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Is 16mo too young to go without if she refuses dinner?

(46 Posts)
TiredofZombies Fri 30-Nov-12 21:31:33

DD is 16mo and has a good appetite normally, I'd say she's generally a good eater. Other times, like tonight, she tries one mouthful and spits it down her front (things that I KNOW she likes). And it's only at dinner time, never at breakfast and very rarely at lunch. As an example, I made a beef stew yesterday, she absolutely refused to have it for dinner, but couldn't get enough when I reheated some for today's lunch.

As a bit of background, this is what she usually eats:

7.30 - a toast soldier or two (out of half a slice cut into four soldiers)
9.00 - weetabix (usually one and a half) around 9am.
12.00 / 1.00 - Cheese / dried fruit / cold meat / sandwich / breadsticks / a banana (usually two or three out of those, not the lot!), or leftovers from the previous day.
5.30 or 6.00 - Dinner is either pasta-based, meat & veg with mash, stir fry with rice or noodles, or if I can't be arsed, burgers, chips & spaghetti hoops. (Thinking about it, the latter has NEVER been spat out.)
7.00 - Milk, about 180ml, 50/50 toddler milk and full fat cows milk.

She drinks a lot of juice through the day, it's sometimes dilute squash, sometimes fresh fruit juice, she won't entertain drinking water. She doesn't normally have snacks.

We always eat as a family at lunch and dinner, and I don't want to get into that thing of cooking different dinners for her and for us. I know that I need to try and just not react, not make a big deal of it. So far I've thought she is too young to go without dinner if she decides not to eat it, so have given her something else, but I suspect that she refusing dinner in the knowledge that she'll get a banana or a yoghurt or something.

At 16mo, is she too young for me to remove it and not offer an alternative?

TiredofZombies Wed 05-Dec-12 23:04:01

I'm glad I'm not alone! I suspect she is teething after all, as she had a bad night last night and has got a bit of nappy rash. I have drastically cut down the amount of juice yesterday and today, and she has had more milk today.

I think it's also an independence thing, as she seems happier to eat if she can do it herself. She's pretty good with a spoon, but sometimes prefers to just get stuck in with her fingers.

Tonight was ok, she ate a decent amount - I'm glad tomato-based pasta sauces are still acceptable, if she stars rejecting those I'll really be stuck!

Cupcakemummy85 Wed 05-Dec-12 18:37:26

I'm experiencing the same with my dd who is 17 months. I dread dinner times an have no idea what to do. Last night he refused dinner so it was baby crisps and fruit and tonight she ate three bits of pasta and half a yogurt. It's frustrating and I totally know how u feel. If it wasn't for my dd dunking milk I don't think she would get enough calories.

catkind Tue 04-Dec-12 20:18:07

That's a looong time between lunch and dinner without a snack. Both my 9 mo and 3 yr old would get pretty grumpy. Toddlers naturally eat little and often. Maybe if you added a couple of snacking opportunities in then you could be more relaxed about the big meals.
But also, we found that the amount DS wanted to eat at that age varied wildly from day to day and week to week. Some weeks he seemed to live happily off air and milk. Others he was packing away ridiculous amounts. Some weeks he mostly ate veg, others mostly carbs. They do growth spurts big time, and are pretty good at regulating their own diet to what they need if you leave them to it.
But generally, yes, if either of mine don't want tea i just take it they're not hungry at that time. She's getting milk before bed anyway, so she's not going to bed hungry. We used to offer a rice cake or similar with bedtime milk at that sort of age.
Btw nothing wrong with eating rice grain by grain - very good for the fine motor skills!

justanuthermanicmumsday Tue 04-Dec-12 19:52:26

I think you're beating yourself up too much, I know how you feel as do most parents here.

just a note are you giving her milk in between meals because she is still young, she can have a tiny bit after her solid girl is 2 now she has a bit of milk during her morning nap and then some at bedtime.

Kids are fussy especially when they're as young as yours my daughter still is. Things sort themselves out once they reach nursery age and follow a similar routine and eating patterin as the adults. She really is too young to eat at the same time as adults. Also dependent on her character she may not like what the adults are eating, the tastes may be too strong for her? I'm south Asian I know when my daughter was your daughters age I wouldn't give her the food I eat, it's too spicy and hot for her. Some days I'd give her separate food, pasta was a fave, but some days shed eat the same as me, only I'd add a few drops of the sauce to add flavour without killing her. I'd pick out the meat and give her the boiled rice with it which she loved. So do you think any of your food may be too strong for her taste I.e gravy can be strong, certain stir fry sauces are strong too etc. so adjust the adult meals for her. I know it's hard to always make separate meals,and frustrating if the kid turns around and throws the food n the floor.

