This article orignally appeared on The Baby Chick
Feeling sexy can be a monumental task during the hormonal ups and downs of pregnancy and postpartum. Not only is feeling sexy possible during this time, but it’s important. Sexual intimacy produces oxytocin–the “love” hormone–but sexual intimacy also requires oxytocin for lubrication. Without that feeling of love and adoration–for yourself as much as your partner–sex can feel labor-intensive (no pun intended) and anti-climactic. Now let’s be clear–that “feeling” of love and adoration is not usually our baseline state when we’re running on three, maybe four hours of sleep and intervals of diapers and crying. BUT, it is possible to learn to cultivate your own sex drive after baby, and harness your hormones for pleasure, as long as you’re willing to take a few preliminary steps.
As women, we naturally understand the phenomenon of ebb and flow that accompanies hormones, but we don’t get much information on how to work with these fluctuations rather than simply tolerating them until they pass. We want, need, believe and do wildly different things during our hormonal intervals, and these hormones can be harnessed like horses pulling a chariot using your food, rest and movement choices. Bottom line: getting in the mood requires getting in the present to help you feel like a tigress more often than not.
1. Tending to your nutrition
Hate to say it but caffeine, alcohol, and sugar are sex saboteurs. These substances provide instant gratification to our fatigue, stress, and fluctuating emotions, but ultimately further scramble the hormones that were out of whack to begin with.
Appetite, cravings and digestion are all tied to your hormones. This means that what you want to eat and what you need to be eating fluctuate, and sometimes it’s hard to interpret the body’s messages. Bottom line, you’ve got to keep your blood sugar balanced. That means eating regularly and well. You need fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbs and a source of protein. You need lots of water throughout the day. And guess what? So does your child! Whether or not you’re breastfeeding, there’s a consistency and quality to feeding that you’re tracking in your child. It’s 100% easier to put yourself in a relaxed state to feed and encourage your child to eat when YOU feel nourished.
If you have identified this as an area of need, get help. Enroll your partner in the morning to make breakfast and play with the little one while you eat. After baby’s bedtime, prep the next day’s meals for yourself. Have carrots and apples and peanut butter and hummus on-hand and ready to go. Eating enough to feel satisfied, but not so much you feel bloated happens when you’re present with your food. Turn off the TV, put down your phone, and the 5-10 minutes you have to yourself can actually feel like enough. For a more extensive understanding of the hormone-food connection, check out Woman Code by Alisa Vitti. Balanced blood sugar is the foundational step to being able to feel anything other than NEED. When your basic need of sustenance is met, you can get on to feeling what you WANT.
2. Tending to your sleep
We could all use more sleep, especially new moms. There are a few realities in the first months of motherhood, and sometimes longer, that must be faced fearlessly. Lack of sleep is one of them, and heightened stress levels are another. In the midst of short sleep intervals and a whole lot of physical, emotional and mental output throughout the day, deep relaxation practices are an indispensable resource for your wellness.
The good news is, you can practice deep rest in a few minutes. Longer is better, but doing the practices is what really counts. Start by feeling your breath. This simple check-in can immediately restore a sense of ease. You are, after all, entirely dependent on oxygen, and in a heightened stress or deep fatigue state, oxygenation tanks. Breathe in and out slowly five or six times. Then bring attention to your body — your bones, your muscles, your skin. Where are you gripping? Where are you numb? Does your body want movement? Water? A gentle stretch?
Little check-ins like this, throughout the day, can happen with a baby in your arms. A longer check-in like this at night before bedtime can also encourage deeper, more satisfying sleep. Social media is the antithesis of sleep, and television is another thief of restfulness and calm. Try checking in with yourself and pushing pause on everything else right now. These moments remind you that you are right here, right now, and empower you to feel nourished and cared for–the ultimate aphrodisiac.
3. Tending to your Self
Moving your body is the single best thing you can do for sex drive. I list this step last because it will be bolstered by Steps # 1 and 2. What I’m suggesting here is not to take a kickboxing class, or even exercising (although that should be part of your program, too) because often those practices are depleting. I’m actually suggesting that you take time to move yourself.
Put on your favorite album and dance, step into the grass barefoot and do cartwheels, jump on your bed! Get your feel-good-chemical cocktail on from a place of abandon, playfulness, and self-gratification.
With a new baby, no matter how joyful and enriching the experience, there is a massive increase of obligation and output. This is depleting of what is called in Yoga, ojas–your vital essence. Ojas is considered the key to your vitality and longevity and is embodied in us as reproductive fluid — literally the lubricant that makes procreation possible. If you love to dance, dance! Get a babysitterand go take a class. If you love to take baths, take a bath — or better yet, book a spa day! What gets your juices flowing? Think about it. This is a non-negotiable part of your week.
When mama’s happy, everybody’s happy, because you are the heartbeat of the household. Your sense of being held and nourished will amplify your ability to hold and nourish tenfold. Your self-care matters. Feeling joy and ease in your body matters. You have been transformed by the birth of your baby, and now it’s time to harness that powerful experience and fuel your passion for life. Keep it simple! The objective is that it feels good, so if money’s tight, invest in a bath bomb, request an hour to yourself and make a special playlist. Make the bathroom your sanctuary, or, hell, your closet! Make your space sacred and it will be sacred. Love on yourself, and you will be ready and receptive for your partner to love on you.