Baby can test husband-wife bond

How to stay close as a couple now that baby is here

By Barbara Pierce

No money, no sex, and no time.

This isn’t how you pictured parenthood with the man you love. Whether you’ve been a couple for years or just met and wanted to have a baby quickly, jumping from a twosome to a family is challenging.

Adding a baby is exciting, exhilarating, and wonderful. It’s also exhausting, exasperating, and worrisome — a combination that can be deadly to the romantic relationship that made you parents in the first place.

“I knew having a baby would change my day-to-day. But I didn’t know it would rock my relationship too,” says Cynthia Hanson on Parents.com. “The first year of our son’s life was the worst of our marriage. And we’re not alone. About two-thirds of couples become dissatisfied with their relationship after having a child, according to research. It’s no wonder: sleepless nights, raging hormones, scant time for long talks or sex — they all converge to forge a divide between you and him.”

A sort of domino effect happens when a baby enters a couple’s life. They have less time to spend together, which, necessarily, means you’re having less sex, which often leads to more frequent fights, which consequently finds both of them less happy.

It is, in fact, hard to maintain a close relationship with a partner when you have this massive additional responsibility that requires so much attention. There’s no doubt that a first baby changes things between partners.

Here are steps you can take to stay close:

— Prioritize sleep: First, you need a creative plan to get some sleep. Lack of sleep creates a tremendous strain on a relationship. In addition to feeling tired, it affects your mood and ability to think clearly. It can lead you to over-react to little things. Ask for help so you can sleep.

— Prioritize your time together: There’s a mountain of tasks each day. These won’t go away, but it’s essential to make sure you have time together as a couple, when the baby is asleep or Grandma takes over. Or ask a close family member or friend to babysit, even if you both stay at home, to give you together time without having to jump up at the first cry from the nursery.

Rather than using your last ounce of energy to do a load of laundry, enjoy a few minutes of conversation when you can.

Share time together

Just be together, be close as a couple, like you were before the baby. Watch a movie or talk. Share your thoughts and feelings about your changing world.

Even better is if you can get out of the house together for a little while, to remind you both that you’re still a couple, not just Mom and Dad.

— Prioritize “me” time: You both need “me” time to reenergize you as individuals. Speak up when you need a break; arrange an hour or two for your partner to watch the baby while you hit the mall (or do whatever makes you feel human again).

If you’re wary of using a sitter, set up a babysitting co-op with pals.

Exercise is great as it’s a way to de-stress. Just 10 minutes on a home treadmill or walking in place while you watch TV or listen to your favorite tunes can make a difference.

— Make time for sex: Physical intimacy is incredibly important to feeling connected to each other. This may take planning. It also means making your bedroom a “kid-free” area. Nothing kills the mood like having diapers and baby toys all over the bed.

— Establish a routine for your baby: It sounds obvious, but without a set routine, you won’t be able to find time for your relationship. Couples with strong routines for their small children tend to feel less stress in their relationship, experts say.

— Make sure Dad is involved with the newborn: When people think about bonding with a newborn, images of a mother and baby come to mind. While it’s essential for mothers and babies to develop a deep connection, it’s also important for fathers to spend quality time bonding with their babies.

“We do all we can to keep Dad involved with the baby,” said Michelle Firlit, supervisor of community health worker services at The Neighborhood Center. Community health worker services offers free home visits for women during the child-rearing years, she explained. “We work with women before they have a baby, during pregnancy, and after pregnancy. We help and support women and their families.”

“Both parents have important roles in caring for the baby,” Firlit stressed. “We teach the dad how to be involved with the baby, so that both Mom and Dad are included in bonding with the baby.”

An increasing amount of research suggests a strong correlation between early father-infant bonds and the happiness of the entire family.

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