A New Dad Needs Your Best Dadvice

I'm looking for Dadvice.

It’s not until I enter a new stage of life or embark on an epic new journey that I pause to realize how the non-stop nature of life serves to eventually (hopefully) make us all experts in our fields–whatever our field might be at a given time.

I teach journalism to college freshmen and I always tell them that what I love most about the profession is the requirement to become an expert-for-a-day on the subject you’re reporting. You talk to your sources–the real experts–and hopefully gain enough knowledge and insights to provide an accurate report.

Maybe it’s just my fine journalism education rearing its expensive head, but I do this in real life as well. When a new curveball is thrown my way, I’m looking for experts and doing the legwork to arm myself with the facts and opinions that will help me navigate these new waters.

As a good reporter, I then feel a duty to pass on my newly gained knowledge as well as any firsthand experiences I gleaned in the process myself, so that my contributions are there waiting for the next soul who is following a path similar to mine.

The biggest example for me was my recent fight against Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When I was first diagnosed, I was completely unaware of what was in store for me. Google searches helped a bit1, but talking to doctors and others who had gone through it before was the best way to get the real scoop. As I lived through the reality of chemotherapy and everything else, I found myself becoming an amateur oncologist, comfortable enough with the facts to advise those who were more recently diagnosed with my own experiences and tips to help them better deal with difficult aspects and perhaps make more informed decisions about their treatment and care.

And now my wife is pregnant–a brand new adventure that brings me back to square one. My editor has just given me an assignment with a due date of August 5. I have until then to consult with experts and put together a game plan.

As we are about to start week 13, my wife and I have fairly well conquered2 the opening rounds of our pregnancy. Having sought the advice of others and lived through it ourselves, we now have knowledge of morning sickness and what to expect at the first OB appointment and what it feels like to hear your baby’s heart beat for the first time.

A friend of mine recently confided that she too is pregnant, a few weeks behind us. I was able to offer some morning sickness tips that have worked for my wife–always be eating, sleep as much as you can, apples and peanut butter before you get out of bed–that I was clueless about merely a month and a half ago. A pregnancy expert in-the-making!

But the pregnancy continues and our fetus continues its epic growth spurts.3 This kiwi will eventually be a baby and want out…And I have a lot to learn between now and then. So if any parents are reading this, congratulations! You are my expert sources. Help me learn how to raise a well-adjusted kiwi.

I’m happy to read any lengthy treatise you might submit for my consideration4, but I’m also open to a blog comment-length summation of your best Dadvice. What should I do to prepare? What do you wish you had known when you were rounding 13 weeks like I am now? What has surprised you about parenthood? Mommies can feel free to jump in here, too, as you’ve had a front row seat to your husband’s fathering and surely have some Dadvice to dish out yourself.

Non-parents…don’t feel left out! You can play, too! Everyone has a father! What did you learn from him about the fine art of being a dad?

Leave your musings in the comments below so that your golden advice can be immortalized along with whatever fatherly wisdom my blog eventually (hopefully) contains. Your contributions to that effort are most appreciated. Someday I’ll have my kid write you a thank-you note.

Editor’s note: In case you didn’t notice, this blog is now fortified with footnotes–a comedic literary device that I have longed for–as I finally found a plug-in that can make them a reality. If you are using a desktop, you can view the footnote in context by hovering over the number or click on the number to be taken to the actual notes below. If you’re viewing this on a phone, I’m not even sure if they’ll show up.5 OK, now leave your Dadvice below.

  1. and sometimes hurt a lot
  2. Well, conquered is a strong word. How about managed?
  3. This week, it’s the size of a kiwi, up from a martini olive. Why do they always tell us the size in relation to food?
  4. You can email me at dadhasablog@gmail.com
  5. It’s a mobile responsiveness sacrifice I am willing to make.

34 Comment

  1. Great Dadvice: My Godfather always lifted me up to touch the ceiling every time I went to the bathroom when I was little.

