Having a baby is a big transition for a couple. Although it is an exciting new adventure, it can also be a very stressful time for your relationship. As you adjust to the needs and demands of your baby, you may find yourself with little time and energy to focus on each other. This change is a normal part of the transition to parenthood. However, there are some things that you can do to keep your relationship strong when you have a baby.

1. Discuss Parenting Views

There is a good chance that you each have different ideas about parenting and different ways of engaging with your baby. This is normal, and can even be beneficial for your child. However, not being on the same page when it comes to important parenting matters can lead to arguments between the two of you and confusion for your baby. It is helpful to discuss some of these bigger issues before the baby is born and to revisit them when necessary. Discipline, routine, extended family, religion and education are some topics that you might want to explore. For example, if you and your spouse practice different religions, you will want to discuss your expectations for your child around religion before the baby is born. When you are aware of each other’s values around parenting, you can have meaningful discussions about how you want to raise your baby and why.

2. Spend Time As A Couple

You don’t stop being a couple when you have a baby, even though it might feel like it at times. Spending time with the baby won’t be an issue. However, spending time together as a couple could be. As hard as it might be to leave your baby, carving out couple time together will strengthen your bond. It’s best to have couple time away from the baby if at all possible. That way, you can focus on each other without worrying about being interrupted. Hire a babysitter, or ask a trusted friend or relative to watch the baby. Do something together that you both enjoyed before the baby. This will help you to connect as a couple, not just as parents.

3. Practice Self Care

While it is important to do things together as a couple, it is equally important to do things you each enjoy individually. You probably had individual friends, hobbies, and interests before you had a baby. Most likely you enjoyed these things because they filled you up. Although you may not have as much time to spend on these things as before the baby, devoting some time to them will keep you balanced. It is easy to get caught up in the needs of your baby. But the truth is, the more you care for yourself, the more you will have to give to your baby, and your partner. It is not selfish to practice self care. Modeling this for your child will allow them to see the benefits of taking care of yourself so they can practice this as well.

4. Discuss Finances

Having a baby can impact your finances. It is always a good idea to be aware of your financial situation and to see how prepared you are for the additional expenses that having a baby entails. Preparing ahead of time for financial changes can keep money from being an additional stressor. However, even if you are seemingly well prepared, unexpected changes that impact your finances can occur when you have a baby. Maybe one of you wants to stay home with the baby instead of returning to work. It is easier to deal with unexpected financial situations if you have a budget and are aware of your income and expenses. Finances can easily become problematic when you have a decrease in income and an increase in expenses. Being aware of this and having a plan in place, can keep financial concerns from becoming a source of contention when you have a baby.

5. Ask For Support

A baby requires a lot of care in general. If they are sick, teething, or colicky it can feel even more overwhelming. Maybe you were up all night trying to comfort the baby. As a parent, there are times when you just need a break. When you need a break, let your partner know. If it is hard for you to ask for help, come up with a code word you can use that means you need a break. When you don’t ask for help and just continue to feel overwhelmed, you could end up resenting your partner. Even if your partner is unable to give you what you need immediately, they might have suggestions that can be beneficial. Feeling supported by one another can bring you closer together.

6. Check In Daily

This might seem obvious, but sometimes opposite schedules, added responsibility, and a lack of sleep can interfere with basic communication.  When you don’t communicate regularly, you can feel disconnected from each other. Setting aside time during the day to talk about what is going on and what you each need will help keep you both on the same page. This is the time to discuss your baby. Talk about how wonderful they are, how they are doing, what they need, and what you need help with during the day. Discussing your personal agendas and expectations regarding caring for your baby will help you figure out the best way to organize your time so everyone’s needs are met. Checking in with each other daily will also alert you to mood changes that can occur following the birth so they can be addressed before they become problematic. Being attuned to each other’s daily needs can enable you to support one another in meaningful ways.

7. Talk About Your Dreams

While it is necessary to discuss your day to day needs and plans, it is just as important to talk about your future. Set aside time for you to talk about your goals, ideas, and ambitions together. Although having a baby may alter some of these, sharing your hopes and dreams about the future is what is really beneficial. Doing this helps you stay connected in a different way. Discuss things that interest you and excite you. You should have some rules around this sharing time so you don’t end up discussing things you are talking about in your daily check-in. Since this time is about dreams, there is no right or wrong, even if you have different ideas about what the future looks like. There is no need to argue about something that may or may not happen and hasn’t happened yet, this is simply a time to exercise your imagination. Encouraging each other to share your hopes and wishes can deepen your couple intimacy and strengthen your bond.

8. Have Sex

Maintain an active sex life. Once you are cleared by the doctor to do so, resume sexual activity. As new parents, there will plenary of reasons not to have sex. Sleep will probably be a bigger priority for awhile. It will be difficult to find uninterrupted time to focus on each other. Body changes and insecurities can make you feel less attractive and can decrease your libido. However, having sex can be beneficial to your relationship and to each of you individually. Sex can improve your mood, decrease pain, and improve your connection through the release of the bonding hormone, oxytocin. Sex can also help you feel more relaxed which can help you sleep better. When you make sex a priority, you will deepen your couple connection.

Having a baby can change your couple relationship. This change can be challenging, but it can also bring you closer together. If you find you are struggling in your relationship during this life transition, couples counseling can help. Your baby will benefit from the work you do to keep your couple relationship strong.

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