Bringing a baby into this world is one of the most joyous experiences you will ever go through. There is nothing like meeting your little one for the first time and experiencing that very first smile and laugh.
While there is a lot of joy to experience with new parenthood, it is also a very stressful time. You are learning how to take care of a baby, and the increase of domestic work that comes along with that. You are physically and mentally exhausted, and possibly facing changes in your finances. It is natural for all the new stressors in your life to put a strain on your relationship.
At MaternalWell, we care about your motherhood journey. We want to help support your physical and mental well-being during and after pregnancy. The following is a guide to help explain some of the challenges you and your partner may face after having a baby. We also provide ways to help cope with those challenges.
Motherhood is not a road that should be taken alone. There may be times when you want the support of a medical expert. At MaternalWell, we provide postpartum support, should you need it.
Postpartum Relationship Stress
Postpartum relationship stress is a term given to the new stressors that couples may find after having a baby. In most cases, the couple experiences many different emotions from happiness to frustration as they navigate their new family life together.
New Ups and Downs
Most couples experience a series of ups and downs after having a baby. There is a good reason for that! A new baby impacts almost every aspect of your life, so it would be abnormal not to experience new ups and downs.
Before your baby was born, you and your partner probably had a nice ebb and flow to your relationship. You may have had a nice work and home life balance, spending the right amount of time together and apart. A new baby can change all of that!
Once your baby arrives, it feels like your domestic duties double, but you have less time to get them done. Of course, you had laundry, dishes, and other chores before having a baby, but now there is more, with less time to get it all done. Not only have your domestic duties increased, but you are having to care for a baby all day. You can no longer put off chores to the next day, and that can feel frustrating and overwhelming. If one person feels like they are doing more than the other, it can lead to resentment. Ultimately, all this stress can lead to more bickering with your partner, especially if one person feels like they are taking on more responsibilities than their partner.
In addition to stressful domestic duties, each partner may have to adjust to a new work or sleep schedule. One partner may now stay at home with the baby, while the other is working, causing each to have to adjust to new schedules.
Or you may find yourselves sleeping in separate rooms for a time as your sleep schedules begin to adjust. All these changes can lead to underlying issues to come to light, and cause tensions between new parents.
One major factor that can lead to tension in your relationship is a lack of sleep. Not only will you be physically exhausted from giving childbirth or supporting someone who did, but you now have a newborn waking you up at all hours of the day. The constant waking can prevent your body from getting the amount of rest it needs and can lead to sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is classified by missing out on the seven to nine hours of sleep needed by adults. Not only can it make you feel tired and groggy but can ultimately lead to an inability to make clear decisions and a short fuse towards your partner. Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted and can cause mood swings, or even anxiety and depression. It compromises your creativity and decision-making processes.
If you are sleep deprived, small issues can suddenly feel huge. Not being able to regulate your feelings well can cause you to fight with your partner over small things that you would normally not argue about. It can also cause small flare ups that could have been easily worked out in the past to become bigger issues that are harder to work through.
Making Parenting Decisions After Childbirth
Most couples discuss the parents they want to be before having a child of their own. You may even feel like you and your partner share grandiose child-rearing philosophies. But it is extremely difficult to predict how you will truly feel about food, sleep, and other parenting choices until you are right in the middle of it.
For example, it is not ideal timing to realize you have different feelings about sleep training than your partner during the middle of the night when up with your baby. Finding out that your partner favors the cry-it-out sleep training method, when you cannot live with the tears, can lead to frustration or disagreement on the spot.
Couples may find that they thought they agreed on child-rearing but did not realize what the day-to-day challenges entail. One way to combat those tensions is to calmly talk about differences when you are not in the heat of the moment. Instead of discussing your stance on sleep training when your baby is mid-cry, have a discussion the next day during nap time when everyone is calmer and more rested.
Physical Relationship with Your Partner
While it sounds like a cliche, after having a baby your sex life may feel like a distant memory. Between the physical and mental exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and new schedules, sex with your partner may be the last thing you have on your mind. Not only has your or your partner’s body gone through the physical wringer, but stress, breastfeeding and mood swings can affect one’s mental and physical being as well.
If the intimacy with your partner has suffered after having a baby, the best thing you can do is communicate. Understand that this is usually temporary and explain to your partner about how you feel physically and mentally about sex, so they don’t think lack of intimacy is their fault.
