The study didn't explore the effect of taking more time off specifically on men's stress, but it's easy to extrapolate that not having to juggle work and child care must be less exhausting, said Jane Waldfogel, the study's co-researcher and professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia University School of Social Work.
"In the first two weeks, one hardly has time to take a shower, much less make it on time to work," Waldfogel said.
Two decades ago, many fewer men took time off, but the game-changer was the passage of the federal Family Medical Leave Act in 1993, which mandated that certain employers must allow eligible workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a family member, she said. The high rates with which men take paternity leave suggest that even tough economic times are unlikely to reverse the trend, she said.
If you're willing to take unpaid time off, your boss may even see it as a company cost-saver, Waldfogel said. Or if work obligations make possible only a few days' leave, consider asking to work part-time during a baby's first weeks.
4. Watch your weight and eating habits
Pregnant women are commonly told to consume 300 calories more per day, but when they crave a milkshake fathers often have one, too, Brown said.
Pregnancy is a great time to break bad eating habits, such as grabbing a bag of chips while watching the big game, she said. Seeing their dad eat junk food can lead children to develop poor eating habits. And wolfing down too many of the wrong kind of calories can increase a man's risk for diabetes, heart disease and other health problems that affect his ability to parent over the long haul.
"It really takes a family to change a lifestyle, and the time to start is now while your wife is pregnant," Brown said. "It's much easier to stick to a healthy diet when both of you are doing it."
5. Get help if you feel stressed or depressed
While stress and sleep deprivation seem likely culprits for depression among expectant and new fathers, studies so far suggest depression rates for new fathers are highest three to six months after a baby's birth, said Dr. James F. Paulson, lead author of the JAMA study and associate professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Fathers with partners exhibiting depression also are more likely to have symptoms themselves, he said.
New dads in the U.S. are more likely to experience prenatal and postpartum depression than their international counterparts, the study found. American men reported a 14.1 percent rate compared with 8.2 percent of men in other countries.
To compound matters, expectant fathers aren't routinely screened for depression, meaning some men are left to self-diagnose and seek help for a condition they may feel uncomfortable admitting they have, Paulson said.
"Expecting dads need to keep themselves aware of the symptoms of depression, but it's also something that couples should focus on together," he said. "Be aware of the phenomenon and that it might happen to you."
Some signs of depression, according to the Mayo Clinic, include irritability, insomnia, feelings of sadness or unhappiness, loss of interest in favorite activities, appetite changes and concentration troubles.