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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?

itsatiggerday Fri 30-Nov-12 21:38:27

Well I wouldn't worry about it but then I tend to be on the slightly more shrug end of things. It's only one meal, if she has a good appetite normally and has eaten and drunk well earlier it's not going to do any serious damage. Mine always went off things for a few meals when teething. And I have days when I don't feel that hungry for no apparent reason.

GoldenGreen Fri 30-Nov-12 21:41:52

My dc were never very hungry for dinner at that age, although occasionally they would surprise me by wolfing something down. I always offered yoghurt and fruit afterwards regardless of what they ate. I think it's absolutely fine at that age to offer a healthy alternative, though I know many would disagree with me. Sometimes after having the yoghurt they would go back to their dinner and try it again.

TiredofZombies Fri 30-Nov-12 21:44:47

It's four or five nights out of seven that she faffs about with it. Tonight she spat out the stir fry & rice, but then picked through and ate individual grains of rice that had none of the sauce on them. Probably a case of not liking the sauce, but if she's eating plain boiled rice, she obviously is hungry.

TheCountessOlenska Fri 30-Nov-12 21:47:51

I think 16 months is too little to make strict rules about food. At that age DD would often reject dinner and I would offer banana and yoghurt instead. Sometimes I would even do her a bowl of porridge with a bit of jam to make sure she was full enough before bed! She eats her dinner nicely now at 2 and a half.

SchroSawMummyRidingSantaClaus Fri 30-Nov-12 21:48:21

Could you maybe try giving the heavier meal for lunch and the lighter one for dinner?

It might be that she just isn't in the mood to eat a heavy meal if she is getting a bit tired.

TheCountessOlenska Fri 30-Nov-12 21:50:50

Sorry x posts - I would just add as well that she probably finds it harder to deal with new tastes etc when she's tired, so maybe plain boiled rice was just easier for her to deal with!

TiredofZombies Fri 30-Nov-12 22:02:34

My gut feeling is that she is too young to go without, but when she's refusing dinner and pointing at the fruitbowl, it's pretty clear she'd just rather have a banana!

A heavier meal at lunch might work but might be difficult to arrange, as I would need to make dinner for DP and I, and that would mean she wouldn't be eating the same as us.

The frustrating thing is, she wouldn't take the rice off her spoon (whoever held it), nor off DP's fork, which occasionally works. She would only pick the grains off the high chair tray! After we'd left the table, she was all for grazing on the bits she'd dropped on the floor, but the dog got there first.

FredFredGeorge Sat 01-Dec-12 19:29:29

She sounds like she's not hungry...

Yika Sat 01-Dec-12 19:46:22

It doesn't sound like very much milk for a 16 month old - I thought they were supposed to still get around 500-600 ml a day.

That aside, if she doesn't eat her dinner she still gets her milk, right? That may well be enough to fill her up. I would follow her lead. Maybe move on to dessert if she doesn't want the main course. If she doesn't want either, just drop it.

cutegorilla Sat 01-Dec-12 19:55:15

The last thing you want to do is make food a battleground at this stage. If she wants to eat fruit rather than dinner it's not exactly unhealthy so I'd just go with it. Just keep offering her a small portion of dinner. My 16m ds2 will sometimes refuse a meal and other times happily eat the same thing. It's no good trying to reason with a baby about it. IME it's better to keep relaxed about food until they are old enough to have some understanding to reason with them about it.

forevergreek Sat 01-Dec-12 20:03:39

I would just leave and but offer yogurt/ fruit still

17month here has been eating everything with gusto since weaning. I can't actually remember when we last spoon fed him anything, and uses spoon and fork well with everything now. A couple I weeks ago he started picking at and refusing food, after about 48hours he threw up everywhere and had a virus that lasted a week. He obviously knew he didn't feel well and just didn't eat, we didn't push him and I'm glad we just left him with what he was comfortable with

DeathMetalMum Sat 01-Dec-12 20:20:02

We always have some desert which is fruit and then usually yoghurt, cereal bar, a biscuit or something. If she doesnt eat her dinner I usually offer a slightly more filling pudding ie banana instead of grapes or satsuma.
The only time I have a real dialemma is when I cook something that doesn't quite work out and tastes horrible.

PoppyWearer Sat 01-Dec-12 20:32:12

Try knocking the juice on the head? My DC1 was a real juice-monster and it got so bad it messed up her appetite and she started having the odd bit of diarrhoea from it too.

