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First-Year Triumphs

The first year with my third baby, Charlie, was like riding in a poorly made go-cart. As he zigzagged toward his first birthday, he zoomed from fussy wretch to complete angel to major whiner. In fact, it seemed that as he approached each exciting milestone, his personality did a 180, throwing the rest of the family a curve as well. Even if your baby's changes aren't as dramatic as Charlie's, the leaps in growth and development that occur in the first year of life make it pretty hard at times to believe that the child you came home from the hospital with is the same one living under your roof.

"The first year is good preparation for the rest of your life, because parenting is always going to cycle," says developmental psychologist Maureen O'Brien, Ph.D., a mom of twin boys and coauthor of the Watch Me Grow book series. "There will be smooth phases, then your routines will crash and burn periodically."

Thus, the guiding principle of infancy might as well be: Just when you get comfortable, you'll need to change the rules. There are a few constants, of course, and knowing when to expect them can help you across the speed bumps. Here, a guide to the key stages of your baby's first year: