What is "Cocooning" and Why Are you Doing It?

Ok, so yesterday I wrote a bit about attachment. I hope you gleaned from that post that (generally speaking) many institutionalized (orphanage) adopted children have deep losses that have to be recognized and healed. As parents, we can play a large part in this healing process, although we know that God alone heals our hearts.

There is a lot of research about how to embark on the healing process of kids. The first thing to understand is that it takes TIME. This can't be done in 3 months; this is a lifelong process. Some things occur very quickly, and some slowly. We have to build trust with our children, that they know parents will meet their needs and that we aren't going to leave them. We have to teach our kids that we love them unconditionally for who they are right now and will protect them.


When we initially bring our adopted child into our home, we are going to experience a time of "cocooning." Cocooning is another adoption buzz word, which describes a very intensive care season, in which mom and dad are not only the primary caregivers, but the only ones to hold, feed, change, touch, rock and play with baby. We won't be introducing new people (even family), and won't be leaving the house much. Our agency suggests this time frame being between 6 weeks and 3 months, although I have heard some families have just continually re-evaluated where their kids are at each mark and some kids have needed longer time to cocoon.

The cocooning process allows the children to understand that mom and dad will meet their needs. It allows the children to be acclimated to the new environment with minimal overstimulation. Our son won't know what a mom or dad is. We will use this time to teach him what any biological 6 month already knows- mom and dad love you and will respond to you when you cry and have a need. He is already used to being passed around and having multiple people respond to his needs- we need to teach him who we are are and that you can't go to just anyone to have needs met- this will allow for him to set up healthy boundaries for the future.

It may seem harsh to not pass our son around, or bring him to church for the first few months, or allow others (even family) to hold and kiss him, but we know that the best interest of our son is for him to know that mom and dad are the ones who give affection and care for him most. Eventually, when Israel is ready, those things may come. But for the first few months especially, we have to put the best interest of our son above the feelings of others. Until we are confident that Israel knows us and is attaching to us, then we won't step out of the cocoon. And even after we are out of the cocoon, there may be times we need to go back in and allow for Israel to recover from overstimulation, especially if we see that he is not attaching afterall. This is a process that Will and I get to control and we know that in the long run, Israel will be a happier kid, and ABLE to have healthy relationships with his friends and family if he has made a secure attachment to us first.

How Do You Know if its Working?

The great thing about adoption is that "little" things are BIG milestones! When we see that our son is seeking our approval before going to strangers, that is a good thing. "Charming" strangers is a habit of institutionalized children- where they are always "parent shopping" and may seem overly happy or silly to get attention. Although that certainly may be part of our son's personality, we want to be careful that he knows that WE are the ones who respond to him first.

Other signs of progress: when our son cries or acknowledges that he has a need, because it means he knows that we will meet his needs. I know, this may seem weird, but a lot of institutionalized children don't cry and don't tell parents when they are hungry, have a wet/dirty diaper, or need something. We have to teach our son that we will meet his needs, and celebrate when he lets us know them! Sometimes institutionalized children may hoard food or toys, because they fear that they may not get them again later. This is a positive sign if hoarding is not an issue.

It is a good sign when our son is able to make healthy relationships and able to communicate with others using appropriate words and actions. It is a good thing when he shows us his happy moments and sad and angry moments- because he knows that we acknowledge his emotions and value him; our love does not depend on him acting a certain way.


Alright, again, thanks for reading this if you made it to the end! I'm trying to lay a foundation so that others will understand our decision to keep Israel a bit private when we first come home. More information to come, as well as our "plan" :)!

**I realize that not all families choose to cocoon, and some have had good experiences with their decision. In our case, we have no other children at home, so we are able to stay home with our son. This post was written to educate non-adoptive friends and families on the purpose behind our decision to cocoon with our son after he is home.  At this time, all of this is written based on research, recommendations from our agency, and experiences of other adoptive families- not personal experience as parents. **


  1. Thank you for taking the time to educate yourself and share your knowledge openly. This and the previous post on attachment is VERY well written :)

  2. Proud of you Bekah! These will be great resources for other families to share later, you have done an excellent job of putting these together!

  3. These are SUCH great posts :) I can't wait to read the rest!! Thanks for sharing these!!

  4. Love it! I think you are being so wise to share this information in the weeks (love saying that - weeks!) before Israel comes home. Those of us who want to care for you in Jville need to understand these boundaries. We love you and can't wait to know you have him home!!

  5. I just came here from a link on someone else's blog. So thankful to see someone speaking the truth! So many who adopt don't admit that there could be problems...adoption isn't all fun and games! We have adopted three children from Russia...the first two being home for four years now. Just this past year we started seeing some attachment issues with our five year old. We did do the cocooning for several months and thought we had no issues. However, when we brought home our third child, the five year old started reversing.

    Blessings to you as you travel this road. Way to go on being proactive!!!



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