Doesn’t Attachment Parenting get in the way of your sex life?

by christina on April 3, 2009

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No, not if you’re willing to get creative.

I don’t know how often I’ve heard this question in its various forms.  A few people come straight out and ask, some people wander around the topic, asking if it “gets in the way of your marriage,” and I’ve even run into a few people who insinuated that I was a bad wife and mother because I was putting my child’s needs before my husband’s needs, which in addition to causing my husband pain, was giving my child a bad example.

Normally, I would tell people to mind their own business, but this seems like such a common misconception, that I think someone has to talk about it. First, I have to say that my child is a toddler and doesn’t understand waiting, and my husband is an adult and knows how to put his needs on hold, so putting my child first is absolutely not wrong in my eyes.  But the very, very important second point is that attachment parenting doesn’t mean that you can’t have sex.

I remember watching an episode of the Tyra Banks show a little while back where a wife and husband were on because the husband wanted sex and the wife wanted to co-sleep with their newborn.  The audience and Tyra sided with the husband and Tyra gave the couple a sidecar sleeper.  What I didn’t understand was why the idea of having sex outside of the family bed was never brought up.

Need some ideas?  Why not have sex in the laundry room or the shower? What’s wrong with the sofa or the arm chair?  Having a family bed just gives you the opportunity to spice up your love life outside the bedroom.

Why are so many people stuck thinking that you can only make love in a bed?  If that’s the case, what’s wrong with the guest bed, then?

And what about when you’re travelling?  In a hotel room, there’s no place to “get away.” Well, there’s still always the shower. Another solution we use quite often is to walk our child to sleep in his stroller (it fully reclines), park the stroller in the entry or bathroom, then spend time with each other.  Just before we go to bed, we transfer him from the stroller over to the bed.

Have you ever felt that AP has gotten in the way of your sex life or marital intimacy?  Do you have any tips on how to keep cosleeping from interfering with sex?

Christina blogs about life at An American Expat in Deutschland and about parenting at Mamas Worldwide.

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christina (6 Posts)


{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

justine April 5, 2009 at 12:18 am

Thanks for talking about this subject! The fact that I have four children should be proof enough that AP and sleep sharing have NOT gotten “in the way” of having sex :) But, just like with good parenting, you must be more creative then more traditional families.

The entire concept of the “conjugal bed” as THE center of a marriage is an antiquated and patriarchal one. A man who must have his so- called “needs” met before those of his children is a cave man as far as I am concerned. Selfishness is NOT one of the values I want my hubby passing on to any of our children. Neither is martyrdom, though. We are not sacrificing a thing by choosing to be AP’ers. The respect that we show to our children is also visited upon us. For example, in the form of respecting closed doors by knocking and waiting for an invitation to enter. We never enter our children’s room uninvited…and guess what? They don’t come into ours uninvited. But what about the little ones who are already IN the room? The preschooler often sleeps next to our bed on a small crib mattress… which is super easy to slide back into her room if need be. Our baby, who still sleeps in our bed, simply gets buckled into her cradle swing. Or we leave them both in our room and WE go someplace else!

You bring up the most important thing, though: we are adults who know how to wait, and how to be patient. We must model that behavior if we want our children to learn it and to model it in turn.

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christina April 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

You make really great points, Justine. I’ve only got a toddler, so I never thought about how our sex lives could be affected when we have older children roaming the house and can’t just do it anywhere. So you’ve given a wonderful example of how practicing AP and having a sex life go together in a larger family with older children.

You also make a good point about teaching responsibility, respect, and patience. Teaching kids that responsibilities need to be placed before instant-gratification is an important lesson, especially in these times.

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Emily April 8, 2009 at 9:22 am

Guilty…a fellow AP and good friend of mine recently admitted to me (and I in return) that we’ve made love with our husbands in the bed with our infants. When they’re old enough to understand, we’ll pick a new spot. And…here’s the key, explain to them that sex is healthy, normal and special between two adults that love one another. I think more kids would benefit from having an open discussion at a young age about sex with their parents. Why are Americans so sexual in secret, while outwardly shunning those who feel no shame in being sexual beings? I just don’t get it. Many parents have no qualms about arguing in front of their babies, who “don’t understand”…but an act of love, never!

