Madonna says she is "disappointed" by media coverage of her bid to adopt a Malawian baby, saying it will discourage others from doing the same.
The star was unaware of the furore before returning from Malawi
"The media is doing a great disservice to all the orphans of Africa by turning it into such a negative thing," she said on Oprah Winfrey's chat show.
The pop star said her children had "embraced" the one-year-old's arrival.
David Banda was flown to the UK to live with Madonna after a Malawian judge granted a temporary custody order.
The singer was giving her first public interview on the planned adoption that has created headlines around the world.
By satellite from the UK, she said that she first spotted David in a documentary she is financing about Malawian orphans.
"I became transfixed by him," she said. "But I didn't yet know I was going to adopt him. I was just drawn to him."
When she subsequently met the child at a Malawi orphanage, she was told he had survived malaria and tuberculosis but still had severe pneumonia.
"I was in a state of panic, because I didn't want to leave him in the orphanage because I knew they didn't have medication to take care of him," Madonna said.
She told Winfrey that she gained permission to take the baby to a clinic, where he was given antibiotics.
"He's still a little bit ill, not completely free of his pneumonia, but he's much better than he was when we found him."
She said she witnessed conditions in Malawi that were the equivalent of a "state of emergency".
"I think if everybody went there, they'd want to bring one of those children home with them and give them a better life."
Madonna said her children Lourdes and Rocco had not questioned the arrival of a new family member.
"They've never once said, 'What is he doing here?' or mentioned the difference in his skin colour, or questioned his presence in our life.
"That is an amazing lesson that children teach us."
The Human Rights Consultative Committee of 67 Malawian organisations is beginning a legal challenge claiming that foreign adoptive parents should have lived in Malawi for a year and a half.
The boy's father, Yohane Banda, told Time magazine that he would not contest the adoption.
"I don't want my child, who is already gone, to come back. I will be killing his future," he was quoted as saying.
But he had earlier told the AP news agency that he initially thought Madonna would just "educate and take care of our son".
"I was never told that adoption means that David will no longer be my son - if I was told this, I would not have allowed the adoption."
Madonna told Winfrey she believed Mr Banda was being "terrorised by the media", and they were "manipulating this information out of him".
She said: "They have put words in his mouth. They have spun a story that is completely false."
"I understand that gossip and telling negative stories sells newspapers," she said.
"But I think for me, I'm disappointed, because it discourages other people from doing the same thing.
"I beg all of those people to go to Africa and see what I saw and walk through those villages, to see eight-year-olds in charge of households, to see mothers dying."
The pop star funds six orphanages through her Raising Malawi charity and is setting up an orphanage for 4,000 children in a village outside the capital, Lilongwe.