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Toddler Food Refusal.

(34 Posts)
PastaandCheese Wed 05-Feb-14 13:12:20

2.3 DD will only eat:

Pasta with various sauces
All fruit inc dried
Ham / cheese / toast
Any sweet treat I give her on occasion.

Until she was about 18 mths she ate everything I cooked. She eats everything put in front of her 3 days a week at nursery. I've tried reproducing their recipes but she just screams and won't even try it.

I have had great advice about still serving the things she claims not to like and not reacting or offering alternatives and I've worked very hard to fight my feelings in this respect.

Does anyone know when it will ever get any better though? 9 months of throwing her dinner away where it isn't from her approved list is getting me down.

It's so bad now that if I choose something different she even objects to me eating 'yukky' food and gets upset about that.

Is there anything else I should be doing?

jaybirdsinginginthedeadofnight Wed 05-Feb-14 15:03:11

No real advice but in a similar situation and reading a book I hope will help, it is really difficult to remain poker faced and act like you don't care if they eat or not, but it's an approach I am willing to try! The book is short and easy to read may be worth a go?

PastaandCheese Wed 05-Feb-14 15:44:35

Thanks Jaybird. I'm going to order that.

I think I am neutral in my reaction now but it doesn't feel like it is enough as she hasn't improved at all in months and just thinks it is reasonable to live off pasta.

jaybirdsinginginthedeadofnight Wed 05-Feb-14 16:13:24

Yeah it's difficult to say the least! My DD is 22months and eats very little variety if she had her way it'd be breadsticks breakfast lunch & dinner! Plus she will chug down fruit pouches but refuses actual fruit I poker facely offer her a piece of fruit everyday but she just plays with it but I'm sticking at it, and trying to follow the advice in the book.

Today she refused spaghetti that DH made (which she loves) and as I calmly removed it and lifted her down from the table she wondered over and pointed to the breadsticks arghhhhhhhh! So the breadstick have now been moved. So by trying not to create a battle we ended up in one anyway. I'm just hoping its a phase that will pass and as she's cutting her canines at the mo am giving her the benefit of the doubt! She is also in a phase of throwing her comfort toy out of the cot at nap times and through the night! It's just one fun phase after another with her grin

PastaandCheese Wed 05-Feb-14 16:21:49

Happy days. DD is quite verbal so she just tells me she won't be eating what I'm cooking and that she likes spaghetti Bolognese.

I know I should be grateful she is such a fruit bat because she won't touch vegetables not in a sauce and ignores them when they are put on her plate.

I cook with her too so she knows how things are made etc.

Goldmandra Wed 05-Feb-14 18:56:56

Just keep telling yourself that this is normal for her age and it will improve when she is developmentally ready.

In the meantime, your approach is not making it worse which is about the best you can do.

Keep eating foods she doesn't like in front of her even if she doesn't like that because it keep her familiar with the look and smell of them.

Just keep going with that poker face and fighting the urge to pressure her.

What she's eating is quite a good range so there should be no worries about her missing out on any particular nutrient. You can ask for a dietician's appointment to check that if you're worried.

Bumpsadaisie Wed 05-Feb-14 19:21:05

My youngest is 2.3 too - its a nightmare age for eating and other eating related behaviour like sitting at the table, not chucking food around, not shampooing your hair with yoghurt ...

My eldest was the same too at this age.

Its very frustrating but they are programmed to be like this - it is normal and indeed its a necessary stage. They are fighting to establish control and their sense of self. Its a very important fight for them, and one which you won't be able to win. grin

With my son my policy is to not allow bad behaviour like chucking stuff around (I remove it) but I don't spend ages trying to get him to eat. Its up to him.

She won't be like this forever, can't remember when my eldest calmed down, in general by the time she turned three, I think, things were rather more civilised.

