Let’s Talk About Sex (After) Baby

Emily Oster

22 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

Let’s Talk About Sex (After) Baby

Staying connected over the long term

Emily Oster

22 min Read

Today’s podcast episode is all about sex. Sex in long-term relationships, often after kids — it’s something many people struggle with. When we did a big ParentData survey on your sex lives, a lot of you expressed unhappiness, stress, pressure about how much sex was the “right” amount, whether you were behind (or too far ahead!).

My guest today, Emily Nagoski, is about taking that pressure off and redefining normal. Her new book, Come Together, is on sex in long-term relationships, and I think people will find it revelatory. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

To spark your interest, here are three highlights from the conversation:

What does “normal” sex look like?

Emily Nagoski:

The question I get asked more often than any other, in some form or other, is “Am I normal?” Including, “I know you’re going to tell me I’m normal, but I just have to check. This specific thing that’s happening — is it normal?” I get asked it so often that I had to think, really, what are people actually asking when they’re asking if their sex is normal? Not the statistical definition. They’re not actually asking, am I having sex within two standard deviations of the 26,000 people that Emily surveyed in terms of their frequency?

Emily Oster:

Actually, the people who are listening to this might be asking that, but let’s put a pin in that.

Emily Nagoski:

So you get that answer: here’s how often they’re having sex, on average. And you compare how often you are having sex, and you have a piece of information that is not helpful. It doesn’t tell you anything that you need to know in order to resolve some dissatisfaction that you have. Because if you’re like, well, let’s just have sex as often as the average and it’ll all work out — not if somebody doesn’t like the sex, right?

So I invented a definition of normal sex, which is: normal sex is sexual contact among peers where everyone involved is glad to be there. They don’t have to be hot and horny, can’t wait to put my tongue in your mouth, but just glad to be there, free to leave with no unwanted consequences. And I’m including no unwanted emotional consequences, no “Aw, come on. But if you love me, you would.” No unwanted consequences. Plus, of course, no unwanted pain.

How can you navigate the transition from parenting to sex? 

Emily Oster:

So you’re parenting all day, your kid finally goes to bed, the person is thinking, “I am going to get in my bed and I’m going to watch Golden Bachelor. I’m going to relax.” And then your partner’s like, “Hey, how about sex?”

And there’s, I think for many people, then a moment they’re just like, “Are you f-ing kidding me? Not another thing. I did all the things today.” And it’s not so much the not wanting the sex, it’s the not being ready for the question.

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah, it’s that you were already in a certain state, like you had checked out of the world and checked into Downton Abbey, and knock, knock, do you want to have sex? And you’re like, it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I am already doing this. 

There’s a temperamental trait that humans vary in called “adaptability” — whether or not they adjust well to change, how long transitions take. Some of us just transition more gradually than other people. 

My sister was actually just talking about this with her husband. His first reaction to everything is no. And he’ll think about it and process it and later come back with, “Yeah, I think we can find a way to make that work.” And it’s not that he doesn’t want to, it’s that there’s a transition that is required to get from one brain state to another. In computer coding, they call it context switching cost, which is literally the amount of electricity and time it takes for a computer to switch from one task to another task. It literally takes time and energy. And that is true for human brains too. 

And if you are a person who is slow to transition anyway and your partner asks you out of the blue, it’s not that you don’t want to say yes, it’s that you’re looking at the energy and the time it would take to transition out of where you are now into where you would need to be in order for sex to be a big giant yes for you.

People who are slow to adapt: please try scheduling sex, because it means that you can build in your transition to the rest of your day. You can make sure that, okay, so Saturday is going to be the day. I’m going to make sure that Saturday is a day when I don’t have anything that’s going to suck me into a completely draining brain state, and I’m going to schedule half an hour before the sexy times to do a thing that helps me transition into a sexy state of mind.

For me, it’d be something like taking a bath. For my sister it might be something like listening to her husband practice piano, because they are both musicians. So finding the thing that helps you to transition from that state into the other, knowing that it’s going to require time and planning and energy. And it’s so much easier if you know ahead of time instead of just fingers crossed, hoping against hope that both of you are in the same state at the same time.

What does science say about having great sex in long-term relationships? 

Emily Nagoski:

I would love it if we could all internalize what the science tells us, which is that the people who have great sex lives talk about sex all the time. They have great sex, they talk about sex. And correlation is not causation, but the two are correlated. Talking about sex is not correlated with a bad sex life. Talking about sex is correlated with a spectacular, magnificent, optimal sexual experience. So if we can all just take a breath and consider the possibility that if we’re a couple who talks about sex, we’re a couple that is increasing our access to ecstatic pleasure. Is that motivating at all?

Emily Oster:

I find that motivating.

Emily Nagoski:

And the other piece of it is, so if we’re able to have this conversation, we are able to say the words out loud when we have sex, “I really love it when you…” and “I had a fantasy where you tried this other thing; is that something you’d be interested in?” So when people ask me, “But I could never have that conversation. How? How do I ask?” The question really is not how we do it. How you do it is you say the words. The question is what is it that’s the obstacle between you and saying those words? What do you dread will happen?

Emily Oster:

I think people dread that their partner will be like, “What kind of weirdo are you?”

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah, exactly. Maybe a person you’ve been having sex with for more than a decade, we are still worried that if we dare to disclose a thing about our sexual identities, that they’re going to judge us so harshly that they will never be able to look at us the same way again. That they may leave us forever. We have been taught that if you have to talk about sex, that automatically means there’s a problem. We have been taught that our entire identity is tied to our being sexually successful. Not having any questions about it, already knowing everything we need to know, being a perfect performer, putting work into it like an employee who wants a promotion. 

And we have been taught to be really fragile, to feel like we don’t have the internal and external resources to deal with any degree of vulnerability beyond what we’re already willing to try in our relationship. And in the same way that we don’t want our partners to judge us, we don’t want our partner to feel in any way hurt, criticized, or judged.

Especially if you were raised as a girl, socialized, and grew up to identify as a woman, a major part of your role as a sexual person you were taught from birth is to be a giver, to meet other people’s needs. And so when you get into sexual situations that involve another person, a lot of your attention shifts away from your internal state into monitoring this other person to make sure their needs and expectations are being met, they’re satisfied, they’re pleased with what’s happening. So much so that you might not even be aware of whether or not you yourself are experiencing pleasure. So that when somebody like me comes along and says, “Tell your partner what you want and like. Just talk about it,” you’re like, “How am I supposed to even know what I like?”

So I’m in no way saying that this stuff is easy. And I am saying that the people who have great sex lives—

Emily Oster:

—talk about this.

Emily Nagoski:

This is exactly what they do. So build the coziest emotional nest.

Full transcript

This transcript was automatically generated and may contain small errors.

Emily Oster:

This is Parent Data. I’m Emily Oster.

Caroline Chambers:

Hi, Emily Oster.

Emily Oster:

Hi, Caroline Chambers. So.  You’re a cookbook author, an influencer, my go-to for easy kid recipes I actually like to eat. You’re also married.  You’ve got three kids under 5.  How’s your sex life?

Caroline Chambers:

I think that your sex life when you’re married, like goes in ebbs and flows. But right now we are in a great sex place, which is so nice. We literally had dinner with friends the other night and somebody said something about, “You guys seem great.” And George was like, “That’s because we’re having a lot of sex right now.”

Emily Oster:

Oh my God, if my husband said that at a dinner, I don’t know. We’re not the same, Caro.

Caroline Chambers:

That’s east coast versus west coast baby. So yeah, things are looking good.

Emily Oster:

All right, so my guest today is a writer and sex researcher, Emily Nagoski, and if you could ask her one question on this, what would it be?

