I often equate the first time you have sex after childbirth to losing your virginity again. You and your partner are probably feeling nervous, and the act itself feels different and possibly even painful or uncomfortable.
When your six or eight-week appointment comes around, your partner may be excited to jump back into the sack. But if you just had a baby, sex and intimacy may be the furthest thing from your mind. You may be adjusting to your new identity as someone’s mother. Breastfeeding can dry you up, not to mention touch you out. You may feel your body doesn’t belong to you. Worse, if sex is painful the first time (which it often is), it can be scary to try again.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you might recognize some of these feelings. If you’re just as ready to have sex again as your partner is, you go, mama! For those on a longer path back to intimacy, here are six ways to ease back in and help reignite the spark in your relationship after having a baby.
1. Reclaim your body (and your mind)
I wasn’t remotely interested in sex until I stopped breastfeeding. Whether it was the dryness or the overstimulation of having someone attached to me for hours a day, I was not into it. Then, when I weaned my baby, my boobs seemed to wither to a smaller and weirder shape. I did not like them. I did not like the way my body looked naked. And I did not feel sexy.
At some point, I started exercising again. (It was only once a week, but it was something!) I went to physical therapy for pelvic pain, and I bought some clothes that fit. I stopped feeling bad that I couldn’t fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans and instead focused on buying some staple clothes that made me feel good—including buying new bras for my unfamiliar-but-still-maybe-OK boobs. I have friends that went the route of breast lifts and augmentation to feel like their best selves after baby—and they didn’t do it for their partners, they did it for themselves.
Do what you need to do to feel good about yourself and not just physically. If you experienced post-baby blues or postpartum depression, it can be difficult to get back to emotional vulnerability required for intimacy, or you may be on medication that affects your libido. You have to take care of yourself first. Give yourself time, and ask for patience from your partner.
2. Reclaim your space
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies sleep in the same room as their parents until they are at least 6 months old to reduce the risk of SIDS, this seemed impossible for me personally. Every grunt, noise, or sigh seemed to wake one or both of us up. Even less sleep does not a happy marriage make (which is also one of the outcomes found in a more recent study examining the AAP room sharing guidelines). With both of my kids, we moved them to their own room after one week and one month, respectively.
Years later, I still can’t get intimate without our bedroom door closed. I’ve consciously made the choice to decorate our bedroom with more photos of us as a couple than us as a family. Just like keeping work out of the bedroom, I’ve also read that keeping your bedroom decor focused on each other can help with intimacy. Pictures of our kids are literally everywhere else in our house, so I don’t feel bad about their absence in our bedroom.
3. Reconnect as a couple
So much of arousal starts in the mind. When you aren’t connected in other ways, the bedroom isn’t going to be different. When I had my second baby, my husband and I were in survival mode for the first six months. We had my mother-in-law visiting around that time, and she essentially forced us out the door to go on a date together. I remember that date as a turning point. We had our first real conversation and finally felt like we were sharing the struggle—rather than doing each of our roles alone.
I don’t remember if we got lucky that night, but my memory holds it as the beginning of our reconnection as a couple. Communication and listening to each other are habits that can boost your sex life, and scheduling regular date nights if you are able to find childcare helps set aside time to prioritize each other.
4. Reconnect with your own sexuality
Try masturbation to warm up your lady parts. You know what hurts and what doesn’t, and you may feel more comfortable losing yourself in the moment alone at first. Plus, masturbating and having an orgasm are great ways to practice self-care—and they are free!
5. Start slow
A spontaneous make-out session in the kitchen is my husband’s signature move. And even if it doesn’t lead to anything later, it’s nice to enjoy the moment before some little person needs a snack or steals a toy and chaos erupts again. I probably should initiate make-outs more than I do, but I appreciate that he still makes the effort.
6. Be patient
Like so many struggles in parenthood, time is often what helps the most. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment the spark returned between me and my husband. I think it was a combination of sleeping better, hitting our parenting stride, and (confession) him having a vasectomy.
We knew our kids were growing up, the newborn struggle was behind us, and we turned back to each other. Of course, we still fight and go through dry spells, but overall, it’s nice to be back in a hot spot. I hope we keep remember to keep it kindled.