The Two Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Dad

This is a short list of things. Not because I already knew a lot of things about parenting or how to be a good dad. I didn’t. I’m 3 months in and have been learning the same things as any other dad.

This is a short list because I read books, asked other dads for advice, and googled ideas on how to make becoming a new dad as smooth as possible. 

Some of the info I found was good. But none of it was “I’ll remember that when things get hard” good. 

There’s only a few things I’d absolutely recommend a first time dad learn and keep in mind.

Thing I wish I knew #1: Don’t cling to any advice 100%

I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember everything from the books, tweets, and random stuff about parenting and dadhood that I was reading during the pregnancy. So I tried to find the most important ideas I could hold onto. 

A lot of what I read was about how to get a newborn to sleep since that seemed like it’d make a lot of the rest of new-parent-life much easier if we could just get our baby sleeping well. 

Spoiler alert: my expert tips I thought I’d learned went terribly. 


I remember reading that the best pattern for a baby to follow is sleep-eat-awake then repeat. That’s apparently the best way for them to sleep well and is much better for some reason than sleep-awake-eat on repeat. 

Sure enough, we followed that for a while, but I had to let go of that idea fairly quick once our little guy started to enjoy falling asleep after eating. So that was one ideal plan I had to not hold on to.

Bassinet tilting?

Bassinet tilted up

Another idea I saw several people tweet about was keeping the bassinet tilted slightly so that your newborn isn’t laying perfectly horizontal, which would help them sleep. 

It seemed to make sense since it’d be tough for them to digest food when they’re laying flat and might make it hard to sleep. People on Twitter said tilting the bassinet worked wonders for them. 

I tried combination after combination of books under one end of the bassinet and nothing worked with getting my son to sleep. Turned out he was hungry and he didn’t care even slightly about the tilt. 

Which leads me to the next idea.

Full babies sleep best?

I also read that the biggest factor impacting a baby’s sleep is whether they do full feedings. Apparently only eating a portion of their full stomach capacity makes it harder to stay asleep. 

That seemed easy to remember and like a basic thing I could focus on. 

I didn’t make too big of a deal of doing full feedings for a while since my wife did most of the feeding, but then one day he wouldn’t sleep. 

My mom was visiting and we were feeding my son at bedtime expecting him to fall asleep but he just wouldn’t do it. So we wondered what would possibly make him go to sleep and stop crying and end our building frustration. 

So I resorted back to the basics I learned and said let’s feed him some more. We’d already given him the normal bedtime amount of food, but he drank another ounce when we gave him the bottle.

Since he drank that, I suggested we try one more ounce. He drank that too. 

Then my wife takes him to our room to try to get him in the bassinet and I hear her very nervously call my name multiple times. 

I go running in and find he had projectile vomited (my least favorite word in the dictionary) multiple times, likely because we gave him too much food. 

He’d never done it before. He’s never done it again. 

Safe to say I never pushed the “just keep giving him more food!” idea again.

What’s the point?

There are countless ideas, tips, and tricks about how to take care of a baby. 

I don’t think any single one should be held onto for dear life. 

You’ll hear feeding tips, sleeping tips, growing tips, formula tips, breastfeeding tips, and so many other ideas. 

And I bet a lot of them have worked for babies. That’s why they’re shared. (I’ve got my own flying tips, new dad tips, and hospital bag suggestions I’ve posted myself – don’t hold onto any of those religiously either!)

But death-gripping an idea you heard “should absolutely work” isn’t a good plan. 

It can cause more stress than it provides help. 

Use the tips and suggestions you get from people, but don’t hold onto an idea as a silver bullet just because someone said it was good. 

I learned that’s a great way to just stress yourself out. 

Thing I wish I knew #2: Expect to be constantly uncomfortable

Being a new parent comes with countless new things to learn. 

One of the first things I had to learn was how to sleep on a small rubber couch in the hospital for multiple nights. Not to mention all the pregnancy and birth related things I learned before that. (I do have some suggestions on how to prepare for labor as a dad and thoughts on what labor was like if you’re interested.)

And I knew becoming a dad would be challenging and I’d have to learn. But I wish I’d seen the below picture from Justin Welsh more often. It’s good enough you’ll find it elsewhere on this site too.

Before becoming a dad: expect to be uncomfortable

Any time you’re outside your comfort zone in life, you get to make a choice.

You can choose to hate it. And be frustrated. And pout. And believe it’s terrible. 

Or you can embrace it. And realize you’re growing. And getting an opportunity to learn. And believe that feeling uncomfortable isn’t a bad thing.

You can even choose to flip flop between those options or be somewhere in the middle of them. 

Here’s the picture again. 

Before becoming a dad: expect to be uncomfortable

I don’t know what you’ll choose.

But I do know you’ll be uncomfortable. A lot.

In the last few months I’ve realized that becoming a parent has forced me to spend considerable amounts of time feeling uncomfortable.

I knew so so little about pregnancy, birth, newborns, diapers, newborn doctors appointments, and what the color of a baby’s poop means. 

And I still don’t know much. But I know more than I did a year ago when we first learned we were pregnant. 

And I think I would have made things a lot easier on myself if I spent more time holding onto the idea that it’s ok to be uncomfortable and just embrace the learning.  

With each day my son gets older, I realize how little I know about the next challenges I’ll run into. And that’s normal. 

So I’ll be working on remembering to embrace the learning when I’m uncomfortable and I hope you do too.

P.S. On a more practical note…

The Taking Cara Babies sleep courses get hyped up by tons of people. And those tons of people are right. My wife and I have found lots of helpful things in them. I wouldn’t expect everything in them to work perfectly (seemingly like anything else in parenting), but I’d definitely recommend them.