Do you notice she is especially challenging in the evening? My son is good at breakfast and lunch - eats well and nicely. Supper different

jaybirdsinginginthedeadofnight Wed 05-Feb-14 20:05:28

bumpsadaisie my DD is definitely worse in the evening, I assume it's as she's getting tired I have experimented with the timing of dinner and giving/not giving a snack after her nap always the same result though. I only have my nephews as point of reference and at that age they were a nightmare but my brother was a 'your not leaving the table til you eat it' kind of person and I so don't want to be like that, my nephews now have all sorts of things the will not eat!

wishingforwillpower Wed 05-Feb-14 20:10:47

Watching with interest as my 20 month old DS is very tricky at dinner times these days. He will make snap decisions based on looking at the plate of food I've offered him and if he decides its a 'no' there is nothing I can do to persuade him to take even one bite. So far a few things I have found have helped are:
- including him in preparing the meal, usually he sits on the counter, helps stir etc. I will make lots of references to what we are making so he knows what's coming.
- I let him choose which bowl or plate he wants to use - he has various choices eg animal face bowls, plates with different sections etc.
- once he is sitting down I largely leave him to it, will chat to him about his day etc but not about his food.
- once he says 'all done' I will take it away without discussion. SO hard when it is barely touched! I also really praise him for saying 'all done' rather than pushing his plate away, throwing food or screeching!
- if he refuses his meal I will offer him a few plain and boring alternatives, usually toast, weetabix or a banana.

Like your DD he will eat loads at breakfast and every day nursery tell me how well he has done at lunch, often eating seconds and thirds. He will eat things there like sandwiches and soup which he flatly refuses at home. I am starting to wonder if he is better suited to a big breakfast and lunch and small dinner. It is so hard though, I really feel your pain. There is nothing more infuriating than your toddler freaking out over a perfectly inoffensive meal!

PastaandCheese Wed 05-Feb-14 20:11:49

I think I'd be more worried about her diet if she didn't scoff all the veg at nursery 3 times a week!

It's good to know it is normal and will hopefully improve.

I give her a main meal at lunchtime and she has porridge for breakfast. Her evening meal is a disaster area but I don't feel too bad about breadsticks, ham and cheese if she has eaten something at lunchtime.

Her table behaviour is ok and is actually very good if it is something she likes.

The poker face is still a challenge but I am mostly the master of it.


Bumpsadaisie Wed 05-Feb-14 20:56:48

The other thing I do is let him try his main course and then when he has had a few spoons he will push it away and say finished, yoghurt! I let him have his yoghurt but leave his main course nearby. Often he will go back to it for a few more spoons.

unless he starts chucking it around, in which case it is in the bin

murphy36 Wed 05-Feb-14 22:03:47

I'd never cook more than 1 meal and my DP says not allowed to leave the table until it's eaten.

Goldmandra Wed 05-Feb-14 22:15:21

my DP says not allowed to leave the table until it's eaten.

You DP may well find out the hard way that this is the sort of battle that ends up with children having serious eating issues and mealtimes turning into daily nightmares for the whole family.

It makes no sense to try to force children to eat. If you want them to have a healthy relationship with food you offer them a healthy selection and allow them to choose what to eat. They are programmed to eat what their body needs. Why would you force them to ignore what their body tells them and force down food it doesn't want or need?

I was made to do this as a child. If I now try to eat food that I don't feel like eating my mouth floods with saliva and I start to gag. It is a really unpleasant feeling and it can make it very hard when you are a guest in someone's house. It is a direct result of being forced to eat when I didn't want or need to.

Does your DP want to sentence your children to a lifetime of food issues?

PastaandCheese Wed 05-Feb-14 22:29:35

I honestly don't think that would work with many 2 year olds murphy. Definitely not mine and she is quite a placid child in most respects.

I'm not aiming for her to finish a meal anyway. If she has eaten something and says she is full then I'm very happy.

I would just like her to try the odd new thing and eat the things she used to love when being weaned.

Bumpsadaisie Wed 05-Feb-14 22:39:48

You can't make a 2 yr old eat. My two year old wouldn't understand "you can't get down till you have finished". You would have to force feed him.

I could force my 4 year old to eat everything before getting down. But I wouldn't.

murphy36 Wed 05-Feb-14 22:45:38

My DP and I both had that from moment we were eating full meals. It's a family meal discipline. No messing when it comes to food, respect food and get what your given.

No fussy eaters in our families and we will try anything without issues as a consequence now we're adults.

Bumpsadaisie Wed 05-Feb-14 23:08:49

You were force fed?

Goldmandra Thu 06-Feb-14 08:06:24

No fussy eaters in our families and we will try anything without issues as a consequence now we're adults.

It is more likely to be 'despite' than 'as a consequence' if you really were made to stay at the table until your plate was clear.

Get what your given is fine as long as that just means there is no alternative.

Deciding on behalf of someone else how much of what food their body needs and insisting that they eat it is a very good recipe for causing big food problems. You might not have suffered as a result but many children will.