My daughter still has days where she won't eat, sometimes she's being fussy, sometimes unwell, and sometimes it's because she's had a snack before dinner.

Is your daughter getting too man snacks before dinner? Yo haven't mentioned an snacks before dinner, and that is a huge time gap. Like you said it may also be the drink making her feel like she's full when she's not.

Bottom line don't worry, you're always offering her food if she is hungry she will eat. If it's the last meal of the day, give her a good portion of milk before bed she will be fine, relax she will improve with age smile

Zimbah Tue 04-Dec-12 19:29:12

I don't think at 16 months they're old enough to really understand about eating the main course before pudding. They go through such fads at this age, one day they're ravenous and then they might go for a week hardly eating anything. I agree with the posters who suggest offering something plain if she doesn't want the original meal - I tend to offer plain rice cakes, bread sticks, or bread and butter if DD (18mo) doesn't want her dinner, or sometimes she'll just like eating some peas. And then go to the yoghurt/fruit option after that. We've just had about 2 weeks of DD mainly eating only rice cakes and breadsticks as she's been ill but is going back onto other food quite happily now.

LookingForNewName Mon 03-Dec-12 21:58:22

I too think she isn't terribly hungry, I would just leaver her to it if you all eat together, encourage her to eat but don't make a big deal, just be accepting if she plays and doesn't eat. Then offer toast or biscuit before bed.

RandallPinkFloyd Mon 03-Dec-12 21:47:16

Oh my DS won't eat anything hot when he's teething.

He'll still eat his breakfast and lunch but refuses all teas until it wears off.

A trick I've used is to make a batch of something I know he likes. So whatever you gave her today, make a big pile of it and put it in the freezer.

Then if she has more than 2 days of not eating her tea give her that the next day. A couple of days won't do any harm but you'll feel a bit more relaxed because you'll know you have something in reserve for he third day iyswim.

TiredofZombies Mon 03-Dec-12 20:14:44

Thank you everyone, and apologies Schro for snapping.

She has eaten dinner fine tonight, couldn't put it away fast enough actually. She has only had juice in the morning though, and then I hid her cup. If she sees her cup, she wants juice, she guzzles half of it and then starts using it like a vinegar bottle, sprinkling everything. I will definitely keep an eye on this, will probably switch over to water.

I will also think about offering fruit later on, separate from the meal, so she doesn't think of it as being instead of dinner.

It's possible she's teething again, she still has a couple to come through.

SchroSawMummyRidingSantaClaus Mon 03-Dec-12 19:30:56

Thanks Randall.

I really didn't mean to offend you and as has already been said, her not liking what you have/are cooking doesn't really reflect how you cook, just what she feels like. Sorry if it came across lke that.

I honestly think your problem would be far lessened if you tried to give her dinner earlier or swap lunch and dinner meals around but you obviously don't want to do that.

For what it's worth, you seem to be stressing yourself out far more by creating problems and obstacles about the damage you think you would be doing if you try other options than you would be if you just tried to maybe meet her half way.

You could always have the same as her, just earlier. Or don't eat at the same time as her. There's always time for proper rules when she is a bit older, she is still really young atm.

Mines is 14 months, I know it can be hard but the more you worry about what the outcome of trying other things will be, the harder you will make it in the long run.

Taking away juice is a brilliant idea btw, if her tummy is completely empty come mealtimes she will eat.

CelineMcBean Mon 03-Dec-12 18:42:47

Yy toddler fads are absolutely no reflection on your cooking. I am a good cook but my dc won't touch most of my food (they won't eat anything with a sauce ffs) but think a plate of beige oven food Kerry Katona would be proud of is culinary heaven hmm

hazelnutlatte Mon 03-Dec-12 17:48:13

I'm having similar problems except it's lunch that my dd is most likely to refuse. I'm trying my best to just not worry about it, as long as she is eating 2 meals a day she isn't going to starve! I sometimes give her fruit or yogurt when she refuses lunch, but not always. She doesn't get upset if I give her nothing and will happily last until 3ish when I give her a snack. She occasionaly refuses dinner and I just give her more milk than usual before bed.

nextphase Mon 03-Dec-12 17:45:28

I think your offering bread, or something else equally filling but boring is a really good way to go. Crackers or bread sticks are also offered if meals are rejected (tho I'll top it up if its something new they don't like).

