To Detach Him without Detaching

My son has reached 2 1/2. Okay, so we have a few days left but it is almost here. It is scaring me a little. I can’t believe he is growing up so fast. He is making huge leaps in his development lately; his vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds and he is growing like crazy. He is now looking like a little boy and not the baby that I know so well. He is demanding, creative, tiring and inspiring in all kinds of new ways.

Our most recent dilemma has to do with carrying him everywhere. He now weighs about 30 pounds and I just can’t handle carrying him all of the time anymore. I would like to but my back is starting to protest. I am not talking about just carrying him in to a store or anything like that I mean carrying him while we are in the store and holding him while I am chatting with someone for 20 minutes, things like that. It is killing me. He also wants me to hold him at home a lot of the time. I was in so much pain at bedtime just the other evening and told my husband that I had no idea why, I thought back over my day and realized that I had been carrying my son on and off all day long. I realized that this has got to stop. For the both of us. It is time that I detach him. I do not mean detach from him. He is still my little boy, he needs me, he needs my affection and he needs to be physically close to me multiple times during the day but we are taking some steps to ensure that it is comfortable for the both of us but let me tell you this particular “detachment” process is not easy!

Yesterday we were in town and every time I had my little man walk (holding my hand) he would cry and ask me to carry him. I would smile reassuringly and tell him that he was a big boy and he could hold my hand but he needed to walk on his own. It was not a very relaxing trip to say the least.

All day today my son has wanted me to carry him or stand there holding him for no particular reason. I have had to explain to him that I love him very much and he can feel free to hold on to my leg and I will give him hugs and if he needs to sit with me we can find a place to sit for a while but that he is a big boy now and mommy can’t hold him all of the time. Crying ensues and I take a deep breath as the irritation rises in me and remind myself that this is a whole new step for the both of us, we are having to “detach” in a healthy way without detaching emotionally and without removing the comfort of physical affection, we are just having to move it in to an arena that is comfortable for mom and encourages mini man to grow.

Author: Jasmine Carlson

Jasmine is a community living mama with a passion for fierce writing and fitness. She her way on Team USA by fitness coaching. Shaping Her. ( Join the conversation at (

18 thoughts on “To Detach Him without Detaching”

  1. my son is 21 months and almost 30 lbs and we just had a new baby 3 weeks ago. while i was getting too big to be picking him up i started coming down to the floor when he would ask to be held. i would say something like ” mommy cant pick you up right because it hurts my back, but i will come down there by you”. he took to it pretty well and now that i am often holding the new baby i try to do the same thing or encourage him to climb up on the couch next to us and i wrap an arm around him. i find that he is generally sympathetic if we explain to him that we are hurt or something is painful. i would try telling him you have an ouchie on your back and you can only pick him up a little bit. its so hard when they get upset, but i have been noticing lately that he does turn it on a bit when he thinks it will work and he really doesnt seem upset if i tell him that i said no and no means no. good luck.

  2. I would try a sling or backpack, tell him your back hurts and if he wants to be on mum he needs to get in a sling or backpack

  3. Oh do I remember these days. My first (now 9) was like this. We started at 2 1/2 as I was pregnant with her brother. It was so harrrd to carry her, and boy did she protest this change!

    I used this time of change to encourage her to be independent. I let her help me as we shopped, I encouraged her to stay close to me, taught her lessons of safety. We went on walks a lot, to try to defuse her frustrations of not being carried by filling them with a world that she never wanted to participate in.

    Did she cry? Yes, at times, but just like you, I explained to her the circumstances. Once her brother came, she understood, and loved being a ‘big girl’.

    You’re doing this the right way mama, it’ll be ok, I assure you, i’ve had to do this with all kids, though, none as hard as my first. My toddler (he’ll be 2 in two weeks) actually prefers to walk now, because he sees his brother and sister walking and he wants to be ‘big’ like them!

    It gets easier, I promise <3

  4. I’m right there with you! I have a new baby due in 2 weeks and a 25 month old who like to be.carried.everywhere.
    i dont want to cause any feeling of jealousy towards the new baby by disrupting his life and routines but- i also dont want to hemmorage after i have this baby by carrying a toddler around!
    i dont want to *make* him be a big boy either..i dont know what I’ll do 🙁
    I’m honestly a little worried

  5. I agree with Shannon. Just tell him the truth- your back hurts and you can’t carry him. I went through the same thing during pregnancy, and my toddler would actually give me back rubs! Kids have a great capacity for empathy.

  6. I can’t say I have any advice, but I do feel your pain. At 28 months and thirty something pounds, my little boy wants to be held a lot too. It’s difficult carrying that much weight while pushing a grocery cart, and with herniated discs in my back, I can not justify to my chiropractor wearing him any longer. He weaned from the breast 4 months ago on his own but still needs that closesness around the clock. His big sister helps distract him when he’s crying to be held in the store or while I’m cooking etc. But my back hurts so bad on the days I wind up holding him much more than I should. Good luck with this new challenge. 🙂

  7. I have used the same approach as Shannon and much earlier on because of the pain in my back. I had to stop wearing him in my wrap when he was 9 mths, as the pain was debilitating and constant Treatments at the oesteopath were expensive. At first I felt terrible, but slowly I found ways around my limitating back injury.

    He just turned two and with my particular injury it hurts less if I carry him on my shoulders for short periods. He understands I can’t pick him up because my back is sore and so I either go down to him for a cuddle or tell him to come over to couch for a snuggle. I also encourage him to climb up on the couch himself, which was took a lot of reminding him of “sorry I can’t because my back is sore”. But it’s just something he does now.

