Moving from poverty at an orphanage in Malawi, 13-month-old David Banda is now surrounded by a world of celebrity and luxury.
But aid organisations warned adopting individual children from overseas was not the answer for the hundreds of thousands suffering from deprivation.
After landing at London’s Heathrow airport, David was taken to the singer’s home near Marble Arch and kept away from the hordes of waiting photographers and reporters.
Madonna, 48, and her husband Guy Ritchie have secured a temporary 18-month custody order from the Malawi courts and hope to adopt him formally.
It is thought the baby arrived in Britain with a US visa stamped in his new passport, sparking speculation he would be adopted under US law.
Westminster Council, which covers the area where Madonna lives, said they “regularly” receive applications from residents wishing to adopt from overseas.
But a spokesman could not confirm if they had received any such application from the singer.
Adoption experts said the celebrity couple would have undergone rigorous checks before being given permission to adopt the boy.
But British adoption agencies and aid organisations warned that inter-country adoption should be seen as a “last resort”.
Anna Feuchtwang, from EveryChild, said: “Most evidence shows that children are better off in their own families and communities.
“In Malawi, where there are a million orphans, even if inter-country adoption was the best option, it is not going to be possible for all those children. Other solutions need to be found.”
Louise Richards, from War on Want, added: “Madonna’s step to adopt the baby is a well-meaning, but misguided act.”
There has also been a backlash in Malawi, with human rights groups going to court to question the apparently speedy decision about David’s future.
In the capital Lilongwe, it was claimed that the courts had improperly waived Malawian laws to allow Madonna and Ritchie custody because of their celebrity status.
Justin Dzonzi, a lawyer for a coalition of human rights and child advocacy organisations, said his group was asking a judge to review the adoption.
Two months ago the pop superstar announced she was to donate $3 million (€2.4m) to the country through the Raising Malawi charity.
An editorial in The Daily Times of Malawi said the country should not be scared of upsetting the singer.
“We know Madonna has promised a lot for the country’s orphans and the thinking could be that if we ask her to follow rigorous procedures of adoption she may give up, but this should not be our worry.
“Madonna actually will respect us more if we show that our poverty is not extended to the brain.”