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A Baby-Focused Big One

Before about age 3, celebrations are really for you and other doting relatives  -- little kids won't remember a thing, and making a big deal might backfire (a noisy crowd can be scary). To keep things fun for all:

Short and sweet is the way to go  -- about an hour, scheduled when your baby is likely to be in a good mood, such as post-nap.

Invite only close family and maybe one or two very familiar baby friends.

Scale back expectations  -- it's hard to know how your baby will handle the day. She may decide to go on a crying jag or skip her nap; she could sleep right through the event, too.

Pull out her favorite toys and blow a few bubbles  -- that's all the entertainment you'll need.

Prepare your baby for the "Happy Birthday" song (nothing like a shrieking tot to dampen the moment) by singing it to her a few times beforehand.

Cut a tiny slice of cake, as it'll be a new taste to her, or serve her a cupcake, an ideal baby-size treat.

Consider her energy level before ripping into gifts. Your baby won't notice (or mind) if you open them later, and it's less battery- and assembly-induced stress for you.

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