Caroline Chambers:

My question, by the time we get all of the children to sleep, there’s three of them. Even if there’s been sexy banter over dinner, or we’ve both been kind of like, “See you later,” by the time we get all of the kids to bed, we are like, “Oh my God, whoa, that was a full contact sport. Like, oh my God.” And then I walk back and George’s like, “Let’s go baby.” And I’m like, “What?” So my question for Emily would be, what is the best way to shift your mindset from parenting mode to sexual being who wants to have sex with her partner mode?

Emily Oster:

I think that’s a good, yeah.

Caroline Chambers:

That is tricky, right? Like you’re wiping a butt one minute, and then you’re supposed to be having sex the next minute? He doesn’t have that same, have to flip a switch. If I walked up to him in the middle of a freaking tornado and our house was flooding and I was like, “Do you want to go bang it out really quick?” He’d be like, “Yeah, let me put this sandbag down and yeah, let’s go. Let’s go.”

Emily Oster:

Whether you are an economist like me, or a cookbook influencer queen like Caroline, or a member of the human race, you probably spend some time thinking about sex, or not thinking about sex and wondering why you don’t think enough about sex, or wondering about other people’s sex, and if it’s better than the sex you’re having. Or not having.  After kids.  We’ve all been there.  

And my guest today, Emily Nagoski, is here to give us all permission to cut ourselves some slack.  It’s not about the sex we’re not having.  It’s about the sex we are having, and how to make it the best it can be.  We talk about quantity versus quality, pleasure versus obligation, spontaneous versus responsive, and just how hard it can be to even talk about this, especially – and ironically – with the person we do it with.  There is no parent I know that won’t benefit from listening to this conversation.

After the break, let’s talk about sex with Emily Nagoski. 

Emily Oster:

Emily.

Emily Nagoski:

Emily.

Emily Oster:

I’m so delighted you’re joining me.

Emily Nagoski:

Me too.

Emily Oster:

So we’re going to talk about sex and sex in relationships. We’re going to talk about your new book Come Together, which is about improving our in-relationship experience of sex. And I want to start by grounding us in data from a survey that I did about a year ago. I surveyed about 26,000 people, and they were mostly women, about their sex lives after kids. And most people, 70% say that they have sex between twice a week and once a month.

Emily Nagoski:

I wish you were not saying those numbers out loud.

Emily Oster:

Why not?

Emily Nagoski:

Because there’s an inevitable thing that happens. It’s not possible to hear those words and not start contrasting that with what your number is, and making a decision about yourself, judging whether you’re okay or not, based on whether you fit in that framework or not.

Emily Oster:

Okay, so my next sentence was going to be, there is a lot of people who say they never have sex, and a lot of people who have it every day. Well, not a lot, a few people.

Emily Nagoski:

There are very few people who have sex every day. There are some people who have sex every day.

Emily Oster:

Right, a few people. Very few.

Emily Nagoski:

Mostly we’re just busy.

Emily Oster:

Because people are busy. But more than the numbers, and I actually want to come back to what you said, because that is the first question I was going to ask you. But what’s more striking than the numbers, I think was the share of people who said that they were not happy with some aspect of their sex life, whether it was the amount or the satisfaction level. Okay. And now I’m going to let you… Okay. And then people said things like, “I want to have sex. I love my partner, I want to have sex. I want it to be different, but I’m tired.” And this is, and it’s like you feel so strongly in these answers, and I know you have this because you’re jumping and people could see you’re jumping on the other side of a thing.

Emily Nagoski:

There’s a note actually from your producer. Is something bumping on your table? I’m bumping on my table because I’m bouncing up and down with excitement. You have asked exactly, this is exactly the thing.

Emily Oster:

So tell me, tell me what is exactly the thing.

Emily Nagoski:

Who cares how often you’re having sex? The question is whether or not you like the sex you are having. If you’re having sex every day or twice a week and you don’t like any of it-

Emily Oster:

That’s bad.

Emily Nagoski:

That’s, like my heart hurts thinking about a person in that situation that they’re having sex that they don’t like. And even worse than just having sex you don’t like, is the fact that your brain is building that link that teaches you that sex doesn’t feel good, and that your pleasure doesn’t matter. You are having this sex for whatever reason you’re having sex, all kinds of reasons why people have sex. That’s all of chapter one is, why do we have sex? So that anytime your partner asks to initiate sex, you have a stronger and stronger sense of dread that sex is not pleasurable, and that your pleasure doesn’t matter.

Emily Oster:

So you have a thing in the beginning of the chapter one where you ask the question, is sex important? And you have this answer which is like, maybe. You have a little emoji of a shrugger-

Emily Nagoski:

Shrug emoji.

Emily Oster:

… a shrugging person. And you say, nobody’s going to die or get sick if they don’t have sex. And that’s actually a little footnote citation to that to prove that it’s true for science. But this struck me as just the most important point to start in the book, which is the question of, is sex important? And framing that as is it important to you, or in what way is this important to you?

Emily Nagoski:

And the underlying question is, what is it that you want when you want sex? Because that’s what some people listening to this are like, yes, is it important? Why? Why is it such a big deal? Why can’t we just, why? And other people feel a little worried about the fact that we are asking if sex is important because they’re like, obviously it’s extremely important, and why are we talking about this? Because people vary from each other, and also they change across their lifespans. So when sex feels important to us, what is it that we want when we want sex? Hint, especially sex, when we want sex with a partner, the answer is not orgasm. You can do that by yourself most of the time.

Emily Oster

So much faster, also. Usually faster.

Emily Nagoski

If you can’t have an orgasm by yourself, then there are whole books about that. So what is it that you want when you want sex with a partner? People say for things, broadly speaking, connection is the first one, and I think that’s not going to be a surprise to most people. That they want shared pleasure, not just pleasure, but shared pleasure. The specific experience of seeing your partner’s pleasure and having your partner see and feel your pleasure. They’re looking for the experience of being or feeling wanted and wantable, they’re looking for an experience that I have named freedom, which is the opportunity to not worry about all the rest of the things in our lives, and just close the door and focus on the pleasurable things that can happen in our bodies. When people want sex, they want…

And I don’t know what you want when you want sex. I don’t know what anybody wants when they want sex other than me and my partner, I can give a pretty good answer. But people have answers to that question. When people are struggling with desire, when one partner wants more sex than the other one wants, this is a great conversation starter. What is it that you want when you want sex with me? And what is it that you don’t want when you don’t want sex with me?

We can get into all kinds of gender stuff, but so for example, if you were born with genitals that made an adult go, “It’s a boy,” and then they raised you as a boy and you grew up to identify as a boy and then a man, then part of what you were taught was what makes you a man, what makes you worth the air you breathe is whether or not you get to put your penis inside someone else’s body.

And so when your partner says no to sex, they may just be saying, “No thank you, no penis for me tonight.” I’m too tired or I’m too stressed, or I’m too distracted, or I’m too frustrated with you for other reasons. But what it can feel like is, no penis for me tonight because you’re not quite worth the air you breathe. So answering the question, what is it that you want and what is it that you don’t want? It can get really feelings really fast, and it just cuts through a lot of cultural myths that we carry around in our brains about what it means to have and want sexuality.

Emily Oster:

I also think one of the things you talk about in the book is this idea of there being a way to have sex. A successful sexual experience is one in which the penis goes in. And if we’re talking about a heterosexual relationship, a successful one is the penis goes in-

Emily Nagoski

And as Nina Hartley, the feminist porn star puts it, “Head head, two positions and a pop.”

Emily Oster:

And then there’s an orgasm at the end of that experience, and that is a successful experience of this. And I think that framing, I think it particularly, for many people, but actually especially in this audience, for new parents, that framing is really tough. Because sometimes that particular act is quite painful and is just like, we’re definitely not going to do that, or I just don’t have time to be involved with that experience now, and there’s all these other people touching me, and I can’t imagine doing that. And then it feels like, well, if I’m not going to do that, then I guess we’re not doing anything, because that’s the only thing.

