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16 months - mealtimes a nightmare

(21 Posts)
Sequin1 Mon 29-Jun-09 14:12:28


Perhaps someone can help me as am at the end of my tether

My 16mth DS is a very strong willed little chap and mealtimes are just becoming a nightmare. Breakfast is wbix/rbrek and toast (doesnt touch the side) Lunch is peanut Butter sandwiches and a fruit pot (doesnt touch the sides. And then we have tea,,, for the last couple of months he is refusing hot meals and only wants toast or PB sandwiches, if I put a hot meal in from of him he says No and then starts crying.

Thing is he has had hot meals at home but then what he likes one day is not what he likes the next, he eats hot meals at nursery but even there they have the same meals on a 4 week rotation and what he liked the first week will get refused the next time it comes round I talked to the nursery and they said 'it's almost like it depends on what mood he is in, if he doesnt want it there is now persuading him' he is that strong willed. As an example he wolfs scrambled egg at nursery wont touch it at home, eats roast potatoes never had a roast at home before.

I really dont know what to do, option 1 is to keep offering a hot meal once a day (but as this has gone on so long I am getting sick of the stress when he starts playing up coz he doesnt want it and he is a right grump til the next mealtime) option 2 is to give PB sandwiches for both meals just to quieten things down and then try again in a week or 2, or Option 3 is to remove toast from the menu for a few weeks and he will have to eat what I put in front of him (thing is though I dont want to cause an eating disorder by traumatising ds)

If anyone can help me I would really appreciate it, if you need anymore info let me know as I am probably rambling now

Thanks xx

thisisyesterday Mon 29-Jun-09 14:15:33

i would just make what you're making and put it in front of him. if he doesn't want it then just make sure he has a bit extra milk or whatever.

fortyplus Mon 29-Jun-09 14:17:52

Best just give him what he likes rather than make an issue of it, which will lead to the problem getting even worse as it turns into a battle of wills. My ds1 was fab at eating everything I put in front of him. Ds2 was a nightmare! So don't blame yourself. We eventaually got ds2 eating a varied diet by introducing candlelit dinners on a Sunday on condition that he would eat something new each week! He was about 3. Now he's 14 and eats most things except - bizarrely -tomatoes, strawberries and grapes. Just the sort of thing that lots of children prefer!

Sequin1 Mon 29-Jun-09 14:34:18


thanks for replying so quickly, I just find it so frustrating the other day we were out at a farm and I had a cheese and ham sandwich for me, I offered DS some in his pushchair and to my amazement he scoffed the lot, but has not eaten one since, I even offered him one the day after so that he would remember he liked it, just seems to be which way the wind is blowing.

If I give him PB sandwiches/muffins/toast for a meal its all laughs and smiles, if its a hot meal well I would its one day in 7 that I have picked the right day in which he has decided today he likes for example sausage casserole. He wolfed down shepherds pie at nursery and you can bet in 2 weeks time when sheps pie is on the rota again he will refuse, I look through his book what he eats/refuses changes every week!

I leave bit of fruit/cucumber around the house and he goes and looks at them touches them and then walks off, he is nosy when I eat but when I say would you like to try I get a clear 'No'.

Do you think its worth exploring if he has a eating issue or do you think it is just plain old stubborness and being in control?

BlueChampagne Mon 29-Jun-09 15:55:20

What happens if it's a hot meal served cold? DS (22 months) seems to prefer his curry, pasta etc cold.

Alternatively, maybe different things on toast might work, and give him a bit more variety:

cheese/beans on toast
pitta (or toast soldiers) & hummus

Nursery presumably has seen a lot of kids over a number of years, and they must know him pretty well, so I'm sure they know what they're talking about. In my limited experience, I would say that he's trying to exercise a bit of control over his environment.

Good luck!

bumpybecky Mon 29-Jun-09 16:04:15

have you tried feeding him a bit earlier or later? also are you eating with him or is it just him (not) eating?

you are not going to give him an eating disorder at 16 months over eating (or not!) toast

Sequin1 Mon 29-Jun-09 17:33:57

Thanks for taking the time to reply

I have tried cheese on toast which is a no no - i did do cheese on toast and put a bit of Pbutter on the top and yep he had it then. He has had baked beans at nursery but wont have them if I give them to him.

I have also tried eating with him, getting his teddies round the table with a bowl of food. I'm just running out of ideas and not sure what to do for the best hmm

fortyplus Mon 29-Jun-09 23:24:33

Honestly - for 16 months he's not doing badly with the variety of things he eats, though it's clearly frustrating that he's so fickle about what he will eat and when.

Toddlers love to exercise power and they have limited ways of doing so - food is no.1.