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API Speaks April 8, 2009 at 11:04 am

You know a friend of mine was commenting on the importance of not only having disagreements in front of our children, but actually _making up_ in front of them too. I hadn’t thought about the importance of normalizing sexuality to children from a young age. My parents were very open with nakedness and open affection, and I think that’s helped me to be more open. I hope that will get passed on to my children as well!

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Melodie April 8, 2009 at 6:23 pm

I have a friend whose family of 5 all sleep together. They have a king sized matress on the floor where mom and the three kids sleep and a smaller matress next to them where dad sleeps. Maybe it’s because their kids sleep really well but mom and dad just have sex on the little matress next to them. Sex can be quiet. I’m sure they won’t always do this but she swears it works fine for them. Oldest child just turned 5.

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christina April 10, 2009 at 1:59 pm

For most of history, the majority of families didn’t have the space for the parents to have sex away from their children, so I think it’s quite natural. We haven’t, just because I can’t get into it know the baby is right there, but I think it’s completely healthy and normal in most of the world.

Here in Germany, sex and nudity are out in the open, but kids are protected from violent imagery.

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Rachael April 13, 2009 at 2:30 pm

AP will only come between you and your partners sex life if you let it. Some may use this as an excuse to let intimacy take a back seat. My husband and I have been guilty of this. After 10 years of being together it takes more work to keep our intimacy thriving. You can AP your kids and have regular sex–you just need commitment and creativity!

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Eden April 17, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Thank you. I’ve been getting grief from parents, in-laws, friends, and co-workers about having my son still sleep in my room, even though he’s only 10 months old. I felt guilty about having “relations” with my husband while our son was sleeping in the crib next to the bed. I’m going to have my husband read this, too, so that he can feel better about it. We discussed how he doesn’t know what’s going on and even if he did, it was normal and healthy.
Once again, THANK YOU.

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Molly August 13, 2009 at 7:26 pm

I don’t want to leave too specific of a comment, but suffice to say our sex life is much better AFTER having kids. Ditto on the “why only in the big bed” question–do people have so little imagination?! I did have to LOL a bit about the remark in this post re: traveling, because when we travel sex is very far from my mind–it has nothing to do with being AP–just with the strain of traveling and I have very little interest in intimacy while in a hotel or at relatives’ houses. It kind of surprises me that other people manage! However, it is not the end of the world to go through a dry spell on vacation either ;-)

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Eric October 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Hmm, 9 responses in favor of AP- all of them positive, all of them women. Well, I feel that it may have worked when he is a baby, now that he’s 4 years old it’s becoming a big problem. We’ve tried to get him into his own bed but he refuses. every time my wife wakes up -even to go to the bathroom- he immediately wakes up too. This morning we had our first shot at having sex in 3 months, and he wakes up right as we’re about to start. Who knows how long it will be before we get another chance. I love our son, but I want him out of our bed right now.

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Christina October 16, 2011 at 7:55 am

@eric: Have you both tried reading The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers. The author gives tips for getting a child into their own bed. Don’t push your son out though, the more he feels pushed away, the more he will cling. Maybe you guys could redecorate his room with him giving input. Our oldest son was very excited to pick out his own sheets at the store and happily crawled into bed in that evening.

Does your son wake up if you put him to bed and get up (rather than your wife)? Maybe you could try putting him to bed and sneaking out for a rendez-vous with your wife in another part of the house.

By the way, it’s not just women who enjoy co-sleeping. I know quite a few husbands who enjoy it, including my own. I’ve brought up trying to put our youngest into his own bed and my husband has objected, saying he likes waking up to our son’s little smile in the mornings. Honestly, as Molly says, our sex life is MUCH more exciting while cosleeping, since it eliminates the bed from the equation and makes us get a lot more creative. Plan things out! Talking about how and where you’re going to do it can be very stimulating.

Do you have grandparents, other relatives or family friends that could take your son for a weekend? Even if they’re out of town, maybe you could go visit, drop your son with a grandparent, then check into a hotel nearby for a weekend getaway. Be creative. And don’t forget romance. Remember how you treated your wife when you were courting and try to get back into that place. It can be difficult to go straight from being a mom to being sexual, help her get in the mood. Good luck!