Emily Nagoski:

Because the script says that’s the thing-

Emily Oster:

The script says that’s the way we have sex. And I think part of what’s really, I found, so… I don’t know, almost eyeopening about this book was just that frame of yes, first is sex important? What are we looking for from sex? And then, what is it? What are we talking about? You talk about the idea of curiosity and centering curiosity, and centering that rather than success, which I don’t think is how many people are thinking about their long-term sex lives.

It’s interesting because I think it’s kind of the way many people thought about their sex lives before, right? Before you got into the long-term relationship where sex was this thing that you have and you procreate with and so on. Maybe you were doing all kinds of crazy stuff. But now we’re in this regular sex life and it’s like, well, just there’s the regular kind of sex, and if we’re not doing that, we’re just doing nothing.

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah. There’s a sex therapist and researcher named Peggy Kleinplatz whose work I talk about a lot because it’s wonderful. And one of the things she says in the book she co-authored with Dana Maynard, the title of the book is Magnificent Sex. It’s a little on the academic side, but if anybody is remotely science inclined, you will love this book, Magnificent Sex. One of the things she says in that book is, “One of the worst things you can do is to do what works relentlessly.”

Emily Oster:

You should things that don’t work.

Emily Nagoski:

You figure out what works for each of you, and you just do that every time. And instead of it being about human beings connecting with each other present in the moment, it’s about performing the mechanical skills in order to get the adequate outcome.

Emily Oster:

And then of course when we’re doing that, then it’s easy to, when we don’t get the adequate outcome, for it to be there for failure to.

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah. The thing about an adequate outcome is that the more often you do it, the less adequate it becomes, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s the same one.

Emily Oster:

Yes. And there’s a particular example in the book about impotence that is such, I marked the page because it’s about the sort of failure to get an erection as a kind of easily being framed as unsuccessful. Again in an environment in which you’re expecting somebody to have an erection and so on, and you have this phrasing, people should, instead of being upset or feeling like that’s a failure of something has failed and we have to stop because this isn’t going to… You want to think about it as like, what would be interesting to do with this non-erect penis?

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah, good context.

Emily Oster:

And I guess I thought about that in the context of the new parenthood, not so much because of impotence there, but because of this feeling of your body is different, and so what can we do in this space where, for various reasons, maybe the kind of way that we’ve been having sex up to this point is not really available to us.

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah. I start talking about this because the question I get asked more often than any other in some form or other is, “Am I normal? X is happening to me, am I normal?” Including, “I know you’re going to tell me I’m normal, but I just have to check. This specific thing that’s happening, is it normal?” I get asked it so often that I had to think, really, what are people actually asking when they’re asking if their sex is normal? Not the statistical definition. They’re not asking if they’re plus or minus the standard deviations from the statistical mean, right? They’re not actually asking, am I having sex within two standard deviations of the 26,000 people that Emily surveyed in terms of their frequency?

Emily Oster:

Actually the people who listening to this might be asking that, but let’s put a pin in that.

Emily Nagoski:

So you get that answer. Here’s how often they’re having sex, on average. And you compare how often you are having sex and you have a piece of information that is not helpful. Doesn’t tell you anything that you need to know in order to resolve some dissatisfaction that you have. Because if you’re like, well, we’re having sex as often as other people are, but somebody involved doesn’t like the sex, or let’s just have sex as often as the average and it’ll all work out. Not if somebody doesn’t like the sex, right?

So I invented a definition of normal sex which is, normal sex is sexual contact among peers where everyone involved is glad to be there. They don’t have to be hot and horny, can’t wait to put my tongue in your mouth, but just glad to be there, free to leave with no unwanted consequences. And I’m including no unwanted emotional consequences, no, “Aw, come on. But if you love me, you would.” No one wanted consequences. Plus of course, no unwanted pain. If it’s pain that you want, do you, awesome, love that for you.

And if it’s unwanted pain, then, and I am not saying this flippantly, I know that it takes approximately seven attempts for even white cisgender women to find a medical provider who will take their sexual pain seriously. But medical treatment is available and effective for a lot of kinds of sexual pain. So everybody’s glad to be there, free to leave with no unwanted consequences, no unwanted pain. And then I offered a definition for perfect sex because when you spend 100,000 words reading a book about sex, you don’t want the outcome to be somebody saying to you, “Wow, Emily, that was really normal sex.”

Emily Oster:

It’s really normal.

Emily Nagoski:

That was fully consensual and I did not experience any unwanted pain. That’s not what people want. They want to be the best partner their partner’s ever had. So what does perfect sex look like? And my definition is that it’s normal sex, glad to be there, free to leave with no unwanted consequences, no unwanted pain. Plus whatever is happening in this moment, everyone turns toward whatever it is with kindness, compassion, curiosity, and if they possibly can, a sense of confidence and joy. And if that includes that someone with a penis would like to have an erection and an erection isn’t happening, you turn toward the not-an-erection with kindness, compassion, curiosity, and if you possibly can, a sense of confidence and joy. And that could be, there’s a lot of neat things we can do with a soft penis that you cannot do with an erect penis.

And you could do those very fun things, or you could do stuff that has nothing to do with a penis, or any combination. And the same if it’s a person with a vulva and that vulva has recently been through some kind of trauma and is unavailable for contact, you just turned toward what’s true right now in this moment with kindness and compassion and curiosity and a sense of confidence and joy. Confidence is knowing what’s true, and joy is the hard part. Joy is loving what’s true, love what’s true in this moment, even if it’s not what you wish were true in this moment, even if it’s not what you were taught should be true in this moment.

Emily Oster:

I love that.

Emily Nagoski:

Perfect. Perfect.

Emily Oster:

So I want to talk about transitions because this, I think for people who are tired, which is parents and just people, but this is I think the piece that is really huge. So you’re parenting all day, your kid finally is to bed, the kid is quiet, the person is thinking, “I am going to get in my bed and I’m going to get my iPad on and I’m going to watch Golden Bachelor.” Now I’m just listening shows that I like, Great British Baking Show, whatever. I’m going to relax. And then your partner’s like, “Hey, how about sex?”

And there’s, I think for many people then a moment they’re just like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” Not another thing. I did all the things today. It’s in some ways they say no, but then maybe later you oh, maybe not no. Or if somebody feels bad and somebody feels rejected. And it’s not so much the not wanting the sex, it’s the not being ready for the question.

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah. It’s that you were already in a certain state, like you had checked out of the world and checked into Downton Abbey, and knock, knock, do you want to have sex? And you’re like, but it’s not that I don’t want to-

Emily Oster:

It’s not that I don’t want to.

Emily Nagoski:

It’s that I am already doing this. So there’s a temperamental trait and parents will recognize this as being something that characterizes their children, especially if you’ve got more than one kid, you’ll know that humans vary in this temperamental trait called adaptability, whether or not they adjust well to change, how long transitions take. Some of us just transition more gradually than other people. My sister was actually just talking about this with her husband that his first reaction to everything is just no.

And he’ll think about it and process it and later come back with, “Yeah, I think we can find a way to make that work.” And it’s not that he doesn’t want to, it’s that there’s a transition that is required to get from one brain state to another. In computer coding, they call it context switching cost, which is literally the amount of electricity and time it takes for a computer to switch from one task to another task. It literally takes time and energy. And that is true for human brains too. It literally takes time and energy for our brains to transition from one task to another, from one state to another. And if you are a person who is slow to transition anyway and your partner asks you out of the blue, it’s not that you don’t want to say yes, it’s that you’re looking at the energy and the time it would take to transition out of where you are now into where you would need to be in order for sex to be a big giant yes for you.

And you’re like… This is one of the four… That people are resistant to the idea of scheduling sex. And if scheduling sex is not for you, feel free not to schedule sex. And people who are slow to adapt, please try scheduling sex, because it means that you can build in your transition to the rest of your day. You can make sure that, okay, so Saturday is going to be the day. I’m going to make sure that Saturday is a day when I don’t have anything that’s going to suck me in to a completely draining brain state, so that it’s easy and I’m going to schedule half an hour before the sexy times to do a thing that helps me transition into a sexy state of mind.