Stay relaxed. If he refuses food just be very calm and don't offer an alternative. Maybe he is just a bit tired at the end of the day.

It's NOT an eating issue, but has the potential to turn into one if you allow the situation to escalate.

clemette Mon 29-Jun-09 23:32:51

I think 16 months is a key time for battles to occur over food - it has been for both of mine. DS (now 17 months) eats "really well" at nursery or his grandma's but will only really eat fruit/yoghurt/cereal for me. He still doesn't like lumps so will sometimes tolerate soup (I add lentils to boost his protein). If he is really hungry he might eat something savoury but only if he can feed himself. How is yours with finger food? Today he amazed me by refusing his salmon and couscous but wolfing down my bread and hummous.

But I am not worrying. DD went through the same stage. I offered her savoury and if she didn't eat it she had a yoghurt or fruit. If you make it a battle ground then that's when things get serious later on. Keep offering, try to hide your frustration and you will get through it!

Just another thought - if he really likes peanut butter you could give him steamed veg to dip in it, or make peanut butter pancakes

Supercherry Tue 30-Jun-09 12:05:36

Do you tend to try and spoon feed him the hot meals or let him have a go himself?

My DS, 17mths, will shake his head usually if I offer something on a spoon but if I say 'DS do it' and pass him the loaded spoon he will usually try whatever it is. We also have some success with my hand over his guiding in the spoon or plastic fork.

I also make sure all meals include a finger food element, for example, pieces of broccoli and sweetcorn, so that while he is concentrating on eating those I can get a few mouthfuls of mashed potato or lasagne in, or whatever I have cooked.

I make a point of never, ever getting annoyed or frustrated if he doesn't want to eat. It's better all round to just chill and not worry. Your little one is eating well really, and if he eats more variety at nursery then I don't think you have anything to worry about.

lljkk Tue 30-Jun-09 12:15:48

Come join the Feb'08 Postnatal thread, Sequin, for moral support. I have a fussy-eater 16m old, too (SIGH). Try not to stress out about it wink.

Sarraburd Thu 02-Jul-09 09:08:07

I think probably a control thing rather than fussy eating, since he is happy to eat a variety in different situations and he seems to mainly do this with you.

My first (DD) did similar and so did her cousin - try and stay calm it will come right in the end! She is now four and a half and still isn't that into traditional hot meals - sometimes will eat a roast dinner, sometimes won't.

Some thoughts after what we went through:
- no point entering a food war with a toddler, they will always win and it's distressing all round
- if you add up every bite he eats in snacks etc in between meals (eg box of raisins etc) he is probably having enough
- babies are much less fussy than toddlers, something to do with protection against them accidentally ingesting poisins once they get more mobile
- also toddlers need much less food proportionately than babies as rate of growth is much reduced (can't remember what age this is, but basically food consumption slows down dramatically suddenly)
- they have to try something about ten times to accept it, hence why he sometimes will and sometimes won't have stuff - still going through acceptance phase for that particular thing so keep at it if he's enjoyed it once chances are he will in the longterm take it
- if he has stuff out and about, can you try doing picnics in the park in this nice weather for his supper?? WIth whatever the hot thing is lukewarm (agree that my kids seem to prefer stuff rather disgustingly tepid!)
- have you tried pasta? Most toddlers seem to love it, especially with lots of cheese! My niece went through a phase when it was literally all she would eat, and only with butter and cheese no other sauces
- my DS will eat almost anything from my plate, but won't try new stuff too willingly from his own - so perhaps worth sitting down giving him sandwich etc and then in front of yourself having what you actually want him to have and see what happens
- I have discovered that my DD is basically what they call a "food purist" ie she doesn't particularly like her food mixed up, she prefers it to be kept individual (hates anything like quiche, scrambled egg, stews etc unless you then divide the stew into its individual components!)
- does he like fruit?? If so can get nutriants into him that way (or smoothies?)

Good luck you will get there in the end!

Sarraburd Thu 02-Jul-09 09:11:35

Also agree try not to show your frustration as if he can see it gets him negative attention that will probably encourage him to persist.

Sarraburd Thu 02-Jul-09 10:11:41

(forgot to say re above: main thing is not to let it become a food issue, or nip in bud if it's starting to become one)

Couple of books I found helpful (your local library will probably have them) are Toddler Taming, and What to Expect: the Toddler Years.

Just had a quick flick through for you and other points they had were:

- worth remembering alot of adults won't eat a huge variety/have strong likes/dislikes even of things others find quite normal eg my brother absolutely loathes bananas! It might just be how he is
- my figure of ten is probably on the low side! Both books say toddlers might need to try/be exposed to things dozens of times
- toddlers are v resistant to change; "familiarity breeds content" - so it's not a suprise it takes a while to like something new
- they might want to play with the food/mush it up/see you eat it dozens of times before actually eating any of it
- try putting same thing out several days in a row and then it will start to become familiar and he might eat it

Good luck!

