She just won't eat! Every mealtime is stressful and with floods of tears! Please help.

(104 Posts)
LoveYouForeverMyBaby Fri 05-Oct-12 14:36:09

Dd (almost 11months) pretty much survives on milk. That's it. I make her homemade food from scratch for one meal a day, and a punch for the other meal (plus breakfasts like museli, cereal, scrambled egg, toast, fruit etc). Apart from breakfast which she eats, she will not touch lunch or dinner. I have tried not giving an milk bar one morning bottle and she just screams as she is hungry all day and still won't eat.

She has been like this for 2 months now.

Hvs won't help me, they keep saying milk is their main nutrional until 12 months. Well we're approaching 12 months then what? This is a typical meal planner for us, what am I doing wrong??

7am 200mls milk
9am breakfast (toast, museli/wheatabix/cereal/scrambled egg, with fruit)
11am 100mls milk
1pm lunch (today was homemade grilled salmon, with humous, tomato, sweet potato, cous and pasta, with the following finger foods banana, melon, tomato and rice cake) all she ate was the rice cake
3pm 50mls milk
5pm dinner - an Ella's pouch or sometimes a homemade soup with bread.
7pm 150-200mls milk

So she has about 500-550mls of milk a day and solid wise a bit of breakfast and a rice came. Al day.

I eat with her, I make homemade food, I try to get her to be interactive, I try to make it fun, I try ignoring her to see if that makes a difference.

Nothing. Nothing works.

Everyone comments on how thin she is - she is the 75th centile for weight.

Please help me. No one will help or seems concerned but I think a baby approaching 1 years to just have milk and a rice cake in the day isn't right.

marthastew Fri 05-Oct-12 15:27:54

Agree with the advice about the TV (but don't tell my DM). You could also try putting the high chair next to a window with a good view or a bird table in sight or something.

Another thing that got my little one eating well was going to nursery and copying the slightly older children. He wanted to be like all the other kids and have proper food. If you are friends with a slightly older child, how about inviting them round for a few meals?

Have you tried her sitting on the floor (on a plastic tablecloth) instead to the high chair?

Does she have a favourite toy who could show her the way? My son will do anything that Teddy tries.

How about giving her the pouches for first stage weaning with the resealable tops to eat from by herself? When my son has been teething badly we would give him these to slurp the food from himself. Not good manners but it meant we got some food in him!

DairyNips Fri 05-Oct-12 15:30:03

My ds1 was like this. The best tips I have are, as the others have said, put the food there then ignore her. Even if it doesn't seem to be working you have to consistently do this over a long period of time.

Don't worry about her weight, honestly, its not worth it! She is a really good weight, when my ds was like this he was at the bottom of the chart, so I did have cause to worry a bit but tbh, he is still at the bottom yet he eats well now and is healthysmile

If she throws everything on the floor then only put 1/3 on her tray at a time or 1/2 of the food. That way, if she swipes it there's a 2nd or 3rd chance and she won't be too over faced by too much food/ too many options at once.

Stop spoon feeding, she obviously has a negative association with this now (not saying that's your fault btw, many babies don't like to be spoon fed). If you think about it, being spoon fed is actually quite awful, get your partner to spoon feed you an you'll soon see how out of control it makes you feel. My ds2 stopped letting me spoon feed him after a month or so so I just stopped and let him get on with it, he was finesmile. You can at least try stopping for a while anyway to break the negative association, she might well let you again in the future or spoon feed herself!

As well as ignoring her when she eats try and distract yourself, if there's someone else there talk like you normally would. Maybe have a look at the internet on the iPad or read a book if you've finished eating?

Kids pick up on our anxiety and stress very easily, it's really hard to stay calm and worry free when you're worried they aren't eating enough or enough variety. She's still young though and this doesn't mean she will end up a freaky eater, honestly! My ds1 was really hard to feed in every way but he's 4 now and eats a good variety of food and even asks for food when he's hungry! It's taken a long time to get to this point and I wish I could just go back to myself at that time and tell myself to chill outgrin Please don't panic, she will be just finesmile

She's chucking food on the floor because you react to her doing so, and because it falls to the floor - it doesn't float, bounce back up or swirl around in the air. Isn't that amazing? Let her get on with it.

Agree with ignore her. DS is 3.2 and even now can have days where he eats loads (maybe 1 day in 10) and the rest where he eats bugger all after breakfast. Last night he ate half a cracker. On Tuesday he ate his own body weight in mash. It varies so much. If your DD goes to nursery, she'll probably eat there and not at home - we'll be sending DS to nursery between Christmas and New year this year because he visibly lost weight last year when he was away from nursery for 10 days. It's so hard, particularly when you've spent ages making something that they won't even consider but ignore, ignore, ignore. when you've finished eating, just take the plate away.

Also, don't go too bland - my DS loves garlic bread, loved humous at your DD's age we stopped buying it because of the salt content and he won't eat it now, loves curry and chinese noodles, partly because he can try and use chopsticks.

LoveYouForeverMyBaby Fri 05-Oct-12 15:32:55

I've tried feeding in front of ceebeeies and it's always the same reaction- mouth pursed, head thrashing, screaming.

