The Transition from Baby to Toddler

Amalia was an easy baby. Despite my own difficulties, she was basically an angel and everyone who came to visit us during her first year was shocked because they never heard her cry. She slept well, ate well, and was generally good natured… We were so lucky with her!

But then she turned one and something shifted big time.

She’s still a great kid (exceptional if you ask me!), but has proven to be challenging in a lot of ways as of late. Based on conversations with friends, her teachers, and her doctor, all of this is very normal but we were so not prepared for our transition from baby to toddler, and it hit us suddenly and furiously.

Here are a few things that changed in the blink of an eye. We’re still navigating how to work through them all, and I’ll share more as I learn more along the way. I’m certainly no expert and am learning something new every day, but I also feel pretty proud of how we’re handling this new stage of her life.

Food: Luckily she’s still a good sleeper (I still swear by Babywise), but a switch flipped at meal times and she’s turned into a super picky eater who has decided to hate her mom during dinner, throwing food on the floor, and screaming at the top of her lungs. Dinnertime is fun around here, let me tell you! But our doctor and her teachers all urged us to give her whatever we’re eating for dinner or really any food that tastes great with two or three options on her plate and if she doesn’t eat that, there’s no dinner.

When I first heard this course of action, I was horrified. How could I send my angel baby to bed without dinner? But let me tell you, I’ve learned the hard way that it is definitely the way to go. If she’s hungry enough, she’ll eat dinner and when she’s not, she still gets her sippy cup of goat’s milk before bed. Not eating dinner doesn’t seem to affect her sleep in the slightest. The only noticeable difference is that she eats a lot more at breakfast which I’m fine with because breakfast is a breeze.

So, I’m sticking to the strategy of not being a short order cook (which I was for a few weeks), and it has definitely made a difference. Her dinner tantrums have calmed down (not disappeared, but at least calmed down) and it is a lot easier on me. My mom keeps telling me to stick with it no matter what because it will set us up for success in the long run. It reminds me of how we created really good sleeping habits for her as an infant. It was so hard at the time but worth it now! On the nights when she’s flipping out and won’t eat, I try to think of her in the future as a good eater.

Another thing that helps is to put two or three items on the plate. For example, the other night I gave her eggplant parm with a side of roasted butternut squash and a piece of bread with olive oil. She wasn’t having the squash but ate most of the other food. I tried the squash again in her lunch yesterday and she ate it all! It’s all about trial and error and a little persistence.

The last piece of the pie which has been a game changer is teaching her how to use utensils. She’s mastered the art of the spoon (ish) and we’re working on using a baby fork which makes dinner way more fun for her. I help her poke her food and say “poke poke poke” and she repeats “po po” and helps me do it then feeds it to herself. Making dinnertime something exciting and new takes a lot of the stress out of it. If you saw my Instagram story last night, you saw her laughing and smiling at dinner which I never would have believed possible a week or two ago!

Walking: When Amalia started walking a few weeks ago, we had another major shift. As everyone warned us, she now wants to walk everywhere and do everything on her own. This is fine and fun to watch at home where things are baby proofed, but frustrating and sometimes even scary when we’re out and about. Anel says it seems like she’s constantly trying to kill herself and that sometimes feels true! She is very curious which I love, but gets super frustrated if she is told she can’t do something like, you know, play with an electrical socket.

Our strategy here is to stick to our guns and keep saying no when she tries to do something dangerous or that she’s not supposed to, but also to choose our battles. Our doctor said it best with her advice:

Don’t ever say no if the answer will eventually be yes.

I love this sentiment because it forces me to think about what battles to choose. If we might end up giving in, we try to just start with a yes so that she doesn’t learn how to play us like fiddles!

Getting dressed: She’s never really cared about getting dressed, even when a shirt gets stuck on her head for a second, but in the last week she’s decided that she hates wearing shirts. Like the second a shirt comes near her, you would think she’s being eaten alive by sharks. The first time it happened, I thought the shirt was uncomfortable, so I changed her, but I’ve since learned that she is just not having it. Once the shirt is on, she’s fine, but getting dressed is becoming a hard-core moment in our day.

