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severe eating problems with 4 year old DS Please help falling apart about it!!!!!!

(70 Posts)
sleeplessmum2be Tue 08-Jun-04 20:09:55

Basically i have a ds (4) who started life with severe weight loss after 1/2 weeks as he was not getting enough nutrition from my milk, then progressed to gastric reflux, then went onto solids and was told he was tongue tied with a very small windpipe and would probably have problems with solids until he grew up to maybe 4 or 5. Logically and interlectually i understand that this entire history has caused my neurosis. The problem is that myself my dp and ds are now in a really bad situation.

The focus on mealtimes is huge, i get really wound up about his food intake and its quality/balance. We still feed him most of the time and distract him with books and stories just to get the food into him. He is hugely fussy and every time he gets ill his diet reduces back down to nothing.

He had just recovered (i hope!!) from a severe stomach bug and has eaten nothing but bread, crackers, toast and cucumber for 8 days.

I had a complete meltdown today about it when my best friend had a go at me and told me that i was gonna give him huge eating disorders and that i had to get help about it. I guess that has upset me as i am sure she is right.

I have been told so many times to let him starve till he will eat. Take the food away if he doesnt eat it in 20 mins etc and a) He will just not eat for x amount of days he is hugely stubborn!!! b) I cannot cope with him not eating c) He has now lost so much wieght from the 7 days of diarohea i need to build him up not starve him.

I am fighting with myself to be laid back about the whole issue and have done for days now and have not pressurised him at all and have left him to bread and cucumber but i cant bear to see his tiny thin little ribs sticking out and i feel such a bad mother that i cant even manage to provide or encourage him to sustain himself properly.

By the way i am pregnant and hugely hormonal too so i think things are somewhat amplified?

Any help advice would really be appreciated as im sitting here in a right state with tears rolling down my face right now!!!{

Mo2 Tue 08-Jun-04 20:16:51

Sleeplessmum - not sure I have much advice to give - I haven't exactly been there, but just wanted to give you support - can't bear the thought of you sitting there upset...

What is he like about drinks? Reason I ask is because my DS1 (also 4) would never drink any milks etc and is pretty rubbish with veg - though likes fruit, so I sometimes make him fruit 'smoothies' - especially when he's been ill and doesn't feel like really solid food...
not a long term solution I know.

I don't think your friend is being very helpful with her comments. Have you had any chats with your GP or HV?

Merlin Tue 08-Jun-04 20:18:10

Although I haven't got any real experience of your food problems (although DS nearly 4) can be incredibly fussy at times and he often reduces me to tears!) just wanted to say hang in there. Have you discussed it with your HV? Also, I sympathise with the pregnancy hormones - I am too and it DOES make most things seem 10 times worse, I burst into tears tonight because DS wouldn't stop bouncing on the bed when I was trying to get his pjs on! Sorry I don't really know what practical advice to give, I know that for me I have just had to learn to try not to let it wind me up but I know that is easier said then done. Good luck.

collision Tue 08-Jun-04 20:24:25

You poor must be awful for you. I have no wise words for you Im afraid. Just lots of hugs. Can you put out a few different things for him to try?

Go and speak to the dr about this and see what they can do. Your BF doesnt sound like she was v helpful and just added to your guilt. Im sure you wont give him a food disorder.....some kids dont like eating. Maybe you could try a reward chart everytime he eats something different and then buy him a special present when he has eaten 10 good things. HTH

SoupDragon Tue 08-Jun-04 20:26:11

I was going to suggest fruit smoothies too - just whizz up fruit in a blender. Add a fruit juice (apple works well) to make it thinner. How about "treats" such as carrot cake?

I think you do have to try and be more laid back about it. The more fuss you make, the more he'll either dig his heels in or carry on for the attention. I know what you mean about not being able to bear to see him not eat. I've just done the "It's too late now" routine with DS2 (3) and his tea and bed time milk.

