Don't try to get your "old" sex life back ... create something even better!
Reviving your sex life post-baby is usually a difficult topic for first time parents. When can we get "back in the saddle” (so to speak)? How long do we have to wait? Do you really have to wait six weeks or can you have sex sooner?
The fact is, getting "back in the saddle" isn't always easy, but not for the reasons you might think.
Having a baby is a completely different experience for men than it is for women. Duh! But there is more difference than just he didn't carry the baby and she did. Although that difference alone is a great place to begin.
For men, having a baby is new and exciting but not much changes in their life or body, well except for some sympathy pregnancy weight gain. Sure, there is a new baby that's crying through the middle of the night and occasionally has poopy diapers to change but a new baby is typically seen as an addition to his already existing life.
For women, having a baby changes everything!
Just because the baby is now on the outside of her body does not mean the hormone swings are over for her. If you have a breastfeeding wife, she is now a milk machine, waking up at all hours of the night to nurse. Boobies are now for food, not for fun.
New moms also experience an incredible shift in the amount of time spent thinking (read: worrying) about the baby. It just happens. Thoughts such as: Is the baby warm enough? are they hungry? Is that the beginning of diaper rash? When was the last poopy diaper? Should I be looking into preschool salready? And so on.
Men often report after baby, that it feels like "the game" has changed — news flash — it has. Everything about a woman's life is different, including sex.
Many articles focus on the physical aspects of sex post baby. How to get your wife back in bed. How to get your old sex life back.
However, what's missing in the conversation about sex after a baby is the reality that getting "back in the saddle" means you're getting a "new saddle." Sex positions your wife used to like may not feel good for her anymore; they may in fact be painful and sex could be uncomfortable for many weeks (or months) after giving birth.
According to WebMD, "nearly one third of women report painful sex in the first year after giving birth." A new baby is also very physically demanding. Lack of sleep, breastfeeding, mood swings, and life adjustment all make it very difficult for a woman to feel genuinely interested in sex at the end of the day. Extra baby weight and a loss of her own sense of "sexy" also make her less interested in sex.
So what should you do?
The good news is many couples do end up happily "back in the saddle!" (After all, that's how second and third siblings arrive.) However, post-baby sex is probably not what you envisioned. Here are some helpful tips to help you get back to business:
1. Give yourselves some time. The more pressure you put on yourselves the harder it is for real connection to occur. Doctors traditionally give a four to six week wait time, but many couples are waiting even longer than six weeks. Newborn babies take a lot of work in the beginning, but it does get easier. Eventually little ones will sleep for longer stretches and, in time, through the night. You'll once again feel like a human again as you finally say goodbye to your zombie look-alike.
2. Communicate. Find a time when you both can sit down and discuss how you're feeling about sex. Do not wait until you're already resentful or feeling ready to have sex that moment. Instead, create a neutral space to discuss ways to nudge yourselves back to intimacy and connection that make you both feel good.
3. Be honest. If you want more sex, tell her. If sex is painful or not comfortable, tell him. If you're both exhausted and have no interest — it's ok. That's normal and it doesn't last forever. That said, "being honest" doesn't equal a demand or obligation.
4. Experiment. If the "old way" of arousing each other (most likely, her) doesn't work try something new! Try whip cream, Kama sutra, lights on, lights off, upside-down backwards sex (ok, just kidding but you get the idea). Think outside your usual. Explore each other's bodies with respect and curiosity and focus on what feels good now. One of my favorite recommendations for couples is purchasing Salsa Card Deck from The Gottman Institute; these cards help add spice back to your sex life and help keep courtship a priority.
5. Talk to a Professional. If you've tried the above and it's still not better, then seek the help of a therapist to help you through. Unmet needs, either physical or emotional, can cause resentment and distance between partners. If left alone resentment and distance are the building blocks of divorce. Professionals can help you explore your feelings in a safe place, and help you regain your physical connection as a couple.
6. "Bringing Home Baby" course. Look for a "Bringing Home Baby" program in your area. This 16-hour program helps strengthen the marital relationship and helps with the transition into parenthood and yes, this will help lead to more "sex."
Babies do change things in a major way. Saying hello to a new baby, may mean saying goodbye to your old sex life. Give yourselves time to enjoy the beginning sleep deprived days of new baby. When you start to feel like yourself again look to your spouse for love and support. Even though it may look different, little by little you'll be "back in the saddle" in no time.
Do you live in the Greater Los Angeles area, contact Jennie Marie to learn more about the Bringing Baby Home program or how therapy can help strengthen your relationship and improve your sex life after baby.