    When we are out and needs to be picked up, I put him on my shoulders for a short period. But I did purchase a small stroller recently and it does wonders for my back, I put him in in the beggining and after a little while he asks to come out to walk or wants to be picked up, he ends up on my shoulders and the stroller is used to hold bags of shopping etc. I still find this helps my back using it hold other items I carry.

  8. my ds was 2 1/2 with baby #2 due in 6 months… i started by just having him hold my hand when walking from the car to get somewhere instead of carrying him so he would get used to it. if he was very tired or there was some issue of course i carried him but it did the trick to get him used to it. “mommy can’t hold you right now but i can hold your hand”

  9. My son is 18 months and a little muscle man! I had to stop carrying him once he reached the 40lb mark but he still gets tired when he walks and wants to come up 🙂 A little explanation can go a long way even at my little man’s tender age so although I give in, I carry him less and less. We miss it like crazy and I have to hide my Yamo at home but we are getting over it still attached like mad 🙂
    Good luck x

  10. What about bringing a stroller so you can alternate carrying and pushing him? 2 1/2 is really young to do a lot of walking, I had to go out with a stroller until my older one was 5. “just in case”

  11. Yes, you should definitely explain to him that he is a big growing boy, and it hurts your back to have to carry him for too long. He will understand, and it will be easier on him – he’ll understand that you are not rejecting him, but you have a physical issue going on instead. My daughter (now 3) wants to be held at home alot, and I tell her that I can’t hold her very long because it hurts my back, but we can sit in the chair together. She loves that.

  12. You’re doing just great. Don’t think of it as detaching, think of it as reconnecting.

    I had to give my oldest alternative ways to be held when baby 2 was born. She was only 2 years old and very lightweight, but I couldn’t carry both children at once. If we were sitting, reading or swinging she could sit on me, or next to me if I was holding the baby.

    I made sure that we did other connected activities like cooking, playing catch or just building things with blocks. Anything that involved us working together seemed to satisfy that need to be held by me. (Of course there were still plenty of hugs and snuggling.) She was more “needy” than my other 2 children, so it was easier the next 2 times.

    (All my girls were able to walk a mile and a half by age 2.5, so don’t worry that he is unable to walk. It’s all about what you expose him to.)

    Sometimes as attached parents we forget that there is more than one way to remain attached. If it is painful or is causing a severe problem in your life, it’s not the right solution for you. You just find other ways to connect.

    Hang in there! As long as you are honoring his need for consistent nap times and meal times, you will both get through this adjustment. When he asks to be held “for no reason”, make sure he’s not hungry or tired. That often plays into the need for being held. He may not know how to voice his need.

    Sorry for the long comment. Hope it is helpful!

  13. I have the opposite problem with my 19 month old. She wants to walk everywhere. So is always trying to get down to walk when I hold her. I wore her in a ring sling and my ergo since she was small but now, unless she’s asleep, she doesn’t want to be worn either.

  14. My 3 yo wants to be carried all the time until recently. Whether it was because her baby brother is starting to walk quite well that she can roam around the aisles with him or she just out grew the need i won’t know. but I would tell her the truth that my arms or my back hurt. sometimes she understands, sometimes she fusses;

    I did eventually bought a stroller, but we got very little use out of it as we find it cumbersome to be around town with the stroller. Grocery shopping with the stroller is impossible because I can’t push a stroller and a cart and watch both the baby and the toddler…

  15. I do a LOT of sitting on the floor. Pretty much everything I do, in fact, I do on the floor — laundry, cleaning (yes, I even windex my floors with a paper towel instead of sweeping them so that I can be down on the floor longer), reading, writing… the list goes on. In this way, whenever my daughter wants, she can snuggle into my lap. If I happen to be on the couch (chatting with my husband at the end of the day, for instance) she comes up there, too. Then our laps are available whenever she wants them. Also, I my husband does a LOT of holding her in the evenings… which is a huge help to me because he is significantly stronger than I am. I feel like she gets a lot of “wanting to be held” out of her system when she’s with Dad & does pretty well during the mornings/afternoons with my I’m-on-the-floor-if-you-want-to-come-to-my-lap set up. Interestingly, I’m just now noticing that she is so used to Dad holding her (and his much bigger arms and broader shoulders) that she can’t quite get comfortable in my arms & generally wants to get down after a little bit. Okay, so I’m not really suggesting anything here… just telling you what we’ve done and you can take or leave whatever ideas you like!

  16. My husband still carries our four year old sometimes from the car into a store, or from the car to bed if he fell asleep on the ride home in the evening.
    I wore him in a moby wrap till he was 2 1/2, and he fit into the snuggli hiking backpack till he was nearly 3. It was that magical 30# mark when i couldn’t do it any more. When ever he was wanting me to hold him and having a hardtime understanding that he was too big to be picked up by mommy, I would kneel down, and have him sit on my knee while i hugged him close and either continued my conversation, or until he was ready to go investigate a toy or something. if a chair was available nearby, we would go sit in it together.
    I also found that during this time, trading in mommy holding him, for changing his nap location from his bed to mine worked really well.
    That and giving him kisses repeatedly till he was done with all the physical contact on his face and ready for some space worked wonders too. (he loved it and giggled till he said, “i have enough mommy love for a minute.” then was happy to hold my hand again)
    good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.