Try feeding your DS little and often. Will he have small pieces of ham or chicken with his crackers and cucumber? How about pizza? You can make your own tomato sauce very easily and hide all sorts of vegetables in it to make it healthier (mine consists of 1 tin of tomatoes, 2 carrots, a courgette and a tin of sweetcorn plus garlic/herbs. Makes me feel better about giving "junk" food like pizza and DSs think is a treat!) Is there anything else he'll eat that you can hide other things in to build him up?

sleeplessmum2be Tue 08-Jun-04 20:27:48

Thank you for the support ladies it does help to know that there is someone(s) out there just listening. He just hardly ever tries anything new and i am told that i pressurise him too much. He only drinks rice milk as he was/is lactose intollerant. We moved home 2 years ago and have not seen our local doctor and are due to move in another 2 weeks time so need to enrol with a new doctor which do i go to the old one that i have no relationship with or the new one that i have no relationship with ??????????

musica Tue 08-Jun-04 20:28:38

Hi sleepless. My ds is nearly 3, and is incredibly fussy about food. He eats precious little, and is horribly thin - he does a good line in the skeletal look. With him, I'm trying to get rid of any pressure at meal times - if he eats, he eats, if he doesn't then that's ok. But if he doesn't, then I'll slip him some fruit cake at bedtime just to get some calories into him. Things my ds likes are pasta that he can serve himself to (e.g. penne) with cheese lumps(but not cheese sauce - oh no, that would be devil's food!!!) - peas. I've just discovered Nutella, which I can hide peanut butter in, to get some protein into him. He likes hot cross buns, cereal, but only if I add some raisins - in fact, adding raisins is often a way to get him to eat something. Or I might allow him to watch the television, as long as he is eating. I guess what I'm doing is letting him make the choice to eat, but trying to ensure that he sees that it is the best choice - whether because the tv is on, or because it's nice food or what. I do know how distressing it is though - I have days where I look at him and can't believe how thin he is. How much does your ds weigh? Ds is 2 stone 1 or 2 (it varies from day to day). Your ds might be a very slow eater, so taking the food away after 20 mins might not be a good idea. My HV said not to let ds get used to being hungry - he is like yours and is stubborn enough to not eat for days. Also, he is really grumpy when he is hungry, but doesn't correlate that to the hunger, so will just be annoying! Fruit juice and milk are good to get some easy calories in.

This is a very jumbled message - I've just typed as I've thought - hope this helps a bit! xxx

pupuce Tue 08-Jun-04 20:31:11

Hi Sleepless.... you have ALL MY SYMPATHIES and you seem very clued up about what the problem is... I think you write about it quite eloquantly too....
I think your own self-analysis and your best friend's comment are fair ! You are probably a bit "neurotic" about it.... I do know someone else who has a 4 yo who eats VERY poorly and she has been seeking advice and support from our really good HV.... the mother deep down (like you) knows that the issue stem from the very first week of your baby's life. It is NOT uncommon for mothers to still have issues about it and it continues on and on until you decide you have had enough and tackle it.

Are you getting support from a good HV about this ? Does he drink milk or has yogurt ? The mum mentioned above said she had "starved" him for 2 days - he had refused all the food offered but we found out that she had given him yogourts - which she didn't count as food!

I think children pick up on our issues - if you have an issue about food, he is likely to have on too. So I don't think your friend is wrong... get some help, talk it out... It doesn't sound like YOU have an issue with your food but HIS feeding...

You can't change your child, you can change YOU and your child will follow suit.

When you say laid-back.... what does it mean to you ? I personnally don't think he should be distracted with toys (or TV) when he eats.... Does your child have tantrums declining food ? Or does it just look at it and say no?

pupuce Tue 08-Jun-04 20:34:37

BTW - for what it's worth I have to say I disagree with Soupdragon : Try feeding your DS little and often

In my experience that doesn't help as a child is never hungry that way and keeps eating/snacking stuff he likes... a hungry child is likely to try new things. Also it can lead to problem with snacking later in life.

pepsi Tue 08-Jun-04 20:50:35

I really sympathise with the eating thing, you must be worn out what with being pregnant and moving soon.

