What you need to know

  • Most couples experience relationship changes when they become parents.
  • Good communication can help your relationship through these tiring times.
  • Having a baby can take a toll on your sex life.

Relationships with whānau

A new baby brings huge changes to you, your family and whānau. Any big change can be stressful, and when you add in things like sleep deprivation and financial pressure, this change can seem overwhelming.

Whatever situation you’re in, you’ll need support. The people who support you may be family, whānau, friends or others in your community. Try to build support people around you before your baby arrives. Plunket can help put you in touch with other parents in your community.

Talking with other people about how you feel may help, and it can bring you closer to them. Be aware that your support people may have their own ideas about how to look after a baby. It’s important you do what works best for you.

It’s a good idea to agree on how to care for your baby, so everyone who looks after them is consistent in what they do. When children know what to expect, and are cared for by loving adults, they feel more secure.

Your relationship with your partner

Life changes after your baby is born, and most couples experience relationship changes when they become parents too.

These changes can bring a new level of connection between partners, but they can also bring challenges to your relationship.

You may find having less time to talk, less sleep, and less free time together takes its toll on you both while you adjust to caring for a new baby. Tempers can fray easily when you’re exhausted. You might argue more, have sex (sometimes a lot) less often, and you may not have the energy to deal with issues when they arise.

Communication tips

Good communication can help your relationship through these tiring times.

  • Remember having a new baby is tough on both of you, and sometimes on your whānau too. When you’re used to it just being the two of you, it can be hard to adjust when there’s a new focus for the family.
  • Talk honestly about how things have changed, talking about your new roles in the home and how you see them working. It’s far easier if you work together as a team.
  • Keep talking about how you’re feeling about everything – there’s a lot going on as you adjust to being a parent, and your partner can’t read your mind. Sharing the joys, the milestones, your frustrations and your fears will help them understand what you’re feeling.
    • You may want to think about setting time aside to talk.
    • When you’re talking, remember that ‘you’ statements can sound like criticisms – try “it’d be great if you could fold the washing” rather than “you never fold the washing, can you do it now please?”
  • Listen to each other – really listen. It’s hard when there are so many demands on you as a parent to stop what you’re doing and focus on what your partner is saying, but it’s important to take the time.
  • It’s okay to disagree. Talking through differences of opinion can help you understand each other’s perspective – it’s rare to see eye to eye all the time. As parents, it’s important to be on the same page, especially when you’re making decisions about parenting. Talk through things like discipline, routine, and bedtimes before you need to, so you can get agreement on an approach that works for both of you and your baby.
  • Keep in touch. Might sound silly when you’re living in the same house, but it can be easy to live side-by-side without connecting. Simple things like checking in to ask about each other’s days, or making small gestures – as simple as making your partner a cup of tea, or offering them a sleep-in – can show you care even though you’re tapped out.
  • Have some ‘couple’ time away from the baby to remember who you fell in love with and why! When you’re in the haze of parenting a young baby, it can be easy to forget to laugh with one another. When you’re ready, you could:
    • arrange a babysitter or trusted relative or friend and go out for a meal or a movie
    • do something special together at home – a special dinner, or a movie after your children are in bed
    • do something you both enjoyed before you had children – even if you need to modify it a bit.
  • Having children can bring up issues from your own childhood. Talk with your partner about them, and think about how they might influence your own parenting. If you did have a tough childhood, it’s a good idea to speak with a professional to talk through how it might impact on your own approach to parenting.
  • If things are getting tough in your marriage, think about talking to a marriage counsellor.

Having a sex life

Having a baby can take a toll on your sex life.

Many women don’t enjoy or feel like sex for several months after the birth of their baby, and that’s normal. You may feel tired and sore, or you might not have time or energy.

Talk to your partner about how you feel, and find other ways to share your love, like cuddles or a massage.

When you do have sex, it might feel uncomfortable at first, especially if you’ve had stitches. Using a lubricating jelly or a different position may help. If sex is still painful, talk to your doctor.

Some women find that milk leaks from their breasts when they’re having sex. This is normal, so keep a towel handy.

Most couples get their sex life back on track eventually – but if it’s not happening quickly enough for you, talk to your doctor.

It is possible to get pregnant before you’ve had a period after childbirth. Breastfeeding can delay fertility, but it’s not a reliable method of avoiding pregnancy. You can discuss contraceptives with your doctor or Plunket nurse.