The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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At the Hospital
Take a couple of tennis balls and stick them in a (clean) gym sock. Then slowly roll them up and down her back during labor. Don’t stop. —T.B.
Go on a hospital-room date with the new mom. Bring flowers, takeout (it’s almost always allowed, but ask the nurses anyway) and a Netflix movie to play on your laptop. Get in bed with her, turn down the lights and just be together. Also go home for a few hours and take a nap—you can’t be useful if you’re exhausted and hungry. —B.N.
Videotaping a birth calls for some discretion. You’re not Ridley Scott, and she’s not ready for her close-up, if you know what I mean. If you can, ask someone else to handle the filming duties from a polite distance. —E.R.
Smile nicely and thank everyone who works at the hospital, from the doctors and nurses to the guy who’s mopping the floor. You’ll make their day. They’re already making yours. —T.B.
Forget about building an elaborate website with 200 pictures and artfully edited videos of the birth within 24 hours of the arrival. Just tell people by phone, and e-mail a couple of photos to friends with a request to forward them around. If you’re the ultraconnected type, Twitter. —B.N.
Getting (and giving) Help
If family members (yours or hers) offer help after the baby comes home, take it—but be specific about what you need help with. One of the best things someone can do is bring dinner over or babysit while the new mom takes a nap during the day. —B.M.
I didn’t think my wife should be the only sleepdeprived adult in the house, so I got up with her during nighttime feedings. I’d nuke a big chocolate muffin for us to split, and as she nursed, I’d read. Our kids are 9, 6 and 3, but we still talk about those times. —Marc A. Pitman, hospital development director and father of three, Waterville, Maine
From 8 friday night through Saturday morning at 8, the baby is yours. Mom gets 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep or time to herself. —Lee Pierce, consultant and father of three, Bellevue, Neb.
Pooing & crying & sleeping, oh, my! the top of the washing machine makes a great diaperchanging station. —L.P.
When you’re changing diapers, always peek before you poke. —Bill Horne, computer security consultant and father of one, Sharon, Mass.
The secret to a successful diaper change is to be prepared. Don’t take off the soiled diaper until you have a clean one unfolded and ready to go. And always have the wipes strategically located—if you’re dealing with a messy diaper, have three to five wipes out of the package. Finally, if you’re facing a blow-out situation, you may just want to take the baby to the tub. —Jason Russell, marketing-public relations and father of four, Lehi, Utah
Sometimes you just have to let a crying baby cry—believing you have some control will only frustrate you. The baby will pick up on that negative emotion and cry even more. And feeling exhausted makes it worse. If you’re rested, you can handle the situation much better. —B.M.
I’ve had a lot of luck getting my kids to fall asleep by sitting on a physio ball, then leaning backward and gently bouncing as I hold them horizontally on my chest. It’s a lot cheaper than a rocker-glider, and you can kick the ball from the nursery to the TV room and back while you have your hands full of crying baby. —Mike Carlson, editor and father of two, Los Angeles