My ds is 4 and we have had problems with his eating since he was about 15 months old due to glue ear, his ears are fine now but we think he remembers all the times he was sick wtih certain foods. I know its really hard to ignore them when they are not eating but I think it does work a bit. As time goes on he is getting better, he really loves cheese and pasta and likes things put on his plate separately, not mixed up so he can eat the bits he wants. Mashed potato is a big favourite, fruit wise he likes rasperberries, not keen on meat though. Dont worry, its right what they say....a child will never starve themselves and they wont, but they will make you worry, cry and feel very anxious that they are not getting what they need. How about setting aside a week to try some new things and be really strong, we tried it and it was very hard but did help. If he doesnt isnt dont look bothered at all and put it in the bin whilst he is watching. I did this with my ds and the penny does drop. You could also get him to help you with making things as often they eat more whilst making it that they do when its on the plate. Our DS loves Big Cook Little Cook and makes more of an effort to eat something they have cooked. Hope something I have said helps, believe me I've been there with the tears.

strangerthanfiction Tue 08-Jun-04 20:55:52

I really do feel for you. Dd is only 20 months but has always been a very small, very picky eater, though never as difficult as it sounds like your ds is. I always feel a bit of a fool giving 'advice' to someone with an older child but I did have a couple of thoughts when reading your post. I think you're completely right not to 'starve' him into eating. As a child I was the sort of eater that regularly had my mom in tears and mealtimes were always a battle. At one point when I refused my lunch she said she'd serve me the same meal again and again until I finally ate it. The result was that I didn't eat anything at all for about 5 days. I can remember the incident (I was 6 at the time) pretty clearly and I truly wasn't hungry. I never felt hungry and used to play with my food and have to find little games to make the whole act of eating interesting. Secondly I wanted to ask you if his earlier problems are now finally resolved? Is there any possibility that eating makes him feel lousy? The things he's chosing to eat for instance are all very bland and easy to digest so I just wondered if other foods make him feel unwell, that would put him off trying things etc. Finally, has he always been like this? I think you're describing him going through a particularly bad patch following the tummy bug, but has he ever had times when his eating's better?

oscarsmum Tue 08-Jun-04 21:02:22

I sympathise too. Although I'm impressed about the cucumber! My ds's new food word is disgusting and he uses it for everything new without even trying it.

My ds is fairly small for his age - at 3 he is wearing age 2 clothes - and really does seem to live on air & milk. I used to get really worked up about having to throw all my lovely Annabel Karmel meals in the bin because he wouldn't even try them but now if he doesn't want to eat anything then that's now fine by me. He eats breakfast, which is usually cereal and milk to drink, and then usually lunch or dinner, not both. Of course he will always find room for cake or ice cream if we're out somewhere special!

He also goes to nursery twice a week where he eats some of his food, so at least I know he's had a vegetable or piece of fruit on those days. Does yours go to nursery etc.? Eating with other children does sometimes encourage them. Or have you tried having a friend round for him to eat with? Or a picnic on the floor? My ds loves that, if he's at all hungry.

I know it's hard to believe they don't want to eat at every mealtime but I've got so used to it now that it seems normal. It did take some time to stop being cross though and a lot of evening primrose tablets!!

Best of luck

Slinky Tue 08-Jun-04 21:04:37

You have my biggest sympathies {{ {}}}.

I posted something under "Food" the other day regarding my 4yo DD2. She will be 5 in October. She was incredibly fussy and has a very small appetite.

Even from newborn, she was very difficult "foodwise", never seemed happy with milk, then weaning was a complete nightmare. As she got older, she refused to try anything new, ate very little and had a very restricted diet.

Advice given by HV, and Paediatrician (via HV) was to feed "little and often", "never force/pressure them to eat things they dislike", "remove plate after a set time" etc. The Pead. actually advised leaving little dishes of Cheerios/raisins/Cheddars/grapes lying around the house, so she could nibble as she liked.

I didn't do this, but she did have regular snacks like the above, or breadsticks/rice cakes and she still does (this is implemented at nursery for both morning and afternoon sessions under the recommendation of OFSTED and "Healthy Eating Guidelines".

GP was not concerned in the slightest with her eating - she is perfectly healthy (always has been), fabulous sleeper, has bags of energy and is very bright and alert.

