The bottles are sterilized, and the diapers are organized, but what about your relationship? Babies can have a huge impact on relationships, especially when creating intimacy after a baby.
Maybe it is because so much of pregnancy is focused on sorting baby clothes and taking maternity pictures. Or maybe it is because TV shows and movies skip over this reality. Maybe it is because we are taught to dream of becoming a family and life turning into bliss.
I think it is a combination of these things that caused me to be blindsided by how my relationship changed after having a baby.
Sure, I loved my husband in new ways, but also, we were disconnected and confused in so many ways. After the baby was born, we quickly found that intimacy was a topic in a conversation we were unprepared to have.
A closer look at intimacy after baby
As an early motherhood intimacy coach, I talk about sex and relationships every day. Early motherhood is full of transitions, and many of them impact our intimacy, partnership, and sex lives.
I see women experiencing confusion and shame around their changed sex lives. I hear women confess that romance is often on the back burner in the midst of mental exhaustion and touch-out.
I am not here to tell anyone how often to have sex or say that it will get easier. I am here to help you identify some of the ways sex and intimacy have changed and help you find ways to reconnect with your partner.
Read next: A Couple-Based Guide to Communication
How intimacy changes after having a baby
1. Your mental load is way heavier
Taking care of yourself is one thing. Taking care of another human’s wellbeing 24/7 is entirely different.
When you have a baby, so much of your mental load shifts. You become engulfed in research and decisions. You juggle feeding schedules, diaper changes, and naps in your head like a circus performer.
Your mental load makes it difficult to find time and mind space to think about anything other than the day-in, day-out tasks of taking care of your baby.
To get into an intimate space, you need the ability to think about intimacy in the first place. To turn off the to-do lists in your mind and to get into the moment with your partner. This can be really difficult for new parents, especially moms. There is something about checking the baby monitor in the middle of intercourse that does not fit the moment.
Tip: help your partner understand what you need to get in the mood mentally.
If it is “sexy time” night, try your best to pass on some of the tasks on your mental to-do list. Spend some time intentionally thinking about intimacy with your partner. Women typically take more time to warm up, so give yourself that space so you can be present in intimacy.
2. Your emotional cup is different
Feeling emotionally connected is an important part of intimacy with your partner. Before a baby, there was time and energy to communicate our emotional needs. There was more time to connect emotionally with conversations and activities. You knew things you and your partner could do to serve one another and feel emotionally connected.
With a baby, some of that may change.
You may feel so emotionally fulfilled by being with your baby that the need to connect with your partner emotionally is not the same. Or, you may feel emotionally overwhelmed and drained and not have anything left to give to your partner. The things you need to feel connected with may have changed, and that can make intimacy feel strained.
Tip: Schedule a meeting each week where you and your partner cannot talk about the baby or household tasks.
Take at least 30 minutes to revisit topics you discussed pre-baby. Explore your love languages, and make sure you are acknowledging how you are both changing and growing in this new season.
3. Your physical body feels foreign
Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum changes our bodies in many ways. Women often feel like they are living in a foreign land after having a baby. Your physical body can change intimacy in both our confidence and our physical feelings.
As your body changes, so might your body image and how you perceive yourself. The constant messages of media and pressure around baby weight do not help this. You may be unsure how to share this changed body with your partner, and that may cause you to retreat.
Secondly, your physical body will feel different. After carrying a baby, the pelvic floor changes. The positions you once enjoyed may not work well for you anymore. You may experience tenderness or even pain.
Tip: spend time exploring your changed body.
Learn about how and why things change. Stop following accounts that make you shame your own changed body. Spend time feeling and looking at your body with appreciation.
Also, find a pelvic floor therapist for any pain or discomfort you experience. If you had shoulder surgery, you would go through physical therapy. It only makes sense that we can seek pelvic floor therapy after birthing a baby as well.
4. Your hormones are on a rollercoaster
Our sex drive, also known as libido, is highly impacted by hormones.
For some women, sex drive returns quickly and fully. For others, it takes a long time for libido to return. Every body and woman is different. Hormones shift and impact sex drive differently.
Take a closer look at your postpartum hormone timeline for a deeper explanation of what’s happening. You may need some additional lubricant during this time, and that’s completely normal. Give your body what it needs to feel its best.
Tip: think back to what got you aroused in other seasons of your life.
Find a way to make space for that now, even in small proportions. Discuss your sex drive with your partner, as well as ideas on what can help to awaken that sex drive again in this new season.
5. Your task list is daunting
The truth is, even if you are feeling in the mood and confident, having a new baby can limit your available time for sexy interactions. There is always a long to-do list. And, somehow, babies seem to wake every time you think you have a minute to yourself.
Many moms struggle with allowing themselves time for intimacy with their partner when they knew there is always something else that needs to be done.
Tip: if you are returning to intimacy after a baby or are looking to improve your sex life, try to schedule it in for a while and see what happens.
Pick one time a week (or more depending on your preferences) and schedule it on the calendar. Seriously, do it.
Communicate with your partner on what needs to be done before intimacy can happen and work together to get there. Use that day to think sexy thoughts, send sexy text messages, and let some of your to-do list slide.
Doing this once a week is less stressful than feeling pressure to do it every day. This practice can help you identify the least important tasks and set them aside to make room for intimate connections.
Final thoughts on sex and intimacy after a baby
Returning to sex and intimacy after having a baby is not always natural and easy.
It takes communication.
It requires intentionality.
You might find yourself surprised at how things look and feel different. This is a great time to grow your relationship to a new level: let it be imperfect, talk openly with your partner, explore what works for you, and try to enjoy this new season.
If you need more support, download the free guide Back in The Sack: Sex and Intimacy After Baby now.
Chelsea is committed to helping women kick the pressure to be “Pinterest Perfect” and have real, raw conversations. She helps women acknowledge the power in their postpartum experiences. She focuses on a small group format to bring women together to learn about, connect over, and not be alone through postpartum. She focuses on empowering women through confidence, connection, and communication to build intimacy after having a baby.