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Emotional Transition from Infancy to Toddlerhood

It's so cliched, but kids do grow up so quickly.  And how many times have we all heard mamas with grown children look fondly at our little infants as they remember that special stage in a child's life?  Betsy emailed us recently to see if any urbanMama's have any advice regarding the sadness she's experiencing as her youngest transitions from infancy to toddlerhood.  She writes:

I have a nearly-three-year-old daughter Kaia and a just-turned-one-year-old daughter Elliot.  When Elliot turned one this year, I felt and continue to feel a huge sadness that she is no longer an infant.  I also realized that Kaia is fast growing up and I can hardly remember her time as a baby anymore.  With both girls, I am experiencing these feelings of mourning (?) - Loss for a time in their lives that I can’t have back and I can’t seem to move past the feelings.  I see the amazing ways they are growing and becoming beautiful human beings and I celebrate each new thing they try and accomplish but these feelings of sadness are putting up stiff competition.  I am trying to allow myself room for my emotions – acknowledging and accepting them.  This is proving to be a very difficult time for me.  I wonder how other mom’s handle this emotional transition from infancy to toddler.


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I also felt very sad when both of my babies turned one (now 4 and 15 mo). It was the end of infancy, the start of walking and independence,nursing was ending, and I realized I would never have them as a tiny babies again. It's especially sad with the second (and final) baby. I think all you can do is let yourself feel it and talk about it.I still get sad thinking about it now, but have recently gotten used to the idea of being the mother of a toddler and putting the baby days behind me. These days I'm just totally charmed and proud of my growing toddler. Hang in there. I think its just a matter of time.

Even though my boys are now 8 and 5 I still
feel very sad at times about how fast they are growing up. I really do miss that feeling of holding them in my arms and nursing. I have always kept journals (since I was 12) and sometimes writing down my feelings helps a bit. I also try to remember to just enjoy the moment I am in with them. I think it's great that you are allowing yourself to just feel what your feeling.

I, too, have had these same feelings lately. My youngest turned 3 in June, my oldest will be 5 soon. I chuckle to myself even as I write this because they are still such little people! I'm sad to say good-bye to their baby days, but I'm happy that they're not in school yet. I see it coming, and it helps me appreciate this time with them even more.

Not only has babyhood ended for me, but it feels like toddlerhood is ending also. I am sad that my time as a mother of babies is gone, but it was actually a really hard time for me, having 2 boys not 2 years apart. I find myself with a mixture of emotions. There is a joy in the sadness because it was a very special time in my life, but I am so happy to be able to do older kid things with my children that once seemed impossible or at best messy and difficult.

It's great to hear your comments, and crucial to acknowledge all our emotions. It makes it more real, rich, and more present for me. I also journal though not as much as I once did...I keep a journal for each child as well as one for myself. I may not write much in there, but I jot down funny things they say or do, or developments they've made. It's fun to read through, and that way I know I wont' forget all (only some!) of the special things that happen during these short-lived years.


oh how sad i was when my nearly 3 year old daughter became a toddler! i was the first of my local friends to have a baby. after my daughter moved out of the baby phase (which i had a difficult time with), other friends started having babies and i felt even more sad and anxious about having another. someone told me that as every phase passes and you cry over it, the next phase is just as delightful and you don't want it to end either. i didn't find that comforting at all at the time, but i did find it to be very true. i have loved all of my daughter's age phases but i still want to freeze her in time today. in fact, every time her language skills turn another corner and become more sophisticated or she does some new "big girl" thing, i love it but also feel sad again. i'm sure i will cry for days when she goes off to school. i never realized how fast it would all come and go. i'm still uncertain about another child--we've tried but it hasn't worked out smoothly so this could be it.

for me, just being able to talk about it with other mamas, especially here, makes me feel more okay with it and also proud of my daughter and my family. i guess you have to just let your emotions go with the flow. take care!

What lovely comments - I truly feel lifted up among you mama's and appreciate that we can travel this journey together. I am grateful for this online forum. Thank you for your encouragements - please continue to leave them. Each story I read makes me feel that much more connected.

We have a one and only 18 month old. I too was very sad when stopped being a baby and was officially a toddler. I that I draw on that experience to help me get through the harder times. I helps keep me centered, and focused on how important the small fleeting moments are. Living in the moment has become so much more important.