However, this has all changed over the last week. Was cooking pasta and she suddenly appeared, had a look and said she wanted some for dinner!!!!

Since last week, she is now eating pasta, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, sausages, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli and absolutely LOVES corn on the corb!! All these foods and many others were refused by her in the past.

I have NEVER mentioned her eating/pressured/got upset in front of her (been in tears on my own!), shouted, or threatened her.

The worst thing you can do is show him that it's winding you up because he will almost certainly dig his heels in even more.

Until you've had a "fussy eater" child, it's very difficult to understand - my mum used to drive me mad by "suggesting" that I force-feed her My older 2 children are the greatest of eaters and will demolish everything on their plates, so it was a bit of a shock to be landed with a child like DD2

Slinky Tue 08-Jun-04 21:08:56


Seeing you mention Annabel Karmel brought back bad memories - I remember getting that book out of the library and reading all the fabulous recipes that stated that "every child would love this.....all children like X, Y and Z".

I remember slinging it down in tears, shouting that my b***dy DD doesn't like a sodding thing, let alone some recipe with butternut squash

As I say, unless you've been there - no idea!

tabitha Tue 08-Jun-04 21:33:09

I sympathise totally. My ds is almost 7 now and his fussiness drives me to distraction. Basically the only things he will eat for dinner are: cheese omlettes, french toast, cheese and tomato pizza or mince (but only if it's in a Loyd Grosman tomato and basil sauce - I kid you not ). He has never eaten (point blank refused to) pasta, potatoes, sausages or chicken. I have tried everything from forcing him to eat, ie two hours trying to get him to eat a piece of chicken resulting in hysterical screaming from me and hysterical crying from him - definitely not recommended to refusing him any food until he eats what I have made him. None of these methods worked and it has now got to the stage that ds cries every time we go out for a meal or he is invited to a friends for tea, such are his problems with food.
He is also very thin (dd1's nickname for him is 'Mr Burns' as in Homer's skinny boss in the Simpsons) but surprisingly he is healthy and full of energy. I think because despite his fussiness he still likes and eats enough good things to keep him well, such as yoghurts, bread and bananas.
Difficult though it is, I think you've got to dry to stop stressing so much both for his sake and also, very importantly, for your sake.
One thing that worked (a bit) for us was sitting down with ds and writing a list of what he would actually eat and what he does like. This, at least, made us realise that he did like some healthy things and probably wasn't eating too bad a diet. Hopefully, you might find the same. Also, we found that ds enjoyed cooking. It hasn't make him eat any new foods yet(unfortunately) but possibly it might help in some small way to get rid of his food 'phobia'. Finally, whatever foods he does like buy the best quality ones you can, eg ds likes mince so we try to buy good quality organic steak mince rather than the cheapest crap we can find. Simmilarly with bread, we buy organic bread instead of a savers loaf. We also give him a vitamin tablet.
The one thing that keeps me going is that hope that one day he will grow out of this. But I'm still waiting, I'm afraid.

tealady Tue 08-Jun-04 21:43:22

As the mother of a fussy ds age 6 you have my sympathies. Mine does not sound as extreme as yours but has been very thin in the past - especially after illness. It is very soul destroying and sometimes I felt desperate for someone else to deal with the problem. It does sound like you are doing the right things. Concentrate on your sucesses and dont dwell on the failures.

One thing that worked for us sometimes and also helped to relieve the pressure of eating were 'car picnics'. Get a fun lunchbox. Fill it with lots of bits and pieces - most of which you know he would be willing to eat - maybe just one new thing. Collect from pre-school nursery etc for lunch (or dinner). Tell him we are going out to wherever - no time for lunch first so you can have a picnic in the car. I use to just give him the lunchbox and then drive on - letting him eat by himself. It stopped me from getting het up and because it was new it kept his interest. It might be worth a try. The other thing we did - and still do from time to time, is have a star chart for trying new food things. 10 new things tried = small present. Condition was that he had to try it properly - i.e a proper bite - but did not have to eat it if he didn't like it. We got far more rejected as horrible than liked but we did have the occasional success - eg stawberries. Try an pick simple things that you know he will be more likely to like or at least try. Explain why you are doing it but try to be calm. He needs to trust that you wont make him eat things he hates. Sometime my son would reject on first attempt - but actually say - I might try it again another day. I think they need to know that they have the power to say yes or no and to trust that you wont force the issue.

