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Having a baby takes more than a toll on your sleep cycle — it can affect your sex life, too. But "don't ignore your sex life after your baby is born," encourages Madeleine Castellanos, M.D, sex therapist and author of Wanting to Want: What Kills Your Sex Life and How to Keep It Alive. "Remember that the body and mind function on the use it or lose it principle, which means that, after recovering from labor you need to consciously nurture the physical and psychological aspects of your sexual self, in order to keep your sexual relationship as powerful as it can be." Here's how you can do just that.
1. Give your body what it needs.
After giving birth, your body will need special attention. "Make sure you are eating as healthy as possible, getting as much sleep as you can, and doing some light exercise several times a week,; like brisk walking," Castellanos recommends. "Not only does this help your body recover as quickly as possible, but it also encourages a balancing of the sex hormones and a sense of strength and control of your body. All this helps put you in the optimal state, to return to sexual activity when you are ready."
2. Prioritize your relationship.
Andrea Ramsay Speers, psychotherapist and parenting coach, says that doesn't necessarily mean putting sex at the top of your to-do list. "Make a point of connecting with one another each day and holding your marriage as an important part of your life," she says. "Babies are cute but demanding, and they can easily take over every area of your life, if you let them. Once habits are created, they can be a lot of work to change."
3. Spend some time in "sexy" mode.
Mothers know that having a baby is often overwhelming, says Castellanos. "It's not hard to be thinking about everything baby-related, every waking hour," she commiserates. "But in order to keep your flexibility of switching into 'sexual woman mode,' you have to set aside some time to get into a sexy state of mind." You can do that "by just taking three minutes a day to have positive thoughts or memories related to your sex life," she says. "Taking just a few minutes a day, helps remind your brain that you can still be sexual — and helps open the door to your sexual expression."
4. Communicate often, and about everything.
"This parenting thing is probably new to both of you," points out Speers. "Don't make assumptions about what you think your partner is thinking, or what you think your partner should be doing — talk about it. Problem solve together, see yourself as a team, and don't start to see your partner as the enemy," which, she points out, won't put you in the mood or make your marriage stronger. "You're in the this for the long haul," Speers says. "It's an investment in your relationship and your mental health to learn how to keep this most important relationship flowing smoothly."
5. Carve out time for your sex life.
Spontaneous sex is great, but it shouldn't be counted on, Castellanos says. "If you want to have a successful sex life, you must set time aside for it," she says. "Couples often want their sexual encounters to be natural, but this is an idealized viewpoint that works against achieving your goal." So rather than waiting for amazing sex to happen — make it happen. "Get a family member or a sitter to watch the baby while you take some time for yourselves, whether it's just cuddling and sleeping or it's a little time that you can take to reconnect sexually," suggests Castellanos. "A woman's brain is wired to take in all its surrounding details. It may be necessary for them to actually create a space that is free of any baby items and baby smell so they can focus on another aspect of themselves, apart from the nurturing mommy."