I don’t consider myself an expert. I’ve only been a dad for a few months and there is still a lot more for me to learn and experience. As cliche as it may sound, you really don’t know what it’s like being a new parent until you’ve actually lived it yourself. And now that I have, there are some key baby lessons I’d like to share with anyone who may be expecting.

Time Isn’t on Your Side

While everyone is going to be a little different, there is at least one common theme among all new parents: you never have enough time. You’ll also not get enough sleep, at least for the first several weeks (or months). By the time you’re done feeding, burping and changing a baby, followed by convincing the little one to go to sleep, it’s almost time to go through that whole cycle all over again. It never ends.

In general, most babies will want to be fed every two to four hours. During growth spurts and seemingly at random, the baby might want to be fed again in an hour or less. It just happens and if you’re subscribing to the feed-on-demand philosophy, it can be particularly exhausting for a breastfeeding mom. As a new work-from-home dad, productivity can suffer too. You can’t exactly keep working when your baby is crying in the other room.

Never refuse when someone offers to cook you a meal or do some of the household chores. Every little bit helps.

Never Too Many Burp Cloths or Bibs

If your little one isn’t prone to spitting up all that much, consider yourself incredibly lucky. For the rest of us, assume that the baby is like an open milk jug. A little jostle, a little turn, a little bounce, a little pat on the bottom can result in quite the unfortunate mess. That includes on your top, your pants and onto the floor, not to mention all over her poor face and neck.

Before Adalynn showed up, I assumed we could make do with one or two spare towels. I was wrong. Investing in a good supply of burp cloths and bibs is one of the best baby lessons I can bestow upon you. Even when you have an ample supply, you can expect to do a load of laundry every day or two.

Forget About Swaddlers for Dummies

I had been told that newborns like being swaddled, because it helps them feel safe and secure. It reminds them of what it was like in the womb. At the time, I didn’t think I was going to be all that proficient in folding up a receiving blanket to swaddle my baby, so we invested in a couple of Velcro-based swaddle blankets. That was a waste of time and money.

The problem with these “dummy” swaddle blankets is that the baby will outgrow them far too quickly (like most of their clothing) and, as it turned out, we didn’t even end up using them all that much anyhow. Maybe we should have, but we could have been just as good with regular receiving blankets instead. You’ll learn quickly.

Somewhere to Put Baby in Every Room

You’ll be carrying your baby around a lot for the first few months. The little one will want to be cuddled, coaxed and soothed. Depending on the size of your home, you don’t want to make it all the way back to the nursery in order to drop him or her off so you can make lunch or do the dishes.

It’s a good idea to have somewhere to put the baby in practically every room. The Leachco nursing pillow (left) serves dual purposes. Mom can use it for breastfeeding and it can also be a well-cushioned seat for the baby too. We use this a lot. We also have the My Little Snugabunny Bouncer in the living room.

On a related note, you may be well-advised to have more than one change station too. You don’t necessarily need to have multiple changing tables, but especially if you live in a multi-floor home, it helps to have somewhere nearby to change that dirty diaper.

The Issue with Baby Product Marketing

And while we are on the subject of diapers, one of the more contentious points of discussion is the Diaper Genie. Some people swear by it and other people think it’s a stupid idea and a waste of money. Ultimately, that’s up to you to decide (we have one and find it useful).

In this age of rampant consumerism, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed with all the marketing hoopla surrounding baby products. There are gadgets and gizmos for just about everything. A lot of them are little more than a clever cash-grab with higher price tags just because they’re in the baby section. Others might actually make a difference in your life. If you’re getting a stroller, for instance, get one that is reasonably lightweight and easily maneuverable.

Just Do Whatever Works

You’re going to be given a lot of advice. Most of it will come from people who mean well. Not all of it is useful, accurate or applicable. At the end of the day, this is your baby and you’ll just end up choosing what works best for you in your situation. Whether that means you do a lot more co-sleeping because it’s the only way the little one will calm down or you still hesitate to brave the outside world without the safety net of home, so be it.

As long as the baby is happy, healthy and loved, you’re probably doing just fine.