My strategy here is distract, distract, distract. She’s currently obsessed with singing Baa Baa Black Sheep so I belt it out at the top of my lungs which I’m sure sounds and looks ridiculous but it shocks and excites her, and more importantly it works.

Distraction works in many cases for us, in fact.

Sometimes Amalia gets fussy before bed and getting her in a diaper is a big to do, but singing to her or giving her a book usually work well in that case.

Tantrums: Just before her first birthday, Amalia threw a tantrum because I wouldn’t read her a book for the (literal) 16th time. I said “All done!” and put the book away like I always had and she was full on face down on the ground kicking and screaming. I was in shock and had no idea what to do but I had remembered a friend telling me that ignoring a child when he or she has a tantrum is the best course of action. So I did that, and within a matter of minutes she sat back up and was totally normal. It was as if another devil baby had taken over her body, and since it was the first time I had ever seen her act like that, it really freaked me out.

Since then, it’s happened a few times and every time I ignore it and she stops. But holy cow, it’s stressful!

Getting bored: I used to be able to plop her down in her playroom and hang while she played for hours. Now? Nope! She sits at the gate near our front door, pointing outside and says, “Go!” It’s so cute until she gets angry when I don’t move fast enough haha.

I’m still figuring out all the things to do with her that she likes out of the house, but hanging out at home for more than an hour or two doesn’t cut it for my little adventurer anymore. We love going to the playground (she’s partial to the swings), or a local nature reserve, and grocery shopping is her all time favorite, especially when she gets to eat an apple or banana (nanana). We are going to take her apple picking this weekend and have plans to finally check out a local aquarium after that but I’m actively on the hunt for toddler activities that are both safe and fun!

What’s to come: I am so excited for this next year with her because we’ll be able to communicate better and better, and her personality shines through more every single day. Anel and I are prepared to take on the challenges of toddlerhood together and as calmly as possible. We both believe that if we’re on the same page and support each other in this parenting journey, it makes things a lot easier and more manageable.

Before I sign off on this post I have to mention that there are so many amazing things happening as well. If your baby is turning into a toddler soon, I promise it’s not all scary! There are so many sweet moments and looking at the world from her curious eyes is heart warming beyond anything I’ve ever felt before. Her cries might be more intense, but her love is too. We get big grins, big hugs, and and big laughs. And every time she says a new word I feel like the proudest mom in the whole world!

If you have any tips on how to handle these or other toddler challenges, please share them below for me and for other moms to learn from!

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  1. Sophie Herman said:

    I could have written this myself! It’s amazing that there’s the “terrible twos” and “threenagers” but nothing for between 12 and 24 months. The shirt thing is BIG in our house too… and I’ve taken the same strategy with meal time and tantrums and it seems to be working. The boredom gets exhausting because I’m pregnant again and can’t always get up and go as mine wishes… Anyway, thanks for sharing this!! Glad to see I’m not alone!

    9.26.18 · Reply
    • Katey said:

      100%! I love this comment! My pediatrician always says, “Don’t let moms scare you about 2 and 3. It’s hard, but 18 months to 22 months prepare you WELL for it.” I’ve found that to be so true. There’s a lack of understanding and reasoning at this age, and so while I know 2 and 3 and even 4 is incredibly difficult- I wish there was a name for this stage. haha.

      9.26.18 · Reply
      • Julia said:

        Right? I feel like we should name it… Like “tantrum-throwing toddlers” or just “total psychopaths” lol

        9.26.18 · Reply
  2. Rachael H said:

    Our local gymnastics academy hosts toddler time – my son loves it! I would check to see if you have anything like that – especially for the winter months when outside time doesn’t happen much.

    9.26.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Oh that is so smart! I might try that here too. She would LOVE gymnastics toddler time.

      9.26.18 · Reply
  3. Leah said:

    great post! have you ready any books that you would recommend about introducing food/feeding your child, and dealing with this stage? i loved all of your baby book recommendations and would love to know what you suggest for the next stage

    9.26.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Feedling Littles! You can download their course online and follow them on Instagram @feedlinglittles

      9.26.18 · Reply
  4. Leah said:

    We are experiencing some of this as well. My son turns one in just a couple weeks. His eating has changed and unfortunately his sleeping! We are trying to hard to be consistent but lately he will not go to sleep unless we rock him. I don’t mind the cuddles but i know it isn’t something we can do every night. I am hoping it is just a little bug because we took him to the doctor and he was totally fine. Parenting comes with so many struggles but the happy and touching moments make it all worth it. I couldn’t love the advice on the no situation anymore. I need to keep this in mind. Thanks for all the advice!

