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Eating Problems - I Dread Mealtimes

(16 Posts)
Earlybird Fri 18-Mar-05 21:04:25

DD turned 4 last month. She has never been a big eater, but things have become unbearable (for me and her nanny) in the past month or so. She has a fairly limited repertoire of foods that she will eat, though we have slowly expanded the list. She refuses to eat any vegetables, though is completely aware that we "hide" carrots in her bolognese. On the plus side, she is a very good fruit eater, drinks alot of milk, and I hope that we fill the other gaps in her diet by giving her a daily multivitamin.

Here's the problem - she takes FOREVER to eat each meal. She will take a few bites, and then dawdle, procrastinate and delay. We have endless sips of water, requests for tissues (to blow nose), chattering, requests for cuddles, etc. Sometimes I sit and literally say "take another bite" for every mouthfull until she's finished. Sometimes I feel so frustrated that I resort to shovelling the food into her mouth bite by bite. Left to her own devices, she'll often take a bite, and then sit with the food in her mouth without chewing or swallowing. She usually will not eat anything when she goes for a playdate, or when we're invited over to someone's house.

I feel I have tried everything. There is no tv on. She doesn't snack between meals. She knows that if she doesn't eat, she doesn't get pudding (and the only thing she eats with gusto and without hesitation is sweets). I am not trying to get her to eat big quantities or to eat things she doesn't like. She's even slow to eat the things she's requested!

Part of me thinks these tactics are attention seeking - but fgs, she's an only child, and when I'm not with her, she has a nanny - so she gets alot of one-on-one time. I have hesitated to make mealtimes an issue, because I haven't wanted to sow the seeds of an eating disorder....if that's even how they start.

Anyway - our new strategy is that when she sits down to eat, I will set the timer. If she finishes in 20 minutes she will get a pudding/sweet. If she hasn't finished, I will leave the room and she will sit alone until she has eaten her food. I'm not sure that this is the way to proceed, but I have to try something as we can't go on as we have been.

Any thoughts/suggestions would be most welcome. Help! Anyone else been here and found a solution?

chipmonkey Fri 18-Mar-05 21:11:20

I remember my sister being like this and sitting at the table for about an hour after the rest of us had left. tbh threats and bribes didn't work but she did get better by degrees. She's quite an adventurous eater now at 33!

006 Fri 18-Mar-05 21:11:50

Hiya, been there, still there and have tried many of the options you have suggested. Doesn't it drive you nuts? Especially the slow response to exactly the food requested!!!!!!!

Mine does not even eat fruit. I just do not know what to do - even hiding it is not v successful.

Wish I knew what the answer might be. I just hang on to the thought that she is bright, fit and very healthy. I do get a bit phobic that she may develop some eating disorder if I push it too much as she can vomit at will.

I just work on the basis that no child has volunatarily starved to death and just keep serving up the meals! My DD is 5 by the way.

21stcenturygirl Fri 18-Mar-05 21:12:31

Been there - brought the T-shirt! The timer is a good idea but leaving them on their own has never worked for us. TBH we cracked it (and everything else like tidying toys, getting dressed, etc) with having a race - who'll be the winner. She'll soon speed up eating and you/Nanny can slow down a bit so that it appears that she is the winner. "I am the Winner" is all it takes - no need to reward them.

Tommy Fri 18-Mar-05 21:18:40

My DS gets to a point when I know he isn't going to eat any more - so I let him get down from the table and he goes off to play. I really think he has a very small appetite and doesn't care about food at all. Sometimes he doesn't even finish ice cream or chocolate. It's infuriating, frustrating and very awkward when we're out but I am trying so hard not to let it become an issue and, like you EB, begin to dread mealtimes. I used to and it got me really upset.
It's so easy to say "try not to worry about it" when it is such a big worry but I am hoping things will settle down when he is at school (only 18m to go!)
Hang in there, EB, there are so many Mums out there who know what you're going through

Jimjams Fri 18-Mar-05 21:40:06

DS1 is like this. I have to sit with him and pass him food. And get him back too the table umpteen times. if I don't he doesn't eat.

The timer sounds a good idea- if ds1 understood that I would use it! However I would say start by allowing her half an hour and giving her very small portions so that she "achieve" the reward and then gradually (very) increase portion size and decrease time allowed. It is important or she won't get through he rlunch at shcool!

