Valentine's Day is here, but new parents may not be looking for romance as much as they're looking for a nap. It is so tough to balance the demands of parenthood with the desire for physical connection with our partners, but renowned sex expert Dr. Ruth Westheimer has advice for new moms.
The 90-year-old sex therapist and subject of an upcoming Hulu documentary, Ask Dr. Ruth, spoke with Motherly about how new parents can make room for sex in a busy season of life.
1. It doesn't have to be intercourse
If you're in a heterosexual relationship, consider other forms of sex that don't involve penile penetration. "What I suggest to new moms is it doesn't have to be intercourse. Just pleasure each other. Give him an orgasm and then let him give you an orgasm," Dr. Ruth tells Motherly.
"In order to speed it up a little, because I understand that people are tired and that the child demands a lot of attention, ask him just to give you an orgasm either manually or orally. It does not have to be intercourse."
Dr. Ruth suggests that postpartum couples can move toward intercourse when both are comfortable with it, but if there's any pain or dryness, she suggests talking to a doctor (and making sure you have enough lubricant).
2. Consider a babysitting swap
According to Dr. Ruth, regular date nights away from the baby are very important for keeping the romance going. She says new parents should accept help from grandmothers and other relatives whenever they can, and use that child-free time to really connect with their partner as lovers, not co-parents.
"If there's no relatives nearby, then do what I used to do when I raised my child. I switched with a neighbor in the building, so that one day I went to school and another day I took her children and she went to school. Find somebody, another new mother that you can switch off with," says Dr. Ruth.
3. Get a room (but don't stay overnight)
"[It's] very important that you plan the time, not just on Valentine's Day, to make sure get a babysitter, or get a relative that can babysit, and go out," Dr. Ruth tells Motherly.
"What I also suggest to parents, is from time to time, check into a motel. You don't have to stay the whole night. Just check in. Make sure you have some bubble bath. Make sure you have a little champagne, and stay for a few hours. Have a babysitter, or maybe somebody from the family to watch the children, so that that sex life doesn't fall asleep."
4. Know that this isn't how sex will always be
New parenthood can make a person feel unsexy. When you're sleep deprived and walking around with spit-up on your sweatshirt and three days worth of dry shampoo in your hair, it's hard to feel sensual at all (and sometimes it feels like you'll never feel that way again).
But Dr. Ruth has some advice for new mamas who are feeling like sex has lost its appeal or its place in their lives: "Know that it'll pass. The children will grow up."
As the children grow (and you get more sleep) your sex life can change and evolve, but you have to make the space and time for romance to blossom. "It can be just going to a restaurant for a quiet talk, so that the interest in each other does not fall asleep," says Dr. Ruth.
It's a point Dr. Ruth made multiple times during her conversation with us: During a time of life where we really want to fall (and stay) asleep, we should do what we can to keep our interest in our partner awake.