After a day spent feeding, changing, swaddling and then feeding, changing and swaddling some more, the first thing you want to do when your partner gets home is slip into something sexy and go all Fifty Shades of Grey on each other, right? Probably not.
Chances are you dreamed of having a family for a long time, but now your post-baby sex life may be less than scandalous. That’s to be expected, says Kristen Chase, author of The Mominatrix’s Guide to Sex: A No-Surrender Advice Book for Naughty Moms. “After being enraptured with pregnancy for nine months, there’s this little person in your life whose needs come before anyone else’s, and your relationship can fall to the bottom of the priority list,” she says.
A New Kind of Threesome
That sweet, cooing, smiling, laughing baby that now occupies all your waking hours and thoughts might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you and your partner, but you might already be struggling to reconnect as a couple after baby is added to the equation: 73 percent of respondents said they have less sex now than before they had kids. “After the first child, many people feel like they’ve lost interest in sex and don’t feel like themselves anymore,” says Irwin Goldstein Ph.D., director of the Institute for Sexual Medicine in San Diego. Your new love has left you tired and unmotivated. “It’s very hard to be part of a threesome; all the rules of the game change,” says Dana Dorfman, psychotherapist and parenting expert in New York City. “At its core, both you and your partner are falling in love with someone else—your baby. It’s like you’re both having an affair with the same person, and because of it, your sexual connection can falter.”
The shift from husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend to mom and dad is the biggest factor couples face when adjusting to life as parents. “Men and women have a hard time integrating sexual identities with parental identities,” says Dorfman. “At the beginning of the relationship, a man views his partner as a mate—a sexual being, so to speak. After a woman becomes a mother, her main focus becomes her child, and both the man and the woman may have a hard time reconciling her new identity as mother and mate. ”
“You will come out victorious on the other side,” says Jenn Berman, psychotherapist and host of Couples Therapy on VH1. “You might just have to work particularly hard to stay connected.”
Great Sex = Great Sleep
Sleep or, specifically, the lack thereof, takes the biggest toll on sex. “It goes without saying that sex drive is impacted by lack of sleep,” says Jenn Berman. “Both sex and sleep are critical to our well-being, but they don’t always go together. You can sleep without having sex first, but it feels like the tallest order to have sex when you’re not well-rested.”
The key is to stop thinking of sex and sleep as either-or. Instead, consider sex as the means to a better night’s sleep for both of you—really. “Couples who engaged in regular sex were more likely to experience high-quality sleep than couples who didn’t,” according to a study by Laura Berman, director of the Berman Women’s Wellness Center. If you wanna get some, ya gotta strategize.
Eighteen percent of respondents said they plan sex far in advance, meaning they mark the calendar and set aside time. This works, says Jenn Berman, “Parents have to make their intimate time a priority.” Set yourself a bedtime earlier than you normally hit the hay. If you’re still awake and alert when you both retire to the bedroom, it’s more likely you won’t be “too tired” to get it on. By the time sleep comes, you’ll enjoy the benefits of being well-bedded.
Shake What Your Mama Gave Ya
Once you have your bundle of joy home, those skinny jeans and crop tops might no longer be an option, and that’s perfectly OK: You’ve earned your stripes. “Everything about your body is different,” says Dorfman. “Things shift around and redistribute, and with that comes a readjustment to your body image.” While you might have to leave your clubwear in the closet for a time while your body readjusts to supporting just one person instead of two, eventually you’ll get back to feeling like your old self, only better. “Women are very sensitive to the response of others, and motherhood just exacerbates that,” says Dorfman. “She assumes that if she thinks she’s unattractive, her partner must think so too when that’s not the case at all.” The reality: Most men aren’t staring at your cellulite and stretch marks when you undress. “Likely, they’re just thinking about how amazing it feels to be so close to you,” says Chase. Sexiness is a state of mind, and there are a few simple ways—like exercise and listening to music—to get your head back into sexy mode.
Let's Talk About Sex
The most effective way to get more of what you want is by talking about it with your partner. “Open lines of communication about wants and needs in the bedroom are key,” says Goldstein. “You talk about money and parenting style, why not sex? Just like anything else, if it’s not talked about, the problem will fester and become a bigger and bigger issue in the relationship.” You want to role-play? Say so. Thinking about buying a vibrator? Get online and let your partner pick one out with you. Sex is a selfish desire in a lot of ways, but it’s a basic human need, says Jennifer Hutt, mother of two, radio show host and co-author of Whateverland: Learning to Live Here . “Like any goal or life choice, if you don’t verbalize it, you won’t get it,” Hutt says.
If talking to your partner about your sexual needs still seems like a stretch, get professional assistance from a third party you trust, like a physician or therapist. “Unwillingness or inability to have a healthy sex life with your partner is like any other health issue,” says Goldstein. “If you had a broken leg, you’d go see a doctor. So if our sex lives are broken, we need to get help with that too.” It’s certainly not going to heal on its own.
Three ways to bring sexy back:
“Don’t leave sex for the end of the day,” says sex columnist Kristen Chase. “By the time 8 p.m. rolls around, you’ve endured a long day and sex just won’t happen.” Instead of waiting until bedtime, jump on each other instead of jumping on Facebook when baby naps.
Be shut-ins for a night
“Date night is one of the most helpful marriage stabilizers,” says Dana Dorfman. “And it doesn’t have to break the bank.” Instead of hitting the town, stay in. “Exchange babysitting with another couple,” she says. “When they take your kids, don’t go out. Instead, have ‘naked night’ in the bedroom, snuggle, watch TV, talk and have a picnic on the bed.”
Add to your repertoire
“You’ve gotta teach yourself some new tricks,” says Chase. Whether it’s perfecting the art of the quickie or ordering some salacious TV, updating your sexual schematic is essential.