    1. He must have been an extraordinary human being.

  2. I love your jumping into being a dad before your baby has legally become a person! It’s so pro-life!

    As a mother of four grown children, a grandmother of seven, and a youngish widow, here’s what I have to offer.

    1. Love your wife. Find out her love language and speak it a LOT. Acts of service are a great love language during pregnancy no matter what her love language is.

    2. Tell her she’s beautiful. Especially when she’s pregnant. My husband used to say that I looked “like a ship under full sail.” He said that kind of thing so much that it flew right over my head when a catty, slim, single, childless woman at work asked me how it felt to be fat.

    3. Love your children. Read my two daughters’ blog eulogies for their daddy and my daughter Meg’s rules for dads of daughters. (You can probably guess who my daughters are. If you can’t, email me on gmail using my username.)

    4. You probably have lots of great dad examples around you. Ask them what they think. Ask their wives. Ask their kids. You know, the reporter thing. You’re already doing it. I’m just making sure you’re getting all the sources.

    God bless you! I’m praying for all three of you!

    1. Thanks, Melissa! Yes, it’s no secret who your daughters are. I hope my feeble Daddy blog one day has the reach and quality content of Rosie’s behemoth. And I just saw Meg speak in Chicago last week and she was as phenomenal as ever. Thanks for sharing your tips and for your prayers! We really appreciate that!

  3. Mary says: Reply

    Parenthood is everything and nothing like what you expect, so preparation is a relative term. You can get all the equipment and your child will still surprise you with what he or she does and doesn’t like. It took my mother nearly 8 months to figure out that I hated to have my feet wrapped up after which she cut all the “feeties” off my outfits and I was happy as a clam.
    And, at least from the mother’s perspective, it’s hard to think about the “miracle of birth” 24/7 because sometimes you feel like crap and your feet hurt and your back aches, but every now and then the baby does something really interesting like kick or move or get hiccups (yes, they get hiccups in the womb) and you get excited all over again. And there finally comes a point where you just want the baby to be born so you can see who has been sharing your life with you for the last few months. Here are some things I have learned in no particular order

    1. Your experience of parenthood and children will not be just like anyone else’s. You and your child are different. What works for one child does not necessarily work for another. But everyone will want to give you advice. Thank them politely, use what you can and see if it works, and leave the rest behind. Don’t compare your child with anyone else’s or with any other child you may have.
    2. You will do the best you can; you will make mistakes. Give your kid a diary when they get to be about 9 and tell them to write down everything you have done to ruin their lives. Then laugh about it together later.
    3. Love them with all of your heart
    4. Read to them every day. We started when Katie was about 6 weeks old. I can’t swear that this is the only reason, but she never destroyed or defaced a book, her vocabulary was really good, and she took to narrating her life when she was around 4 (“Katy went up the stairs..” or ” ‘No, she cried!'”) That’s just fun.
    5. There will come a point when you will seriously consider selling your child. Don’t do it. The feeling will pass. We actually loved every age but infancy and 12

    I’m sure I’ll think of more later, but here’s my small contribution for now.

