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frustrated with my 2 year old and food- where am I going wrong?

(22 Posts)
cottonreels Tue 27-Sep-11 22:30:07

My, very soon to be 2 year old dd, has a tiny appetite. I'm beginning to feel its a problem, even though she looks fit and healthy and doesn't appear skinny (def not chunky though either, 25th percentile).
At risk of boring you to sleep I need to state some times and what Im doing - sorry blush:

She will have a beaker of milk first thing on waking and is definately hungry for that. Then, despite making cereal or toast every day, its refused about 80% of the time. She then loves snack time at toddler group at about 10.30 (though its tiny bits of toast and a slice or two of banana and a couple of grapes).
She'll have Ellas kitchen pouch of mango/banana brekkie on the car ride home at about 11.30 and humzingers fruit stick, then NOTHING until dinner time.

Dinner used to be at 4.30, then I made it 5, now Ive made it 6. Shes just not hungry. Actually she tends to ask for a fruit stick just before dinner, so she is hungry, but refuses dinner anyway. Today I gave her 4 flippin choices at dinner. 1) Pork casserole - refused for 30 mins. 2)Spanish chicken - also refused, 15 mins. 3)Baby purreed waitrose organic something or other - she thought it was dessert, tried a teaspoon, then refused again. 4) took her for a pre-bed walk around the village and gave her a small banana and a tangerine and a couple of breadsticks while we walked around. Ended up with a late bed again at 8pm as all this took bloody ages, didn't even manage to do bath time. Basically two hours for dinner, wind down (the walk and tow stories) and bed.

She had a beaker of milk at bed, so I know shes had enough to last the night, but Im really frustrated. This really is quite typical, with every so often (once every two weeks) a good day where she'll suprise me and eat a 'grown up dish'. Otherwise it seems that all she'll reliably eat are the pouches she sucks on (and only if she recognises the colour on the pouch) and breadsticks, rice cakes and yogurt (sometimes cheese).

cottonreels Tue 27-Sep-11 22:33:46

Sorry, meant to say, how can I do this differently? I want her dinner to be over by 6pm, for her to eat a variety of unprocessed food and to look interested in her food. Her friends will be distracted from a tantrum with the arrival of food, but she really isn't bothered unless its a picnic type item (rice cracker or breadstick).
Shes been a bit constipated lately too if thats relevant.

thisisyesterday Tue 27-Sep-11 22:36:08

my lot tend to naturally ask for breakfast at around 10-10.30 so maybe breakfast is just too early for her? specially if she is having milk first thing?

i would stick with the milk, then try a later breakfast. maybe if you're going out then take something for her to eat at 10.30ish?

i would offer lunch but not fuss if she doesn't eat it.

Do you eat as a family in the evening? if not, then can you?
ds2 is a pickle for not eating unless I sit down with him and have something myself.
I would do an early-ish dinner, and eat with her. ONE choice. no faffing around. you both have the same.

if she doesn't eat it then that's fine, but there are no other choices. if she asks for food later in the evening then offer her dinner again

maxmissie Tue 27-Sep-11 22:58:12

definitely only give her one choice for dinner. Keep offering her dinner or nothing if she doesn't eat any of what you offer, sounds like she is hungry but will happily hold out for what she likes e.g fruit and breadsticks, rather than what you offer her.

Maybe eat lunch at home rather than in the car, give her some finger foods that she will like instead of the pouch, e.g. toast, rice cakes, breadsticks (with soft cheese, peanut butter etc on or to dip them in or even dip them in the pouch) yogurt and then fruit, what about pieces of cheese, cucumber, pepper, cherry tomatoes?

My kids are both picky. My ds (2) went through a phase of barely eating anything for breakfast, he would then have a small snack (usually fruit or breadsticks) later on. He still now only has a very small bowl of cereal and sometimes a bit of toast. he often eats next to nothing for lunch, today he had one cherry tomato, one piece of cheese, a yogurt and a ginger biscuit. I also had to throw away a whole banana and clementine that he said he wanted but then wouldn't eat!