We are experiencing the same thing with our one-year-old. She's our fourth, but our oldest girls (twins) died at birth, so I think that's made every second of babyhood seem all the more precious. I think this little grief about leaving infancy behind is good practice, however--it won't be the last transition we feel this way about. Parenting, when it goes well, involves letting go in little stages. It's our job to raise them into independent people who are going to leave us, and I'm sure we all have many more tears to shed. How lucky to be part of a community of mothers all at different life phases, so many practiced in their own goodbyes. I feel like there is an intimacy among mamas of college-age children, for example, because of that shared empty-nest experience, and although I don't look forward to having my children leave home if they are lucky enough to reach that age, I do look forward to the deepening of my friendships with my mama comrades! Embrace this experience you are having now, as it is what makes you a mom and is something to celebrate.

I competely empathize with you! Lately, I've been very nostaligic about my 10 year old daughter's babyhood and young childhood. I suppose that it's exacerbated by the fact that we've decided to not have any more children, so this "baby" is the 1st and last that I'll ever have. Recently, one of her baby handprints broke into several pieces and I was devasted. Luckily I was able to fix it and adhere it safely to a piece of tile, so it won't happen again, but upon completion, I think that I must have spent nearly an hour mourning the passing of her baby and young childhood years. I just sat there on the back patio staring at her ceramic handprints...(sigh!)

I think that one of the only things that's really been uplifting to me is the realization that I still feel "mushy" about her. I've always (secretly) wondered if mamas (and papas) still felt mushy and cuddly with their older children and I've got to say I've always been a tad bit skeptical. Happily I've discovered that although she no longer has breast milk breath or a chubby toddler belly, I really do still feel as absolutely in adoration of her as the day that she was born. (I've got to admit though, that the day that she turned 9 was pretty emotional for me because I realized that she was 1/2 way out of the house...)

It really helps me to read everyone else's comments to know what to expect in the future and to help me appreciate what I've gone through so far. I'm the mama to a now 6 month old boy and I'm already missing the days when he was even smaller. I think for me it started when I held a friend's new baby and I missed how they fit so perfectly in your arms when they are so small. Now with feeding my son rice cereal and other first foods I'm realizing he is growing up so fast (even though I know he still has a LONG way to go). It's good to know this a normal happening since I so often feel like a crazy, emotional mama.

After reading all these comments, I'm wondering if I'm the only person who hasn't felt this twinge of sadness. Our daughter is turning four soon and I find myself impatiently wanting her to get older so we can go do more fun things together. I have sympathy for those of you going through this - since this type of thing seems to fit my personality, I'm honestly surprised that I haven't experienced this myself.

I also get small twinges of sadness, but I enjoy every stage, and look forward to the next one. Of course I miss my son's infancy, but we are having a lot of fun at 2 years. I can't wait for him to get older so we can do more "big kid" things together. If I get to feeling like i want another newborn I think back to those long nights when all I wanted was 4 consecutive hours of sleep.

I remember my Mom could never get through that song -- " Where are you going my little one, little one? Pigtails and pettycoats, where have you gone?" -- without her voice cracking.
For me, the soundtrack for this sad transition is called ,"Be Like You." It is on the Asylum Street Spankers kids album called 'Mommy Says No!' If you really want to let the tears roll, this song should do it.
We get this wonderful window to see the world through our childrens eyes, as this amazing new place. So, even though I enjoy the independence we both gain as they get older, I am so sad to lose this perspective!

Allison - you aren't alone. I have a four year old and two year old twins, and I have to admit, while I love the baby smells and all the snuggles, I am one parent who is happy for the end of babyhood. I couldn't wait to get rid of the cribs, high chairs, etc. I loved my kids as babies, but I think they are so much more fun now. I love all the new stages and milestones. I love being able to talk to them and to find out how their little minds are working. All their likes and dislikes...watching their relationships develop with each other. I love all that so much more than the sleepless nights, endless diaper changes and adherence to a schedule. I am a bit surprised at this, too, because I am very sentimental, and thought it would be harder. I can empathize with the OP, and I hope that you'll find the next stages to be just as wonderful. Lots of hugs to you.

I have a two year old boy and a two month old boy. I was so concerned with each new "milestone" with my first son made and was so excited about what new thing he would do, I didn't appreciate him as a baby. With my second son I am taking it slower and kissing his fat baby cheeks as much as I can and staring at his gummy smiles that have just started, not worried about when and where his first tooth will come. I feel like my two year old looks like such a little man already!

I've found that it is helpful for some to move through transitions like this when they can memorialize, honor, or celebrate them in some small way. This gives a moment to pause and hold it up as a special time, attached some particular memories to reflect upon, and helps move to the next stage. It's sort of what pre-school graduations do for us, right? Ways to honor transitions like this might be with a special meal, tea party, cake, picture, or page in a journal, baby book, photo album, or an item placed in to a special shoe box/cigar box that symbolizes the transition. :) I used to write notes to my son at these stages, and have kept them all in a folder, maybe to share with him some day... maybe they'll always be just for me.

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