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Common Enemies of Babies

By Ilana Wiles

If your baby is unhappy, she might not be able to explain exactly what is bothering her, but she’ll certainly let you know it’s time to start troubleshooting. Whether it’s hunger, a full diaper, or an annoying tag on the back of her onesie, an ear-piercing scream alerts not just you, but your neighbors, your congressman and possibly homeland security, that something is no-likey.

At the moment, I am dealing with my two-month old daughter Harlow’s acid reflux. So half the time, I don’t know if she is unhappy because she is hungry or because she ate too much. Hunger and indigestion seem to bother her equally, and at once.  But I’ve also come to notice that the slightest bit of wetness sends her into a tizzy and the mere sight of a swaddle ticks her off.

Every baby’s got a growing list of things that make them mad. Here are the top six common enemies of babies:


Most experts recommend swaddling to get your baby to sleep, but whenever I whip out that mummifying muslin, Harlow looks at me like I’m spoiling her evening. Once her arms are safely tacked at her sides, she wriggles and writhes like an animal caught in a net, until eventually she feels defeated and goes to sleep.


One reason swaddling may not be a baby’s friend is because it often means bedtime, something that my both my daughters fight like a disease. As soon as I flip the light off, their eyes shoot open with daggers that say “But there’s an after party I was planning to attend!”


Don’t underestimate the deadliness of a teeny tiny fingernail. They are a handful of miniature daggers, dangerous to everyone within arm’s reach. The very first day my daughter arrived, she cut her face with her own pinky. There was blood and a full week of healing. I’ve since learned to keep those puppies SHORT.


I’m not sure what babies have against vegetables but there’s a reason parents have been trying to trick their kids with planes, trains and automobiles for the past 50 years. Newsflash: Your baby knows that’s a spoon. He also knows you wouldn’t eat those mashed peas either.


Babies know what the baby gate is separating them from— sweets, flatscreen TVs, motor vehicles, people that stay up past 7pm— everything worth living for. We tried to baby proof our sockets a few years back when our first daughter started crawling. She crawled right up to it, like it was her newest toy and ripped that sucker out. It didn’t stand a chance.


Few things piss a baby off like a sprinkling of red irritated spots up and around their bottom. Can you blame them? It is both painful and embarrassing. You wouldn’t like it either. Whenever Harlow cries, I go through a mental check-list of what could possibly be wrong. If the answer isn’t obvious, I check my baby’s bottom. More than once, a fussy baby has been the result of a nasty diaper rash.

I remember giving my first daughter a bath and she started screaming. Since she couldn’t talk yet, I assumed she just didn’t want to get wet, even though she had never had a problem with baths before. But when I took her out and put her diaper back on, I realized she had the beginnings of a rash. I think she must have been crying because the soapy water was irritating her “tushie.”

Nobody wants to misunderstand their baby’s cry for help. So when you start trying to decipher what could possibly be wrong, know that in addition to “I’m hungry!,” “I’m tired!” and “I’m wet!,” it could also be, “I want to stay up to watch SNL!,” “Don’t deny me access to the kitchen!” and finally “Mom, my butt is burning!”


About the Author

Ilana Wiles

Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a popular NYC humor blog geared towards new parents. In addition to blogging, Ilana has worked as a creative in advertisin...

Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a popular NYC humor blog geared towards new parents. In addition to blogging, Ilana has worked as a creative in advertising for the past 15 years. She lives in the East Village of NYC with her husband, her two-year-old daughter and a rapidly growing pile of stuffed animals.

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Also, the witching hour(s)! When my daughter was a newborn, we were unprepared for her to be perpetually fussy every night from like 8-11pm. Clusterfeeding seemed to help, so I was basically glued to the couch every night at that time.

But then…as mysteriously as it started, it ended….and we didn’t even realize until one night I was like, ‘oh hey…I guess the witching hour thing is over????’.


yes! The witching hour. Though, the witching hour reappears when your kid starts getting homework….


Maybe many of these are a sign those activities are not needed? Your right, mashed peas sound gross. Maybe whole peas would be more fun, nutritious, and help to develop pincer grasp.  Swaddling also is kind of overkill. If baby is fed and content, their arms and hands should be relaxed or limp, with no need to tie them back.  I used to think my son had some kind of problem because he needed to be swaddled to stay asleep. Now that he’s older and I’ve figured out his dairly allergy (amongst others) I see that swaddling was merely covering… Read more »


My baby girl was born with really long fingernails-it was the first thing I noticed about her after I got over the shock of her being a girl (2 ultrasounds predicted boy!). When she was born, she had several scratches on her head from scratching herself in utero.


and they’re paper thin, too! daggers. i remember how my, now 9 year old, son scratched himself at one week old and I cried because i hadn’t trimmed his nails well enough. oh, mama guilt. and, postpartum hormones!


Maybe I was just lucky but only ever 1 mild brief rash -I put it down to late weaning from breast-only. No solids until 8mo (then she went for mushrooms and olives go figure).

Never used soap either ’cause boobie babies don’t stink. That meant no cremes needed.

The nails and the teething and the will-never-be restrained and esp the will-not-sleep made up for any luck I had!