    1. Thanks, Mary! I love the diary suggestion and I can’t wait to share some favorite childhood books with this kid!

  4. A short list:
    1. During pregnancy, I remember being at all times simultaneously elated, scared, worried and overwhelmed. The best thing to calm me down? Knowing that my husband 100 percent supports me in the journey that is parenthood. He couldn’t physically share the experience, but I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive partner. The cheesiest memory to share: We did a lamaze class at the hospital with 10 or 11 other couples. The teacher had us go around and share what trait they hoped baby would inherit from the other parent. Most people were either jokey/stupid (“his love for the Blackhawks!”) or predictable (“her intelligence and good looks”). But my husband? He gave the absolute best answer… “her compassion for others.” And I didn’t marry someone who puts on airs. He genuinely meant it. What am I trying to say with this adorable story? Complete trust and respect for each other is paramount. You already have that down, and it’ll make so much of parenthood way easier.
    2.There is SO MUCH to worry about. Literally, everything. It’ll get to the point where you realize you need to step back and re-assess what you should actually spend your energy worrying about. Like, yeah, it’s OK if my kid eats that Cheerio off the floor. Conserve that worry for things like learning to climb the stairs before he’s tall enough to actually manage or his knock for standing right behind doors when someone’s opening them (my kid is a reckless peanut).
    3. Childhood flies by so quickly. My kid will be TWO YEARS OLD in a couple months. Wasn’t I just pregnant? Savor as much as you can. The saddest thing my sister told me in prep for parenthood: “Hold your baby as much as possible. There will be one day when you put him down and you’ll never pick him up again.” This depressing thought fuels my need to cuddle and hug my son all the time.
    4. Take everyone else’s specific advice (let your baby cry it out, don’t let your baby cry it out, they should be doing this and that by this age, etc. etc. on and on) with a grain of salt. I can tell you all the specific choices I made with my kid (which, as it turns out, changes after you actually have the baby), but all kids are different and you’ll know what your child needs more than anyone else. Trust your gut. It’s telling you what you need to do.
    5. You got this. That you’re worried about being a good parent probably means you’re going to be a good parent. Since I know you, I can also just say with personal confidence that you’ll be a good dad.

    If you want some reading, Jason’s brother-in-law gifted him this book and Jason said it was a good one: http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Father-Guide-First/dp/0789208156

    And if you’d like to know our specific choices re: feeding, sleeping, etc. etc., let me know. I’m happy to share and tell you our challenges and successes with each.

    1. I love everything about your comment, Jasmine! Sounds like you guys have a great attitude and handle on the parenting gig!

  5. Katie says: Reply

    Everyone especially your wife (of course) will want to take care of the baby… take care of your wife! Make sure she’s eating, sleeping, ect. I find this to be the most important, everything else just seems to work it’s way out.

    1. I’m getting a lot of practice on this one with my wife’s never ending morning sickness bouts… Thanks, Katie!

  6. Erika says: Reply

    My brother (already a father) gave my husband a great piece of advice before our first was born. My brother said his greatest frustration as a new dad is that my sister in law kept telling him what to do “did you change her diaper? Did you feed her on time? etc” The moment she identified that he could handle it by himself, things got easier. Eddie and I took that advice and decided from the beginning to agree that we both know NOTHING about raising a baby (no matter how much experience one or both of us had).

    Trust that the other parent has it under control and let them figure it out on their own at their own pace. It took me 20 seconds to put on a diaper and him 20 minutes- but who cares!
    I am not one to tell you what to expect or not to expect. You don’t need another person to tell you “there goes your full night’s sleep”. I will say that ALL of it is worth it. Every stinking minute (and there will be A LOT of “stinking” minutes)

    1. Thanks, Erika…really good advice. I have a much younger brother and Theresa has been surrounded by little nieces and nephews her entire life, but I like your “assume we know nothing” approach.

  7. Anna says: Reply

    Find a good babysitter you trust early on and make time for date nights and time together as a couple even if it’s just an hour out for dinner.

    1. Theresa and I have had a lot of chats about how we need to get in as many dates as possible before the bundle of joy arrives. And I’m hoping my nearby family will be able to help with the babysitting load a bit. Thanks, Anna!

  8. Ryan says: Reply

    First, my practical advice. Forget the baby books. Most of it is learn-as-you-go. But learn how to swaddle now. Practice on a doll. Watch YouTube videos. This is a good one: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=D1DG0J-9FAc

    Newborns are helpless blobs the first few months. There’s a reason they call it the 4th trimester. Learn Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s. They really work. All of this will be crucial for your sanity during the first few weeks/months. And my general advice: patience.

    1. Thanks, Ryan! I’ll start perfecting the swaddle.

      1. Ryan says: Reply

        Sorry if that sounded blunt. Just trying to keep it real!

        1. I want real!

  9. My advice? Don’t listen to anyone’s advice. Don’t listen to anyone’s “horror” stories. Don’t think there is some perfect way to raise a kid….like if you do cloth diapers and organic baby food the kid will grow up perfect. My wife and I were like that for about the first year of my daughter’s life. We abandoned the cloth diapers and guess what…she still made it thru the diaper stage in one piece. My son never had to suffer thru cloth diapers.