We will also offer a bowl of poridge or a banana an hour or so later (shortly before bed) if we think they might still be hungry.

And start enjoying cooking again - better still, can she help you? My 18 month old has pealed an apple (hmm, stabbed it and eaten the rest!), and then made biscuits, which he mixed, rolled and used the cutters for. Also enjoys grating things.

RandallPinkFloyd Mon 03-Dec-12 17:43:40

Their, not they're blush

<<crawls back into hole as Chipping said it way better than me anyway>>

RandallPinkFloyd Mon 03-Dec-12 17:41:11

TBH OP I do think you're over-thinking it.

And I really don't think Schro meant any offence at all, I thought her post was helpful.

Anyway what's obvious is that you are finding this very hard and it's making you very stressed.

Unfortunately your DD is at the age where it is very common to start having issues with food.

They're taste buds change dramatically during this year and they are also learning that they have a choice and are not just blindly eating whatever you put in front of them.

My DS is the same age and he certainly has moments similar to the ones you describe. He eats breakfast and lunch perfectly but tea time can be a lot more tricky.

He's gone off some things he used to like but has also started liking new things. It's hard because they're not old enough to tell you until it's put in front of them!

I completely understand how frustrating it is but I do think you need to take a step back. Her not liking what you cooked doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your cooking, it just means she didn't like what you gave her.

I'm no expert but all I would say is try not to get upset. She's still a baby, the last thing you want is for mealtimes to become something you all dread.

Keep offering her different things but if she doesn't eat it give her something plain to fill her up. Then offer whatever fruit/yoghurt she would normally have in the quantity she would normally have it. That way you're not replacing savoury with sweet.

And give yourself a break, there's millions of us in the same boat smile

ChippingInLovesAutumn Mon 03-Dec-12 17:27:03

Maybe she's quite tired by then and some of the things you are offering her are a bit fussy/rich/strongly flavoured? Try separating things out and giving her a little pot of the sauce/gravy that she can dip into if she wants.

I think 16m is too little to 'go without' if she doesn't want what you are having. There are lots of easy things you could make or give her without resorting to dry bread - that's a bit mean.

I know it's hard & frustrating - but I'd just put that meal in the fridge for tomorrow and give her something else, this stage doesn't last forever - she'll soon be old enough for you to say 'It's this or nothing' & to be able to tell you why she doesn't like it <today>.

CelineMcBean Mon 03-Dec-12 17:24:47

Just wanted to add that some babies do just get a bit faddy at around 16-18 months. They are pushing your boundaries and asserting themselves... just wait for the terrible-twos! They do grow out of the temper tantrums and the food fads. I used to give extra milk at bedtime if we had had a particularly bad food day.

Also, it's quite a long time 1.30-5.30/6 without something to eat. Could you maybe try giving her the previous night's dinner heated up at lunch time and the bits you currently give her for lunch at about 4.30/5ish? My dc tend to eat more at 2.30/3 and prefer a snack at 11ish and then tea at 5/5.30ish but the norm among friends seems to be big lunch then tea.

AmberLeaf Mon 03-Dec-12 17:23:44

In the nicest possible way...relax, she really won't starve!

I agree with the PP who said maybe she just isn't hungry at that time?

I think you should cut out the juice completely though. She will take water once she learns that there will be no more juice! she probably drinks so much of it because it tastes nice, water isn't tasty so she probably wouldnt drink as much of it and her tummy won't be as full from it.

Another thing Im wondering about is teething, does she have her molars yet? I found all three of mine went a bit funny about food when their back teeth were coming through.

TiredofZombies Mon 03-Dec-12 17:19:34

Forever It's about 50/50. With her breakfast, she can mostly do it herself, and if she's eating finger foods we let her get on with it. She does seem to prefer to do it herself. If she's rejected something once though, no amount of encouraging her to do it herself will change her mind. It depends what it is, how we approach feeding.

TiredofZombies Mon 03-Dec-12 17:12:01

FredFred you talk a lot of sense, thank you. I meant she needs more than just breakfast and lunch. If we were talking just one day here and there I wouldn't worry about it, it's just the fact that it's getting to be most evenings, and I'd obviously prefer her not to wake in the night due to hunger.

I understand about her eating things because they're nice, rather than because she's hungry. That's why I don't go for the "offer pudding anyway" theory. Hell, I'd manage some pudding, hungry or not! Who wouldn't?