You can also be proactive about creating intimacy with your partner. Plan for sex! While that may feel like a weird idea, think back to when you were dating or married prior to having a baby. You would likely get dressed and ready for a date, thinking about having sex later in the evening. Try doing that again. Set up a date night, even one at home after putting the baby to bed. “De-babify” your room by taking out toys and other baby items. Then get yourself ready by putting on something that makes you feel good and plan some intimacy with your partner.
If you have concerns that this lack of physical intimacy is not temporary, make an appointment with one of our experts at MaternalWell. We provide couples therapy to help you adjust after having your baby.
Good communication, which ultimately leads to a strong connection with someone, is the most important key to a successful partnership. But it can suffer greatly after giving birth.
Once you become parents, you might find that the communication between you and your partner becomes somewhat transactional. That is because there is a lot to discuss between new schedules, feedings, and other parental tasks. Some couples even take turns sleeping, and only talk in small transitional periods to let the other parent know what needs to happen with the baby.
These types of discussions, while important and necessary, can also lead to you feeling disconnected or irritated with your partner. You may feel that requests are demanding and miss the connection you once felt when talking about things other than parenting chores.
To reconnect and improve the communication between you and your partner, you will need to be logistical about it. Think about asking a family member or babysitter to watch your children. Or try connecting nightly once your baby is in a predictable sleeping routine. Spend alone time together with your partner and think of things to talk about other than your new list of chores. Trying to reconnect with the things you used to talk about before becoming parents without a baby can help keep you feeling bonded during the other stressful moments.
A new baby changes more than just your relationship with your immediate partner. It can change wider relationships as well, like those with friends and extended family.
Suddenly, you may find that your own parents, or the parents of your partner, want to be around a lot more. In addition to having them around, they may want to offer a lot of parenting advice. This makes sense since they raised children themselves. However, they do not always acknowledge that parenting changes over time, and that offering unsolicited advice can feel frustrating for you.
The key to handling these important relationships is setting boundaries. One way you can approach visitors that stop by unannounced or too often is by setting up a weekly visit that occurs on the same day and time each week. That way, everyone has the same expectation and can prepare for the visit.
You may also have to have a direct, and sometimes uncomfortable, conversation with those that pop by too frequently. Express your appreciation for their efforts to support you, but gently explain that you are in a transition period and need alone time to work out how to be a parent.
Beyond the relationship with your parents, you may find that your relationship with friends may change. If your friends are not parents themselves, they may not understand the way that your life has been impacted by a baby. They may even feel resentful or hurt if you spend less time with them.
If your friends are parents, it can be a wonderful transition. You can talk about common parenting issues and feel support from people you already have a positive relationship with.
But, if your friends have vastly different parenting styles than you do, you might feel the opposite. You feel like it’s awkward when spending time together because they have different parenting values and make decisions that you would not make for your own child.
Just like with your parents, you may find yourself having to set boundaries with friends as well. If your parenting styles do not always align, look for ways that they do. For example, if they allow their children to stay up later than you are comfortable with, work around this difference by planning late-morning play dates instead of evening ones.
Money can be a huge stressor after having a baby since many people have emotions tied to finances. Not only are kid-related expenses, such as childcare, quite expensive, but you may not be bringing in as much money either. Adjusting to a new income can leave one feeling insecure or financially dependent.
Many families choose to have one parent stay home after having a baby. Depending on your economic situation, this can reduce the amount of money you bring into the home quite a bit. Even if you save on childcare expenses, it can still be stressful as you adjust to a new life with a reduced income. Having less money, and greater expenses can be anxiety-provoking and cause a lot of stress in a relationship. Adding in other financial decisions new parents are making, such as buying or upgrading to a larger home or car, only adds to this stress.
The best way to combat financial issues after having a baby is to plan. Make a budget and stick to it. Ask yourself important questions about what size house you really need. Or whether going out to dinner three nights a week is realistic. Sit down together and decide what is best for your family, then implement that plan together.
Mamas, we’re here to help! Please reach out to us at MaternalWell to support you throughout your motherhood journey.
Our experienced specialists take a proactive approach to new and expecting moms’ physical, mental, and emotional health during this sensitive time.
Learn more about ways to deal with your relationship after baby or other postpartum issues by scheduling a virtual visit with one of our licensed providers. We offer affordable and convenient access to excellent professional care through our telehealth platform. We can provide you with care in the comfort of your own home.
Please visit us at maternalwell.com.