If I no longer give mashed food nd just finger food, and she still protests ( and refuses to eat (as she does when I offer her finger food now alongside mashed) what then? How long do I leave this until I should be worrying then? She's dropping weight already.

FriskyMarkCavendish Fri 05-Oct-12 15:35:13

That could have been me and my dd 14 years ago. She survived on milk, ready brek, bananas and small cans of heinz tomato pasta bake. (She was diagnosed with leukaemia at 2.6 yrs so I held off pushing new food at her)
Then, one day she saw me cutting up carrots and asked what it was and nibbled a bit. The next week it was apple and so on. Now at nearly 15 she enjoys trying new food and is happy and healthy and complains to me about her fussy, faddy friends!

TheHeirOfSlytherin Fri 05-Oct-12 15:38:44

At around the age your dd is, babies just don't need as much food as before. They aren't growing as quickly but they are much more active than they used to be (so will you be with all the running around after them!) so what they do eat needs to provide them with the energy they need (so bananas, porridge etc are good).

So, growing less + moving more = a lanky toddler instead of the pudgy baby you had before.

LoveYouForeverMyBaby Fri 05-Oct-12 15:43:22

Dd won't be going to nursey until she is 5 and going to school, mil is looking after her as we can't afford private daycare, so she will never see older children at and copy them.

I have tried ignoring her and she screams for my attention - I've tried doing to washing up. Looking at the iPad, eating in silence she jut screams and throws everything on the floor.

I will stop spoon feeding and hope tht makes a difference.

I can't believe I gave got this so wrong I tried so hard to make feeding times calm and basically the complete opposite of what they are.

Graciescotland Fri 05-Oct-12 15:43:39

I'd agree with a previous poster that it sounds overwhelming with DS I'd give him one thing (like a broccoli floret) which he'd eat or not if I gave him two he'd throw them both on the floor.

LoveYouForeverMyBaby Fri 05-Oct-12 15:43:58

Thank you all for your replies and for being kind.

ZZZenAgain Fri 05-Oct-12 15:44:04

maybe with the milk and the breakfast she has enough and really isn't hungry. When she is moving around more, her appetite will increase. When my dd was small, she used to like mozzarella and if I was having a salad with it in, she would reach across and pick bits out to eat. I wasn't thrilled about this, especially after she had refused to eat something I had made specially for her but a wise woman told me she probably assumes, if I eat it, it must be good. To this day my dd snacks on mozzarella.

She is hungry in the morning so she eats a good breakfast, she gets a variety with that already and I think I might try a second breakfast in the evening. She is just eating what she knows a second time and add one new thing to try every time. So if it is scrambled egg and toast, maybe add long strips of cucumber and show her how to dunk them in a dip first maybe. (Also perhaps do this yourself, whatever you are eating).

I think, hard as it is, you need to take the pressure off both of you wrt food, even though this is hard when you are worrying about it.

Mollydoggerson Fri 05-Oct-12 15:46:03

my ds1, who is now 4 was a really picky eater, he is much better now, not perfect but better.

When he wouldn't eat, I sometimes gave him meal replacement drinks (ensure plus). He loved his milk and these taste like a milkshake.

It put my mind at ease to know he had 1 or 2 of these a wk.

DoubleYew Fri 05-Oct-12 15:53:54

ds was like this and at 15 months he started eating. I did nothing different at that time he was just ready

Don't cut the milk or she will be getting less calories. She is thrashing and screaming because you are trying to force it, sorry. Put the food down, Salmon and coucous can be eaten with hands, eat yours and leave her to it. If she ignores take it away and offer a snack later say oatcake and cheese squares. Carry on. Keep an eye on her weight and keep talking to hv.

It is stressful I know but by forcing and getting upset you are only going to make it worse.

OP - I feel your pain and believe me, it can change overnight. My DS was the same - around 14 months he decided to go on some kind of self-induced hunger strike for days at a time, with the exception of milk and dry carbs like rice cakes.

He was otherwise healthy. It used to reduce me to tears of frustration and worry until I read that an otherwise healthy baby / child won't starve themselves if they're hungry.

It took some time - I ignored him and didn't react to flinging food or playing with it (through gritted teeth!)- very gradually he started to pick it up, hold it, nibble it, etc.

Also, I tried taking him out of typical situations - e.g. having a snack in his buggy in the park, or cake ina cafe etc. to remove the association of a stressful place.

Please don't beat yourself up - your DD sounds healthy and she'll resolve it her own way if you keep offering her different things and chill a bit (so much easier to say I know!)

my DS still has the odd pouch at age 2

If you're concerned about her losing weight give her more milk. For now, as long as she's getting the nutrients she needs that's the most important thing.

Then switch to just letting her take bits of finger food thatmatch what you're eating if she wants to and not if she doesn't.

You can use the milk to keep her nourished while she slowly starts to chill out about food; that's the only way to deal with a food phobia really. (I've seen clinicians say "just feed him chocolate bars then, and let everyone chill out for a couple of weeks before you add in a carrot".)