    9.26.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Good luck with your sleeping situation!

      9.26.18 · Reply
  5. Andrea said:

    Feeding Littles have an awesome toddler online course about picky eaters! They have an Instagram page @feedinglittles that share tips too. They always suggest to offer one familiar food with each meal.

    9.26.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Love them! Just got Ali Maffucci’s e-cookbook for toddlers too.

      9.26.18 · Reply
  6. Lauren said:

    My daughter is a couple of months older than yours, so i’ve enjoyed watching your Instagram over the past year as we’re at the same stages with our little girls. My daughter does not like to get her diaper changed all of a sudden. I’ll ask her if her diaper is wet or if she just went poop and she says no and runs away and she has cried a few times when i’ve caught her and changed her diaper. I was shocked by the change in that behavior and now, I just act nonchalant about it all and make sure she has toys/a book to distract her while i’m changing her diaper! That was a fun change… oy.

    9.26.18 · Reply
  7. BRN said:

    Great sense of humor in this post! You may like watching this funny video re: clothes drama:

    9.26.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      This made me laugh SO HARD. Tears actually were streaming down my face. So good, thank you!

      9.30.18 · Reply
  8. Jeanie said:

    It gets more chaotic in a fun way once they are walking! We went through a rough phase with our first when he was a toddler because he was a runner! He eventually learned, but holy cow it was hard. I also Second the whole ignoring the tantrums, because 9 times out of 10 they do it to get their way/attention, and figure out real quick your not putting up with it! As far as stuff to do, Try checking out your local library for story time, maybe a mommy and me gym class, we go to a local music class and love it! I love Your updates on Amalia, she is just beautiful!

    9.26.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Library is a great idea! She loves books so much, she would really enjoy that I think. We’ve done music classes but it’s hard to find on weekends. I need to look again though!

      9.26.18 · Reply
  9. Amy L. said:

    I am going thru this at mealtime with my one year old and can relate 100%! It actually makes me much more sane knowing it happens to others because we each get so fixated in our own little bubble. Thank you for sharing and keep it coming so I can continue to relate and feel semi-normal! Haha

    9.26.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      We are in it together! So good to know we’re not alone.

      9.26.18 · Reply
  10. Catherine Laningham said:

    Man I could have written this article myself! My daughter is overall a very good eater, but I follow @feedinglittles for tips and tricks on making mealtime easier. I haven’t bought the toddler course yet, but prob will soon. Also, for activities my little one loves music class and the little gym!

    9.26.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      They are the best! Also download Ali Maffucci’s e-cookbook , I just did and it’s great.

      9.26.18 · Reply
  11. Jess said:

    Toddler gymnastics and swim lessons have been a great way for my toddler to release some of that energy!

    9.27.18 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      I really have to do swim lessons. Amalia loves the water!

      9.30.18 · Reply
  12. Brittany said:

    My son is turning 1 in December, and I’ve already seen him throw mini tantrums. I’m a little worried about what is to come! Thank you for sharing all this great advice!

    9.30.18 · Reply
  13. Ann Clark said:

    Dear Julia,
    I’m your Mom’s friend Ann Clark who thought she wrote you a comment last week but apparently didn’t post it properly. I hope you get this one! I just loved reading about Amalia turning one; she’s so precocious that she’s going through the “terrible two’s” a whole year ahead of herself. But then we all know she’s the smartest baby in the world!
    I can’t wait to meet her, AND you! Please bring her out to N. Calif. and let all the grandma’s here play with her!
    Looking forward to more pictures and posts about Amalia and you! Hugs, Ann
    P.S. Please send me an email to let me know you have seen this!

    10.3.18 · Reply
  14. Kerin said:

    My daughter is turning one next month so I came back to read through all of your posts and I am mentally preparing myself!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

    12.22.20 · Reply