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“Cocooning” Newborns is Gaining Steam — But is it Even Controversial?

This week, the New York Post wrote an article about an apparent “new” trend in parenting called “cocooning.” The basic idea is that parents will “cocoon” the new baby away from friends and family. Originally a concept that adoptive parents would use to bond with a new baby, biological parents are, according to the article, using it to impose little to no visiting hours in the baby’s first few weeks of life. This causes, as you might imagine, no end of consternation with the in-laws mentioned in the article. But is it really that controversial?

The article starts with, “Gone are the days when grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins would rush into the delivery room to hold the newest members of the family.” But when were “those the days?” In an article on how hospital nurseries came to have viewing windows, Smithsonian pointed out that, for most of the 20th century, American fathers wouldn’t even meet their own child in person until they came home from the hospital. The tradition of the extended family meeting a baby within its first hours of life is a relatively new one.

While no one is calling for a return to fathers pacing in a waiting room while mothers give birth alone, there is a good reason to reimpose boundaries. One of the people profiled in the Post piece chose to “cocoon” because her child was born during flu season. The article also doesn’t go into depth with any one couple on why they made the choice to cocoon, but it’s not hard to guess reasons. One couple had no parents in NYC, where they lived. Because they didn’t want overnight visitors for a month, their parents chose to wait until their grandchild was 30 days old to meet. Is it really hard to imagine why new parents might not want to host people in their Brooklyn apartment?

Of course, many parents who may want little to no visitation in the baby’s first weeks of life will inevitably be reminded that “it takes a village.” But, back when we did live more communally, your parents might live a few houses down, not a few states over. And we also expect more (rightfully so!) out of new dads these days. This isn’t to suggest that cocooning is strictly for opposite-sex couples, but if you can expect two sets of adult hands, it’s easier to see why you might want to gently turn away additional ones. And, really, aren’t babies more fun when they’re a few months older anyway?

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