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Baby's Big Triumph: Complete Sentences

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.

A complete sentence
(18 to 24 months)
First words appear around 11 to 14 months, when the tongue and lips gain dexterity, and the brain starts to match up objects with names. Most early words are repeated: You say "spaghetti," he says "geddy." You say juice, he says "jus!" Increasingly, a toddler catches on that he can use these words to make things happen. He can say "jus," and you give him some, for example. Soon he picks up a few more nouns and some verbs to aid this cause: "Mommy, jus!" "Need jus!" A growing memory and the ability to organize words in his head  -- just the way he can line up blocks or toy cars  -- makes this start of a real conversation possible.

What you're feeling: When Debbie and John Webber of Lake Grove, New York, heard their son Liam's first sentence, they were amazed  -- and thankful. "I was blown away that this little person could now express his emotions," says Debbie. "It was so cool, but we were also so grateful for having a healthy child who was developing on track."

Of course, just when you get used to your kids' unique malapropisms and invented words, something else happens. Between 4 and 5, the baby talk vanishes. "'Hang-gurger stores' just became 'McDonald's' and 'breckist' became 'breakfast,'" says Parenting staffer Maura Rhodes, from Montclair, New Jersey, about her preschooler, Eliza. "I really miss her cute ways of saying things."

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

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