Sequin1 Fri 03-Jul-09 19:12:35


Thanks you SO much to everyone for sharing their experiences/advise, I really appreciate it as it times like this you feel you are the only going through it.

We had a bit of a better day yesterday, I have found that DS will refuse his meal then 10 minutes later be pointing and crying at the cupboard that holds all the bread/puddings/biscuits etc so I decided to empty out the cupboard and move the goodies to new places and when he refused his sausage casserole I ask if he he wanted to get down and took him out of his high chair, he then went straight to cupbaord asking for toast etc so I showed him it was empty and was 'all finished' he then played for a bit and was asking for food so took him back to his high chair re-offered the casserole he did put up a bit of a protest but went on and he ate it.

So I was thinking I would keep the secret goodies elsewhere and perhaps take toast off the menu for a few days as that is what he keeps asking for and see how I go as I have a feeling he always knows that he will get toast at some point in the day so refuses other foods.

Tonight I picked DS up from nursery he ate most of his sheperds pie for lunch which is the first hot meal all week but refused his tea there which was scrambled egg (usally loves it), he subsequently started pointing to the cupboard as soon as we got home asking for food and I held firm showed it was empty and basically we had a 40 minute tantrum until it was time for bed. It was heartbreaking to see him get so upset and almost hyperventilating but I knew he just wanted a biscuit as he had skipped tea.

Do you think this is the right way to handle it, I am hoping that I might have a couple of difficult days and then he might realise he only get offered what he is offered and there is no alternative.

Thanks again for listening x

Sequin1 Fri 03-Jul-09 19:30:40


I meant to add that by taking toast off the menu it wasnt that I was leaving him with nothing that he liked as he would still get his brekkie which he loves and sandwiches for one of the meals plus yoghurts/ fruit pots so he wont starve. Just didnt want it to look like I was bein a really mean mummie

Sarraburd Wed 08-Jul-09 17:44:56

I think you don't want it to get to the screaming point or it will maybe become a food problem - I used to deal with it by offering something like yoghurt/banana/fruit for pudding after the main meal so that I would know they weren't hungry. I never made an issue over how little they'd had of the previous and now they eat most things that they rejected then!

Yes, be firm on the treats though (maybe start keeping things you are happy for him to have in the cupboard that used to have the treats!)(I didn't have any treats in the house so removed the temptation that way...)

Yes, if you stand firm he knows that what you offer him is what he gets; and my offering several "courses" you know that he will eat enough over the whole meal to be fine. And yes fine to take toast of the menu if he's taking the alternatives too!

Glad it's going a bit better!

Sarraburd Wed 08-Jul-09 17:55:14

Also think 16 months is quite young to have traditional adult hot meals - that may take a while to come, mine were more like two and a half...

Sequin1 Wed 08-Jul-09 18:59:35

Aah thanks for replying, I am a first time mum and its great to get some advice from other mums.

Just wondered Sarraburd, did you see my update a bit further down as a new post'16months mealtimes a nightmare - UPDATE'

would be really interested to hear your thoughts.

Thanks again.

goldrock Wed 08-Jul-09 19:29:34

sequin, I have a 16mth old who is my DC4 so you'd think I'd be used to all kinds of toddler behaviour but it still sometimes gets to me when food is refused.
The best advice I can give is the hardest to follow but looking at my now strapping older DCs I can see that a few missed meals or repetitions of menus really won't do him any harm at all in the long run so taking a deep breath and just accepting it is the way to go.
Could you maybe give him the things he likes at breakfast and then for the other meals just give him what you're having then you don't need to make any extra effort and the annoyance factor is reduced if it goes uneaten.
My 16mth old is actually a really good eater which I think is partly luck of the draw but is also helped by eating with the other DCs at breakfast and tea time where the wish to join in overrides fighting about food. I know you don't have other DCs but maybe you have your meals with your DC - I know its a bit restricting but most children want to feel more grown up iykwim.

sleeplessinthecity Thu 09-Jul-09 13:03:24

Hey all, having the same issues...have an 18 month old DD who is refusing everything...about a week ago was happily tucking into pasta, risotto all by herself. Now she won't touch anything. She know she will get yog and fruit and sometimes rice pudding so that she is full so just refuses her main meal...its just getting into screaming matches and i lose it as am 5 months preg and emotional..REading all these posts it seems I'm not the only one and have taken things on board..I'm only worried about her losing weight.

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