Parenting author Adrian Kulp knows all about post-baby sex. In all four of his wife’s pregnancies, their kids were nursed for 26 months.
“That means that we’ve either had a co-sleeping crib next to the bed or had many nights in which the baby split the difference of our king-sized bed,” Kulp, the author of We’re Pregnant, The First-Time Dad’s Pregnancy Handbook, told HuffPost.
“With baby number four having arrived almost nine months ago, it’s now been cumulatively a third of a decade that our sex life has become... quieter,” he said.
“Quiet” doesn’t equal no sex. While having a family easily could have translated into a dry spell for the couple, with small changes, Kulp and his wife have staved off a sexless marriage.
“Sex or love life after your baby arrives can be extremely complicated,” he said. “While it’s less rowdy and uninhibited, it’s still good.”
How do you adjust and keep your sex life satisfying when you’re new parents? After all, technically, you can’t have intercourse until your doc clears you for it, about six weeks post-birth.
Below, Kulp and other experts share what to expect with post-baby sex.
Physically, it’s going to take some getting used to for both of you.
Sex is great when you’re in tune and comfortable with your body. But your body after baby is likely very different from what it was before you had kids. You might be left with C-section scars, more of a tummy than you’d like, breast tenderness or urinary incontinence, among other lovely things. (Shout out to “peezing”: sneezing and peeing at the same time!)
No matter how uncomfortable (or, hey, comfortable!) you might be with how you look, try to remind yourself to love your body.
Your partner should love your body, too. Now’s the time to remind your wife or girlfriend that you’re still a big fan of her body, said Emily Cook, a marriage and family therapist in Washington, D.C., and author of The Marriage Counseling Workbook.
“Getting to know ― and love and appreciate! ― her post-baby body is an important task for both partners,” she said. “Explore. Are there new erogenous zones to discover? Are there body parts that are off-limits for a while? What feels good now and what feels uncomfortable? Being gentle with one another is key.”
It’s super important to schedule sex.
Can’t seem to squeeze in some sexy time? It might sound painfully unsexy, but consider setting a Google calendar alert. If you don’t, you run the risk of days, weeks or months going by without it, said Amy Nobile, co-author of I’d Trade My Husband for a Housekeeper: Loving Your Marriage After the Baby Carriage.
“After my two pregnancies, I learned you need to schedule sex on your terms and you have to commit to it,” she told HuffPost. “If you’re a morning sex kind of girl, make it a priority in the AM, even once or twice a week. And think about going away for even one night (to a local hotel!) with your partner — you’ll rediscover who this other person who lives in your house is.” (Seriously, don’t underestimate the life-changing power of hotel sex in relationships.)
Your definition of intimacy changes.
Remember: Penetrative sex isn’t the be all, end all in sex. While your partner might be too sore or disinterested in penetrative sex, there’s still plenty left to do, sexually speaking.
Take turns touching each other, focusing on the sensation of it and gradually adding more mutual touch until you eventually build up to intercourse ― but only when you’re both super in the mood for it.
The idea is to use non-demand touching ― where touch is for pleasure, connection and discovery, not an obvious grab for penetrative sex ― said Erin Martinez-Gilliard, a sex therapist in Dearborn, Michigan.
“Cuddles and kisses, foreplay ― they all can open the door to more options,” she said. “Your wife may say, ‘Yes, I would like to be close to you, but I need to keep my clothes on while we cuddle.’”
“Be responsive to that,” Martinez-Gilliard added. “This simple change in response can bring the relationship clarity in regards to individual intimacy needs. Talking this way also decreases the risk of rejection and resentment a good bit.”
Nursing makes foreplay... interesting.
If you or your partner is nursing, foreplay is inevitably going to change. It’s hard to go from nursing a small human to having a grown man or woman paw at you. Obviously, tread lightly with your lactating lover.
“My wife, very understandably, had a difficult time mentally making the switch between feeding our daughter and allowing me the opportunity to... enjoy them,” Kulp said. “Getting to know these new boundaries or situations in which your partner doesn’t feel comfortable certainly involves a learning curve ― but it won’t last forever. We both just adjusted while she was nursing our babies, and it was no big deal.”
Well-timed conversations about sex expectations are a must.
For most couples ― even incredibly happy ones ― the general, pervasive fatigue of having a newborn creates more arguments and conflict within the relationship. That doesn’t bode well for your sex life. If you’re unsatisfied in the bedroom, talk about what you miss about it. If you’re on the receiving end of this conversation, listen to your partner with an empathetic ear. Word to the wise, though? Don’t broach the conversation when you’re both exhausted.
“Be careful with the timing of all conversations after baby!” Cook said. “In the middle of the night when you’re both tired isn’t a time that sets you up for success.”
Remember: This is a temporary situation in your sex life.
When the sleepless, sexually frustrating nights start to get the best of you, remind yourself that this is a passing problem in your relationship. Eventually the kids will grow up and you and your S.O. can get back to getting busy.
“You have to embrace the change,” Kulp said. “These aren’t easy times. It’s like you have a human barrier between you and your partner. But ultimately, my wife and I know that it won’t be forever that these little ones are crawling into bed with us.”