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Baby's Big Triumph: Walking

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.

(9 months to 18 months)
Those first tiny steps represent a huge developmental leap. Walking requires muscle strength, coordination, balance  -- and a certain level of emotional maturity, too. After all, when you're crawling, your center of gravity is just a few inches off the ground. To walk you need to have a bit more confidence. That's why some beginning walkers are content to cruise along the furniture for weeks. The more eager hike away and never look back.

What you're feeling: After what seems like ages watching your baby attempt to master this skill, the pride you'll feel when he finally does is overwhelming. But because this milestone is so big  -- and so unmistakable  -- parents tend to invest a lot of significance in it. Michelle and Joe Oddo of Troy, Michigan, were worried when their daughter, Jenna, hit the 16-month mark having taken no more than a halting step or two. "Every other kid her age was taking off already," says Michelle. The pediatrician reassured her that there wasn't much cause for concern until Jenna reached 18 months. And sure enough, at the end of her 16th month, she started cruising. "I was so relieved," says her mom. "Looking back, I think we stressed out about it too much. We should've known that Jenna would walk in her own time."

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