Dad Advice

Guys like advice in easily digestible chunks. And who better to serve it up than other men who've been there?


During Pregnancy

What to say when you find out she's pregnant: "That's amazing! Yeah, baby!" What not to say: "How did that happen?" —Chris Pegula, founder and creator of Diaper Dude and father of three, Los Angeles

RUB! Rub her feet, rub her back, rub her shoulders. —Bert Martinez, motivational speaker and father of five, Houston

Go to any appointment where there's an ultrasound—you'll never regret the experience, and your wife will feel more cared for by your involvement. —Dillon Burroughs, writer-editor and father of three, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Yeah, you're expecting a child together, but she's the one who's carrying it. She gets the good parts of feeling it kick, getting the natural bond, etc. But she also gets the expanding belly, backaches and foot aches, hormones going crazy and, of course, the birth. So give her lots of attention, make her know she's loved and appreciated. Talk to the baby in her belly, go to doctor appointments, ask questions and learn. Your relationship with both your partner and your child will grow. —Brent Larson, computer programmer and father of two, Shawnee, Kan.

Be proactive in thinking of ways to support her. Doing the dishes after she asks you is nice, but thinking of it on your own is even better. Also, cookies never hurt. —Noah Lang, attorney and father of one, Seattle

If she says that something in the house smells bad, believe her, even if you don't smell anything at all. At some point in her pregnancy, even mild odors—soft soap, turkey burgers, ice cubes—may smell awful to her. Whatever you do, don't let the garbage or leftovers in the fridge linger. —Michael Yessis, travel editor and father of one, Rockville, Md.

Flexibility is a biggie. She might refuse a back rub one minute, then change her mind a few minutes later. She might want to go out to dinner, then doze off as you're phoning for a reservation. You have to roll with it. —N.L.

Take a couple of hours at a time off from work to attend doctor visits or deal with other pregnancy-related stuff. Get your boss and co-workers used to the idea that you'll be a dad, and when the baby comes, you'll already have shown that you can handle a little scheduling flexibility and still get your work done. —Bill Nathan, project manager and father of two, San Francisco

Well before the baby is due, take a full wallet and an empty car to Costco and lay in a supply of toothpaste, toilet paper, extra towels, cat litter, extra memory cards for your digital camera, healthy frozen foods—anything that will save you a trip to the store after the baby comes. —Ted Brown, teacher and father of three, Dallas

Never throw out the directions to any piece of baby gear. First, you might have another baby some day, and by then your brain will have moved on and automatically purged all understanding of how that collapsible baby seat ever worked. —Esteban Rodriguez, executive chef and father of one, New York

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Being a Dad

The first time you hold your tiny baby, you'll experience a flood of strange and powerful sensations. These are called emotions. Don't be alarmed. Focus on that moment, and promise yourself that you won't ever, ever let the weight of the world rob you of that feeling. —J.L.

Learn the football carry. Tuck the baby's legs under your armpit, support his back with your arm and cradle his head in your hand. This frees your other hand for carrying stuff, getting things done around the house or fending off would-be tacklers. —J.L.

Don't be afraid to develop your own parenting style—not your father's, not your wife's, but yours. Hint to new moms: Letting us do things our way makes us feel closer to the baby. We know you want that. —J.L

Guys are also susceptible to postpartum depression. Get help—if you don't, you may sacrifice your marriage. I know because I was close to that point.—Name withheld by request

Put down the video camera. You want to record all those memorable firsts, but let someone else use the camera occasionally so you can be an active participant in making those memories. And get some recordings of you together with your baby, too. —Jeremy Milani, online communication consultant and father of one, Nashua, N.H.

Babies love to learn tricks, and it's up to you to teach them. Try this one: When your baby starts to develop leg strength, grab both of her feet firmly with one hand and support her with the other in an upright position. Before long, she'll be standing in your hand without help, to the amazement of friends, relatives and that nice lady from Child Protective Services. Do it over a bed or couch just in case, and be ready to catch her if she tilts. —J.L.

Pick up your child every day. —J.M.

Schedule a daddy-and-baby routine. The one-on-one time spent walking around the neighborhood or just staring at the ceiling fan with your baby will be incredibly nourishing to you—and your wife will appreciate that free hour on her own. —M.Y.

When you get frustrated with your baby for any reason, but especially when he is crying, do two things: First, don't feel bad; and second, watch your baby while he is sleeping—your anxiety and frustration will immediately dissipate. It even works with teenagers. —Jamie Miller, political consultant, Sarasota, Fla.