My dd (4) is still very fussy and will only eat a handful of different dinners, we have tried various different strategies none of which have been overly successful. We now basically say to her that she has to try 2 tsps of dinner (and not just the plain pasta/rice/noodles that she will happily eat but the actual meat/sauce etc) otherwise she gets no dessert (which is either yogurt or fruit). Sometimes she will not eat any of the dinner and therefore gets nothing else. most times she will try a tsp or so and whilst she doesn't often love it, it has meant in the last few weeks that she has eaten a few things (in small quantities) that she wouldn't eat before. We also try and adapt what we are having so there is more chance she will eat it, e.g. when we had fajitas, she ended up eating the chicken with cheese in a wrap; if dh makes escalopes then she has plain chicken with the pasta and sauce, we often take onion out of her portion, if we have curry she has to eat a small bit of curry but also has a naan and rice, so whilst she is not having exactly the same as us at least she is eating something, and often something new/different and we are not completely pandering to what she wants. I wish we had worked out this strategy (which I got from a poster on MN) and stuck to it from when she was about two as it may have made her less fussier than she is now.

Eating together has also made a big difference, there is a lot less fuss from dd about eating and I try and ignore any fuss as much as I can. If she doesn't eat just put her down from the table and wait until the next meal time.

cottonreels Tue 27-Sep-11 23:08:16

thanks this is yesterday. To answer your questions: yes, I suspect that after her milk shes just not that hungry. maybe I should just do a bigger snack type meal at 10.30 (we are almost always out of the house at that time).
Im really trying to make no fuss when she doesnt eat, but am pretty stressy in the evening as bed time approaches when she hasnt really eaten at all all day. I can offer at sandwich at lunch though and a yogurt and calmly take it away after 20 mins or 1/2 an hour.
I have started eating in the evening with her. I think she likes it that I sit with her and I feel good for modelling table manners etc, but so far I havent seen an improvement in volume of food consumed!
The problem with an early-ish dinner is that she's not as hungry and will just want to pick/snack on her favourite picnic items. I raelly really want her to eat a meal, some meat, vegetable, potato or cous cous.
So. What if I do the one choice, offer it to her at 5pm, take it away if nothing is eaten in 20/30 mins. Its then 5.30, bath time usually starts at 6. I can really only offer something again straight after that meal so she has time to eat it - and that feels like Im saying "its ok if you dont eat that nutritional meal at 5 as you'll get some crappy scraps of processed rubbish to munch on while you play with your toys" Wheres the incentive? Surely I dont put her to bed hungry at this age? (serious question) If I gave her the same meal again, I swear she wouldnt eat it. Yet if I say " mummys going to take that away now, youve obviously finished" she cries and holds on to her plate and says "no(dont take it away)", but then still doesnt eat it.
God, my stress levels are rising just talking about it.sad

cottonreels Tue 27-Sep-11 23:21:25

crossposted maxmissie - thanks for your help too.
Maybe eat lunch at home rather than in the car, I can try this now as she's stopped falling asleep on the way home form our morning activity. Ill start doing that, and offer something previously rejected amongst other picnic stuff she likes. Tomatoes, cucumber, pepper have all been rejected, though had unexpected success with chick peas yesterday as I called them "balls" smile
I also had to throw away a whole banana and clementine that he said he wanted but then wouldn't eat! yes, often get this too...arrgghh, so blinking wasteful.

We now basically say to her that she has to try 2 tsps of dinner (and not just the plain pasta/rice/noodles that she will happily eat but the actual meat/sauce etc) otherwise she gets no dessert (which is either yogurt or fruit). Am looking forward a bit (without wishing her wee life away) to being able to say stuff like this (bribing, essentially blush). I don't feel like she has that logic yet, though not sure if Im kidding myself. If tried saying, eat you lunch then we'll go to the swings and all I get is waaaaa, swings, SWINGS, waaa, WAAAA. She is in no mood for food once preferable item/activity has been mentioned.
To be honest, I think maybe I do need to adapt what we are eating a bit. Ive tried to be a bit more hard line this last month as the 2nd birthday approaches, with giving her a portion of our meal, whatever that maybe - and it often has garlic and onion in...hmmm...something to ponder on there.

cottonreels Tue 27-Sep-11 23:24:14

Seriously though, if dinner has not been touched, do I really only offer this unwanted meal again and put her to bed with only milk? And not feed her again until morning? (havent fed her in the night since bf at 9 months)

foreverondiet Tue 27-Sep-11 23:29:49

I also have fussy toddler too (just posted in chat as a moan) - had had most success by dropping all snacks between meals. He still often refuses meals but more likely to eat lunch if nothing all morning. He also just has milk in the morning and refuses breakfast (nibbles a few dry cheerios) - we now give the milk in a beaker at his highchair alongside the toast / cereal.

