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How to Make Love to a Mom

Tara Paterson remembers just when her once-sexy sex life began to fizzle. "I got really annoyed one day when my husband looked down my shirt in front of the kids," says the mom of a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old in Round Hill, Virginia. "His overtures used to seem playful, but once Adam and Caden were old enough to notice, some of them made me uncomfortable, and I'd bat his hand away." After a while, he got frustrated with her rebuffs and stopped initiating sex altogether.

But all wasn't lost. Once she explained why she was shutting him down and shooing him away, they came up with new, more successful sexual signals, like hand-holding and hugging.

Many couples need to make a sexual fresh start after the baby arrives. Apart from the obvious physical changes to contend with (fatigue, sore breasts), there are emotional ones (a biggie: resentment over who puts in the most childcare time). But the effort it'll take to adapt is worth it. Sex is fun, and regular lovemaking creates a reservoir of goodwill that keeps marital spats to a minimum. "When our sex life is going well, my husband and I are both less irritable and more willing to cut each other slack," says Maria*, a mom of a 5-year-old in Phoenix.

But it might not always be clear exactly what adjustments need to be made, how to make them, or how to get your beloved to make them. Here's what you can tell him, plus some ways to get you both back on track in the bedroom:

"Let me get more shut-eye"
Being startled awake every two hours by a needy newborn is beyond exhausting. So it's hardly surprising that many new moms choose sleep over sex when they collapse into bed at night. If there's any hope of staying conscious for any type of romantic interlude, your partner needs to help you get more zzz's  -- not put a pillow over his head or stake out separate quarters to preserve his own sleep. "My husband actually moved into a separate bedroom when my son and daughter were first born so they wouldn't wake him up," says Kristen*, of Canton, Ohio.

Maybe he can give the baby her last bottle before bedtime so you can turn in earlier. Or maybe he can take over some of the wee-hour feedings  -- if you're nursing, you can pump breast milk during the day. And helping out around the house during the day, even if it's just on weekends, so you really can nap when the baby does, will go a long way toward helping you catch up on sleep.

Mary Garner Ganske has two daughters and writes frequently about women's health.