Adoption terminology can be confusing, especially when it comes to titles. You are a mother biologically, but that child now has a different mom. Adoption relationships are beautiful but complicated. So, how should you refer to the child you placed for adoption?

The right answer depends on the comfort level of all members of the triad. In order to have a happy, healthy adoption relationship, it’s a good idea to discuss what you will call your birth child with the adoptive parents before placement or soon thereafter. Talking about it early on will make everyone feel more comfortable as the child is learning to talk about her adoption story and your role in her life.

It can be awkward to come up with a title you can both agree on. In the adoption world, the term “birth son” or “birth daughter” is the most politically correct term. It shows that there is a definite difference between this child and a child that you parent. This is the term that most adoptive parents are comfortable with, because it shows that you respect their role as the parents and understand that your role is different—although equally important.


If using ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ is more comfortable for both of you, that’s okay too. Using these titles is not unheard of, especially in very open adoptions. As long as that’s what’s comfortable for you and for the adoptive parents, there’s no problem. The right thing to call your birth child is very much on a case-by-case basis.

You can never go wrong by simply addressing the child by name. It’s hardly ever necessary to use the possessive terms ‘my son,’ ‘your son,’ etc. A child is not a possession and should never be treated as such. Just like any other child, when you’re talking to him, just use his name.

The same guidelines apply to what the adoptee will call you. Some common titles are “Mama (your first name),” “Tummy Mommy,” “Miss (your first name),” or just your first name. It all depends on the dynamics of your relationship with your birth child and the adoptive family.

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Having an agreement between you and the adoptive parents on what you will be called is important. However, it’s not the most important thing. The priority in every open adoption relationship should ALWAYS be the well-being of the adoptee. When the child is old enough to decide, she should call the shots as far as what she is comfortable being called and what she wants to call you. Titles contribute to an adoptee’s sense of identity, so she should never have a title forced upon her that she isn’t comfortable with.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the right title for your birth child. Don’t sweat it—with a little communication and thought, you can come up with something that’s comfortable for all three parties in the adoption triad. What do you call your birth child? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!


Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.