So how can you navigate your way back toward sexual intimacy now that you're nursing? Support -- from friends, relatives, or a nursing group at the local hospital -- is key, as is keeping your husband in the emotional loop by explaining how you feel.
"The most important thing partners can do is lay their cards on the table," says Semans. If you unveil all of your insecurities -- like feeling guilty about being hot in bed with a baby in the house, or sad because you don't feel the same sexual desires you once did -- you may discover that your partner is just as stressed about his scary new role as dad and provider, or grieving his loss of status between the sheets. "Your husband wants to be close to you, and your baby will do better if the two of you maintain a deep sense of intimacy," adds Huotari. How you handle these conflicts now can define your future relationship -- as lovers and as parents.
Think hard about what you need, and listen just as hard when your husband talks about his own expectations and vulnerabilities. The point isn't to judge your partner's feelings, or for him to judge yours, but for each of you to express your needs and try to meet them as generously as possible. Whether you want a nap, help with the dishes, or a night at the movies with your girlfriends, tell your husband you'd like him to step in. Taking care of yourself is the first step toward feeling sexual again -- and loving -- toward him.
Encourage your husband to express his desires too. If he desperately wants sex but you're nearly in a coma the minute your head hits that pillow, find a position that pleases him without taxing your energy. He'll appreciate you respecting his sexual needs as much as you appreciate him respecting yours. Or if what your partner misses most is your undivided attention at dinner, start lining up sitters for regular nights away from the baby. Involve your husband as much as possible in the baby's care, "and be generous with praise when your husband helps you," says Huotari. That way, he'll gain confidence in himself as a father and bond more with the baby.
Is there a silver lining to all of this hard work? You bet. Because making love as a nursing mom demands that the two of you coordinate your needs and talk about tough issues like sensuality, parenting responsibilities, and time demands, "it can bring your relationship to a different, deeper level," says Howard, "mixing eroticism with the deepest kind of love."
Holly Robinson is a freelance writer living outside of Boston.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, May 2004.