Cocooning: What we did and How it Worked

Today I'm a guest post on my friend Courtney's blog. She is preparing to bring her sweet Reeve home from Hannah's Hope (same place that Israel lived!) and I am SO excited for her family! She is on top of it, getting her friends and family prepared to help them transition with Reeve, and she asked me to contribute to her cocooning information. Please check out her blog for more information about her and their cocooning plan.

This is what I wrote on the guest post:

Hi, my name is Rebekah, and I’m the mommy to Israel Biruk, who came home from Hannah’s Hope in May (about 5 months ago). I’d love to share a little bit about our cocooning story and what worked for us! First I’ll share what cocooning looked like for us, then I’ll share how I know what worked.

For us, we had to teach Israel that we were his primary caregivers and would meet his needs. The first few weeks were all about immediate response to him; getting him bottles and sleep when he needed it, not necessarily trying to put him on a perfect schedule. We had a pretty tight cocoon for about 4-6 weeks (and continued a modified cocoon for several months). We didn’t take Israel to stores and didn’t introduce him to new people (including family). If I needed to go to the grocery store, I went at night after my husband Will was home. It was difficult, but when we did go out we could tell Israel was overstimulated (like when we went to the park and it was crowded- he’d freak out a bit there or would have a delayed response and not sleep/ cry all night). After Israel had a solid bond, we were able to go out and it was ok without those reactions (most of the time he was in the Ergo still).

We did a LOT of babywearing (moby, Ergo) and I wore him for almost every nap for the first 4 weeks. Baby wearing allowed for Israel to feel my heart beat and to smell me and connect with me, and for me to connect with him. Although we had planned to do lots of babywearing, the only-nap-on-me thing wasn’t really my choice, but Israel wouldn’t nap in his crib (his main expression of grieving was/is through sleep issues). The freedom of staying in during the coccon was that we were able to directly address grieving issues and keep them separate from general overstimulation. That way, when we DID start to venture out, we were able to see signs of overstimulation and know what those triggers were because we had spent several weeks with minimal stimulation in the home.

After a few months we saw several signs of attachment: Israel looking at me for approval before interacting with strangers, being upset if we left the room, giving affection and receiving it, not having large grieving fits, sleeping and eating normally, not manipulating us. These signs let us know that we were on the right path with our attachment, and we could start to branch out of our cocoon. We followed HIS cues, not the expectations of our friends and family.

I won’t lie, cocooning was tough work. I love being around other people and having the freedom to come and go; so those few months of sitting at home and being intentional about bonding with Israel was tough at times. It is a lot of self-sacrifice and pouring out when your baby doesn’t know how to receive what you are doing. There is rejection, there is grief, there is fear (both sides sometimes!). But going through that as a simple family unit was the best decision that we made. Of course, our friends and family were interceding for us in prayer, but Will, Israel and I were able to figure out our bond and work through the changes together.

So now that you’ve seen what our cocooning life was, let me say that I am SO thankful that we did it. During the midst of it, there were some long days but now I look back and think those months just flew by. I am so thankful that we valued our son enough to invest in him intentionally and to make his adjustment a priority. Because we cocooned, we were able to teach Israel that we were his primary caregivers without having the distractions of other people around, or dealing with overstimulation from being out and about, or having competition for his attention. We were spending months building trust and laying a foundation for him to understand what a family is. And now, I’m confident that Israel has a unique relationship with Will and me that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. He knows that we are different, and he feels comfortable when we are close by.

I think it is easy to put expectations on these kiddos without remembering that they come from hard backgrounds. Our son had been in four homes with countless caregivers by the time he was seven months old. This is a fact that I must continually remind myself when I get frustrated with progress or when I must put his needs above mine. Cocooning and creating an intentional bonding season is just a part of the healing process for our son and other kiddos from hard backgrounds. There is no band aid to the past that these kids have had but it is such a joy to walk beside our son and to teach him about the love of the family that reflects the love of God.


  1. This is so helpful Rebekah! Thank you for sharing. I know I will look back on it when we are closer to our referral.


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