Loveyou - I experienced the same feelings you describe, when I didn't manage to breast feed any of my three dses, and my heart is aching for you right now. You are most definitely NOT a failure - you sound like a very loving, involved mum who is doing her best for her baby.

Please go easy on yourself.

MamaChocoholic Fri 05-Oct-12 16:11:39

I've had 3 dcs who didn't eat much at that age. ds1 I think didn't eat anything till about 10 months, and now, aged 4, is keen to try lots of new things.

best strategy I have found is to back off. No pressure. perhaps sit on the floor (indoor "picnic", the idea being to change the situation from the highchair which is now associated with stress). put food on your plate and give her an empty plate and spoon to play with. then just let her play whilst you eat. she may choose to come and investigate what you're eating - mash it in her hands, possibly taste it - though this make take several goes. this is what worked, eventually, for ds1 with whom the stress really had got out of hand.

the other thing to remember is that at this age growth naturally slows down, so they can survive on what appears to be sparrow portions. but survive they do!

MarianForrester Fri 05-Oct-12 16:12:06

My dd could be funny about eating when watched- I don't mean you sit and stare at her, or anything! But she was much better when left to own devices,

I know it seems much nicer to eat with them, but maybe worth a try? She eats really well and almost anything now, btw, so there is hope smile

DS was huge, but just loved milk! Spat out my lovingly prepared puréed veg, rice, etc, but little traitor yummed up jars. Sigh, swear they sometimes try to make you feel like rubbish mum!

sybilvimes Fri 05-Oct-12 16:14:04

Try not giving her a meal at all, and don't put her in the high chair. Let her sit on your knee while you eat and then ignore her. I found that ds would scream the instant he saw his high chair and throw his plate on the floor, but sat on my knee and ignored he would often try things from my plate.

I found this to be particularly effective if I ate with dh and we chatted together completely ignoring him.

The problem is she now associates meals and her high chair with stressful mealtimes and you need to break that link. I ended up getting rid of my high chair his reaction was so bad!

rufus5 Fri 05-Oct-12 16:25:03

Loveyou, I could have written your post myself (and did write similar ones) almost year ago. My DD (now 20 months) was a total food refuser until she was over a year old. I tried everything as well, ended up with a freezer full of various purees as I kept trying different flavours, nothing worked.

I was really upset and felt like a failure as well, especially as her cousin (3 weeks older) was an absolute bin and ate everything within reach, but eventually (although it took a long while to get to this stage) I just accepted she would eat when she felt like it.

My DD is still fussy and has days when she will eat next to nothing. She is still on a bedtime bottle (as it is the only thing I'm sure she will take) and I don't foresee taking this from her for quite some time.

I ended up just leaving her to it as lots of posters have suggested. I'd set food down for her, if she ate some of it I was delighted, but very often she just played with it. Eventually over a period of about 6 months she gradually ate more and more, until it is only now that I would say she is eating a normal amount for some meals.

It is very hard not to worry but please try to be as relaxed as you can. Keep an eye on her weight, it's only if there is substantial weight loss that you really need to worry, but if her weight is maintained reasonably well she is getting all the nutrition she needs.

Just keep offering her food, try to remain positive, and be assured, eventually she will start to eat more, until she'll get to the stage when you wonder how you are going to keep the cupboards stocked!!

MeeWhoo Fri 05-Oct-12 16:32:39

apart from the advice you have already had about not stressing about meals, I just wanted to say that although DS never got angry or refused food, and he would put things in his mouth and swallow some of it, I am sure that calorie wise the amount hewas eating was negligible and reallyyou could say his food was basically milk. He turned one last week and just before then, it seems that his hunger or something has changed as he is eating a lot more and is now associating hunger with food, not just with milk.
If you don't mind the mess too much, give her some finger foods while she is in her pushchair (moving). Ds still gets quicky fed up of the high chair,but it's nothing to do with food but with the fact he is "trapped" in it, he would very gladly eat more and for longer if I let him wonder around the house with food in his hands...

LoveYouForeverMyBaby Fri 05-Oct-12 17:44:06

Thank you all. It's dinner time now. I've made a cheese, chicken and spinach omelette with formula milk and once it's cooled I'm going to offer it to dd and let her feed herself (which she can do if she wants).

If she rejects it shall I leave dinner?

I've decided to take your advice and give up spoon feeding (apart from breakfast which she doesn't have an issue with) and see how that goes. Don't want to continue battling with her very meal time, it's one on for so long as it is.

LoveYouForeverMyBaby Fri 05-Oct-12 17:46:20

IT'S WORKING! I've sat her on my lap and we're both eating from the same plate!!!

Flisspaps Fri 05-Oct-12 17:51:06

HOORAY! grin

Why with formula though? Just make it with cow's milk next time, there'll be plenty of calories in it with the cheese and eggs anyway smile

Glad to hear that!!

Some babies just dislike high chairs.

I agree, cows milk is fine to use (unless allergic/intolerant ofcourse)

LoveYouForeverMyBaby Fri 05-Oct-12 17:57:51

She's grabbing the food with both hands and shovelling it in her mouth! You're all genuis'!!

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