For me, it’d be something like taking a bath, for my sister it might be something like listening to her husband practice piano because they are both musicians. So finding the thing that helps you to transition from that state into the other, knowing that it’s going to require time and planning and energy. And it’s so much easier if you know ahead of time instead of just fingers crossed, hoping against hope that both of you are in the same state at the same time.

Emily Oster:

In addition to the cognitive, or maybe as a part of the cognitive load of transition. I think there is, for many people perceive a gender difference in this. That women take a longer time to warm up. You can’t just turn it right on where you think about sex and you’re like, “I could do that right now.” It’s like you take a little time to warm it up. And I feel that gender difference in some of how people talk about the dynamics in their relationships.

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah, I think, I think the language that is most clarifying here is spontaneous desire versus responsive desire. So spontaneous desire is this… Erika Moen, the cartoonist who illustrated Come As You Are, draws it as a lightning bolt to the genitals, just kaboom. You just want it. You have a stray sexual thought or see a stray sexy person you’re like, kaboom, I would like the… You go to your partner, kaboom. And your partner is in the middle of doing the dishes or is wrist deep in baby poop and is like, “No.”

So spontaneous desire is one of the normal healthy ways to experience desire. And also there’s responsive desire. Where spontaneous desire emerges in anticipation of pleasure, responsive desire emerges in response to pleasure. So you have to create a context that makes it easy for your brain to like, you get in the bed, because it’s scheduled and you’ve already transitioned into a pretty good state of mind.

You let your skin touch your partner’s skin and your body goes, all right, I really like this. I really like this person. What a good idea this was. We should do this again, that’s responsive desire, and it is also normal. And it was developed in the late 90s by a sex therapist, Rosemary [inaudible 00:24:29], as a way to describe women’s sexual response. But the more research has been done on it, the clearer and clearer it becomes that it is not really that gendered. Some of it has to do with the way people are socialized, and certainly if you get raised as an it’s a girl type person, you’re given so many distressing, scary, overwhelming messages about sex, that your sexual breaks are just on all the time, and that means that it’s going to be a more gradual process for your body to engage sexually.

But when I wrote… A confident hair flip. I wrote an op-ed for the New York Times about responsive desire and how it’s entirely normal, and I got more emails from men than from women saying thank you for this language, it explains what I have been experiencing. So I hesitate to frame it as a gender difference, but I do frame it as a difference in ways that people can experience desire. And the sort of the most frustrating thing is when people experience spontaneous desire like early in their relationship and then their desire becomes more responsive later in the relationship because it changed, they believe it is broken. And no, what happened was the context changed, and so the way your brain is able to respond to the world is different.

And it is normal and natural that when your life changes, the way your brain works is going to adapt to that. So there’s nothing broken that a change in your context can’t fix. Does that make sense?

Emily Oster:

I love it.

Emily Nagoski:

And just to be specific, testosterone is associated with increased spontaneous desire. How that maps, depending on a person’s assigned sex at birth or their gender identity is really complex, but there’s no straightforward story to tell about which hormone is associated with what. Everybody varies. And the research, you’ll be surprised to learn that people who have monthly oscillating menstrual cycles, we really don’t have a lot of research on how that impacts-

Emily Oster:

Not a lot of research on them.

Emily Nagoski:

… their sexuality.

Emily Oster:

Interesting. I’m so interested to hear that, and surprised. Thank you.

Emily Nagoski:

So surprising.

Emily Oster:

Yeah, and I also think there’s a piece of having this conversation and just recognizing, in some ways talking to your partner and saying, “Hey Austin, when you ask me, I say no, this is kind of why. This is part of it. And can we talk about… I don’t want you to interpret it as I never want to do it or I’m disgusted by you, or think that you’re terrible. It’s just like that transition is computer energy.”

Emily Nagoski:

You need a longer runway.

Emily Oster:

I need a longer runway. Yeah, and let’s figure out how we can make the longer runway because I do want to be at the end of the runway, I just was watching Downton Abbey right then.

Emily Nagoski:

And until people know that this is just true about them, they might have absorbed an idea from somewhere in the culture that needing a long runway is somehow a problem, or means you’re broken in some way, and it’s just people’s brains vary. Some people are slower to adjust to change than other people are. That’s just a difference in people.

One of the ways people have the conversation most successfully is when they can start with an example of their slowness to adapt to a transition in another context, in a nonsexual context. Like we were planning on having X for dinner, it turned out we couldn’t have X for dinner, we had to have Y for dinner. And the reluctance and the difficulty that my brain had in adjusting to changing, even though the thing we ended up having is one of my very favorite things to eat. It’s not about it not being something I don’t enjoy, it’s the letting go of the plan and transitioning to something else is, it’s just work for my brain.

Emily Oster:

It’s work.

Emily Nagoski:

And if it’s work for your brain, then it’ll be work in other contexts as well.

Emily Oster:

So you talk a lot in the book about the idea of pleasure. It’s basically in every chapter. So I guess what I wanted-

Emily Nagoski:

It’s the title of the first of the book is Pleasure is the Measure.

Emily Oster:

And it comes up in the second half too. It’s everywhere. So why is this so important for you? Just why is this such a central theme here?

Emily Nagoski:

Because pleasure is, pleasure is the measure. Pleasure is… The reason I say that is because I learned while I was getting ready to promote Come As You Are, my first book, I learned that people don’t just remember what you say more when it rhymes, they believe you more. It feels more true if the thing you say rhymes. So pleasure is the measure of sexual wellbeing. It’s not how often you do it or who you do it with or what position or where or what room, or even how many orgasms you have, it’s whether or not you enjoy the sex you are having.

And if you are having fun, if you like the sex you are having, you are already doing it right. There’s this great analogy that I learned from sex therapist Christine Hyde in New Jersey where she talks to her clients with this metaphor, if your best friend and invite you to a party, you say yes because it’s your best friend and it’s a party. And then as the date approaches you start thinking, it’s going to be really heavy traffic. We’re going to have to find childcare. Am I going to want to put my pants on at the end of a long week? I don’t know.

But you know what you said you would go, so you put on your party clothes, you arrange the childcare, you go through the traffic and you show up to the party. And what happens at the party? Usually you have fun at the party. If you are having fun at the party, you are doing it right. And my thing is there’s no amount of being like, man, I really wish we could go to a party tonight that would make that party worth going to if you don’t like the people who are there, if you don’t enjoy the kind of music they’re playing, if you’re allergic to the food, if you’ve recently had an argument with somebody there and it’s unresolved and you wish it could be resolved, when you still have a huge to-do list in your mind of all the stuff that needs to get done back at your house, and why am I wasting time going to this party?

None of that’s going to make the party worth going to. So pleasure, whether or not you’re having fun, is the question. Do you like it?

Emily Oster:

I love it.

Emily Nagoski:

And so back to Peggy Kleinplatz, she talks about having clients come in this very typical situation where one partner says, “I’m sorry, this hurts my partner’s feelings, but I’d be happy never having sex again.” And Peggy being Peggy says, well, tell me about this sex you do not want. And what do you suppose they describe?

Emily Oster:

The sex is not good.

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah. Is it like fulfilling?

Emily Oster:

You’re at the sex party and it’s bad.

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah. Her phrase is, the sex they describe is dismal and disappointing. If it’s sex where you feel like where you don’t enjoy it, where you feel like you have to hide some authentic part of yourself, where you feel like you’re just doing it out of a sense of obligation, where you really wish they would do something and they’re not doing that, and you’ve just given up hope that they will ever participate with you in the kind of party you enjoy.

