women
Q: I used to dress sexily but seem to have lost interest since having my baby—am I losing it?
A: Having a baby and caring for her is a full-time job, which can mean that you probably don't have much time to spend on yourself. Many women struggle to find time to do their hair and even put on makeup in the first few weeks and months. However, your baby will soon get bigger and develop a routine that you can work around. So whether you want to get back into a dress for an evening out, or fit into your old jeans, this will happen in time. Although having a baby means you have taken on a new role in life and it involves a lot more responsibility, it shouldn't mean that you have to lose who you were before the birth.

Claiming some time for yourself every now and then can help you to start to take an interest in yourself again. Making a hair appointment, or treating yourself to a massage or a manicure, will help you to feel good again about the way you look.

Q: We've been invited to a party. Is it a good idea to take our new baby with us?
A: In the early days this is fine as long as there is a safe, quiet place for her to be and this may be an easier option than leaving her with a babysitter if you're breast-feeding. Later on this becomes more difficult since most older babies like routine, so are likely to be more unsettled in a new environment, particularly if it is noisy. However, if it is a dinner party, your baby is unlikely to be so disturbed. On the other hand, babies are often capable of sleeping through quite a lot of noise, and young babies are very transportable, with the help of a portable crib.

You need to decide if your baby would be better off at home cared for by a relative, friend, or babysitter, or whether she would be happier staying with you, even though the environment may be very different. Ideally your baby should be cared for in an environment that allows her to keep to her routine. You should not feel guilty about having time away from your baby and enjoying yourself. If you haven't left your baby with a babysitter before, whether a family member or paid sitter, you might want to arrange for a babysitter for a couple of hours before the date of the party to see how it works out.

Q: My partner is so worried about germs she won't visit my sister's messy house. What can I do?
A: I can understand your partner's concern for the baby, as there is a lot of public awareness around bacteria and germs and we are constantly bombarded by the media with information on germ-fighting products such as disinfectants and bleach solutions. However, if we create too sterile an environment, we are also killing good bacteria that can actually help us. Also, exposure to microbes and getting infected with some of them strengthens the body's natural immune system against allergies. An immune system that has little exposure to germs is more likely to see dust and pollen as dangerous invaders and respond in a way that causes asthma and allergies.

Babies begin preparing for the germs they will encounter at birth while still in the uterus since, although the placenta acts as a filter, it lets through small amounts of allergens and microbes. It is thought that by three years, a child's body has learned all it needs to know to fight against germs. However, it is advisable to try to keep newborn babies away from people who have colds, since very young babies have difficulty breathing through their mouths, so if they have mucus in their nose this will make them very snuffly. Breast-feeding provides babies with some immunity from infections.

Babies will continue to come into contact with germs despite parents' best efforts to avoid them, and it is not really possible or desirable to live in a germ-free world. So try to reassure your partner that even though your sister may not be fussy about housekeeping, a visit to her home is unlikely to harm the baby. One exception, though, is hand washing, which is of paramount importance. Most infections are spread through the hands, since most people do not have a very good hand-washing technique. Before caring for a newborn, preparing bottles, or preparing any food, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly.