I know I have a tendency to second-guess myself, so I just end up going over all the possible options and their potential outcomes, and coming out even more uncertain than ever. I know I am probably over thinking it.

forevergreek Mon 03-Dec-12 17:05:12

Are you feeding her or letting her fee and regulate quantities herself? It's jut that from about 9 months here they wouldn't even eat yogurt with help but give them a spoon and they are happy to get on with it

FredFredGeorge Mon 03-Dec-12 17:01:40

Why do you think she "needs more to eat" If she's refusing food she usually eats, then she's likely "not hungry", now yes that may mean that she's hungry later, but I fail to see how giving her food that she eats despite being not hungry (food she finds highly palatable) is conducive to learning good food habits.

Animals control their eating through various hormones and triggers on those hormones - e.g. fat releases leptin in proportion to the amount in the body, and hunger is triggered depending on if this is more or less than previous levels, the stomach fills up and the brain is signalled that food is there so hunger reduces etc.

But they also eat because of pleasure rewards - chocolate tastes nice so we eat more chocolate - it's why no matter how "stuffed" you feel after a big meal you can still eat a dessert or a wafer thin mint. The hunger (feeling stuffed) is irrelevant as it's the pleasure circuits which are letting the body eat.

So what could be happening is that your DD isn't hungry so doesn't eat (a good thing) but then you give her food she finds highly palatable so she eats it anyway (a bad thing leading to over-eating and excess calories consumed).

Let her eat if she's hungry, don't if she's not - she won't starve herself unless she is 1 in a million baby with various disorders that you would almost certainly have already discovered by now.

TiredofZombies Mon 03-Dec-12 16:44:51

Thanks for that Schro. Did it sound like I didn't feel quite shitty enough?

No, I am confident it is not my cooking that's at fault. As I mentioned before, earlier in the week she refused something for dinner yet ate it happily the next day for lunch. She is also rejecting foods I know she likes. She normally loves meaty stews, savoury mince & mash, that kind of thing. Which is why I'm at a loss when she rejects those too.

I realise she is young and needs more to eat, but if I give in and just feed her the things she likes (which clearly doesn't work as she spits out things she likes too) that will just encourage her, won't it?

I used to be a big foodie, I loved cooking, couldn't wait to try new ingredients or techniques. These days when I sit down to plan the week's meals I just end up staring at a piece of paper and feel like crying.

SchroSawMummyRidingSantaClaus Mon 03-Dec-12 16:07:25

Are you sure she just doesn't like your cooking? Last night she was hungry, she just didn't want to eat what you had made.

Cheese and meats (try some bread and maybe egg too) would be a good healthy alternative, ditch the yogurts until she starts eating in a proper routine, these might just give her a sweet tooth.

Just curious, do you let her play with her food before you try to feed it to her?

She is quite young and she does need to eat more than breakfast and a light lunch.

TiredofZombies Mon 03-Dec-12 15:27:43

DD woke up at 5.30am because she was hungry. (She'd normally sleep til at least 7.00.) DP got her a bottle and she went back to sleep and slept til 9.30. I went to wake her at 9 but she was still deeply asleep so I left her, figured she must need it. So breakfast was late, so I did lunch at 1.30, I reheated last night's dinner and she had about 5 spoonfulls before deciding it was unacceptable. Unusual for her to reject lunch, but right now, unsurprising. I gave her a banana.

I just don't know how best to tackle it. Cheerfully keep providing an endless supply of alternatives until she deigns to eat something? (Thus giving the message that she can have whatever she likes and if she doesn't want to eat it she can just spit it out and mummy will run off and fetch something else.) Or don't even attempt proper meals, just go straight to sliced sausage, bananas, cheese and yoghurts? (Guaranteeing that she will either start to eat ONLY those, or that she'll then reject those as well.)

I am at my wits end, it drives me crazy when I rack my brains thinking of things she'll like and it just ends up spat out. I know she isn't doing it deliberately, and she has no concept of how hard I'm trying to please her, but right now it just feels like nothing is good enough. It's other general toddler stuff too, but the rest of it I can deal with, the food thing bothers me most though as I don't want to set up problems for the future, or create issues surrounding food. It's hard to not make a fuss when you feel like slinging yet another rejected dinner at the wall and screaming "don't bloody well eat it then!"

itsatiggerday Mon 03-Dec-12 13:16:33

I do as littone does - no hassle, they still develop tastes that mean they'll eat out with us without requiring a kiddie menu and they get their main meal at lunch time. Does seem to suit them better generally, so maybe worth a try.

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