So after the couple describes the sex that they have, Peggy being Peggy says, “Well, I rather enjoy sex, but if that’s the sex I were having, I wouldn’t want it either. So what kind of sex is worth wanting?” And the question comes back to, it’s not about desire, it’s about pleasure. And here is the totally radical, completely obvious once you hear it said out loud idea. It’s not dysfunctional, it’s not a problem if you don’t want sex you do not like. If you don’t like it, of course you don’t want it. It’s not a desire problem, that’s a pleasure problem.

Emily Oster:

So let me ask you a very practical question, which is even in long-term relationships, I think it’s often quite hard for people to talk about sex-

Emily Nagoski:

Even with the people they have the sex with.

Emily Oster:

Even with the people they have the sex with. You have the sex, but you don’t talk about it. And I think after 15 years of not talking about the sex, awkward to be like, “Hey, this sex we’ve been having for 15 years,”

Emily Nagoski:

“I haven’t liked most of it.”

Emily Oster:

Or even if you like it and you want… You say, “I like it, but we could do this different.” It’s awkward. How do you talk about that?

Emily Nagoski:

We have been taught that if you have to talk about it, that automatically indicates that there’s something wrong.

Emily Oster:

Yeah.

Emily Nagoski:

That it’s inherently a problem.

Emily Oster:

We should just figure it out. It should be just sort of like we should just be able to have the sex, the best sex.

Emily Nagoski:

And I would love it if we could all internalize what the science tells us, which is that the people who have great sex lives talk about sex all the time. They have great sex, they talk about sex. And correlation is not causation, but the two are correlated. Talking about sex is not correlated with a bad sex life. Talking about sex is correlated with a spectacular, magnificent, optimal sexual experience. So if we can all just take a breath and consider the possibility that if we’re a couple who talks about sex, we’re a couple who is increasing our access to ecstatic pleasure, is that motivating at all?

Emily Oster:

I find that motivating.

Emily Nagoski:

And the other piece of it is, so if we’re able to have this conversation, we are able to say the words out loud when we have sex, “I really love it when you,” whatever. And, “I had a fantasy where you tried this other thing, is that something you’d be interested in?” We’re capable of saying those words. So when people ask me, but I could never have that conversation. How? How do I ask my partner for, whatever, and you say the words. So the question really is not how do we do it, how you do it is you say the words. The question is what is it that’s the obstacle between you and saying those words? What do you dread will happen?

Emily Oster:

I think people dread that their partner will be like, “What kind of weirdo are you?”

Emily Nagoski:

Yeah, exactly. A person, like you said, maybe a person you’ve been having sex with for more than a decade, we are still worried that if we dare to disclose a thing about our sexual identities, that they’re going to judge us maybe so harshly that they will never be able to look at us the same way again. That they may leave us forever. And that in the same way that we have been taught that if you have to talk about sex, that automatically means there’s a problem. We have been taught that our entire identity is tied to our being sexually successful. Not having any questions about it, already knowing everything we need to know, being a perfect performer, putting work into it like an employee who wants a promotion. Right?

Emily Oster:

Yeah.

Emily Nagoski:

And we have been taught to be really fragile, to feel like we don’t have the internal and external resources to deal with any degree of vulnerability beyond what we’re already willing to try in our relationship. And in the same way that we don’t want our partners to judge us, we don’t want our partner to feel in any way hurt, criticized or judged. We don’t want to offer something that might feel like criticism to them, especially if you got born with it. It’s a girl, package of genitals, raised as a girl, socialized, grew up to identify as a woman.

A major part of your role as a sexual person you were taught from birth or earlier is to be a giver, is to meet other people’s needs. And so when you get into sexual situations that involve another person, a lot of your attention shifts away from your internal state onto monitoring this other person to make sure their needs and expectations are being met. They’re satisfied. They are pleased with what’s happening. So much so that you might not even be aware of whether or not you yourself are experiencing pleasure. So that when somebody like me comes along and says, “Tell your partner what you want and like. Just talk about it.” You’re like, “How am I supposed to even know what I like?”

Emily Oster:

Yeah.

Emily Nagoski:

So I’m in no way saying that this stuff is easy. And I am saying that the people who have great sex lives-

Emily Oster:

Talk about this.

Emily Nagoski:

This is exactly what they do. So build the coziest emotional nest.

Emily Oster:

So you talk in the intro to the book about the key to great sex over the long term. And you say basically there’s three things. So can you tell us what are these three things?

Emily Nagoski:

Yes. Characteristic number one, these couples admire and trust each other. They have a strong friendship at the foundation of their relationship. And most of the time it is not controversial the idea that if you like the person you’re having sex with, the sex will be better.

Two, they prioritize sex. They decide that it matters for their relationship, that they set aside time and energy, not just to have the sex, which that’ll by itself is a lot to… I mean, maybe we’ve got kids to raise, maybe we’ve got school to go to, maybe we’ve got jobs to go to, maybe we’ve got other friends to spend time with, other family members to pay attention to. God forbid we do just want to watch the Golden Bachelor and take a nap, right? Why would we set aside time to just let our bare skin rub against another human’s bare skin and put our mouths on each other’s genitals and bite each other’s to… Why? Because the couple decides that it matters. It does something valuable for their relationship that they spend some of their time together doing this very silly, often fun, sometimes important, sometimes really terrible thing that we humans do when we choose to.

But the couples who prioritize sex aren’t just setting aside the time actually to do it, they’re setting aside time to talk about what went well, and what they could try different, and what it means for them, given their life history, to have the kind of erotic connection that they have with this person. They decide that it matters. The second characteristic is that these couples prioritize sex. And blanket caveat, that it is normal for sex not to be a priority at some seasons of our lives. The first four years of having young humans in your home is quite typical for sex just to disappear off the priority list. People vary, and that’s a sort of standard narrative.

And the third characteristic is, this is honestly the hard one. The couples who sustain a strong sexual connection over the long term, especially the people who have really extraordinary sex, are the ones who recognize that they have been taught a lot of other people’s opinions about who they’re supposed to be as sexual people, and what it means that they’re sexual, and what kind of sex they’re supposed to have. They jettison all of it and create space for who they truly are as a sexual person. And they explore to learn who their partner truly is, beyond all of those other people’s opinions about who their partner is supposed to be. And they explore who they as a unique pairing are in a partnership.

They start from scratch so that their authentic selves can connect in a way that feels true and vulnerable and real to them without trying to meet somebody else’s expectation of what they’re supposed to be doing. Because all those other people whose opinions you have in your head about what sex is supposed to be, they’re not in the bed with you. I always think of that moment in Pride and Prejudice when Elizabeth tells Mariah, Mariah’s repacking her bags because Lady Catherine de Bourgh told her she should be packing her bags totally differently. And Elizabeth taps her on the shoulder and says, “This is your trunk, these are your gowns, you can pack them any way you want. Lady Catherine will never know.” This is your sex life. This is your partner.

Emily Oster:

Pack it any way you’d like.

Emily Nagoski:

Lady Catherine will never know.

Emily Oster:

All right, so I have a last question about the book itself. So I’m always curious about how people structure the books, and how they hope others will use them. So this book is a sort of really interesting combination of very practical advice, like you might benefit from keeping sex towels in your drawers, to very broad things like, is sex important to you? And so I’m curious, if you think about people reading and using the book, how are you imagining them doing that?

Emily Nagoski:

I imagine often when someone picks up a book that’s about having a better sex life, they may already be in some kind of distress and they’re looking for solutions, they’re looking for answers. Chances are they are looking for a way to conform with the ideal they have in their head of what they think sex is supposed to look like. And I spend the first quarter of the book deconstructing that.

Because your idea of what you think sex is supposed to look like is made up of all those other people’s opinions about who you’re supposed to be. And all of that is lies, and all of that is just obstructing your access to ecstasy. And so then we start with tools to use to find… Because in addition to the couple where someone would be happy if they never had sex, again, there’s couples like me and my partner.

