No Sex Please – The Baby Is Crying!One of my telephone clients called me because she and her husband were having such a problem with their six month-old baby constantly crying that their sex life had become non-existent.
My client expected the baby to cry a lot in the early weeks, but believed the crying would become less by the time he was three to four months old. However, her baby’s crying had become worse as time wore on. He woke up four to six times a night and she was exhausted. She hadn’t been able to settle him into a normal sleeping pattern and she felt a like failure.
Her husband was very understanding but she believed he was subconsciously blaming her. Neither of them expected the arrival of the baby would have such an impact on their relationship. He has a demanding job and started sleeping in the spare bedroom to get some uninterrupted sleep.
They used to have a very active sex life but she had become so sleep-deprived that sex just wasn’t on her radar anymore. Meanwhile, her husband felt that she spent too much time with the baby and he felt neglected.
She read several ‘how-to-get-your-baby-to-sleep’ books, and listened to all the different ideas family and friends gave her, but overall they confused her even more. My suggestion was to try a sleep training program.
For couples who need help and can’t do it by themselves, there are consultants who can help. For example, Jane Surgenor has worked for 25 years as a mothercraft nurse and has established a home-visiting service to assist families. One of her specialties is sleep management. She believes that persistent crying and sleep problems are common, but that everyone has a different opinion, and misguided advice can have a negative effect on parenting skills. She helps mothers and babies in the comfort of their own home and also provides support and advice in other aspects of parenting.
Parent education centres Karitane and Tresillian have introduced a new method of sleep management called ‘parental presence’ for babies six months and up. It requires high parental involvement and involves a parent sleeping in the same room as the baby for some weeks to comfort the baby and model good sleeping behaviours.
This was not an option for my client as she was now suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. She found a sleep consultant (or ‘baby whisperer’ as they are sometimes affectionately called) in her area that stayed for three full nights and taught her how to settle her baby without having to pick him up all the time to comfort him. After only one week he started sleeping through the night and was able to go back to sleep again by himself when he woke up.
My client’s sex life improved slowly – being sleep deprived is a libido killer, and having a baby brings huge pressure to even the most stable and harmonious couples. After all, it’s not easy to go from a twosome to a threesome!
Sex takes work and it doesn’t happen by itself. Sometimes it’s a good idea to plan it. Don’t wait until bedtime; that’s the worst time to have sex as both parents are likely to be exhausted. Try sex in the morning, in the daytime, on weekends or whenever the opportunity presents itself. Forget about the dishes or the mess in the house. Couples who prioritise the importance of sexual intimacy in their relationship will have a much better chance to get back to a satisfying sexual relationship after having a baby.