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Christina October 17, 2011 at 7:04 am

@eric: If you and your wife are practicing AP and you would like a man’s perspective, I just ran across a really great blog run by an AP dad, Attachment Parenting Blog: Raising Children with Love

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Sexless Father June 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm

I found this article to be surprisingly un-insightful. Surprising because I’ve come to expect so much more from API. My wife and I are committed attachment parents. We have a family bed, but attachment means so much more than that, doesn’t it? And the commitment we’ve made to maintaining a secure attachment with our kids really has had a negative impact on our sex life. The bed is the least of our worries. I think that the attachment community often has a knee jerk reaction to suggestions that AP can have a negative impact on a couple’s sex life – we’re subject to so much criticism from the mainstream that any negative comment is met with a lot of defensiveness. I think that this community should do more to help families through what can be an extremely difficult situation when AP really does impact the family’s sex life.

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Christina July 5, 2012 at 3:08 am

Just as every child is different, every adult is also different. Every marriage is different.

I am being completely honest in saying that sex with my husband improved 1000% after having children. Discussing and planning our sexual encounters, sometimes days in advance, really, really does it for me. That does not mean it will work for everyone. Plus, my kids are heavy sleepers who generally do not wake in the evening after bedtime.

Children can get in the way of a satisfying sex life, no matter what parenting style you practice. Job stress, health problems, emotional conflicts and biological differences (differing libidos, etc) can also get in the way, even for childless couples. These difficulties can be short term or long term, but we’ve all had rough patches. I suffered from severe hyperemesis, which required hospitalization, during my second pregnancy. This, along with a difficult birth that knocked my spine out of alignment and left me unable to feel or move my right leg for several weeks, resulted in a year of no sex.

Does AP have to have a negative impact on your sex life? No. Can it? Of course. It has, however, not been my experience. Health problems and job stress have been the problems we’ve dealt with. Our solution is to not just be attached parents, but also attached marriage partners.

I think it would be a great idea for you to contact the blog administrators and suggest writing an article for this blog from your perspective.

Good luck with your efforts to improve your sex life and I’m glad my ineffective article could, at least, bring some humor to you and your wife.

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JoAnna July 5, 2012 at 6:23 am

Interesting discussion. I don’t think AP and lack of sex life go hand in hand. I have to also agree with the author, our sex life also improved after kids. Not immediately but as we became more experienced parents it really did. It was fine before, don’t get me wrong but I think becoming attachment parents and following our instincts with our little ones helped us to empathise more with each other and look to our own needs as well. We learned that touch and being with our kids both mentally and physically are very important, and realised we need to treat each other the same.

Also interestingly, I also felt I didn’t have enough time for myself or hubby at the very beginning, but then we moved to a new house and the cable hook up took longer than expected to install. We ended up being 5 weeks without television or internet. It was torture the first few weeks, but then we found it was the best thing ever. We had time again!!! Now we severly limit tv and internet time and feel much more connected with each other, which leads to happy sex life! I was a mommy blogger before the move, but after realised that it took time away that I wanted to spend with my family. I know some people really need that outlet to stay sane, but it does take a lot of time to be a blogger.

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JoAnna July 5, 2012 at 6:28 am

Oh, I forgot to add, maybe it will help people having problems with lack of sex. We went through a phase where I was not much in the mood and all. We went to a family counselor for a few sessions and she recommended that my husband do his own laundry and make his lunch for taking to work. I had been doing it and picking up after him and a lot of other things and it was making me feel more like his mom than his wife. He realised he needed to treat me as a partner instead of his caretaker and things really improved after that.

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apdad August 26, 2012 at 9:19 am

I hear you Eric. I know how to wait and put the needs of the child above my own but really….I didn’t think that having kids would mean an end to the affectionate and adult marriage relationship. Truth be told, I think any woman who thinks her husband is being selfish by having a need for affection(which is so much more than just sex!) should look at her own (probably selfish) motivation for putting her own mothering needs above that of her children and marriage. Part of a good AP child rearing technoque shoul include a healthly affectionate loving marital relationship between the wife&husband should it not? I applaud the author’s encouragement to think creatively and still carry on a loving affectionate adult relationship.