Hope it gets better for you soon.

AnnieG Tue 08-Jun-04 21:58:41

My youngest son is 5 and is also very fussy. He will not eat any vegetables other than cucumber (not even chips!)and very few fruits-just the occasional apple and he will eat kiwi fruit.
He also dislikes most meat although will sometimes have chicken.
He does however eat most breakfast cereals and loves milk and cheese.
But he is very thin and is totally resistant to pressure to eat more.
It is also impossible to bribe him to eat main courses with promises of puddings as he is just not bothered and will quite happily go without a meal altogether.
So I quite understand your anxieties!

WideWebWitch Wed 09-Jun-04 05:58:02

I agree with soupdragon sleeplessmum2be. You do need to try to stop making food into a big deal but hey, you know that. What happens if you leave food out and let him help himself? Like bowls of fruit etc? Does he ever want to try what you're having? Lots of good suggestions here, let us know if any of them work.

mollipops Wed 09-Jun-04 06:16:12

Hi sleeplessmum, sorry to hear of all the struggles you have had. I agree you need to make mealtimes as relaxed as you can. If your ds knows he has power over you by refusing food, he will keep doing it. So as hard as it is, you need to be really calm and nonchalant about it, take it away, and offer it later. (And resist offering some unhealthy alternative just to get him to have something!)

PLEASE STOP BEATING YOURSELF UP ABOUT THIS! You are not a bad mother or you wouldn't be asking for help. You cannot force him to eat, and you cannot control this, so let go and relax. It has to be up to your ds.

Try giving him something new along with something he likes. If he only eats the familiar food, fine. But if you keep offering it, one day he will try it if he's hungry. Sit down together, show him you enjoy eating the food. Make lots of yummy noises about it!

The food he is eating sounds pretty healthy - maybe a little unbalanced but its better to eat a limited range of healthy foods than a variety of unhealthy ones! I'm sure you could make banana smoothies with the rice milk. Get him involved in mashing it up, or let him help chop fruit for a fruit salad. These are better than fruit juice by the way...just as filling and with more fibre and nutrients.

Make sandwich shapes with cookie cutters together! Even if he doesn't eat them, at least the food is there if he wants it. I like the bowls of nibbles around the house idea too. If he won't eat full meals, lots of regular substantial snacks is just as good if not better. He must only have a little tum after being so ill, so don't overwhelm him with big platefuls. HTH and keep us posted.

albert Wed 09-Jun-04 08:39:49

Yes, my Ds is the same, I thought I'd tried everything but it seems there's a lot of good advice here. Sleepless, as everyone says, he will not starve himself although it's difficult to belive I know, especially when they are so thin. I definately agree with having him help you to cook, we had a huge success with fried eggy toast. Also, believe it or not the Dr Suess book 'Green Eggs and Ham' encouraged him to eat, or at least try, a few things. Gook luck with the move and the pregnancy and try not to worry too much (easier said than done I know).

busybee123 Wed 09-Jun-04 08:54:22

I feel for you all. My ds1 was the same when he was just turned 4. If he had anything put in front of him apart from chicken nuggets, he would make himself wretch til he was physically sick (how lovely!!) Would eat no fruit and veg was a definate no no for him. I got myself in such a state. Then as a last resort, I drew him up a star chart. I put very small protions of things on his plate. If he ate all or most (more than 3/4) then he got a star. When he had 5 stars, he had a NON FOOD reward, such as a small toy or new book, or a trip to the park. It really did work, especially when he saw his sister getting more stars than him!! I gradually increased the amount of food on the plate when he kept clearing his plate. Eventually he forgot about the star chart. Another suggestion is to have one of your ds's friends round for tea and you might be surprised how well he eats when his friends there. My ds is now a little star at eating, and even eats his brocolli first when I cook it for him. HTH Hugs x x

Bron Wed 09-Jun-04 08:58:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

808state Wed 09-Jun-04 14:22:27


I have read all of the messages to do with this thread and have a great deal of empathy for you all. Unless you've been though the maze of faddy eating with all its ups and downs it is really difficult to appreciate what its like. Its really hard for the parents of said child. I've also been told the same sort of advice to try by both parents and the paediatrician. It has made me at times sad, embarrassed and despairing (not so much now though as I've worked through it in my own mind).