The origin story of the book is that in writing Come As You Are, my first book, which is about the science of women’s sexual wellbeing, the stress of writing a book about sex was so intense that I lost all, I had zero, zero interest in actually having any sex for months. Nothing.

So here I am, this sex expert with nothing for months. So I did what anyone would do. I looked at the peer reviewed research on how couples sustain a strong sexual connection over the long term. And what I found there and started me on this journey of like, wait a minute, everything in the mainstream narrative is not only wrong but wrongheaded, and making the situation worse for people if they actually believe that the goal in a long-term relationship is to keep the spark alive. If I could eradicate one sentence from the English language, it would be-

Emily Oster:

Keep the spark alive.

Emily Nagoski:

Keep the spark alive.

Emily Oster:

Keep the spark alive.

Emily Nagoski:

And replace it with pleasure is the measure.

Emily Oster:

Which rhymes, so it’s even better.

Emily Nagoski:

So therefore it’s true.

Emily Oster:

Definitely more better.

Emily Nagoski:

That’s how you know. So the first half is about, what is the gateway to pleasure? And I spend two big chapters talking about the solution to my thing, which is where I knew that if we got there, I would like it. We had good sex, we had amazing sex, and if I could just get there it would be great. But I was stuck, and I had to figure out where I was stuck and how to get unstuck. And obviously for that I turned to the father of affective neuroscience Jaak Panksepp and the seven primary process emotions, as you do, and developed a metaphor that I call the Emotional Floor Plan, and that is actually the tool that got me unstuck. And then the second half of the book is dealing with specific problems that will definitely emerge over the course of a long-term relationship, applying all the tools and the framework in the first half of the book.

Emily Oster:

Well, I think the book is fantastic, and I hope that everybody reads it. Because it’s pretty clear to me from the people who talk to me and just from in the world that there are a lot of people who could really use this, and I think the reframe that you have is I think people will find really surprising and helpful.

Emily Nagoski:

The best thing I can say… So obviously writing this book also totally lost all my interest in actually having any sex. But the cool part was that at the end of it, when I got to the end, I had this 100,000 page manual of how to fix what had gone wrong for us over the course of writing the book. So even if I would love it if lots and lots of people read the book, I would love it if it saved marriages and expanded joy and pleasure across the globe. I would love that. And also, even if nobody else reads it, it has already made my sex life better than it’s been in all 12 years that I have been with my partner, which that alone made it worth it.

Emily Oster:

Okay, Emily, we’re going to do some rapid fire lightning round questions.

Emily Nagoski:

So I should try to be actually rapid.

Emily Oster:

Yeah, rapid. How do you define sex in a long-term relationship?

Emily Nagoski:

I don’t. Okay, that’s up to you.

Emily Oster:

Oh, that’s a good answer, we can use that. All right. What do couples in long-term relationships struggle with the most when it comes to sex?

Emily Nagoski:

Honestly, the thing they struggle with most is communication.

Emily Oster:

Yeah.

Emily Nagoski:

Because of all those barriers we talked about.

Emily Oster:

What is the biggest myth about sex in long-term relationships?

Emily Nagoski:

The biggest myth is that you’re supposed to be keeping the spark alive, when actually what you should be doing is centering pleasure. If you put pleasure at the center of your definition of sexual wellbeing, all the other puzzle pieces will fall into place.

Emily Oster:

Thank you so much, Emily, for being here. This is such a treat.

Emily Nagoski:

It was my pleasure.

Caroline Chambers:

So, Emily Oster.

Emily Oster:

So, Caroline Chambers, what would you say is your recipe for great sex after three kids?

Caroline Chambers:

I think the recipe is finding ways to make your life feel sexy, because your life is not really sexy right now. Like nothing about my life with a five-year-old, a three-year-old and a one-year-old is sexy. So finding little ways to connect with my husband, read a romantic book because that’s the only way I’m getting romance in my life right now. Do things that are sexy, make my life feel a little sexier than it truly is right now.

Emily Oster:

That’s hot.

Parent Data is produced by Tamar Avishai with support from the Parent Data team and PRX. If you have thoughts on this episode, please join the conversation on my Instagram at ProfEmilyOster. And if you want to support the show, become a subscriber to the Parent Data newsletter at parentdata.org, where I write weekly posts on everything to do with parents and data to help you make better, more informed parenting decisions.

For example, just in time for Valentine’s Day last year, we conducted a survey about all of your sex lives after kids, and found the answers really illuminating. There are a lot of ways you can help people find out about us. Leave a rating or a review on Apple Podcasts. Text your friend about something you learned from this episode. Debate your mother-in-law about the merits of something parents do now that is totally different from what she did. Post a story to your Instagram debunking a panic headline of your own. Just remember to mention the podcast too, right Penelope?

Penelope:

Right, mom.

Emily Oster:

We’re see you next time.

Feb 14 2023

14 min read

Your Sex Lives After Kids

What our survey revealed

Emily Oster
A billboard with hot pink lips glows against a sunset.

Jun 17 2022

2 min read

What’s the Data on Sex After Kids?

Do you have any data on intimacy after kids? —Never in the Mood There is, on average, less of it. Read more

Emily Oster
A group of phallic fruits and vegetables against a green and blue background illustrate "sex toys."

Jan 23 2024

1 min read

Can I Use Sex Toys While Pregnant?

Are vibrators and other sex toys safe to use while pregnant? Are there any risks to the baby (aside from Read more

Emily Oster
Two kids smile as they are held upside down by their parents, who are shown from the waist down.

Feb 01 2024

6 min read

What to Do When You’re “Touched Out”

In over a decade as a full-spectrum doula—someone who supports people through the entire spectrum of reproduction, including fertility, pregnancy, Read more

Erica Chidi

Instagram

left right
For children or adults with severe food allergies, they can be incredibly scary and restrictive. We may imagine that it’s easy to deal with a peanut allergy by, say, not eating peanut butter sandwiches. But for someone with a severe version of this allergy, they may never be able to go to a restaurant, for fear of a severe reaction to something in the air. Right now, there’s only one approved treatment for severe allergies like this and it’s limited to peanuts.

This is why the new medication Xolair is very exciting. It promises a second possible treatment avenue and one that works for other allergens. A new trail analyzed data from 177 children with severe food allergies. Two-thirds of the treatment group were able to tolerate the specified endpoint, versus just 7% of the placebo group. This is a very large treatment effect, and the authors found similarly large impacts on other allergens. 

There are some caveats: This treatment won’t work for everyone. (One-third of participants did not respond to it.) Additionally, this treatment is an injection given every two to four weeks, indefinitely. This may make it less palatable to children. 

Overall, even with caveats, this is life-changing news for many families!

#xolair #foodallergies #allergies #peanutallergy #emilyoster #parentdata

For children or adults with severe food allergies, they can be incredibly scary and restrictive. We may imagine that it’s easy to deal with a peanut allergy by, say, not eating peanut butter sandwiches. But for someone with a severe version of this allergy, they may never be able to go to a restaurant, for fear of a severe reaction to something in the air. Right now, there’s only one approved treatment for severe allergies like this and it’s limited to peanuts.

This is why the new medication Xolair is very exciting. It promises a second possible treatment avenue and one that works for other allergens. A new trail analyzed data from 177 children with severe food allergies. Two-thirds of the treatment group were able to tolerate the specified endpoint, versus just 7% of the placebo group. This is a very large treatment effect, and the authors found similarly large impacts on other allergens.

There are some caveats: This treatment won’t work for everyone. (One-third of participants did not respond to it.) Additionally, this treatment is an injection given every two to four weeks, indefinitely. This may make it less palatable to children.

Overall, even with caveats, this is life-changing news for many families!

#xolair #foodallergies #allergies #peanutallergy #emilyoster #parentdata
...

