You’d never have thought it, but sexy times—let alone romance—are often put on hold in the weeks and months after baby arrives. There’s just something about the combination of sleeplessness, exhaustion, tender lady parts, and infant vomit, that tends to kill the mood.
That’s if ‘the mood’ wasn’t already extinct. Paediatricians recommend that your new arrival’s crib or bassinet is at your bedside for at least their first 6-12 months, to reduce the risk of SIDS. And if there’s a less sensual sentence than “reducing the risk of SIDs”, it’s just “reducing the risk of SIDs” but with the soundtrack of bubby squelching out a wet loose poo squirt close to the conjugal bed.
In short, the speeding Lamborghini of your libido has careened into a brick wall of babyhood.
Never fear. This is temporary.
It's normal for new mothers to experience a drastic reduction in libido during the first 1-3 months after birth in particular, and for many women this is longer, and it’s important for dad, especially, to suck it up and not sulk like a giant, petulant child. And so, while you’ll be missing the prebirth physical intimacy you enjoyed with your partner, you should still strive to maintain a romantic connection.
Use this time after baby is born to work on your relationship skills. That can include working on other (nonsexual) forms of intimacy, discussing how you’re feeling/coping with the tsunami of newborn-baby life changes, capitalising on the oxytocin of intimacy to discuss your hopes and fears and how you want to, er, parent. As well as learning more about constructively managing the inevitable points of conflict that arise when you’re both sleepless, exhausted, and covered in baby vomit.
The trick is to be prepared when you come out the other side of the post birth funk – and in doing so, maybe emerge a little sooner.
Here are some suggestions to keep the spark alive.
Acknowledge each other’s contributions.
Look, the simple things can be easily overlooked when you’re stressed, tired, and all you’ve eaten for a fortnight is defrosted lasagne. But many new mums cop a body-image battering after baby comes, and you can help. Excess weight, stretch marks, bleeding, cracked nipples, and assorted ailments can weigh heavily on her mind, as well as trying to compete with those terrifying Instagram mums who are bikini-ready a fortnight after birth.
A simple “I love you”, or, “You look beautiful” can go a long way, as will a loving touch in passing or a Post-it note left on the bathroom mirror telling her what a great mum she is.
“Personally, I’d love to hear something involving the words ‘awesome’ and ‘goddess’ and ‘badass warrior,’” says author Dena Ogden, “but something more along the lines of, ‘You’re amazing, you did it!’ or, ‘I’m so proud of you!’ or, ‘Holy sh*t, I can’t believe you made a human,’ would work, too.”
Have a romantic dinner
Look, so it’s not the right time to hustle a table at a celebrity chef’s ‘it’ restaurant as a primer to a decadent evening of cocktails and nightclubbing. But noisy restaurants do make for a soothing kind of white noise for babies, even if you’re going to have to expect fewer chef’s hats on the menu if you want to be let in with a bub. If you can find somewhere with a booth, or a cosy corner of a gastropub, or a local favourite, younger babies will often sleep through the whole meal—and if it weren’t for the fact that all you’ll actually talk about is the kid, you could almost be pre-child you again.
Enjoy a date night at home.
So perhaps you’re not ready to foist yourselves back into the world—and that’s fine. But why not conjure a romantic night in while the baby sleeps? Fun! A quick Googling reveals what is close enough to an online cottage industry of inspirational ideas for new parents to couple up with or without leaving the house, but it needn’t be complicated. Cook your favourite meal for a candlelit meal at home, or test the range limit of the baby monitor for a backyard picnic, or just order in takeaway for an (early) movie night in bed after junior has gone down. Even though you’re hanging at home instead of painting the town red, a date night just for the two of you can feel really special and intimate.
Walk it up – go on a romantic walk
The best thing about baby carriers, in a romantic sense, is that you can hold hands while you’re walking. In another, perhaps more practical sense, having one means you can load yourself up (baby on front, backpack on back, expressed breast milk or baby formula/nappies/snacks/water/kombucha inside) and head anywhere from the local beach walk to a snappy bush hike to a stroll through the neighbourhood. (Don’t like being a packhorse? Er, sorry Dad. You’re a packhorse now.)
“Bushwalking with your baby is wonderful,” says intrepid mother Kate Brown “Parents can be adventurous, play in the wild and relax in the bush’s tranquillity. Their new surroundings and love will fascinate your baby being held close as you walk along the track. It is a great way to introduce your baby to the bush, the first of many family adventures.”
“With a little courage, careful preparation and creative parenting” says Brown, “[even] multi-day bushwalking with your baby is not only achievable but enjoyable too.”
Is Brown mad? Perhaps. But if she can trek the Pennines with a bub, your two-feet-and-a-heartbeat can lap your suburb.
There’s no way of sugar-coating it: new parenthood is to arousal what Jaws was to snorkel sales. No matter how gratefully received was your child, the extra duties are a drag. So, if you’re not the one who got up for the nightly feeds, for example, reward your partner for throwing themselves on that grenade. It might be as simple as delivering them crusty Vegemite toast with lashings of butter and pod coffee in bed. But in the weary dawn light, that can be as romantic a gesture of gratitude as Casanova ever performed.
Reviewed by Jane Barry, midwife and child health nurse. Feb 2023.
Yes. Newborns require a lot of time and attention—and that is almost inevitably taken from the well of time and attention that new parents could previously have spent on each other. Spontaneity is cancelled, most of your conversations are exhausted and functional (“Can you change the baby’s nappy?”, “I need you to hold her while I go to the toilet”), and you’re constantly discovering new differences in innate parenting styles. Sometimes it can feel like you’re both irritated, most of the time. The good news: this will all pass, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to work on it. You do.
While you may feel like the arrival of baby has doomed you to a sexless relationship, have confidence that this phase is only temporary. Many new mothers take a few months (or more) before they are ready for sex again. Be patient and be guided by her. And don’t forget intimacy isn’t just about sex—spending time together, engaging emotionally (rather than simply functionally, or transactionally), and being affectionate and loving are all building blocks to an ongoing healthy relationship.
Last Published* August, 2023
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.