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LenaMaire August 29, 2012 at 10:37 am

I dont know how old this is but I feel the need to comment, as a long time attachment parent, and again new parent of twins. Our twins sleep with us, and/or in a bassinet next to our bed. And quite frankly we find plenty of time for sex. After the babes go to bed, we stay up for a little while and have some time together. Sometimes we use that time to talk and reconnect and/or sometimes we have sex, just depends on how we are feeling. As a parent it can be very hard to find any time four ourselves, because we love and give so much of ourselves to our children. Please, please remember that it is vital to take care of your needs too. Not selfish, but healthy. Healthy parents with a healthy relationship = healthy children who are able to build healthy relationships in the future. I hope this helps.

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Elizabeth November 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

We have a 9 week old (our 3rd) and coslept with all of our babies for the first 6 months at least. We have no issue having sex somewhere besides the bed. Our issue is more than the baby cries any time we’re not holding him – and if he does fall asleep when he’s not being held, worn or when we’re not sleeping right next to him – it tends to be short lived.

So occasionally he’ll fall asleep in the swing, we’ll sneak downstairs to have some “grown up time” and he’ll wake crying mid-way through the act. Neither of us can really enjoy ourselves knowing that our son is crying / in distress – but starting and stopping and starting and stopping isn’t super enjoyable either.

I have a few AP friends running into the same issue. Any advice?

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Lisa Lord November 25, 2013 at 1:39 am

Elizabeth -

You may wish to post this question on the API Forum, where you can get support and advice from experienced API Leaders and other parents. Click here for the Forum home page. To post a question, you will need a login and password – see the link in the upper right corner of the screen.

I hope you find this helpful.

- Editor, APtly Said

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Courtney B January 10, 2014 at 2:06 pm

New to attachment parenting but very convinced about it. We have a 9 yr old from his previous marriage who sleeps in her own room because that’s what she’s accustomed to with her mother, but recently had our first child (she’s 6 weeks old as I write this) who sleeps in our bed. Our 9 yr old is allowed in our room at any time, but must knock first as we do for her. I have to agree with a previous post that my husband being responsible for his own laundry and lunches, as well as picking up after himself, definitely helps, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed. He actually has done the majority of the housework over the past year as we had a rough pregnancy (a pulled uterine ligament and out of whack vertebrae) and an emergency cesarean birth, and still kept our amazing connection. When physical intimacy was not possible for me, we practiced tantric lovemaking ( allowing the creative sexual energy to flow between us in meditation ) or I pleasured him orally. I think it’s easy for a woman to get mentally overwhelmed, and sometimes I don’t want to be sexual at first , but as soon as I start hearing his pleasure, it turns me on. He in turn massages me or brushes my hair (which feels wonderful for me) if I dont want a sexual experience, but we had sex up til week 40 of the pregnancy with the appropriate adaptations and lots of adventurousness! We must make our partner’s pleasure our own… Also, without a happy couple, there aren’t happy children, so my husband is definitely a priority. I agree that cutting out tv and Internet is a good step for a happy sex life as well as happy family life (we don’t have cable or ever watch tv). Also, we have not felt guilty about making love in our infant’s presence, and as she gets older, we will make love quietly under the covers as we’ve done on camping trips with his 9 yr old daughter in the tent. Sex IS a normal part of life, as is bedsharing, in MOST of the world. In fact the whole nursery idea for an infant/ young child seems absurd to me. We believe it is pure and good for our daughters to see frequent displays of affection such as hugs, kissing, etc. It is important for children to witness how husband and wife serve each other. We always hug our daughter also, sometimes big group hugs with the excited dog jumping in to lick everybody! Lol We always respond to our children, but patience must be practiced when getting minor needs met (such as “come play this game with me” when we just got back from a family outing). As a WAHM, when Daddy comes home he greets me first. We have family outings every weekend, but mom and dad always sit next to each other. We each spend 1on1 time with our older daughter also. I believe that Attachment Parenting is possible while still making the parents, and not the children, the foundation of the family. To us essentially, AP is about prioritizing family relationships above all other worldly distractions.

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The Observer April 15, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Personally what I want to know is why are these parents’, who just gave life to a newborn, first priority is when is the next time they will be able to have sex? Doesn’t say enough about the parents? That you cannot concentrate on anything, not even the emotional and bonding needs of your child, if you cannot be with your spouse? How selfish and immature. Just saying. I would think a mom or a dad, would be so in love with their kids, at least for the first few months, that they wouldn’t necessarily want to have sex as often, but maybe I’m just weird.

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