If you have a fever during pregnancy, you should take Tylenol, both because it will make you feel better and because of concerns about fever in pregnancy (although these are also overstated).

The evidence that suggests risks to Tylenol focuses largely on more extensive exposure — say, taking it for more than 28 days during pregnancy. There is no credible evidence, even correlational, to suggest that taking it occasionally for a fever or headache would be an issue.

People take Tylenol for a reason. For many people, the choice may be between debilitating weekly migraines and regular Tylenol usage. The impacts studies suggest are very small. In making this decision, we should weigh the real, known benefit against the suggestion of this possible risk. Perhaps not everyone will come out at the same place on this, but it is crucial we give people the tools to make the choice for themselves.

#emilyoster #parentdata #tylenol #pregnancy #pregnancytips

If you have a fever during pregnancy, you should take Tylenol, both because it will make you feel better and because of concerns about fever in pregnancy (although these are also overstated).

The evidence that suggests risks to Tylenol focuses largely on more extensive exposure — say, taking it for more than 28 days during pregnancy. There is no credible evidence, even correlational, to suggest that taking it occasionally for a fever or headache would be an issue.

People take Tylenol for a reason. For many people, the choice may be between debilitating weekly migraines and regular Tylenol usage. The impacts studies suggest are very small. In making this decision, we should weigh the real, known benefit against the suggestion of this possible risk. Perhaps not everyone will come out at the same place on this, but it is crucial we give people the tools to make the choice for themselves.

#emilyoster #parentdata #tylenol #pregnancy #pregnancytips
...

Parenting trends are like Cabbage Patch Kids: they’re usually only popular because a bunch of people are using them! Most of the time, these trends are not based on new scientific research, and even if they are, that new research doesn’t reflect all of what we’ve studied before.

In the future, before hopping onto the latest trend, check the data first. Unlike Cabbage Patch Kids, parenting trends can add a lot of unnecessary stress and challenges to your plate. What’s a recent trend that you’ve been wondering about?

#parentdata #emilyoster #parentingtips #parentingadvice #parentinghacks

Parenting trends are like Cabbage Patch Kids: they’re usually only popular because a bunch of people are using them! Most of the time, these trends are not based on new scientific research, and even if they are, that new research doesn’t reflect all of what we’ve studied before.

In the future, before hopping onto the latest trend, check the data first. Unlike Cabbage Patch Kids, parenting trends can add a lot of unnecessary stress and challenges to your plate. What’s a recent trend that you’ve been wondering about?

#parentdata #emilyoster #parentingtips #parentingadvice #parentinghacks
...

As of this week, 1 million copies of my books have been sold. This feels humbling and, frankly, unbelievable. I’m so thankful to those of you who’ve read and passed along your recommendations of the books.

When I wrote Expecting Better, I had no plan for all of this — I wrote that book because I felt compelled to write it, because it was the book I wanted to read. As I’ve come out with more books, and now ParentData, I am closer to seeing what I hope we can all create. That is: a world where everyone has access to reliable data, based on causal evidence, to make informed, confident decisions that work for their families.

I’m so grateful you’re all here as a part of this, and I want to thank you! If you’ve been waiting for the right moment to sign up for full access to ParentData, this is it. ⭐️ Comment “Link” for a DM with a discount code for 20% off of a new monthly or annual subscription to ParentData! 

Thank you again for being the best community of readers and internet-friends on the planet. I am so lucky to have you all here.

#parentdata #emilyoster #expectingbetter #cribsheet #familyfirm #parentingcommunity

As of this week, 1 million copies of my books have been sold. This feels humbling and, frankly, unbelievable. I’m so thankful to those of you who’ve read and passed along your recommendations of the books.

When I wrote Expecting Better, I had no plan for all of this — I wrote that book because I felt compelled to write it, because it was the book I wanted to read. As I’ve come out with more books, and now ParentData, I am closer to seeing what I hope we can all create. That is: a world where everyone has access to reliable data, based on causal evidence, to make informed, confident decisions that work for their families.

I’m so grateful you’re all here as a part of this, and I want to thank you! If you’ve been waiting for the right moment to sign up for full access to ParentData, this is it. ⭐️ Comment “Link” for a DM with a discount code for 20% off of a new monthly or annual subscription to ParentData!

Thank you again for being the best community of readers and internet-friends on the planet. I am so lucky to have you all here.

#parentdata #emilyoster #expectingbetter #cribsheet #familyfirm #parentingcommunity
...

Just eat your Cheerios and move on.

Just eat your Cheerios and move on. ...

The AAP’s guidelines recommend sleeping in the same room as your baby “ideally for the first six months.” However, the risk of SIDS is dramatically lower after four months, and the evidence in favor of the protective effect of room sharing is quite weak (both overall and even more so after four months). There is also growing evidence that infants who sleep in their own room by four months sleep better at four months, better at nine months, and even better at 30 months.

With this in mind, it’s worth asking why this recommendation continues at all — or at least why the AAP doesn’t push it back to four months. They say decreased arousals from sleep are linked to SIDS, which could mean that babies sleeping in their own room is risky. But this link is extremely indirect, and they do not show direct evidence to support it.

According to the data we have, parents should sleep in the same room as a baby for as long as it works for them! Sharing a room with a child may have negative impacts on both child and adult sleep. We should give families more help in navigating these trade-offs and making the decisions that work best for them.

#emilyoster #parentdata #roomsharing #sids #parentingguide

The AAP’s guidelines recommend sleeping in the same room as your baby “ideally for the first six months.” However, the risk of SIDS is dramatically lower after four months, and the evidence in favor of the protective effect of room sharing is quite weak (both overall and even more so after four months). There is also growing evidence that infants who sleep in their own room by four months sleep better at four months, better at nine months, and even better at 30 months.

With this in mind, it’s worth asking why this recommendation continues at all — or at least why the AAP doesn’t push it back to four months. They say decreased arousals from sleep are linked to SIDS, which could mean that babies sleeping in their own room is risky. But this link is extremely indirect, and they do not show direct evidence to support it.

According to the data we have, parents should sleep in the same room as a baby for as long as it works for them! Sharing a room with a child may have negative impacts on both child and adult sleep. We should give families more help in navigating these trade-offs and making the decisions that work best for them.

#emilyoster #parentdata #roomsharing #sids #parentingguide
...

It was an absolute pleasure to be featured on the @tamronhallshow! We talked about all things data-driven parenting and, in this clip, what I call the plague of secret parenting. To balance having a career and having a family, we can’t hide the fact that we’re parents. If mothers and fathers at the top can speak more openly about child-care obligations, it will help us all set a new precedent.

Watch the full segment at the link in my bio 🔗

#tamronhall #tamronhallshow #emilyoster #parentingsupport #workingparents

It was an absolute pleasure to be featured on the @tamronhallshow! We talked about all things data-driven parenting and, in this clip, what I call the plague of secret parenting. To balance having a career and having a family, we can’t hide the fact that we’re parents. If mothers and fathers at the top can speak more openly about child-care obligations, it will help us all set a new precedent.

Watch the full segment at the link in my bio 🔗

#tamronhall #tamronhallshow #emilyoster #parentingsupport #workingparents
...

Invisible labor. It’s the work — in our households especially — that has to happen but that no one sees. It’s making the doctor’s appointment, ensuring birthday cards are purchased, remembering the milk.

My guest on this episode, @everodsky, has come up with a solution here, or at least a way for us to recognize the problem and make our own solutions. I’ve wanted to speak with Eve for ages, since I read her book Fair Play. We had a great conversation about the division of household labor, one I think you’ll get a lot out of!

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #householdtips #fairplay #invisiblelabor

Invisible labor. It’s the work — in our households especially — that has to happen but that no one sees. It’s making the doctor’s appointment, ensuring birthday cards are purchased, remembering the milk.

