We are so lucky to be able to connect with thoughtful businesses that offer support to our Yinova community in so many ways and our friends over at Cocoon are no exception! We’ve caught up with Cocoon’s co-founder, Megan Lucas Chong, and Lucy Perotta, Cocoon’s Before and After Baby Coordinator to learn more about their new space.
Cara Burian: Our first question is about Chinese medicine: what is your exposure to it?
Megan Lucas Chong: When living in Singapore I was so inspired by the support families shared with new mothers during their postpartum period. This seemed like such a contrast to my friends in NYC who were on their feet just days after giving birth, struggling alone to care for their newborn while attempting to make a simple sandwich for themselves.
When my first child was born I was thankful that my mother-in-law was able to provide some healing postpartum meals derived from her Malaysian heritage. For my second child, I was so grateful to find two spectacular doulas who specialized in postpartum healing foods as well as Malaysian bengkung belly binding. My third child was born during the pandemic so there was little opportunity for many hands to offer support. But we were blessed that our spectacular caregiver and doula, Lucy (Cocoon’s before and after baby coordinator), provided nutritious meals and much-needed company during that challenging time of isolation.
As much as ginger teas and healing soups comfort the postpartum body, it is the warmth and nourishment of supportive people that enrich the soul of a new parent. To me, this seems understood by many cultures but is somewhat missed here in the United States. At Cocoon, we hope to establish a cultural shift by creating a community where new parents can feel connected with one another and with knowledgeable professionals who care. We believe this type of support should be available to as many families as possible, which is why we offer our prenatal (Before Baby) and postpartum (After Baby) programs to non-members on a “pay what you can” basis.
CB: We love the concept for your space! Where did the idea for Cocoon come from?
Megan Lucus Chong & Perotta: Thank you! As new parents without extended family living in the area, we realized it can be challenging to make authentic connections with other parents. Yet we were lucky to have met our co-founders, Jenny and Tony, while our children attended infant Mandarin classes together. Jenny was so kind to make the first steps to befriend us, which made us realize that we need more spaces where parents and kids can naturally build relationships together.
Just as we were inspired by the cultural support of postpartum parents when living in Asia, we also appreciated the parent and baby cafes in Japan. These are spaces where parents can gather and sip coffee while watching their children play. We saw a need for this balance in the United States, where families can connect- adults and children alike! Therefore, we sought to create a space to cultivate meaningful relationships between families before birth, after birth and continuing throughout the family journey as their children grow.
CB: How has the pandemic impacted your new space?
MLC & LP: We are grateful to have had the opportunity to take a pause on construction during the pandemic to thoughtfully plan the safety of our space. We installed a brand new HVAC system that is constantly flowing fresh air throughout both floors of Cocoon. With 18,000 square feet, there is plenty of room for families to have space between one another. Social distancing is also made possible through our “nests”, which are individual areas that can be booked for play or for learning. Touchless hand sanitizers can be found throughout Cocoon and our safety protocols include temperature checks and health declarations by all staff and members.
CB: Can you explain a little bit about Cocoon’s class offerings?
MLC & LP: Our curriculum aims to cover the needs of families expecting their first child all the way to drop-off classes for eight-year-olds. We have developed our own Before Baby and After Baby classes with expert doulas in order to build community as well as empower new parents. Our Cocoon courses were designed to be open-ended and are built upon the Montessori philosophy of education. Courses include an early childhood Spanish class that encourages children to learn through movement, song, and visual art. Our BioArt class gives children the opportunity to learn about nature through science experiments. The preschool prep class allows two and three-year-olds time to explore Montessori works while separating from parents and caregivers for the first time.
We have partnered with local experts to teach specialized courses such as parkour offered by the athletes of the Movement Creative, unique music classes by Soul Flow House and robotics classes by Nory. At Cocoon, we also frequently hold “happenings” for all members to enjoy a mindfulness experience, learn a new magic trick or engage in a bilingual storytime. We are constantly evolving to satisfy the needs of our growing community, but our philosophy of building relationships within and between families remains constant.
CB: We are huge fans of doulas and love that you offer in-house doula services. Can you tell us a bit about them?
MLC & LP: We also are huge fans of doulas! Our in-house doula services are designed to provide support to anyone who needs them! From our doula drop-in hours where members can chat without doulas in nursery weekly, to our bookable virtual doula chats which are open to anyone! We wanted to be able to provide some on-demand support to new parents so if they wake up in an overwhelming funk one day we can be there to help listen and guide them through it as well as provide advice on all the common questions of making a birth plan, lactation, nutrition, labor options, etc. We are hoping to add even more doula led parent programming soon.
CB: We heard you’re planning to launch a new space and some new programs, what are those going to look like?
MLC & LP: Yes! Our nursery is complete! Our Before Baby, After Baby, and infant classes will be held in this space, as well as the doula open-hours. To learn more about these classes, you can click here. The nursery was designed by the female-owned architecture team, Overlay, with the needs of a new parent in mind. The nursery features a refrigerator, sink and bottle warmer in addition to three zen-like nursing pods where one can pump or nurse with their little one. We are parents so we know messes and spills happen but also new parents might not even have time to shower at home with no one available to hold the baby. This is why we have included a shower in the nursery.
Our Before Baby course is a three-week course that covers pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum life. It not only prepares new parents for the birth but also supports them in choosing delivery options, informs them on how to talk to their care providers, and educates them on what to expect during the postpartum period. The After Baby course is an eight-week course that supports families as they adjust to their new role as parents. It covers everything from self-care and baby feeding options to postpartum sex. These courses were created in a way to encourage group bonding and even provide a bit of humor during such a significant and sometimes emotional time in one’s life.
We hope our nursery space can be a meeting place for new parents to make friends, ask questions, and find the much-needed support families need during the gestational and postpartum periods.
CB: What are some perks for the parents or caregivers who visit your space?
MLC & LP: At Cocoon, we wanted to create a space that is enjoyable not just for kids but adults too. That is why we have La Colombe coffee available for all members to sip as they chat with fellow parents or watch their kids play. Membership includes open doula hours for new parents to consult with our full-spectrum doulas who are on staff. Questions about lactation and sleep to how to use a sitz bath are all welcome! Additional perks include four guest passes available to each family every month. All of our “happenings” and many classes are also included with membership.
CB: What kind of training does your staff need to have?
MLC & LP: Most of the educators at Cocoon were originally my own children’s teachers in school and extracurricular classes! We were so fond of them, their experience, and their love for children that we asked them to join Cocoon and it is such a gift to have them there. Many of our educators taught in early childhood classrooms within private schools and are Montessori certified. Three of our staff members are full-spectrum doulas who have undergone training to work with parents in many ways and from all walks of life. They each have a heart of gold, boundless enthusiasm for supporting families, and creative ideas to change the way we learn, work and play together.
More about Megan: “My ten years of experience working as an educator in art museums has inspired me to think creatively about education. And my experience as a mom of three has kept me on my toes! When I’m not cleaning Cheerios off the floor, I’m teaching art or writing my dissertation about art education.”
More about Lucy: “I arrived in New York for college as an actress with a special interest in children’s theatre! I went from performing education theatre touring in NYC public schools to teaching musical mommy and me’s. It was here that my love of children and families flourished! I spent about a year sharing smiles as a play and music teacher, focusing on community building between families, before becoming a full-time nanny. My hours spent teaching and caring for early learners inspired me to create the Cocoon education curriculum, and my vast experience working with newborns (and new parents) motivated me to become a Doula!”
To learn more about Cocoon and their team, you can visit their website here.