I'd say if you want her to have any chance of eating lunch you need to drop the 11.30am snack completely and also limit (or stop) the 10.30am snack and then she'll eat lunch when you get home.

Do not offer 4 choices at dinnertime. Offer one, at 5.30pm, if she doesn't eat then end the meal at 6pm. If he doesn't eat his dinner I give him 9oz rather than 7oz of milk in his bedtime bottle. Not ideal but I need him to get into the bath at 6pm and go to bed at 7pm. He's probably only having 3-4oz in the morning so its not as if he's drinking loads of milk.

Cut out the pouches (my DS2 age 17 months loves them too) unless:
a) Its her lunch eg you are out for the day as a family
b) Its dessert (eg fruit smoothie ones) after a decent meal

stressheaderic Tue 27-Sep-11 23:31:40

just a different perspective here - my DD is 19 months and just the same. I put it down to her having a tiny appetite. She's 25th centile also, and average size.

My mum tells me I ate virtually nothing growing up, I still don't eat much - just don't ever really 'want' anything, I obviously eat to stay alive and healthy but never much what you would call 'enjoy' it, and I think my DD will be the same. If she turns down a meal, I take it away and that's it until the next meal - she's not going to waste away, I'm pretty sure.

foreverondiet Tue 27-Sep-11 23:38:48

stressheaderic, thanks for the perspective, perhaps DS2 has been listening to Paul Mckenna and only wants to eat when hungry and only want to eat the foods he really likes wink

MegBusset Tue 27-Sep-11 23:41:58

I sympathise - DS1 ate like a sparrow til he was about 3.5, then suddenly he found his appetite and now (4.7) eats like a horse although still a little fussy (but so much better than before).

If I were you I would take the following tack:
Ditch the purees and pouches, even a small amount of 'proper' food will be more nutritious. Humzingers too, they are really sugary and terrible for teeth.
Stick with the milk in the morning and offer a bit of what you're having for breakfast (a crust of your toast or something)
Snacky lunch of breadsticks/cheese/ham/veg sticks, whatever she likes to pick at
No snacks in the afternoon and lots fresh air to whet the appetite!
Tea at 5ish, not so late that she's tired. One choice only - no alternatives! Try finger food type stuff she can feed herself - chicken strips, peas/sweetcorn, fish fingers, pasta, etc. Introduce new foods slowly. Let her sit with the plate for 30 mins and eat a bit with her if you can, keep it light hearted and don't stress. Then clear away after 30 mins.
If she hasn't eaten any tea at all and is hungry before bed then a bowl of chopped fruit and a small beaker of milk.

I promise you she will not starve on this diet. Bit by bit you should find over time that it gets easier.

deviladvocate Tue 27-Sep-11 23:42:13

I've found that giving too many snacks to my kids means they do badly at mealtimes. This is what I give my three - breafast: diluted juice, their choice of toast, crumpets, cereal, yoghurt or porridge. A snack at about 10ish (with milk for 17 month old) consisting of a biscuit and/or some fruit. Lunch about 1ish might be a ham & soft cheese wrap with some cucumber/tomatoes/grapes. Typically just a drink in the afternoon, maybe a a biscuit and/or some fruit. Dinner at 5.30 If they don't try the food they get nothing else; if they try and don't like it I might offer them some bread and butter or a more substantial dessert. Nothing else once they've left the table. I do let them go hungry!

I do try to get them to choose what they'd like, and to help sometimes with the cooking to encourage them to try what's been made. Saying how many mouthfuls they have to have sometimes helps break a deadlock if they're refusing point blank.