Q: My feelings about my husband have changed; I feel flat and don't know what to do. Any advice?
A: Try not to be too hard on yourself if you have only recently given birth. Most women are still trying to cope with their baby's demands and adjust to parenthood in the weeks and first few months after the birth. Fatigue and exhaustion can also make it hard to feel excited about other relationships. Unfortunately, this often leaves very little time to consider your partner and it is not unusual for partners to feel neglected or left out when a baby arrives, since the love and attention that was once shared with their partner has suddenly been transferred to the baby. This can be quite a shock to couples and you may find that you need to make a conscious effort to find time for each other to talk and communicate, as well as allowing yourselves time as a couple to enjoy together (see section You and your partner).
Q: How soon should I get a babysitter so that we can have a night out?
A: Having a night out with your partner or friends is a healthy thing to do when you have just become a parent. Coping with a new baby can be stressful and all parents need space to recharge their batteries. There is no rule about how early a babysitter can be used. It depends on how comfortable you feel about leaving your baby with another person, and may also be difficult in the early days of breast-feeding before you start expressing. You may have a family member, friend, or neighbor who you trust to care for your baby; or you could arrange to swap with another parent so that they babysit one night and you return the favor another night. You can start gradually by having a family member come in while you and your partner grab a nap, cook a meal, or take your other children to the park. Once you have more confidence in your babysitting arrangements, you may want to take a quick shopping trip or go out to dinner. When you are enriched by being with your partner and with friends your family is richer as well.
Q: Should I wait until after my postpartum checkup before we have sex again?
A: This is entirely up to you and your partner! It is perfectly normal to feel like having sex again quite soon after the birth of your baby, but it is also normal not to feel like it for months! Some women prefer to wait until after their postpartum checkup at around six weeks before resuming their sex life. Your doctor or midwife will be able to confirm that any wound or tears you had after the birth have healed, and that your body is returning to normal. If all is well, it is likely that sex will not be too uncomfortable, even at first. Other women feel ready to have sex before the postpartum checkup. As long as you have stopped bleeding, and take things slowly and gently, this is fine. If you do experience any problems, you will be able to discuss them with your provider at the checkup.
Q: I'm the only mom in a group of friends. I can't relate to them—I just want to talk about my baby!
A: When you become a mother, your life takes on a whole new focus—your baby. Everything about her naturally enthrals and concerns you, so it is to be expected that you will want to talk about her a lot. Unfortunately, you will find that, although your friends will love to hear about your baby, they will not share your intense interest. Being a mom is wonderful and all-consuming, but it is important to take time to focus on other areas of your life, such as socializing with your friends. Talking about other things and other interests will also help you to keep hold of your own identity, as well as that of being a mother.
Q: Is it true that I don't need birth control while I'm breast-feeding?
A: In theory, breast-feeding should be a fairly reliable form of contraception if certain strict criteria are met, because the hormone prolactin, produced by the body to stimulate the production of breast milk, also acts to prevent the release of eggs from the ovaries. However this is not a guaranteed method of contraception and if becoming pregnant again at this stage would be totally unacceptable for you and your partner, it would be best to play it safe and use an additional form of contraception while you are breast-feeding your baby. As a general guideline (although as already stated this is not a guarantee), the chances of you conceiving while breast-feeding are extremely small if:
  • You are breast-feeding on demand night and day without going for more than about six hours maximum without feeding.

  • Your baby has no additional form of nutrition such as formula or solid food.

  • Your baby is less than six months old and periods have not returned.

Once changes occur, such as your baby sleeping through the night or starting solids, for example, it is possible that your periods, and therefore your fertility, will soon return. Since you will ovulate before your first period after the birth occurs, it is hard to pinpoint the return of fertility.

Q: We want our baby to sleep in our room, but how can we have sex while she is so close?
A: It is currently recommended that your baby shares the same bedroom as you for the first six months since this helps reduce the risk of SIDS, or crib death. Many couples do not mind having sex when their baby is in the same room as long as she is soundly asleep and unlikely to wake up, while other couples do not feel at all comfortable with this idea, and so may need to consider other options if they want to continue sexual relations. If you really feel uncomfortable about making love so close to your baby, you may need to consider other places to enjoy intimacy with your partner—it doesn't have to be the bedroom! You could try the living room, or a spare bedroom if you like comfort, or even the kitchen or bathroom if you are more adventurous!

Alternatively, you might, in time, settle your baby to sleep in her own room and bring her into your room after the first night waking. This may allow you some private time in your room earlier in the evening.

Q: I want some romance back in our life, but my husband seems to be avoiding sex. What can I do?
A: You need to talk to your husband about why he is avoiding sex since there may be several reasons for this, all of which can be resolved over time. Perhaps he is simply exhausted, as being a new parent is hard work. If this is the case, trying to find time for extra naps could help, and things should improve over time as the baby sleeps for longer periods of time. Your husband may be nervous about hurting you, especially if you had any stitches at the time of the birth. If things feel comfortable for you, then reassure him, and just take things slowly. He may be worried about the baby disturbing you during lovemaking. This is completely understandable, and doesn't have an easy solution, although this should hopefully become less of a concern once the baby has a more predictable sleep pattern. In the meantime, perhaps there is a friend or relative who could take the baby out for a while so that you can have some time alone with each other.

Sometimes, it is simply that couples can find it hard to swap roles—being a parent one moment and then being part of a loving couple the next and then back to being a parent again. As you get more used to your roles as parents, it should become easier to swap between the roles. Lastly, trying to make time for each other, to talk, to hold hands, and simply cuddle, is so important—if this can be achieved, a sex life will usually follow.

Q: We had a baby six weeks ago, but I still don't feel ready for sex—is that normal?
A: Yes, that is totally normal! Even if you have physically recovered from the birth, you may not feel ready for sex again for quite some time—many couples take quite a few months to get their sex life back on track. If you are breast-feeding, hormones may also be playing a part in reducing your desire for sex. You may also be feeling self-conscious about the changes in your body, and you may just simply feel too tired for sex. This is all totally understandable.