We went cold turkey one day onto water and her appetite increased hugely afterwards. Might be worth at least cutting down her juice intake or diluting it more?

FWIW she still drinks lots of water.

Willowisp Sat 01-Dec-12 20:57:45

I would keep diluting the juice until she is only having a splash &, unless you want her to reject most savory foods in future, don't give her yogurt or pudding.

My dd2 started to go this route & we had a few days of no dinner, no pudding until she started eating her dinner again.

IMO kids need to get nutrious food & allowing them to fill up with the empty calories of juice/yogurt is a fast slippery slope to faddy eating.

TiredofZombies Sun 02-Dec-12 18:23:06

Thanks everyone. Have to admit, I am a bit confused. Yika , you suggest allowing her to leave her dinner and move straight onto pudding. Won't this just encourage her to leave her dinner, knowing she'll get something "nicer"?

She might be little, but she's not daft. We don't normally have puddings, so saying no dinner, no pudding won't mean much, and giving her yoghurt when she's refused dinner is very obviously "giving in" if we do that, although I agree there are worse things she could be asking for.

NiceOneCenturion Sun 02-Dec-12 18:41:20

My ds goes through phases of this. If he has a good go at his dinner but doesn't manage much, I might still offer some fruit etc, as I would assume maybe teething, or too tired, or not very hungry for a big meal. I don't really believe in different types if food being used as rewards or punishments, it's all food and it's all good. So we have pudding if it's there and we fancy it but by no means every day.

However if I thought he was just messing about and wanting to move on to something sweeter then I would just take it away and let him get down without comment, then maybe offer him something savoury a bit later before bed, bowl of porridge etc, after a long enough gap so he didn't see it as a replacement meal iyswim

Yika Sun 02-Dec-12 20:37:49

We have pudding, so I offer it. If you don't, don't. smile your DC won't starve. I find that if my DD doesn't have an appetite for the first course, she won't want dessert either (normally fruit or yoghurt). If she has no appetite over several meals, it usually means she's sick and then i let her eat anything that appeals, eg choc biscuits. Also, if I've cooked something that is a bit of a flop and doesn't taste nice, I'll offer an alternative smile Otherwise, I just finish the meal.

SchroSawMummyRidingSantaClaus Sun 02-Dec-12 20:50:01

I know you say that she wouldn't be eating the same as you if you give her a heavier meal earlier but would this really be much of a problem? You will have a different appetite as presumably, you have a different time to go to bed?

Even if you are giving a childrens ready meal type thing that is quick and easy for you, I am sure that is better than nothing. Asda do really good ones, including ones with fresh meat and veg ready that you stir fry.

Also, if she keeps pointing at the fruit bowl when you are trying to feed her, keep it out of her view! If she doesn't see it she will be less tempted.

TiredofZombies Sun 02-Dec-12 21:47:53

Thought I'd update with tonight's events.

Dinner was served, chicken, veg, mashed potato and gravy. Normally all perfectly acceptable, but she wouldn't have any of it, except a couple of bits of chicken that we picked out and gave to her, and it was literally a couple. We didn't make a fuss, just carried on eating, with her whinging the whole time. The noise goes through me, it's just "uuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... uuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhh" continuously. She was definitely hungry so I gave her a slice of dry bread, which disappeared pretty quickly, and then she had some cheese and sliced cold meat, also rapidly devoured.

Giving her a bigger meal earlier in the day is certainly a possibility, but I can't imagine her eating that much, after eating one and a half weetabix for breakfast.

I would prefer her to eat the same as us at dinner time, I am reluctant to start cooking separate meals for her, it's a road I don't want to go down. It's like saying if she doesn't like vegetables, don't serve them to her. I feel I should stand firm from the outset, rather than pandering to her whims and then trying to back-track and get firm later. Avoid bad habits forming in the first place.

Having read through a few of these threads, there seems to be a split between "this is what's for dinner and that's that" and "If you don't like that, have something else." I lean more towards the former camp, I have to admit.

I'm still no wiser really, but I am grateful for everyone's advice.

littone Sun 02-Dec-12 22:19:13

My children eat better at lunch time than the evening. I don't cook separate meals, just heat up last nights dinner as her lunch. She can still have something easy like the food she had tonight when you eat dinner.

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.

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!"

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 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.

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