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Baby's Big Triumph: The First Smile

There are certain moments of my first years as a mom that stand out with freeze-frame clarity. Like the time my then lumpish 2-month-old, Henry, rolled over from his tummy to his back  -- a feat I found so impressive I actually brought him into work the next day so my colleagues could watch. (So much for my carefully cultivated professional cool.) Or the summer day eight months later when Henry pointed a pudgy finger to the sky and said "Kite!" when he saw one flying in our backyard. I swear I can still hear this first squeaky word hanging in the air.

Your baby book's "Memorable Moments" page may start out blank, but those "firsts" rack up fast. Even when you know to expect them, milestones can surprise, thrill, or sometimes even unnerve you. Here, how your baby reaches this moment, and what you might experience when she does.

The first smile
(5 to 8 weeks)
Muscle control and social intelligence conspire for this great event. Your baby sees a familiar, loving face and hears a familiar voice. That makes her so happy she flashes an unmistakable, just-for-you grin. And once it arrives, it'll come again and again.

What you're feeling: At first you'll wait and watch and wonder if every REM-sleep flicker that plays across your baby's lips is "it"  -- the way Dina Roth Port of Boca Raton, Florida, did. The first time her daughter, Samantha, smiled, she didn't quite believe it. "But after a week of enjoying that precious, gummy grin, I just knew it was real  -- and now I have hundreds of photos to prove it!" Eventually, you won't mistake this milestone for gas, either. And then, weeks of round-the-clock feedings and gross diapers will fade from your sleep-deprived mind. She smiled! She knows me! She loves me! What bliss!

Paula Spencer is a contributing editor at Parenting and a mom of four.