I have interviewed pediatricians, OB-GYNs, couples and family counselors, child psychiatrists, neonatal nurses, teachers, EMTs, nutritionists, sex experts, celebrities and everyday moms and dads. In those interviews, I’ve asked them for advice, often about fatherhood. A month ago, I set a goal: Revisit every story I’ve written, and distill every good piece of advice into a simple, bite-size nugget.
Introducing Dadvice, a collection of 90 tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts, try-this’s and skip-that’s, for every stage of fatherhood. It’s the most complete, most comprehensive list available anywhere. Print it. Bookmark it. Share it. Tweet it.
1. You will be the second person to know that you’re having a baby. If she has a BFF, possibly the third. If you’re not really a couple, possibly the fourth.
2. A dad is born nine months before a baby is born. The job starts when the pregnancy test displays a plus sign.
3. Cream cheese and cottage cheese are okay for pregnant women. Brie and feta are not.
4. A guy smarter than you just told your pregnant wife she looks beautiful. For the second time. Don’t get complacent.
5. Ask your doctor about circumcision before making a decision.
6. Learn how to make a good mocktail.
7. Handle the litter box. Kitty litter is toxic to pregnant women.
8. Keep the gas tank at least half full during the last week of pregnancy.
9. Find a good take-out restaurant near the hospital.
10. Be grateful that your baby is the 19 billionth child to be born in human history. Because I assure you, number 3,605,000 didn’t go as smoothly.
11. Take more days that you’re given for paternity leave. Your company won’t fight it. It’s bad PR for them.
12. Buy a newspaper the day he’s born.
13. Cutting the umbilical cord: Meh.
14. Wash your hands.
15. The “dad bed” in the hospital room is more comfortable than you’d think.
16. Take every blanket, pacifier and formula packet they give you at the hospital. You paid for it.
17. Your baby’s first poop will resemble crude oil. Don’t freak out.
18. Imagine being hired as a pilot with no training. “Here’s the cockpit. Good luck getting to Houston.” That’s what it’s like coming home with a newborn. And it’s like that for everyone.
19. The OB-GYN and pediatrician know as much about raising a great kid as you do. Don’t doubt yourself.
20. Stir, don’t shake, the bottle when mixing formula.
21. For poop stains, sunlight acts like Shout spray.
22. Newborns don’t blink. Don’t freak out.
23. Her family will say she looks like one of their relatives. Your family will say she looks like one of your relatives. Get used to it.
24. Don’t attempt sex until four to six weeks after delivery day.
25. Meat tenderizer works on breast milk stains.
26. When you’re sponge-bathing the baby, don’t forget the folds.
27. A diaper bag is a bag with diapers in it. You don’t need to buy something new.
28. If you own a backpack, you own a diaper bag.
29. Cargo shorts are a diaper bag you can wear.
30. Go big on Mother’s Day. Every year.
31. When the sex starts up again, use lube.
32. Aromatic candles and chewing gum will keep you awake at work.
33. Have your partner leave you a voicemail of the baby screaming. Save it. Play it for friends or co-workers when in need of a good excuse.
34. Your kid’s hiccups bother you more than it does them.
35. If your baby is formula-fed, that means you take a night shift too.
36. Diapers are great for buffing cars.
37. Talk to your baby. A lot. Narrate your day.
38. If your stroller doesn’t have a cup holder, get one. It’s easier to coordinate a moon landing that steer a stroller with one hand.
39. Pedialyte cures a hangover.
40. When it comes to making a decision, don’t give Mom a bunch of options and leave it to her to decide. She’ll start resenting your inability to take charge.
41. Travel with an extra set of clothes. Both for you and the kid.
42. Baby crying? Hold him against your chest facing out, and do knee bends. Works every time.
43. Say your sorry the same day you make the mistake.
44. A kid’s childhood does not need to be luxurious perfection. Aim for pleasurable survival.
45. When in doubt, Swiffer.
46. A phone is also a baby monitor: Call your partner. Place your phone on the nursery nightstand. Put your partner’s phone on speaker. Enjoy your evening.
47. If you act dramatic when they take a spill, they will start crying. If you clap and cheer, they won’t.
48. When it comes to raising children, your grandparents’ philosophical advice will be spot-on. Their medical advice will be terrible.
49. Schedule a date night at least once a month.
50. Goldfish crumbs glow like a radiation leak. Cheerios, a discreet, neutral tan, are your go-to snack for car rides.
51. Side with your partner more often than with your mother. You don’t live with your mother.
52. Don’t stop believin’.
53. When a toddler starts walking, he’ll be attracted to things at his level, like electrical outlets. Babyproof before that happens.
54. If you let your kid play with the iPhone, put it on “airplane mode.”
55. Buy a duplicate of his attachment object (stuffed animal, blanket, etc.) online. You’ll need it sooner than later.
56. Speak up at doctor’s appointments. The pediatrician doesn’t know your child like you do.
57. They’re not repeatedly asking “why” because they’re curious, but because they’re hoping you’ll change your mind.
58. Don’t give them snacks before dinner, and when it is time to eat, serve them the veggies first.
59. The words you’ll use the most are “no” and “don’t.” Think of less negative ways to make your point.
60. Warning: You will eat every chicken nugget and French frie they don’t finish.
61. Don’t get frustrated when your kid can’t make up his mind. You gave him three options for breakfast. When there’s one option, there’s one option.
62. Wash your hands.
63. Nail polish remover removes grass stains.
64. Point your arm out like you’re walking like an Egyptian. Put your other arm against it to create an “X,” and spread your fingers. You just made a swan shadow puppet.
65. Spending time with your kid is not called babysitting.
66. Washable markers only.
67. Don’t get upset when your 4-year-old says “stupid.” He doesn’t mean it like you mean it.
68. A gumball machine is a great way to teach your child about primary colors and wasteful spending.
69. If your child is colorblind, give him Oreos.
70. Tell your partner “thank you.” A lot. And let your children hear you say it.
71. Marriage isn’t necessary, but it will make the school admissions process easier.
72. Glue is edible. Technically.
73. A zoo is a fun way to introduce kids to the concept of life without parole.
74. Two dollars for a lost tooth.
75. There is a big difference between asking your child “What did you like most about the museum?” and “You liked the museum, didn’t you?”
76. You will be in charge of the plunger. Get used to it.
77. Don’t call your son “bro,” but “dude” is okay.
78. Keep the Halloween candy out of reach.
79. If you ask your child who broke the lamp, and she answers you while dancing, she’s telling the truth.
80. Your kid is not a little you. He’s a little him.
81. On the first day of school, ask the teacher what supplies she still needs. Buy them.
82. If they forget their lunch at home, don’t pick up a Happy Meal and deliver it to them at school. They will conspicuously start forgetting their lunch on a regular basis.
83. Learn to grill. Everything will assume you know how, so be ready.
84. Sending them to their room for punishment is a waste a time. Pick a spot with no entertainment value.
85. Dark chocolate works as well as an over-the-counter cough suppressant.
86. Don’t let them wear flip-flops on the playground.
87. The “stranger danger” talk will kinda freak them out, but you need to do it anyway.
88. If he’s interested in playing sports, try a team sport first.
89. Wash your hands.
90. The problem with being a father is once you’re really, really good at it, you’re unemployed.