    The only real advice I can give you is to try and get as much family help you can that first couple of weeks. It’s a big adjustment.

    1. Thanks, Jason! I appreciate your tips…or anti-tips. 🙂

  10. A few more tips that were left for me on Facebook:
    Even if the baby just spat up, don’t toss him high in the air above your head with your mouth open. He WILL spit up in your mouth.


    Read the baby books. Rest when you can, not when you plan. When it’s time for the baby to come, remember it’s about your wife and tell her she can do it. Be so positive that you should have your own kids show. Tell your child, every chance you get, that you love them and are proud of them. Let them grow into their own person. You had your childhood, let them have theirs. (with the exception of choosing to be a Cardinal or Packer fan) Most importantly, don’t ever, ever, think that you can’t ask for help or admit you don’t know what you’re doing.


    Double check to see how many kiwis are in there. We had two heart beat checkups and only found Charlie both times. Chase was found chillin on the side at our first ultrasound at 19 weeks. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be fun dad so they are excited to see you when you get home from work… Chase them around the house. Throw them at the couch and bed. And into the air. ( wait until they are a little more sturdy). Do whatever mom says. Get help for at least the first two weeks home from hospital so mom can get some sleep some time of the day and recuperate a bit.


    I am not a dad but I had one and was witness to one as I watched Peter as dad to my sons…most important noticing… Enjoy TIME with your child. Make the ordinary moments extraordinary. Childhood memories are truly built on the every day moments such as conversations, play, meals together. Love your children everyday and your soul will always be complete.


    Story time is essential and never be afraid to embarrass yourself when playing with your kids.


    You will get a lot of advice. And it all worked for someone, somewhere. But your child is a gift from God with a personality and temperament that you get to know. So as you get to know this person, use the advice that is helpful, and set aside what is not. Who knows – maybe what doesn’t work now will be perfect for the next one! But even more than all that – love and cherish each other. And pray daily. If you care for each other, and put your trust in the Lord, you can figure out the rest as it comes. And then you can have a drink when they go to sleep!!


    I love this! Here are a few things that popped into my head: Be there for Theresa always, but especially in the first few months. It’s slightly stalkerish, but watch the baby sleep. When you feel like it’s time to stop hugging, holding, rocking him or her, linger a little longer. Sing out loud, play like no one is watching. Smother him or her with kisses. Find what makes him or her giggle, laugh or coo and do it frequently. There’s no better sound. Be attentive. Don’t let technology be a distraction. Put away the phone, laptop or tablet when the baby is in the room. And don’t use technology as a distraction. Talk to your child constantly, starting now! Look your child in the eye every day. You don’t need advice, though. You’ve been preparing for this your whole life and will be an amazing father. Your child is blessed. Get some rest!!

  11. KK says: Reply

    Matt I think you’re a planner – the best birth plan advice = THE NO BIRTH PLAN PLAN. Healthy baby, healthy momma is the only goal that matters. It’s tough to get a baby into the world no matter how you do it. And giving birth is only a 12ish hour process in an 18+ year journey. Difficult to remember in the days leading up to it, but very important.

    1. Good advice, Special K! I am indeed both a planner and a worrier, so I know I’ll be forced to do a lot of letting go in this process. I’m also hoping Theresa can get that down to 11 hours. 😉

      1. Last I heard, first labors last an average of 24 hours. But you and Theresa will manage just fine!

        1. There’s nothing average about us! But seriously…wow. That’s a scary average.

          1. Maybe I’m wrong. Look it up for yourself. But anyway, some of labor can be kind of boring for the father, I imagine. Also, you really do drop everything and just DO IT, so it isn’t like you have to juggle anything else with it. Plus if you completely support Theresa during labor and delivery, it will do a great deal to cement your marriage forever. That’s what a great husband and dad does.

            Also, I like birth plans. Only one of ours ever totally worked out, but it was a comfort to think that we had made some decisions in advance.