My guest on this episode, @everodsky, has come up with a solution here, or at least a way for us to recognize the problem and make our own solutions. I’ve wanted to speak with Eve for ages, since I read her book Fair Play. We had a great conversation about the division of household labor, one I think you’ll get a lot out of!

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentdatapodcast #parentingpodcast #householdtips #fairplay #invisiblelabor
...

Prenatal vitamins 💊 If there is any product that seems designed to prey on our fears, it’s this one. You’re newly pregnant and you want to do it right. Everyone agrees you need prenatal vitamins, so you get them. But do you want to be that person who just… buys the generic prenatal vitamins?

Good news: fancier vitamins are not better.  Folic acid is the most important prenatal ingredient. Iron (with vitamin C) and DHA are also nice to have. Other included ingredients have only weak or no evidence to support their use. (If you do not consume animal products, add B12, plus a few others depending on your diet.)

Vitamins are just vitamins. Any prenatal vitamin that contains these is enough. 

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article with everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins.

#emilyoster #parentdata #prenatalvitamins #pregnancydiet #pregnancytips

Prenatal vitamins 💊 If there is any product that seems designed to prey on our fears, it’s this one. You’re newly pregnant and you want to do it right. Everyone agrees you need prenatal vitamins, so you get them. But do you want to be that person who just… buys the generic prenatal vitamins?

Good news: fancier vitamins are not better. Folic acid is the most important prenatal ingredient. Iron (with vitamin C) and DHA are also nice to have. Other included ingredients have only weak or no evidence to support their use. (If you do not consume animal products, add B12, plus a few others depending on your diet.)

Vitamins are just vitamins. Any prenatal vitamin that contains these is enough.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article with everything you need to know about prenatal vitamins.

#emilyoster #parentdata #prenatalvitamins #pregnancydiet #pregnancytips
...

When it comes to introducing your newborn to the world, timing matters. It’s a good idea to minimize germ exposure in the first 6-8 weeks; after that, it’s inevitable and, very likely, a good idea! This doesn’t mean you need to be trapped inside. The most significant exposure risks are from seeing other people at home — family, etc. These interactions are not infinitely risky, but they do pose more risk than a walk or a trip to the grocery store, since they involve closer interaction. Think simple and make sure everyone is washing their hands before holding the baby. 💛

#parentdata #emilyoster #newborncare #parentingadvice #parentingtips

When it comes to introducing your newborn to the world, timing matters. It’s a good idea to minimize germ exposure in the first 6-8 weeks; after that, it’s inevitable and, very likely, a good idea! This doesn’t mean you need to be trapped inside. The most significant exposure risks are from seeing other people at home — family, etc. These interactions are not infinitely risky, but they do pose more risk than a walk or a trip to the grocery store, since they involve closer interaction. Think simple and make sure everyone is washing their hands before holding the baby. 💛

#parentdata #emilyoster #newborncare #parentingadvice #parentingtips
...

The first edition of Hot Flash is out now! Comment “Link” for a DM to learn more about the late-reproductive stage.

There are times when we expect hormonal shifts. Our reproductive lives are bookended by puberty and menopause. We discuss those changes often because they are definitive and dramatic — a first period is something many of us remember clearly. But between ages 13 and 53, our hormones are changing in more subtle ways. During the late-reproductive stage (in your 40s), you can expect a lot of changes in your menstrual cycle, including the length and symptoms you experience throughout. It’s an important time in our lives that is often overlooked!

🔥 Hot Flash from ParentData is a weekly newsletter on navigating your health and hormones in the post-reproductive years. Written by Dr. Gillian Goddard, Hot Flash provides all of the information you need to have a productive, evidence-based conversation about hormonal health with your doctor.

#emilyoster #parentdata #hotflash #perimenopause #womenshealth

The first edition of Hot Flash is out now! Comment “Link” for a DM to learn more about the late-reproductive stage.

There are times when we expect hormonal shifts. Our reproductive lives are bookended by puberty and menopause. We discuss those changes often because they are definitive and dramatic — a first period is something many of us remember clearly. But between ages 13 and 53, our hormones are changing in more subtle ways. During the late-reproductive stage (in your 40s), you can expect a lot of changes in your menstrual cycle, including the length and symptoms you experience throughout. It’s an important time in our lives that is often overlooked!

🔥 Hot Flash from ParentData is a weekly newsletter on navigating your health and hormones in the post-reproductive years. Written by Dr. Gillian Goddard, Hot Flash provides all of the information you need to have a productive, evidence-based conversation about hormonal health with your doctor.

#emilyoster #parentdata #hotflash #perimenopause #womenshealth
...

There are plenty of reels telling you how to parent. Plenty of panic headlines saying that “studies show” what’s best for your kid. Even good data, from a trusted source, can send us into a spiral of comparison. But I want you to remember that no one knows your kid better than you. It’s important to absorb the research, but only you will know the approach that works best for you and your child. 💙

Now tell me in the comments: what’s a parenting move you’ve made recently that feels right to you?

#parentingcommunity #parentingsupport #parentingquotes #emilyoster #parentdata

There are plenty of reels telling you how to parent. Plenty of panic headlines saying that “studies show” what’s best for your kid. Even good data, from a trusted source, can send us into a spiral of comparison. But I want you to remember that no one knows your kid better than you. It’s important to absorb the research, but only you will know the approach that works best for you and your child. 💙

Now tell me in the comments: what’s a parenting move you’ve made recently that feels right to you?

#parentingcommunity #parentingsupport #parentingquotes #emilyoster #parentdata
...

Let’s talk about sex (after) baby! Today on the podcast, I was lucky enough to speak with @enagoski about her new book on sexual connection in long-term relationships. Especially after having kids, this is something many people struggle with. Emily tells us to stop worrying about what’s “normal” and focus on pleasure in its many forms.

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #emilyoster #emilynagoski #comeasyouare #cometogether #longtermrelationship #intimacy #relationships

Let’s talk about sex (after) baby! Today on the podcast, I was lucky enough to speak with @enagoski about her new book on sexual connection in long-term relationships. Especially after having kids, this is something many people struggle with. Emily tells us to stop worrying about what’s “normal” and focus on pleasure in its many forms.

Listen and subscribe to ParentData with Emily Oster in your favorite podcast app 🎧

#parentdata #parentdatapodcast #emilyoster #emilynagoski #comeasyouare #cometogether #longtermrelationship #intimacy #relationships
...

Ever wondered if you can safely use leftover baby formula? 🍼 The CDC says to throw out unused formula immediately because of the risk of bacterial growth. However, research suggests that bacterial concentrations do not appreciably increase after 3, 12, or even 24 hours at refrigerator temperatures. Good news! This means there’s not a strong data-based reason to throw out formula right away if you store it in the fridge.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on another common formula question: should you throw away old formula powder?

#emilyoster #parentdata #babyformula #babyfeeding #parentingstruggles

Ever wondered if you can safely use leftover baby formula? 🍼 The CDC says to throw out unused formula immediately because of the risk of bacterial growth. However, research suggests that bacterial concentrations do not appreciably increase after 3, 12, or even 24 hours at refrigerator temperatures. Good news! This means there’s not a strong data-based reason to throw out formula right away if you store it in the fridge.

Comment “Link” for a DM to an article on another common formula question: should you throw away old formula powder?

#emilyoster #parentdata #babyformula #babyfeeding #parentingstruggles
...

What’s the most important piece of advice for new parents? Here’s one answer, but I want to hear from you! Share your suggestions in the comments ⬇️

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingtips #parentingadvice #newparents #parentingcommunity

What’s the most important piece of advice for new parents? Here’s one answer, but I want to hear from you! Share your suggestions in the comments ⬇️

#emilyoster #parentdata #parentingtips #parentingadvice #newparents #parentingcommunity
...

What's in the bag of a Vagina Economist? 👀 Someone please tell me this looks familiar to you.

What`s in the bag of a Vagina Economist? 👀 Someone please tell me this looks familiar to you. ...