The cocooning instinct and how it can affect the mental health of new mums

In Features, Mind Health, Motherhood, Stories by Nicole Fuge

If you’re feeling the pull to nest and hide away from the world, girl, you’ve tapped into the cocooning vibes of new motherhood. And while it does feel safe and snug, sometimes you gotta bust out. Here’s how.

By Nicole Fuge, Mama Disrupt® Managing Editor

Motherhood — an exhilarating journey of highs, lows, first smiles, sleepless nights, and countless moments of introspection. For many new mums, amidst the joyous chaos, there’s a distinct pull, an urge to retreat from the world.

This desire to nestle deep within the comfort of our homes with our new baby, shielding both ourselves and our little one from the bustling outside world, is often referred to as the ‘cocooning instinct’.

I experienced this big time with my second child – largely because he was born in the middle of the global pandemic – but also because I was struggling a lot to adjust to life as a mum-of-two.

It was just so much easier to stay at home. Where we were safe and where we had our creature comforts. But the months turned into years, and I found myself deep in hibernation mode with a two-year-old and a four-year-old.


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The Cocooning Instinct

Much like a caterpillar seeking refuge within its cocoon, many new mothers find solace, safety, and peace within the confines of their home. This instinctual pull has several layers:

  1. Physical Recovery: Birth, whether natural or through a C-section, takes a toll on the body. The natural inclination is to rest and heal.
  2. Emotional Bonding: The initial weeks and months are crucial for bonding. This profound connection often makes the external world seem less significant in comparison.
  3. Protection Mode: The world can seem a lot more threatening with a newborn in tow. Staying home feels like the best way to guard against any potential harm.
  4. Overwhelm: The onslaught of new responsibilities can make the idea of social interaction or even a simple outing seem daunting.

The cocooning phase, while completely natural and sometimes necessary, can lead to feelings of isolation, making the transition to motherhood even more challenging.

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Stepping Out of the Cocoon: Gentle Ways to Reconnect

While cocooning serves a purpose, it’s also essential for mums to reconnect with themselves and the world outside, ensuring a balanced emotional and mental state. Here are some gentle ways to break free from the cocoon, one step at a time:

1. Daily Dose of Nature

Starting small is the key. Aim for a 10-minute walk around your garden or block. The fresh air, chirping birds, and gentle exercise can rejuvenate both the body and mind.

2. Set Aside ‘Me Time’

Carve out a short period each day just for yourself — be it a quick read, a hobby, or simply a cup of coffee in silence. This not only breaks the monotony but also reminds you of your individuality beyond motherhood.

3. Virtual Coffee Dates

If stepping out seems daunting, start with virtual catch-ups. A quick video call with a close friend can lift your spirits and provide that much-needed adult interaction.

4. Engage in Group Activities

Joining new mum groups or attending baby classes can provide dual benefits — social interaction for you and a fun activity for your baby.

5. Seek Help

If the cocooning feels intense or is accompanied by feelings of sadness, anxiety, or overwhelm, it might be time to consult a professional. Postpartum depression is real and requires attention.

6. Mindfulness and Meditation

Engage in short mindfulness exercises or meditation. These can act as bridges, connecting you to the external world and grounding you.

7. Embrace the Journey

Remember that every mother’s journey is unique. Celebrate small outings or interactions just as you would celebrate your baby’s milestones. Every step outside the cocoon is a step towards balance and holistic wellbeing.

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The Evolving Cocoon

While the cocooning instinct in new mums is natural and often necessary, it’s essential to view it as a phase, not a permanent state. The cocoon, in nature, is a temporary home, fostering growth and transformation.

Similarly, for new mums, the cocooning phase is an opportunity to bond, heal, introspect, and eventually emerge stronger, more confident, and ready to introduce their beautiful baby to the wonders of the world.

To all the new mums out there — embrace your cocoon, but also remember, just like the butterfly, you’re meant to spread your wings and soar.

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