Parenting advice from one of America's favorite experts.

Dr. Benjamin Spock has been giving parents advice about raising their children for decades. In this excerpt from his landmark work, Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, he shares one of the 19 points he believes are most important for parents to keep in mind about their role in their child's life.

Parental sexual relations after delivery

The process of pregnancy, labor, and delivery may interfere (for a time) with many parents' sexual relations. Near the end of pregnancy, intercourse may become uncomfortable or at least physically challenging. Following delivery there is a normal period of time of discomfort, readjustment of the body to its prepregnancy state, hormonal shifts, and the hard work, sleep deprivation, and fatigue of caring for a newborn. Sex may be crowded out for days, weeks, even months.

This can also be a difficult time for a man's libido. He may be tired. For some men the shift in perspective of their partner from lover to mother is difficult to reconcile with sexual feelings. All manner of deep emotional contradictions may arise. Some men, for example, have been raised with the "Madonna or whore complex." It's hard for them to reconcile that a woman could be both a mother and a lover; the feelings may seem mutually incompatible (just as some of us can't even begin to picture our parents as sexual beings, even though we are the proof incarnate of that sexuality).

If you recognize that sexual intercourse may be slow in returning, you won't be so alarmed at its temporary absence. And a cessation of sexual intercourse should not mean that you cease all sexual relations. Take time for cuddling, hugging, kissing, a romantic word, an appreciative glance, an unexpected gift of flowers.

Balancing parenthood with the other aspects of your life is one of the skills of successful parenting and successful marriage. Almost all parents get sexually back on track after a while. What makes the biggest difference is that, in the tumult of caring for a new baby, they don't lose sight of how much they love and care for each other, and that they make a conscious effort to express that love by word and by touch. Suggested activities could be reading poetry aloud to each other, going for a walk together (without the baby), exchanging warm oil massages, meditating together, having a quiet meal together, and sharing lots of hugs and kisses.

Excerpted with permission from Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, Revised Seventh Edition, Pocket Books, 1998.

Copyright 1945, 1946, © 1957, 1968, 1976, 1985, 1992 by Benjamin Spock, MD. Copyright renewed © 1973, 1974, 1985, 1996 by Benjamin Spock, MD. Revised and updated material copyright © by The Benjamin Spock Trust

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.

American Baby