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Look Who's Walking!

When it comes to milestones, it's hard to beat your baby's first steps.

Just think: About a year ago, she couldn't even hold up her own head! Making the transition from a helpless lump to a mobile toddler requires an impressive combination of muscular strength, balance, coordination, and initiative.

Most babies take their first steps around their first birthday, but a few take off as early as 9 months; others don't toddle until 18 months or later. My three daughters dillydallied for what seemed like forever  -- up to four months passed between their initial attempts at walking and their first solo steps. But when my son, Zak, realized that getting around on his own two feet was a possibility, he practiced nearly every waking hour for a few days until he nailed it.

Even when walking seems to happen overnight, it actually takes most babies about 1,000 hours of practice from the time they pull themselves upright to the time they can walk alone, says Mary Weck, a clinical specialist at Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. Regardless of how they go about it or how long it takes, most babies follow the same basic pattern of development, and there are plenty of ways for you to help. You'll want to respect your child's pace, though. Rather than coax her to the next stage, look for ways to make it fun now.