Read The Baby Books - But For a Different Reason
There are lots of so-called "baby books" on the market. Many of these are filled with fantastic information, and you can spend whole months in advance of your baby's birth studying them. However, one thing you will soon learn after your child is born is that most parenting is a learned behavior; until you are holding your little one in your arms and are forced to tend to it, the books are really just printed text on volumes of pages.
It is important to read these books, but not necessarily to "learn" how to parent. Sure, you will pick up a few important bits of knowledge here and there. But, there can be ulterior motives to studying the baby books.
Often, even otherwise strong-willed expectant mothers can feel alone and fearful that they are facing the unknown. It is their deep desire that you face this unknown along with them and that they have a partner willing to help them. It is for this reason you must read the books visibly, and talk about what you have read with your expectant mother.
This is not meant to fool anyone, or to be otherwise dishonest. It is to build trust. She must see that you care about what lies ahead of you, enough that you will spend the time necessary to prepare. This will help both to strengthen your relationship and to prepare you further for your baby's arrival.
Take Time Off for Your Newborn
The first few weeks of a baby's life are an amazing experience. It will require a lot of time and attention, but the satisfaction you will have when you hold your baby is well worth it.
You can expect the baby's mother, even the strongest of women, to be extremely tired after the birthing experience. She will need to rest, and you can help to provide her with that rest.
If you are capable of doing so, take time off from your work to help with the newborn. One week is helpful, but two or even three if possible. It will require getting up early and losing lots of sleep, but there are now three of you in this family and it is your responsibility to care for both of them. The baby will wake up every few hours and need to be cared for. If you can help to alleviate that work, the baby's mother could benefit from an uninterrupted night's sleep.
This is difficult to do if you have to go to work early in the morning, which is why it's important to try to take time off. Plan this out with your employer, so that they know your intentions. You will probably not be successful if you spring a request for a long leave on them at the last moment.
Learn Some Simple Tasks
Healthy newborns basically have four needs: food, sleep, clean diapers, and bathing. Despite how people have lived in the past, it is not just the mother's job to provide all these needs for baby (feeding aside of course, if breastfeeding.) It is also your responsibility.
Sometimes, new mothers can be protective of their baby. However, you can't allow their protective nature to mean that they take over doing all the work because that w0uld be putting an awful burden on the mother's shoulders. One way to get through this protective barrier is to have the mother "teach" you how to do these tasks.
Don't misunderstand, it's not difficult to do these things. But by having her show you how she likes to do things, she will gain trust that you will do it her way, and will be more willing to relinquish responsibility to you.
By helping with simple tasks such as changing and bathing the baby, both you and the mother will have a much more positive experience.
Take Over At Night
Nighttime with the baby can be a very trying time. Your newborn is on its own schedule; he or she will wake at seemingly random times in the night. It will take a few weeks until you can learn the baby's schedule, and even more weeks before the baby will begin sleeping through the night.
This can be extremely difficult to adjust to, if you're used to getting a full night's sleep. Usually when the baby wakes up, they are either hungry or have a wet/dirty diaper. It is important that you learn to feed and change the baby to meet these needs, and also that you learn how to soothe them back to sleep.
It always depends upon the baby, but rocking and singing or reading a book will often help them sleep, as long as they are not hungry or have a stomachache. Also, if you can raise the temperature of the room fairly high, they will sleep better. Babies are used to being in the womb, where it's a constant 98 degrees fahrenheit. You don't need to make the room that hot, but the warmer, the better.
Have some light music playing in the background. You can get this from a sound machine which are readily available at any home goods store. Ocean sounds are nice, classical music, and it's believed also that heartbeat sounds can soothe a baby.
Purchase Clothes and Toys Intelligently
As a new parent, it will be tempting to buy lots and lots of clothes and toys for your newborn. You must temper this urge as much as possible, because these things can break the bank easily.
Baby consignment shops have tons of second-hand clothes for very low prices. Often, you can get several outfits for your newborn at the same price as a single outfit new from a chain store. This does not mean the clothes will be junk. There are lots of tips on the internet for finding good clothes at consignment, but the most important one to follow is that clothes which still have tags on them or are from expensive brands are usually the best buys.
Also, from age 0 to 3 months, a lot of clothes that you will find on consignment will have only been worn once, or even not at all. This is because of several reasons. People buy clothes in advance of having their baby, so they have no idea how big or small it will be. Also, people tend to stock up on newborn clothes; since babies grow so fast, they often don't even wear all of the outfits that their parents have purchased. So many outfits you find at consignment have never been worn.
Toys can also be an expensive proposition. Keep in mind that a baby will not even develop decent eyesight until they are several weeks old. There is no reason to buy a large amount of tos for them as soon as they are born. They won't be grasping at anything for several months, much less playing with toys. Toys are an expense that you can safely defer from your newborn.
All of these tips are meant to help both you as dad and your mother. Many dads don't spend the time learning how to take care of their newborn, leaving it all up to mom. If you can step up and take over for her where necessary, both you and she will be much happier in the weeks following the delivery of your bundle of joy.