Tips and Tricks in Adoption and Pediatrics

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Hair and Skin Care for African Children

Adopting an African-American child, or a child from Ethiopia or other African countries? If African(-American) hair and skincare is foreign to you, these resources can help:

  • Happy Girl Hair - LOVE this website by a local mom of two lovely twins from Ethiopia, one with tight coils, one with loose curls. Product reviews, and styling/braiding tips from simple to elaborate
  • Adoption Hair and Skin Care, an active, non-judgmental YahooGroup
  • Hair Matters, on RainbowKids
  • African Hair Care, on Creating a Family
  • "Does Good Hair Equal Good Parenting?"
  • Hair Rules, from Adoptive Families (also has Asian and Hispanic hair tips)
  • Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care
  • One of our families recommends food-grade grapeseed oil for scalp and skin, as it's less fragrant than olive or coconut oil, and both cheaper/purer than the versions in the cosmetic aisle
  • Another family loves Alaffia shea/coconut hair lotion for longer/loose-curlier African-American hair, and recommend infrequent shampoo with daily refreshing: a bit of spray water, followed by this leave-in conditioner.
  • You may also find local hair salons or agency classes helpful for hands-on help

As many of our multi-racial clinic families have learned, the painful way, many adults in the African-American community will view how you do or don't groom your child's hair as a marker for how well cared for they are. Hopefully in a helpful well-meaning way, but even then it's a hard thing to hear. Besides, children need to learn how to care for themselves, often want to "fit in" with others of their ethnicity, and want to look beautiful (or handsome) with the curls and coils they've got. 

Seat Belt Buckle Guard


Have a child with the fine motor skills to pop the childseat or seat belt buckle, but not the impulse control to refrain from doing so? Check out the Buckle Guard and Buckle Guard Pro (larger for modern seatbelts), also available on Amazon.

I love the fact that they're using a child-resistant medication cap to block access to the belt release.

Spiffy ID Bracelets



Via ParentHacks comes a great idea for custom ID bracelets your kids might actually wear! Many of the young children we work with have an underdeveloped sense of stranger danger, and tendency to wander further than they should. It's important to have a safe amount of information on them should they get separated from you. Your cell phone numbers would probably do the trick, and these can fit on a trendy custom silicone bracelet. Plus, you can all wear matching family bracelets if you'd like to emphasize the family unit aspect. You can order as few as five custom bands, but make sure to order extras.

For those who can't stand having things on their wrists (that would include me), I've also had families use Tyvek tags or luggage tags worked through shoelaces. If you've come up with anything useful, please post below ...

Slings and Things

I've had a bit of a complicated relationship with babywearing, as with many other things that can get taken somewhat seriously in this town of ours. The "attachment as lifestyle" trend goes a bit far sometimes, for me. Luckily, now that I'm a dad and get to experience it myself, things are less complicated: I love it, probably more than my daughter does.

I do my best to not do the "I'm babywearing, how attached am I" look that sometimes goes with the wearing of the baby. And I try to maintain some sense of my own style (which does not generally include being draped with bolts of indigenous fabrics) while I do it. And thus, I bring you my own idiosyncratic list of fave slings and things:

Adjustable Pouches



Our favoritest, most versatile babywearing device has been an adjustable fleece pouch, from Kangaroo Korner. Works great for facing-in infant snuggles, facing-out kangaroo hold, sidelying, and my favorite, the hip carry. The sherpa fleece is snuggly, just warm enough, and stretches just right. Bonus for me: no rings, no big tails of fabric. But for those of you that can work that look, I hear ring slings are fabulously versatile, and great for breastfeeding. And for those who like being tied up, the Moby Wraps sure are popular.



Soft Structured Baby Carriers

These let you carry a baby, toddler, even preschooler facing-in, either on your frontside or back. You can adapt them for hip carry, but it's kludgey. They hurt my back a lot less than Baby Bjorns, and are more snuggly and nap-tastic. The Ergo carrier is the easiest-to-find version of this, and it works great for lots of people. We struggled with the fabric choices (they all looked a bit "I wear hemp" for me), and wound up with a Yamo baby carrier, in fabu red surf fabric, from Israel via German Ebay. Yes, people get that crazy about their baby carriers. But we sooo love it. To find people even more nutty about their babywearing than I, go to the TheBabyWearer reviews and forums. The reviews are excellent, and the "for sale or trade" section is hopping.

Hip Carriers



Our daughter ended up feeling that a hip carry was a nice compromise between snuggling in and facing out. And so along came the Ellaroo Mei Hip carrier, in a luscious array of organic fabrics. You can do this carry with a pouch or ring sling, or the Ergo-type carriers, but this one is both easy and comfortable. Ellaroo also carries more traditional Mei Tais, not to mention Guatemalan-fabric slings and wraps.

And that's what we're rocking so far ... I hear these really come into their own when you've got two kids. For toddler adoptees, the soft structured and hip carriers are a great choice, as they comfortably handle bigger kids. I hope you find one (or more) that suits you and your child. But remember - it's still OK to put them down from time to time. How else will they learn to sit/crawl/walk?

Please post your own favorites below. However, you may end up in trouble with my wife if you end up inspiring yet another carrier purchase.

Custom Picture Books Made Easy

iPhoto Books

iPhoto Books

iPhoto on the Mac and several PC-friendly photo websites make it incredibly easy to publish a book with custom photos and text, for under $30. I think that this is a totally underused service, and one that is dynomite for families, especially adoptive familes.

Imagine the possibilities:

  • Sending a book to your preadoptive child with pictures of your family, your home, and your neighborhood, with labels in English and their native language.
  • Creating a gorgeous hardbound lifebook, without any "scrapbooking" skillz whatsoever.
  • Printing a smaller, pocket-size "flipbook security blanket" of reassuring people and places, for difficult daycare and school transitions, or for scary moments in the middle of the night.
  • Using this for custom "social stories", with scripts and Stuart Smiley affirmations for situations your child may be struggling with. Photos and optimistic narrations of your child's bedtime routine, eventual toilet training success, trips to loud stores, a photo-rehearsal of the bus trip to school, and so on ...
  • Or do-it-yourself books on your child's obsession du jour. My friends made an incredible photobook of big machinery from Dad's bike commute, through the Ballard locks, along the train lines, past the tugboats, through the sculpture garden construction site, and to the downtown office towers. The narration was personal and better-written than most books in this genre, and the whole project from photos to book order took less than a day. Their vehicle-obsessed 2-year-old loves it ... best birthday present EVER.