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The Baby: Word Problems

Inspired by G.A. Ingersol’s “Test


You have 30 minutes to answer these word problems.


1.  The baby must eat every two hours during the day and every three hours at night. This is from start of feeding to start of feeding. If the baby takes forty-five minutes to eat and it takes an additional seven minutes to burp him and change his diaper, how many times does his mother shower in the first month of his life?


2.  The baby is not as sleepy as the literature suggests. One night he sleeps for two hours, then two more hours, than three twenty-five minute chunks. The next night he wakes up twice as many times, but the total amount of sleep is the same. The third night he sleeps for four glorious hours, but then refuses to go back to sleep at all. By night five, how many baby sleep books have the parents desperately consumed in their quest to get their child to match the peacefully sleep babies on their covers?


3.  The baby has a fever. That much is clear to the mother before she even picks up the thermometer. She can tell just from pressing her lips to his smoldering forehead. But the doctor wants to know how high. The first reading, taken under the armpit, says 101.4. She tries again to confirm and gets 100.0. The forehead thermometer gives three different readings: 102.1, 101.0, 98.8, but she’s very skeptical of that third one, since the baby was swatting at the thermometer with his chubby fist. Assuming she reports an average of all of these temperatures to the patient pediatrician who is waiting on the line, how confident will she feel administering the suggested dose of infant acetaminophen?


4.  The baby is pointing at an apple and saying “ke-chaw” over and over and over again in his insistent little voice. The father has asked him if he’s hungry, but he says no. He doesn’t seem to want to touch the apple, but he goes on saying “ke-chaw, ke-chaw, ke-chaw.” The apple is green, average in size, with a longish stem and some yellow dappling on the top third. The baby is probably:

a) over-tired

b) a genius

c) lying about being hungry

d) teething


5.  The baby’s cold abates, but now something else is bothering him. It could be teething or nightmares or a sudden fear of the dark. In any case, he is waking in the night and it takes, on average, forty minutes to get him to go back to sleep. Assume the parents divide the nighttime wakings evenly. If the father works long days as a high-school chemistry teacher and the mother works evenings and weekends in a restaurant, and the baby wakes an average of three times per night, how much will the parents spend on couples’ counseling in the subsequent year?


6.  The potty training books are firmly in two camps. No, three camps. No seven camps. Perhaps each is in its own camp. The first one says to begin at eighteen months. The second at twenty-two months. The third says to start on the baby’s second birthday. Another says to wait until the baby is ready. Another says to wait until the parents are ready. One says to bribe the child with M&Ms and special underpants. Another says to keep the child naked all day. Another says to gate the child in a room with a tile floor. There are others, too. So many ideas. If two of them are written by pediatricians, and two by child psychologists, and one isn’t even really a book, but more of a blog, whose advice should the mother and father heed?

a) the author with the most letters after his name

b) the one that suggests doing what the parents wanted to do anyway

c) the one with the happiest-looking baby on the cover

d) whatever inklings and inclinations come from their own guts


7.  The little flowerpot is covered in neon-colored pom-poms. There are twenty-six in all. Seven of them are green, four are yellow, six are blue, two are pink. An unspecified number are orange and purple. Assuming the baby spent an hour and a half making sure each of the pom-poms was stuck on just right, and given that it’s not even Mother’s Day or her birthday or anything, how long will it take the mother to tear up before pulling him into her warm embrace and whispering thank you, sweet boy into his hair, which smells like sugar and sunshine and just a tiny, tiny bit like Elmer’s glue?

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This entry was written by Aubrey Hirsch

About the author: Aubrey Hirsch is the author of "Why We Never Talk About Sugar." Her work has appeared widely in print and online. You can learn more about her at or follow her on Twitter: @aubreyhirsch

Aubrey Hirsch

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