Guest written by Emily A. Francis , co-author of Witchy Mama.

Keeping a strong connection with your partner after the baby arrives is paramount. Our relationships change after we become parents, and not acknowledging this change is a disservice to you as well as to your partner. For a mother who has just given birth, there is a whole lot going on both physically and emotionally, and intimacy is often the furthest thing from her mind. Healing takes a long time and hormones are readjusting. Her focus is likely to be on herself and on her baby, which can inadvertently make her partner feel neglected. The neglected partner may shut down, becoming distant or frustrated over feeling left out, which in turn can cause the mother additional stress, irritation, and confusion. Fortunately, this is a pitfall that can be avoided. There are some easy steps you can take to keep the connection between you and your partner just as strong and vibrant as it was before the baby was born.

Best Advice for Dads
If you want to have special bonding time with your partner, be good and kind and loving to that baby. Let her know that you are as excited and overwhelmed by this as she is. Get on her team. Then when the baby is sleeping, you need to catch that little window of space before mama falls asleep too. While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get good long talks and hour-long cuddles and sweet caresses like you did before the baby arrived, you can still get these things in small doses several times throughout the day and night. Just because you don’t have time for a marathon make-out session or an in-depth discussion doesn’t mean you don’t have time for a quick smooch and some honest, genuine conversation. The key is to make the most of whatever time you do have. A woman who has just given birth may not have a ton of energy or attention left over to lavish on you, so be patient and understanding, and try to appreciate the little ways in which she lets you share her life.

Best Advice for Moms
When that baby arrives and the hormones shoot off like fireworks in your body to bond you to that baby, let that daddy in there, too! Let him help with feeding, diapering, or whatever else needs to be done. If you’re nursing, invite your partner to sing a soothing tune while you feed the baby, or to keep notes of when the baby was fed or from which breast, etc. People want and need to feel needed, so let your partner take on some duties. Don’t put everything on yourself. Encourage your partner to spend plenty of time with the baby so that they can bond, and also so that you can enjoy a little break. Give your partner some extra hugs and love and positive reinforcement, so that he will know he’s appreciated and has not been replaced. Show appreciation for the ways in which he supports you, whether it’s bringing you a snack or taking the baby out for a stroll. Try to set aside a little time for you and your partner whenever the baby is sleeping, so that you can offer positive feedback and affection that will help keep your intimate connection strong.

Sex After Childbirth
After waiting for weeks for the mama to heal up and be ready, it’s only understandable that her partner probably has been waiting for this moment — an intimate evening once the go-ahead from her doctor is finally given. However, sex at this stage can still be very uncomfortable (or painful) for the woman, not to mention the exhaustion and need for sleep that might also be on her mind and interfering with her sexual pleasure. Be patient with yourselves and with each other, use plenty of lubrication, and be gentle. Sex is an opportunity to build further trust and intimacy, but only if you respect the needs and feelings of both your partner and yourself at all times.

Other Ways to Create Intimacy
There are lots of ways to build intimacy between you and your partner, including quick and easy activities you can share together to create that special bond and connection. My favorite of all is the heart center connection. Sit facing each other with his legs crossed around you and your legs crossed over his legs, wrapping around his body. Put your right hand over his heart and have him do the same, placing his right hand over your heart. Then place your left hands on top of the hand that is on your own chest. Put your foreheads together and close your eyes. No words need to be spoken here. You will begin to breathe into each other and your breaths will sync up naturally along with your thoughts and your loving touch. This is a special way to connect that doesn’t deplete anyone’s energy. The intimacy in this exercise is very powerful.

Another great way to strengthen your bond is to thank your partner, tell him that you are grateful to him, and acknowledge your blessings. This cannot be all about the baby, either. Your blessings involve your partner, and he needs that verbal reinforcement that he still matters. You both deserve to hear that you still matter. It’s really hard not to get lost in the new stuff, but you can keep each other anchored by putting into words those things about your partner that you most appreciate. Put those hands together and say it out loud with your partner that you are aware and thankful for all of your many blessings, especially that of your partner. Sharing spiritual experiences creates a deep bond that is hard to break.

Keeping that bond and connection alive between you and your partner can be challenging, but it’s essential. Moms, do all you can to help your partner feel special and important, and dads, give those mamas as much support and patience as you can. And love that baby as hard as you can, too, because that is now the new way to her heart.

Emily A. Francis is the author Witchy Mama, co-authored by Melanie Marquis. Emily lives in Atlanta with her husband and their two daughters. Visit her at www.emilyafrancisbooks.com.