Once a child has begun to refuse food there is absolutely no mileage whatsoever in trying coerce them into eating it. It is totally counter-productive.

wiltingfast Thu 06-Feb-14 08:16:41

Look, you can't make any one eat. But you are in control of what is offered. I think it is v nb not to hand total choice of eating over to a batty 2yo!

So keep presenting the range of food you want them to eat. If you think they really won't eat the meal, perhaps have some limited alternatives on the table.

Don't feed them anything in the hour before the meal is due.

If they say they are hungry remind them how much they will enjoy their dinner.

If they say they don't like it I say nb to eat a little bit of everything and I encourage one tiny bite. I also say they just haven't tried it enough grin.

I also ask what their tummy says. If they really won't eat I let it go but give v little then until the next meal.

Ime they seem able to thrive on far less food that you would think. Keep the range there and when they come out of the non eating funk they will be used to seeing lots of food and there being an expectation it will be eaten.

Ds was at this stage for about 18m though and dd is currently at it about 9m. So it is a long haul.

Goldmandra Thu 06-Feb-14 08:19:21

I think it is v nb not to hand total choice of eating over to a batty 2yo!


wiltingfast Thu 06-Feb-14 08:21:25

Oh and we make everyone sit at the table even if not eating. We tell them we like their company grin dd especially will often absent mindedly eat a bit that way.

OneMoreThenNoMore Thu 06-Feb-14 08:26:31

Both of my dc are like this at the moment, and it's definitely worse in the evenings when they're tired hmm

We try not to fuss about the issue; they will still usually be offered pudding (fruit and yoghurt). We leave their meal beside them and they often pick at it after they've had a bit of pudding. They leave the table when they've had enough but often return a few minutes later for another nibble.

It is so frustrating when we've cooked something that they normally wolf down, and they barely touch it though! We continue to offer them the things they dislike, but without coercion- it's just there and if they don't eat it I eat it, that's ok.

This method has just resulted in a minor victory for us- dd (3.10) has always hated eggs but has recently started to ask for some egg on her plate when we have them for lunch. She only takes one tiny bite but that's progress! grin

Luckily they both love fruit and most vegetables.

I have a friend who makes her dc eat a certain amount from their plate before they're allowed to stop, even when they're getting upset about it. It makes mealtimes a battle in their family and I think my dc still eat more overall and a wider variety than hers, despite my more relaxed approach.

Goldmandra Thu 06-Feb-14 08:29:32

Oh and we make everyone sit at the table even if not eating. We tell them we like their company grin dd especially will often absent mindedly eat a bit that way.

That's lovely and makes for much more enjoyable mealtimes.

dd (3.10) has always hated eggs but has recently started to ask for some egg on her plate

That's when you know your approach is really working and you're setting your child up to have a great attitude to food smile

murphy36 Thu 06-Feb-14 08:33:17

Ha. Obviously we don't force feed and it's not a case of eat every scrap.

But, you don't complain, you don't get anything more once if it's not finished, yep, you stay at the table until everyone's done.

We're the chief, giving them options and letting them decide at 2 what 'they need' is crazy.

This attitude of our parents and family and associated rhetoric is 100% why we eat an eclectic diet now and respect food.

PastaandCheese Thu 06-Feb-14 08:40:24

I think I've got the approach covered. I'm doing all the things that are suggested and she accepts sitting with us readily enough and behaving. She loves the social side of eating and I'm definitely not willing to compromise that with a daily battle.

It's just knowing it might work one day! I've come a long way from my first post about 9 months ago where I was allowing myself to get upset and offering alternatives.

Moving dinner to lunch has helped a lot and when I say I might choose something different from her this is rare and means that DH and I are eating something very spicy so I am willing to give her something else that she definitely likes on that day and we all have a nice time together. More of a Saturday Kitchen day if you will......!

I think I need to cut out praising her when she eats her dinner. I do this too much as it seems a natural response.

I was talking to DH last night and he said he thinks she might be approaching something of a corner as he pointed out she asked for a boiled egg at the weekend because I was having one. She hasn't eaten eggs for a year now. She dipped the soldiers happily enough and accidentally ate yolk without noticing before just eating the toast.

A bit like onemore's DD I guess in that she seems to show some interest at long last.

On Monday she tried the lamb mince in her Shepherd's Pie and had a few spoonfuls. I was happy with this but again I went to town with the praise which on reflection I probably shouldn't have done.

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