Many of our couple therapy clients report having a hard time maintaining a close connection with each other after welcoming a new baby into the family. It makes sense, right? Here is a tiny new person who demands attention around the clock, leaves parents (especially breastfeeding moms) feeling totally exhausted, and might even be sleeping in your bedroom for the first several weeks or months. Not exactly a recipe for romance, right?
As a couple and family therapist, I believe that one of the best things that we can do for our kids is to love their other parent. Maintaining a solid couple relationship while raising children helps maintain a happy home; provides a safe and peaceful environment in which kids can learn, play, and discover themselves and the world; and gives children a healthy example to follow in their own relationships someday. Research shows that children who see and believe that their parents are happy — in their relationships and in general — grow up happier themselves. Setting the stage by staying connected during those crazy newborn days and hectic first year of your baby’s life is a great way to start your kids off right.
So, what can you do to maintain that connection? Here are a few ideas:
If someone offers to babysit, take them up on it! Friends and family are often falling over themselves with offers to babysit a newborn — some will do pretty much anything to get some of that cuddly baby goodness. So if a trusted friend or relative offers to come over and sit with the baby for an hour or two so you and your partner can get out of the house, DO IT! It can be tough to leave your new baby at the beginning, but it is very worthwhile and will leave you feeling recharged, reconnected, and ready to dive back in to parenthood when you get home. And you don’t have to do a four-hour dinner-and-a-movie date — even just going for a 30-minute walk, or taking a nap together while someone else tends to the baby, can do wonders.
Don’t tag-team 24/7. Many couples come up with effective plans to divide household and childcare responsibilities, so that one person is with the baby while the other is getting some sleep or getting other things done. This is a great survival mechanism, but not always the best way to stay connected as a couple. For at least part of each day, spend time caring for your baby together. Sit next to each other on the couch while baby is being fed, give the baby a bath together, or just get down on the floor and do some family tummy time.
Sleep in the same bed. I’m often surprised by how many couples decide to sleep in separate bedrooms right before and/or after the arrival of a new baby. Usually, this is a way to provide one parent with a quiet sleeping environment, while the other sleeps where s/he can hear the baby crying. This is another effective survival mechanism, but I recommend sleeping in the same bed at least on the weekends. Sharing a bed is an important way to stay connected, sharing cuddle time and quiet conversations. (Check out our full blog post on going to bed together here.)
Talk about other things. Babies can be all-consuming. As new parents, we may find ourselves having long, detailed conversations about baby’s sleeping, eating, and pooping habits. It’s easy to forget that before we were parents, we talked to our partners about other things, too! Try to find a little bit of time each day to discuss non-baby-related things — whether that’s what happened during someone’s workday, something in the news, dreams for the future, or even the latest neighborhood gossip.
What other ideas do you have for maintaining a close couple relationship after welcoming a new baby? Sound off in the comments!
Lindsey Hoskins & Associates provides individual, couple, and family therapy services in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. Call us a (301) 200-5290 to schedule an appointment!
Keywords: Couple relationship after baby