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Getting Help at Home

Every mother-to-be hopes that her mate will be a father worth bragging about: deftly changing diapers, warming bottles, and heading out with the baby for weeknight strolls. Of course, great parents are most often made, not born. Chances are, your partner has spent less time planning for the baby than you have. Here's how to gently nudge him in the right direction.

Start early.

Whenever possible, bring your spouse to obstetrician appointments, take childcare classes together, and even have him talk to the baby in utero. The more involved he feels during the pregnancy, the more involved he'll be when the baby is born.

Send him to school.

Many hospitals offer fatherhood classes that cover everything from putting the crib together to bathing a wiggly baby. They also clue dads in on what mom will need after the delivery. "Many new dads think that all babies do is eat, poop, and sleep, so it's hard for them to help," says Jeff Jones, Ph.D., psychologist and instructor of "Basic Training for Dads-to-Be" in Solana Beach, California.

Plan ahead.

You may each have different expectations about how your family will function. Before the delivery, sit down and map out how the two of you will divvy up childcare, household, and work duties.

Postpone Grandma's visit.

Unless you've had a c-section, consider waiting a few weeks before inviting houseguests. Yes, it may mean more work, but it will give you both a chance to better bond with the baby. Jones also encourages new fathers to take at least two weeks off from work so they can find their sea legs with the baby.

Let him fumble.

Every instinct urges you to run to the baby when she's upset. But if your spouse is with her, don't. If you jump in every time, Dad will never learn to comfort her himself. "This is the single biggest mistake moms make," says Jones. "Rescuing him conveys the message that he can't handle it and that he doesn't have to work on it." Send him e-mail.

Sign him up for a weekly e-mail newsletter that tells him how his baby is developing both in utero and when she's a newborn. He'll enjoy telling you about the baby.

Leave the house.

Your husband needs to have his own relationship with his child apart from you. Once your baby is older, suggest that he register for an activity that they'll do alone together -- such as Gymboree or even a dads-only play group -- to help them grow closer. (Bonus: That means time off for Mom!)