          2. Until this comment thread, I didn’t even know that a “birth plan” was an actual thing that you would write out. I think I’m going to learn a lot in birthing class.

  12. Doug Meffley says: Reply

    DO: Read the books so that you know what to expect both in the birthing room and after coming home.
    DON’T: Tell your wife what she is feeling because that’s what the book said. She will tell you what she is feeling and you can silently apply the knowledge you read while simply nodding in agreement.

    DO: Digest “Happiest Baby on the Block.” Highly recommended.
    DON’T: Read the books until the baby is about to come unless you are a dedicated note taker. You’ll forget in the intervening five months.

    DO: Read to your child and play your favorite music in vitro. Helps to give you more of a connection.

    DO: Be prepared for the nesting phase right before the baby arrives. You’ll have the nursery all ready, then there will be an uncontrollable urge to re-organize the pantry or deep clean the fridge. Go with it.

    DO: SLEEP. Don’t try to be a hero and get up for every feeding as “moral support.” Get your rest so that you can provide real support when your wife needs 4-5 hours uninterrupted sleep herself.

    DON’T: Refuse help, from anyone. Or a meal.

    DO: Have conversations with your baby in a normal voice from Day One. No need to go full NPR, though.

    DO: This is my favorite advice we got from a friend…Celebrate the LASTS. You’ll obviously celebrate the first rolling over, the first smile, the first diaper explosion (WHAT DID YOU EAT?!?!). But cherish the lasts, too. The last time they roll over before they learn to crawl. The last time you swaddle them up before putting them to bed. It’s a fun way to mark their development.

    1. Awesome list, Doug. Thanks!

  13. Advice for Matt and Theresa: As a new parent, you will get advice from EVERYONE!!!! Family, friends, strangers, EVERYONE! Everyone is an expert on parenting. Even those who don’t have kids somehow know exactly what your kids needs as they try to live the parent life vicariously through you. The advice will cover every extreme and everywhere in between. “Never let your child cry! They will feel unloved.” “Never pick your child up when they cry. Kids need to learn to self comfort.” “The key to parenting is an extremely rigid schedule.” “Kids need to learn to adjust to whatever you have going on.” Everyone has an opinion and everyone is right! Every family is unique, and unfortunately “The Key to Matt and Theresa’s First Baby” has not been written yet, so the best advice for you has not yet been identified. My advice: Pretend that the whole world is not judging every decision that you make (and ignore the strangers/relatives that makes their judgments heard). Don’t be afraid to problem solve and figure out what works best for you and your kiddo. If you find something that does NOT work, he or she will not doc your pay or make life more horrendous for you; in fact babies will quickly forget all about it and you may even find that the failed attempt will work later…maybe even the next day. In Alan’s words, “Babies bounce!” Don’t be afraid to try new things/make mistakes/do what makes sense for you. (Do keep in mind that most parents are more than excited to share their thoughts and answer questions, so definitely never hesitate to ask especially parents that you really look up to or seem to have children that act similarly to yours).

    Advice for Matt: Being a full time Mom can be an emotional roller coaster, and the downs can be greatly intensified when a stranger asks, “You’re a full time mom, right? So what do you do all day?” or simply “What are you doing today?” It is easy to get frustrated as we look back on our day and see that we didn’t accomplish anything notable. Alan always tells me, “Your job is to keep yourself and our kid(s) alive. It looks like everyone is breathing to me. Everyone has eaten and is wearing (mostly) clean clothes. Today was a success!” It can be easy for a full-time mom to feel guilty about giving a child enough attention or not getting things done because too much time was spent on the kids. It can be easy for moms to feel as if they are not contributing to the world or that they are a failure because they aren’t able to keep the house clean or food cooked for every meal. Being a full time mom can be extremely challenging in so many ways, but with a supportive husband it can also be the most fulfilling job a mom can have. I am so glad that I got to spend 19 months with Tess and 4 years with Isaac. I would have never have been able to get those 19 months back, but neither would I be able to get back the first 4 years of Isaac’s life. Your child(ren) will grow so fast, and if it works for your family, having their own parent as the primary caretaker for them each day is worth more than a million job promotions/raises/etc. At the same time, if Theresa finds that being a full time mom is not for her, there is absolutely no shame in going back to work. I feel like I am constantly being surrounded with people who have reasons that it is best to have 2 working parents…and I am no expert on the subject, so I won’t expand upon this point, but do know that you are the parents and you should not feel like any answer is “the right answer” unless it is the answer that works best for your family.

