use on my family and why I will ONLY use this brand. Here are a few of our favorite oils, most of which come in the Premium Starter Kit for half pice:
- Lavender is considered the Swiss Army Knife of essential oils! Research shows this also helps with bonding! A study was done on babies who were bathed with a drop or two of Lavender essential oil added to their bath. The baby spent more time making eye contact with the caregiver and was easier to soothe before bed than babies who didn’t have the assistance of essential oils. From the moment a baby is born, they grow and explore and learn something new everyday. They eat, they sleep, they bathe, they get diaper changed, they walk, and they tumble. Their hair grows, their skin changes, they live through allergy season and play with bugs (some they shouldn’t). They get nosebleeds, they get dirty, and sometimes could use an air freshener! They grow and they change. Whatever stage of life your little (or not so little) is in – keep a high quality Lavender essential oil with you!
- Gentle Baby – Lavender may be considered the Swiss Army Knife of oil, but this is the Swiss Army Knife of oils to use with babies. From gastrointestinal discomfort, to bedtime, to redness under a diaper, and bonding during bottle feedings, this oil is a great one to keep on hand!
- TummyGize/DiGize – remember the upset stomach we talked about? This one can help soothe a baby’s tummy. It seems like babies can have so much trouble with gas and even colic, and infants who were substance exposed are even more susceptible to these issues. Don’t forget to try essential oil remedies for quick relief!
- Citrus Fresh and Purification – There’s nothing worse than a house that smells like dirty diapers or baby spit up! These two are my go-to when I need some help!
- Copaiba – This is a mommy and baby’s best friend! When baby’s get to drooling and chomping on everything in site – we all know what’s coming! Copaiba to the rescue! I also love using Copaiba with my three year with big emotions, huge tantrums, and nonstop energy. (A post on this in the future!) Some Copaiba in the brain stem does wonders!
- Frankincense – When babies are restless, when babies need extra mental and emotional support, and when mama can use some comfort – Frankincense is great to apply topically or use in a diffuser. You can see incredible changes in a person when they are grounded!
- Stress Away – it does what the name says! I pair this with lavender in the diffuser for a calming environment (Peace & Calming is great too). I use it on days that are extra stressful, and days when there seems to be extra chaos or extra errands to run. PS: works great as a perfume and smells like an island getaway!
- There are MANY, MANY more than we use on a daily basis with our babies and toddlers, but here are a quick few to get you started!
Swaddling a baby helps them to feel safe and secure. Remember the Happiest Baby on the Block’s 5 S’s to soothing a baby – swaddling is one of them! It mimics the feeling of baby in the womb, and helps a baby to startle less often to noises and movement, sometimes caused by them. Promoting feelings of safety, security, and promoting sleep and a routine enforces a great calming environment in substance exposed infants. We love this gently weighted Zen blanket for littles with extra sensory needs, and we also LOVE these breathable muslin ones, especially in the Arizona summer months.
A Swing is a great investment! Some babies need constant motion and we can’t always give that to them every hour of the day. Investing in a great swing can help tremendously for babies with all kinds of needs.
A Rocker or Glider may also be a great investment for moments when you want to hold a baby who needs constant movement but you’re tired of being on your feet. There are many great options that can fit in your nursery.
Gentle Baby Formula
Many drug exposed infants have feeding issues. Bottles that help prevent colic and extra gas can help, as can a gentle baby formula. Your baby may or may not come with formula, and foster children automatically qualify for WIC. But having a can of a gentle formula on hand is great if a baby is sent with regular formula and upset stomach issues persist. I had NO idea how much I was supposed to be feeding him and when he would need more, and when to start baby food, etc. THIS GUIDE can provide a good starting place if you are brand new to all of this like I was! If your baby was born prematurely or is malnourished, you may want to start them on a lower amount of formula/food and see what there stomach can handle. Then gradually feed more if they seem to handle the amounts well, and are acting hungry sooner than it’s time for them to eat again.
Sound/White Noise Machine
This was an ultimate must for us, and we didn’t realize it until our first placement was almost 9 months old! This helped our light sleeper (who has a VERY difficult time falling asleep) tremendously! He is three now and we still use it with him DAILY during nap time and at night.
Sensory Stimulating Toys
Babies love playtime, and thrive on sensory stimulation. From toys, to books, to activity gyms, sensory toys can help a child stay calm and grow developmentally. I especially love the play mat that can grow with a baby through their infant months!
Foster Care Organization Binder and Life Book Set
We offer great printables in our Etsy shop to help you stay organized as a foster parent. Check out the Foster Care Organization printables here and the Life Book printable sets here. You can see what all is included in the organizations sets from this blog post!
A Support Team
If you don’t yet have a support team, find one! They can be crucial for getting through the big moments in foster care. It can be family or close friends, and even knew people you meet through this adventure! I encourage you to find a foster care support group in your area. It can be comforting being surrounded by people who are going through similar experiences you are. If you don’t have a support group in your area – search social media for online groups in your area or in your state. We are involved in a few different groups and this helps us bounce ideas off others about new legislation and statewide processes that go into effect. These groups usually have hundreds of members who can help answer questions about the children in your care, without breaking confidentially of course.