Talk to your partner about the way you are feeling and make sure you have some relaxed time together to talk and simply show affection for each other. The rest will follow with time.

Q: My partner wants me to stop breast-feeding because he is jealous. What should I do?
A: You need to talk to your partner about what exactly he is feeling jealous of. Perhaps he is jealous that you are the only one who can feed the baby. If this is the case, it may help to suggest other aspects of baby care that he can become involved with, such as burping the baby after a feeding, diaper changing, or settling the baby. Once your baby is a few weeks old, you could express some milk for your partner to feed your baby. Once your baby is old enough for solid food, there will be plenty of opportunities for your partner to feed her.

It may be the case that your partner sees your breasts as purely sexual and feels uncomfortable seeing the baby feeding from them. Also, maybe you don't view your breasts in a sexual way so much at the moment, which is totally understandable, and your partner senses this.

Although you can be sympathetic, remind your partner that this phase in your baby's life won't last long, and that things will return to normal after your baby has stopped breast-feeding—maybe even before. Whatever his reasons for feeling jealous, remind him that breast-feeding gives your baby the best possible start in life, which is surely what you both want for your baby. You really need your partner's support in this.

Q: Can I express milk so that we can go out?
A: Yes, you can express milk so that someone else can feed the baby. However, many breast-feeding experts advise waiting for around four to six weeks before doing this to give you and your baby time to get used to and establish breast-feeding, and give your body time to produce milk on a “supply and demand” basis. Once you do start expressing, you can do this any time of day, although many women find their supply is greatest in the morning. Expressing milk also gives your partner a chance to become involved in feeding and help him to bond with his baby.
Q: Will it harm my two-month-old baby if we leave him with his grandparents for the weekend?
A: No, it won't harm your small baby to leave her for a couple of days with people who love her. If you are bottle-feeding, this will be fairly straightforward, but if you are breast-feeding, it may be trickier. First, you will need to ensure that your baby is happy to take milk from a bottle, which can take some time if she has only had your nipple so far. You will then need to decide whether she will have expressed breast milk or formula while you are away. If she is going to have formula, you will have to accustom her to it before you go, and if she is having breast milk, you will need to start expressing well in advance and freeze some supplies so that you can leave milk with her grandparents. In addition, if you intend to continue breast-feeding, you will need to take a breast pump, sterilizing equipment, and storage bottles with you to maintain your milk supply while you are away. If this sounds too complicated, you could take your baby with you on your weekend and wait until your baby is a little older and perhaps no longer breast-feeding before you go away without her.
Q: My partner wants us to have a break. I'm not ready to leave my young baby yet. What can I do?
A: Many mothers don't feel ready to leave their baby for more than a few hours in the first few months; don't worry, this is normal. However, you need to explain this to your partner and reach a compromise. Perhaps you could take the baby with you for a weekend away? Small babies are fairly portable, especially if you're breast-feeding. Or a friend or relative could babysit while you and your partner go out to dinner. If you did go for a weekend away just to please your partner, you may not feel happy or relaxed, which would surely defeat the purpose of time away, and affect your partner's enjoyment too.
Q: My wife wants to do everything herself—now my mom is offended. How can I help her relax?
A: Many new moms feel like this, so your situation isn't unusual. Perhaps your wife feels that she should be able to do everything herself and sees accepting help as an admission of defeat and that she is failing to deal with her new role as a mother. Reassure her that she is a great mom, and let her know that people want to help, and that she would also benefit from having some time out to relax. Tell your mom about how your wife is feeling, and reassure her too, since she probably feels that her offers of help aren't appreciated. Perhaps your mom could ask your wife what she would like her to help with. For example, she would probably love someone to help with the dish washing, dusting, or ironing. Or she may even be happy for your mom to take the baby out for a walk so that she can have a bath or a rest.
Q: Is it OK to leave the baby asleep in the car while I dash into a store?
A: Never leave your baby or small child unattended in a car. Temperatures in a car can rise or fall rapidly creating dangerous conditions. Some states have laws against this. With a portable car seat, it is very easy to take your baby into a store with you.
Q: I feel like we're stepping into a new life. What does the future hold for us?
A: Embarking on parenthood is one of the most complex but wonderful transitions in life. It is a roller coaster of change and challenges, and of emotional and physical ups and downs. Your relationship with your baby develops continually and your relationship with your partner may change slightly too. You will also develop a new social network based on life with your baby. You may want to stay at home with your baby or return to work. The main thing to remember is that life will not be the same again, but it tends to improve in many ways with a child. Enjoy it as much as possible as your baby will grow up all too quickly.
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