  14. MaryChris says: Reply

    Trust your instincts. You are a smart caring person. You will not parent exactly like any body else because you are not like anyone else. Listen to advice and take what rings true and leave the crap behind.
    Know that just by asking this question you are a better parent than those that don’t.

    Also, never hesitate to poll parents as you go. We have LOTS of opinions. ?

  15. Stephen says: Reply

    Firstly, congrats to you and the Mrs!

    Secondly, you sound well-off enough to not be worrying too much about money so this advice may not apply to you but I’ll post it here in case anyone else finds it useful:

    I’m 33 yrs old, wife is 36 and we both still have student loans, car payment, mortgage, credit cards, medical bills, etc etc. Money is definitely a concern for both of us and our baby girl is due in July 2016. We met with our bank manager and worked out a plan to consolidate our high-interest debt into a single low-interest account. It has greatly improved our financial situation and is affording me the ability to start setting aside more money each month for savings and unforeseen baby expenses / emergencies.

    My coworker has a 2 yr old and is always telling me horror stories about his wife (who is a nurse) rushing their kid to the ER for every hiccup or sniffle or cough. I recommend that if you haven’t done so already, meet with your HR rep and figure out if you need to change your insurance coverage during the next enrollment period because what you can afford now as a duo will change when you become a trio.

    This part isn’t strictly Dadvice, but I’ll include it anyway: to those thinking about becoming pregnant, many employers don’t provide maternity leave and you can’t sign up for Short term Disability insurance once pregnant so make sure to do it beforehand, otherwise you’re stuck taking unpaid FMLA. And I learned the hard way that that part of my insurance doesn’t extend to my wife.

    Maybe some of this stuff is obvious for many folks, but it wasn’t to me so I hope someone reading this found it mildly useful.

  16. Sandi says: Reply

    Ahhh — for some reason I just saw the tag from your first post on FB a while back! I love this! 🙂 Here are a few after surviving the L&D and the newborn phase a couple of times now.

    BIRTH PLAN — So, we did them with both kids and forgot them at home both times. With kid 1, absolutely nothing happened according to plan. BUT it did provide a good prompt for us to think about the things we wanted and become educated. By having the conversation you can discover whether there are actually things you feel passionate about (like … delayed cord clamping. Who knew??). Related: even though we did feel strongly about some things, the moment a doctor said we should do something else, all confidence went out the window. For that reason, a doula or other third party would have been really helpful. We didn’t use for either kiddo, but know one definitely would have been valuable, especially w/ kid 1.

    IT’S OK TO USE THE NURSERY — Lots of hospitals are very much pushing the baby rooming with the parents to encourage nursing and bonding. And that’s really great, and totally believe in that! But y’all will be EXHAUSTED. And it’s OK to give yourself a break for a quick nap or two while you can … ’cause the nurses don’t come home with you. How will you know when? Falling asleep holding baby …

    YOU’RE THE BUFFER — Consider yourself her advocate. She (and you) may not want the 18th person coming over bringing a casserole to come in and hold the baby. Have a list of excuses and learn her cues to know when to tell people no. (Note: Of course, everyone is different. I became a bit of a recluse for the first little bit with the babies and needed Michael to just handle things/people/etc for me because I didn’t want to be mean and turn down people’s kindness.)

    Also SO HAPPY FOR YOU!

  17. Thanks, Sandi! These tips are great! We are really excited and happily taking in everyone’s perspectives. Incidentally, if Michael wants to contribute to my #40Days40Dads project, he can fill out the questionnaire here. Thanks again! 🙂

Leave A Note For Dad