7 phrases NOT to say to an adoptive family—and what to say instead

“So how do you make sure the baby you get looks like you? How do you make sure he's white with blue eyes?" Our friend's voice was tender and caring, inquiring about our upcoming adoption, even though his questions cut through me like a dagger.

I remember thinking through my response slowly, explaining why a “look" was not something we were looking for. I shared that adoption won't ever be a secret or anything we are ashamed of, and that we will celebrate the beauty of diversity and embrace any culture into our family.

This was the first of countless, unintentionally offensive, anti-adoption conversations we have had since beginning our journey. I became a mama by adoption, so this journey is sacred to me. It's both tragic and beautiful, grievous and joyous. With one family's immense loss, another family gains their whole world.

Adoption can be beautiful and I've known since the get-go we were privileged to be pursuing it. I also knew it was a serious journey requiring delicate attention and a fierce love willing to get uncomfortable for the sake of our child. Me? I am so beyond blessed by adoption. I always say I'm the luckiest one of the bunch. It made me a mother. And adoption has made me a better person, through and through.

One of the most obvious problems regarding adoption in our culture today is the lack of positive or healthy language surrounding it. Words are so powerful, no matter the intent, and I am here to learn alongside you how to love everyone just a bit better.

Here are seven things not to say to an adopting or adoptive family, and what to say instead.

1. “How much did it cost?"

Whether you're asking about the adoption or the child, stop yourself. First, remember that children are not purchased. Second, ask yourself why you're asking this. This is actually no one's business and is quite possibly one of the most personal questions you could ask.

If you want to know more about adoption fees in general, and what that could look like for your family, ask something like this: "What are the average fees for domestic/international adoption?"

2. “Are you going to adopt a black baby?" Or to an existing transracial family: “Did you want to adopt a black/latino/asian/white/different-race baby?"

Again, ask yourself why you're asking this question. If you're genuinely wanting to learn more about other cultures and what challenges transracial families face, ask something like this: "Are you open to adopting transracially?" or "What are some ways I can celebrate you as a transracial family?"

3. “Do you also want/have children of your own?"

It is of utmost importance to realize children by adoption are absolutely our own children. What you could ask instead is, "Do you also want/have biological children?" if it is your business to ask at all.

4. “Did their parents die of AIDS?"

This is a question asked of so many white mamas raising black children. The first assumption is that our black children were born in another county where AIDS is prevalent. The next assumption is that AIDS is the only problem and there aren't any other reasons children might be placed for adoption.

Instead, don't ask this question. The details of their children's story as well as their birth family's stories aren't anyone's business.

5. “Is he your 'real' son?" or “Where is your 'real' dad?"

Oftentimes classmates who aren't familiar with adoption ask children of adoption or foster care where their real dad or mom is. I was recently talking to a teen adoptee who shared how frustrating and hurtful this is.

Every parent is real. Every child is real. No one is playing pretend family.

6. “How are your own/real children handling your adoption/foster care?"

Sometimes when families pursue adoption and foster care, they have biological children already in the home. If you are concerned about their processing the adoption or foster care and genuinely want to check in, ask "How are your biological kids adjusting and/or preparing for the addition to your family?"

7. Any sort of horror story.

For some reason, people love sharing the stories they've heard from Oprah or the neighbor down the street about a family falling apart. It's almost always pegged at the child who was adopted. This is far too common and extremely unloving, unfair, and not okay. Please don't share a story like this.

I love adoption. I love families by adoption and foster care. I also love everyone else and believe we can continue spreading positive and helpful awareness about adoption and foster care.

If you would like to read more about positive adoption language and what terms to use or not use, read Adoption 101: Positive Adoption Language.

We all love our friends and want to support them as best as possible, especially on such a journey as the adoptive or foster care journey. One very overlooked and immensely powerful way to do this is to brush up on what not to ask and what to ask or say instead.

Your hearts are beautiful, dear mama! And please know that your adopting friend is lucky and thankful to have a friend like you in her life—one that cares enough to get educated and learn how to best love adoptive families.

Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this


Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

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