At the moment it sounds like your DD's getting lots of attention for refusing, could you try a reward chart for trying something new and give lots of praise when she does; trying not to focus on what she's not doing and more on what she is? Would love to hear how you're getting on,

cottonreels Tue 27-Sep-11 23:55:20

Thanks again for your replies - its really good to talk this out to try to get some solutions (my dp works away and I hate taking up our nightly phonecall with a detailed analysis of what she refused and how long it all tookgrin
I dont feel like we can drop the 10.30 snack as a)shes not had breakfast and b) 3 days a week we are a toddler groups where all the children sit down to snack. Id feel cruel to make her stay away from the table esp as she will pick at it whilst watching the other children.
Yes, I could and I think I will drop that extra snack at 11.30 though and give her a lunch when we get in.
The tommee tippee cup she has for milk basically only holds 5oz. I suppose I could get two beakers ready with warm milk so she can move onto the second beaker if she's still hungry and not had her dinner. When Ive tried a different cup beacuse all 10 million of them are in the dishwasher, left in the swimming bag/sand pit or lost she gets all upset about it being in the wrong cup.
I did wonder about dropping the morning milk (she hate to drop it) so she'd eat breakfast but when I tried it it just put her in a bad mood and I worried about her not having enough dairy/calcium.
stressheaderic thats interesting, there are a lot of family jokes about how I used to throw my dinner behind a random piece of furniture when my own mum was looking. Think I was quite a bit older though, maybe 5. I was quite a skinny child though you wouldnt think so to look at me now
I know its selfish, but we are often woken in the night and up to do a quick resettle and I find that tiring as I can never just go straight back to sleep. I guess I also worry about her waking us even more then having to make that middle of the night decision about whether the problem is that shes hungry.

cottonreels Wed 28-Sep-11 00:06:10

Megbusset thats really good advice. Maybe I should rethink the dinner with more of a picnic type feel but of stuff thats new and giving her more variety. When I think about it she likes the chickpeas (balls!) beacuse she could pick them up. She also tried some chorizo when I called it a sausage as she likes the 10 fat sausages sizzling in a pan song.
Devilsadvocate I havent yet tried reward charts. Do you think they work at this age (1.11)? I had it in my head they were for 3 years and up...
Also shes only just beginning to count and I dont think that saying two more mouthfuls would work just yet - its coming though!

cottonreels Wed 28-Sep-11 00:07:47

Am off to bed now, but Ill check for message sain the morning. I'm feeling a bit more positive though - thankyou

ohnoshedittant Wed 28-Sep-11 00:11:08

1) Give the morning milk after she's eaten breakfast - start with a tiny bit of porridge/piece of toast/fruit and then she can have her milk. Can slowly increase the amount of porridge/toast/fruit she needs to eat before her milk.

2) keep the 10:30am snack small

3) cut out the 11:30am snack

4) give her lunch at home, at the table, proper meal, not just a series of snacks. Start with a tiny portion and build up. Too much food on the plate may put her off.

5) Nothing in the afternoon until tea. No choice, just a proper meal you know she likes. Small portion to start and the build it up. Offer a nice pudding for after she's eaten her tea. Put it on the table so she can see what she gets next if she eats up.

6) keep the last milk of the day of she needs/wants it, but don't worry if she drops it once she starts eating tea.

Give her lots of praise if she eats up, but don't make a huge deal if she doesn't eat. Sit down and eat with her - pref the same as what she's having. Cut out the baby food.

cottonreels Wed 28-Sep-11 13:31:06

Thanks too ohno all of you are helping. In fact its really encouraging that youre all basically saying similar things.
Heres whats happened today so far after taking on board your suggestions:
I gave milk and toast together this morn, she got distracted by the toast so had less milk but about 3 bites of toast.
Toddler group - she had a tiny cheese biscuit, saw an iced bun and went for it blush. Bugger - its so hard when she can see other children doing that... At least all the other toddler groups dont do that lavish a spread so the other days it will be better!
We came back and did lunch - Im afraid it was a bit picnicy, breadsticks, houmous, grapes, a few dry cereals. But she did ok with it and had a small home made fruit smoothie afterwards and a petit filous.
The big test is still to come - dinner... Always the one to stress me out.
So far so good though

Tgger Wed 28-Sep-11 23:21:05

Just wanted to say chill out a bit. They get better as they get older. Now my DD is almost 3 I am cutting back on snacks big time and this really helps. It's tricky as it's hard to do the hungry to eat a meal but not so hungry they get irritable. She's old enough to cope though and I always offer stuff like an apple and water/squash- just not bread/biscuits/smoothie/milk anymore- or at least rationed! About a year ago I wouldn't have felt able to do this though and I just went with the flow re her eating- sometimes great, sometimes shocking! (she's also around the 25th percentile).

