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Months of isolation and no visitors: Inside the newborn parenting trend of 'cocooning'.

The first few days of my firstborn’s life were spent with me and her father, as well as being introduced to significant family members and friends.

We would all ogle at her, hold her, speak to her and generally just be amazed at this little person who had joined us in the big, wide world. For me as a first-time mother, this time was precious and joyful. My daughter met important people in my life, who would now be an important part of hers.

The first few weeks at home, even with my husband with me, were some of toughest of my life.

This is what your phone would look like if your newborn could text. Post continues below.

Video by Mamamia

Yes, I loved my daughter but I struggled (as many do) immensely with sleep deprivation, post-natal depression and adjusting to my new role as a mother. For me, having my own mum visit us a few times a week was a great support and integral for me in getting through that time.

But there’s a growing trend in parenting where introducing newborns to family and friends or having them visit you at home are a no-go and isolating yourself with your baby is priority. It is called cocooning.

Cocooning is defined as “an intensive time of care” where parents bring their baby home and live in isolation for weeks or even months. They are the “only people to hold, change, feed, touch, kiss, comfort, and play with baby/child.”

The house essentially becomes a cocoon for your immediate family.

The process of cocooning means that visitors are prohibited from the house, the child doesn’t leave the house and new family members won’t be introduced for a set period of time. This includes grandparents.

For years cocooning has been a common method used by adoptive parents to generate a bond with their adopted child. Now this trend is expanding outside adoptive families, with more and more parents choosing the process.

Clinical psychologist, Dr Judith Locke describes ‘cocooning’ as a form of attachment parenting, where the aim is to establish a strong bond with your baby, often through physical connection and closeness.

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She views the method as offering potential benefits to fostered or adopted children who have perhaps experienced trauma in their past. “By offering a calm space for the child they are able to get used to their new environment.”

benefits of cosleeping newborns
Cocooning is a form of attachment parenting which aims to establish a strong bond with your baby through physical connection and closeness. Image: Getty.

Dr Locke told Mamamia that “allowing a parent to establish boundaries and control, establishing a foothold on parenting or to help create a sense of control” can also be benefits of the process, particularly if you have difficult family members or friends who do not respect your privacy.

Nicolle and Brad Pritchard, a US couple who chose to ‘cocoon’ their first-born child for 30 days, explained to the New York Post their reason for cocooning.

“It’s such an important and delicate time. There’s so many changes we have to get used to . . . and as much as all of them have great intentions and want to help us, we want it to be just us and the baby.”

Other benefits of cocooning, according to those who have chosen this pathway, include: protecting the baby against certain diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough) before the baby is old enough to be vaccinated, generating a close bond between the baby and parents, and providing an opportunity for the baby to adjust to their new home and family with reduced stimulation.

“You need to weigh up these benefits against the cost of being isolated, though,” Dr Locke warns. “Isolation is like an echo chamber for difficult thoughts and the first few weeks of parenthood can be difficult.

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“Parents’ wellbeing directly impacts the child, so if you are overwhelmed, your child will also be affected. People around you should be able to help you, not just hinder you. Making sure you allow the right people in to offer that support can be helpful.”

Dr Locke says that, “other people can also act as sounding boards and provide reassurance when you possibly need it the most.”

As well as isolation, other criticisms of cocooning range from creating insular families, increasing parenting anxiety, contributing to issues of mental health such as PND, and even weakening marriages and other family connections.

Dr Locke says although cocooning might be helpful in some scenarios, achieving a balance in between playing host to countless visitors and cutting yourself off entirely is ideal.

“You need to set boundaries that work for you. When people can visit, who can visit, being frank and stating what you want can be a much more effective approach. Support groups can help take the load so having them there is important,” she urges.

Shona Hendley, Mother of Goats, Cats and Humans is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. You can follow her on Instagram @shonamarion.

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