This longitudinal study assessed three acoustic components of maternal infant-directed speech (IDS) – pitch, affect, and vowel hyperarticulation – in relation to infants’ age and their expressive vocabulary size. These three individual components were measured in IDS addressed to infants at 7, 9, 11, 15, and 19 months (N = 18). All three components were exaggerated at all ages in mothers’ IDS compared to their adult-directed speech. Importantly, the only significant predictor of infants’ expressive vocabulary size at 15 and 19 months was vowel hyperarticulation, but only at 9 months and beyond, not at 7 months, and not pitch or affect at any age. These results set apart vowel hyperarticulation in IDS to infants as the critical IDS component for vocabulary development. Thus IDS, specifically the degree of vowel hyperarticulation therein, is a vehicle by which parents can provide the most optimal speech quality for their infants’ linguistic and communicative development.