I wouldn't try to fit meal times round her appetite though, that's a recipe for disaster. We do milk at 7, breakfast about 8, lunch at 12, tea at 5pm. She is now eating big breakfasts so no snack (or just fruit) and then mid afternoon similar. If she asks for something then I try to always allow something, just maybe not what she wants- eg asks for milk just before tea, sorry it's water or squash at a push.

FSB Fri 30-Sep-11 20:27:19

I feel your angst OP, except my 2yo DD is off the bottom of the chart for weight and has never drunk milk, so I'm being told by health visitors not to go down the hardball route with food until she puts a bit of weight on. All she eats at the moment is toast, rice cakes, plain pasta (no sauce) and chips... And some times a few grapes or raisins. I've tried dropping snacks etc. She'll eat a reasonable quantity of food if it's on her pre-approved list, but would easily miss a meal completely if I presented something which had any colour on it... It's driving me a bit nuts tbh and I'm wondering how long a child can go without any vegetables and very little protein/dairy. I manage to get a Multi vitamin into her most days.

sad

girliefriend Fri 30-Sep-11 20:37:40

I think the fact that you are feeling stressed and anxious about it is probably having a knock on effect. You have to start believing that your dd will not starve herself, she will be o.kay.

If she doesn't eat her dinner I would take it away without comment, maybe offer her a small yogurt or piece of toast as a sort of supper before bed if you are really concerned. IMO if they didn't eat the dinner the 1st time round they are unlikely to eat it the second time! If she sees not eating as a way of getting lots of attention and an issue then that is what they will do (I know this as I was a very fussy eater as a child).

cottonreels Tue 04-Oct-11 19:55:05

Thanks again everyone for all your help and support - yes, I do find it stressful, particularly as the day goes on and shes still not eaten anything.
Ive had some partial success.
Ive cut out snacks, unless its fruit or a fruit puree (She has had constipation this week what with eating only dried picnicy stuff and often refusing water).
Ive offered her only one meal at 4.45. She almost always refuses, sometimes she takes one teaspoon first, then refuses...BUT, then I leave it for an hour and take it up to the bath and offer it to her there at 6pm. Bizarrrely she will then polish it off. I swear its something to do with the bath itself though as if I offer it at 5.50, downstairs, she refuses. On the plus side, mess is minimul and easily wiped up (!), but on the downside Im hardly teaching her correct table manners or etiquete blush.
Can anyone shed any light on the 'bath' thing?

And Im still not clear on this point - If she hasnt eaten all day, she doesnt eat her dinner at 5 do i really put her to bed hungry at 7 with just a glass of milk? I know she'd have a biscuit if I offered it.

HomemadeCakes Wed 05-Oct-11 10:44:08

Please try not to stress about. My DD is also two and has a very small appetite.

When she was much younger I used to get myself into such a state about how much of her milk she would drink, then as she moved onto solids, how many spoonfuls she'd have etc. I got the CM to write a diary every day and I used to sit at home and cry about how little she'd eaten.

But I've really chilled out now. The CM gives her breakfast and lunch and eats really well, so if she eats nothing but a handful of sweetcorn or peas at dinner time, I don't worry. If you add up everything that your DD eats over a week, not by the day, you'd be surprised, especially if you include snacks etc.

DD always has a bottle of milk before bed and one first thing, so I really don't worry anymore. If she's hungry, she'll eat.

I really think that some of the obesity problems in this Country are down to children being told to 'clean their plates'. Someone else referred to Paul McKenna and it's right. They eat until they're comfortably full and don't just eat because they're being told to clean their plates - I think it's a great habit to get into!

So please try not to worry, she's not going to waste away.

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