Earlybird Sat 19-Mar-05 07:41:58

Our new eating regime starts this morning. Wish me luck. And, if anyone has any alternative ideas (or even success stories!), would love to hear them.

Xena Sat 19-Mar-05 07:52:46

would agree with 21stcent almost everything in our house is a race (which can be fairly annoying as well) The slowest out of my children and mindees is the just 5yo little girl so maybe its just a faze they go through

LizP Sat 19-Mar-05 09:24:22

I've just started using a timer with my two 3 & 5. They get 30 mins and then food goes in the bin. They also have 10 beads which they loose for getting down, saying food is disgusting, eating badly etc. If they loose all 10 the food goes in the bin. After 30 mins if they have a clean plate & some beads left they get a sticker, 10 stickers mean they can pick where to go and eat. ds1 is the slow one, ds2 the messy one so it ought to balance out. It means I now don't feel the same pressure - I make the food, it's up to them to eat it.

KarenThirl Sat 19-Mar-05 09:26:02

I have the same problem with ds (6). Every meal time takes minimum of one hour,I have to remind him to eat and have to be very careful with portion control as he eats everything in preferential order so would eat Smiley Faces till they came out of his ears if allowed. Small amounts of everything to ensure he gets a balance. I allow him to read at the table now, because at least it keeps him at the table and I haven't got to chase him around the house. Even so he's so easily distracted by the book that I have to prompt him to take each mouthful. It's very wearing, but I've just accepted that this is the way he eats, I'm doing everything to help him and hopefully he'll improve in time.

Incidentally, I held out hope that he'd improve when he got to school and started eating with other people, but in fact he eats very little for lunch while there and I have to concentrate on making sure he gets a good breakfast and evening meal at home to make up for it. I've found it best just to forget about school lunch because I can't be there to control it and dinner staff haven't got time to help children.

noddyholder Sat 19-Mar-05 09:27:35

My ds was always like this He is now 10 and still takes forever Now and again I lose it and rant and rave but it has no effect at all I think some people are just slower

BadgerBadger Sat 19-Mar-05 11:46:46

I'm a grazer, for someone to time my meals (which I can never manage anyway) would be my worst nightmare (and was as a child). In fact it's given me a cold sweat just considering how it felt.

As an adult I don't enjoy eating (particularly in a social setting) due to all of the pressure involved in mealtimes from an early age.

It is possible (though unlikely, IME) that you will succeed in making your DD eat meals quickly, but will she enjoy it? Or will meals continue to be the unenjoyable and contentious issue that they currently are (for all involved)? Is it not feasible to allow her to graze on smaller meals throughout the day? You may find she eats the same quantity as now, but probably more, and happily.

My DD1 is a grazer too, I used to encourage her to conform to 'normal' meals at normal times - until I recalled how this made me feel as a child .

Tortington Sat 19-Mar-05 19:46:41

please dont do a timer - if she doesn't eat she will be hungrier at the next meal. unless it is a medical problem kids will not go hungry.

my ds has always been like this - whilst the other two eat so fast they dont even chew, he shoves the food to the edges so it looks less and all the other tricks - but if he doesnt eat it then there is no asking for anything else later - the next meal is 2 weetabix for breakfast then sandwiches at lunchtime byt he time the evening meal comes around the next day - he is ready for it.

singersgirl Sat 19-Mar-05 20:23:54

Actually I've just started a timer this week, in desperation and irritation - it has worked a treat with my 6 year old who eats ups and exhorts his younger brother to do the same. My 3 year old is less impressed (usually very tired by supper time) but it has made mealtimes a bit less stressful for me. If they don't finish by the time the timer goes, the meal is finished - no fruit or pudding. Don't know how this will work as a long term strategy though....

maisystar Sat 19-Mar-05 20:34:50

have you tried choosing cooking books with her and her helping you to cook??

i'm not sure about the timer, have visions of her watching it go 'tick tock' iyswim!!! i do understand the frustration though

how about for every bite of food you eat she eats one? then you both get a big yummy pudding at the end!

i think from watching all these progs on the telly that it is v important to be positive about the whole thing

RTKangaMummy Sat 19-Mar-05 21:18:04

Is there a chance of them filling up on milk?

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