Sex after birth: Your guide to postpartum intimacy

Remember that sex and intimacy are two different things.


You just had your six-week postpartum visit, and your OB or midwife cleared you for sex! Now what?

As birth and postpartum doulas, we know the six-week mark doesn't magically act as an aphrodisiac. Between hormones, baby feeding, feeling "touched out," exhaustion and overall parenting a newborn, it can feel extremely challenging to find space to get intimate with yourself or a partner.

But, it's important to remember that sex and intimacy are two different things. Sex is a physical experience, and intimacy is the emotional connection you share with yourself or someone close to you. They can be so closely linked or stand-alone.


Here are our seven favorite ways to cultivate intimacy postpartum.

1. Self-pleasure

The first relationship to address is the one with yourself. Whether this is a stepping stone to intimacy with a partner or the climax of your postpartum intimacy experience, self-pleasure is a safe and rewarding place. Exploring what feels good physically and emotionally is key to understanding your new body and mind. We highly suggest trying a good lubricant and sexy toy to maximize the experience.

2. Rituals

Postpartum can feel like a time vortex where hours run into days and days into weeks. Often the early hours of morning turn into dusk, and we're not sure what, if anything, happened in between. By introducing rituals into the day, we can make time markers and create space to invite intimacy.

For example, what about scheduling a few moments of breathwork each day? Start by simply bringing attention to your breath for a few minutes. Send some deep breaths to wherever you're looking to ignite. By practicing Breathwork we intentionally send deep and mindful breaths to places in our body we want to "ignite." Doing so can ignite feelings of arousal or pleasure and give us a moment of peace- which, in turn, helps us feel relaxed and ready for intimacy!

3. Into-me-i-see

Intimacy, or Into-me-i-see, phrased as a question, into-me-i-see____? allows you to check-in with yourself to asses your needs and wants in the present moment.

Do you need physical touch? A nourishing meal? Alone time? A nap?

This is a chance for you to fill in the blank and ask for what you want from yourself or a partner. Being able to articulate your needs can make you feel seen and heard, both essential steps to building a healthy relationship, and in turn, intimacy.

4. Outercourse

Maybe your vulva is not ready for a play date yet, but your libido is looking for a meet-up. Have you considered making out? Cuddling? Mutual masturbation? Here's another opportunity to throw in some lube.

5. Intimate experiences

Connecting with a partner in a new space can help hit the reset button. A short walk outside, practicing your babywearing and going out on a dinner date, or taking a hot shower or bath alone or together may be just what you need to get in the mood for an intimate moment.

6. Movement

Move your lower body! Dance, do yoga, stretch, swim. Increasing blood circulation while getting out of your mind and into your body can help stimulate feelings of excitement and arousal.

7. Do nothing

Sex and intimacy may not be of interest to you at this time—and that is completely normal and fine! A postpartum doula may be just the ticket for some self-care. It's possible that after feeling supported and cared for by someone other than your partner or family, you can feel energized, balanced, or simply, better rested. When you can stand in your power and confidently say, "I'm not ready to be intimate right now," you can be sure you're taking care of your self in an honest and authentic way.

Trust your body and heart to know when they are ready for sex and intimacy.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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