We have been told it is not our fault he is faddy; that is just the way he is.

My son is now 5 and is faddy to say the least. It does make some social occasions like parties somewhat awkward - I've lost count of the times I've been told my son did not eat anything at so and so's party. It has gotten slightly better over the last two or three years as he will eat some bread now (nothing on it though as he dislikes butter but try to put a tiny bit of it on anyway), along with garlic bread with cheese and prawn crackers(!). He does not like either very hot or very cold food (like ice cream).

Weaning him on baby rice was okay but had great problems when it came to solids (he seemed to have great problems with both swallowing and texture). He has though become more interested in apples (tried to bite one) and ate a small piece of potato the other day. From small things...

We recently got referred by said paed to see the dietician. She told me he was not underweight and asked how he was generally (lively all day long!!!).

There may be in my case anyway a genetic component to all this; we were both faddy as children and barely ate anything. My brother was a perseverant eater (this was just not recognised at that time) and drove my mother to distraction with his limited range of foodstuffs which had to be prepared a certain way.

My best wishes to you all

miggy Wed 09-Jun-04 14:40:38

Have a look at thisnice summary
My son, now 10, has been dreadful eater since he was 2. He will not eat any vegetables/rice/pasta/cheese/pizza/sauce/meat other than white chicken or ham. As you can imagine, feeding him is a nightmare, but I try and give him plenty of the healthy things he will eat like brown bread/fruit/tuna. He is a strapping lad so dont worry too much about growth!
ds2 who will try most things is a real shrimp!
DH tries to get DS to try things and it just becomes a nightmare with tears/vomiting etc for the sake of a 5mm piece of carrot-frankly I think the stress just makes it worse. I know its hard not to stress but bread and cucumber is not unhealthy, especially if you can sneak in wholemeal bread (or even that white wholemeal bread).

Twinkie Wed 09-Jun-04 14:49:59

I don't know much about this sort of thing but have to say that children do not have the capacity to starve themsleves - when children are left alone for a long time it is always the case that they gorge themsleves afterwards - it seems to me to be a natural reaction - so I wouldn;t worry on that count.

I have had eating disorders and have been careful not to pass this on to DD - I don;t care what she eats and never have and never will make food an issue - I have never used it as punishment and as long as she eats some things that are good for her I don't get to neurotic about McDonalds or sweets or ice cream or anything like that - to me a blanced diet is naughty things as well as nice.

And DD stopped drinking milk at 7 months and only had jars and finger food and lots of yogurts - she is fine and never starved - they don;t tend to with children it is inbuilt to eat when they are hungry!!

Make sure he has food that he likes so that he gets enough nutrients or at least some from that and just leave other stuff about on his tray or plate or sit and eat your 'different' food with him next to you - children are naturally curious too and he will eventually reach out and try what you have.

I have a friend who's child will only eat chocolate buttons, pizza and yogurt - her take on this is to say - I wouldn't normally feed her these things - why I would for at least two meals each day if that is all she will eat - yogurt is great for you and pizza has veg and protein and carbs in so whats so bad - hey and every one needs the odd bit of chocolate - but at the other meal give her something else and if she doesn;t eat it don;t givwe her anything until the next meal - believe me she will end up and try something.

Above all I think with food the tirck is not to get wound up and not to let the child see that you are wound up - eating should be a pleasant family time not a time when you are all stressed out when you least need it.

I don;t think distraction is a great idea either - he knows what you are trying to do and I wouldn't try and cover it up - just put out his food adn try your best not to worry.

Good Luck XXX

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