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If toddler refuses lunch what do you do?(52 Posts)
At the moment I find myself bribing my 22 month old DD at every mealtime to eat each mouthful, by reading books and even watching cbeebies in high chair .
DD has always been a fussy eater, so I have done research online and most people say to calmly take food away if they refuse it. She has a few meals that she will eat; scrambled eggs, pesto pasta, cottage and fish pie etc but I want to get her to eat what we do for ease really. Any tips?
I have just taken her beef casserole and mash lunch away and she's now asking for apples and snacks!! Should I wait now until supper at 5pm or give her a snack mid afternoon? This is her current routine, any suggestions on tweaking it gratefully received;
7am bottle milk
7.45 cereal, yoghurt and few bites of (my) toast
11am small sandwich sometimes with v milky tea
2pm main meal, hot lunch and pudding
3.30pm cup of v milky tea and snack
530pm lighter supper eg eggy bread and pudding
7pm bottle milk then bed
Do you think an earlier/later nap and earlier lunch would be better? Thanks
Time for a tough approach then. Stop the TV and other distractions at mealtimes (she'll probably scream but heyho), cut out the snacks between meals (drinks are fine obviously). Be firm, as at the moment she is controlling you and getting away with it. If she refuses to eat a meal chuck it in the bin in front of her (cue more screams). You have to take control now before this becomes a habit for life.
I gave mine breakfast about 8-8-30 and lunch at 11.45-12 (hot meal) then dinner (also hot meal) at 4-4.30.
Then milk at 2.30 and 6.30-7pm
I never give them any snacks unless we are swimming or we go to a cafe or whatever.
Looking at the routine.... It strikes me that is a HEAVY meal to have straight after a nap! Imagine if someone slapped a plate of bef casserole and mash in front of you at 7am - would you fancy it? Is it always just lunch she struggles with or all meals? I would look to swap her lunch and supper over - main meal later in the day OR make the 11am meal a proper meal. I don't know your portion sizes, but that sounds to be one too many meals a day: you are trying to fit two meals and a snack within a 3.5 hour window - too much.
My DS (2 years 8 months, but has been like this since 1) has breakfast at about 7.30/8, small fruit snack 9.30ish, lunch (normally sandwich) 11.30/12, small snack maybe 4, dinner (main hot meal) at 5.45/6. His nap is about 1.30pm for boy 2 hours. He is a great eater, unless maybe teething.
Eating amounts can vary, depending on teething/illness. If DS doesn't eat much of his main meal, then I put it to one side. If he starts demanding a snack, then his main meal (even if cold) gets placed in front of him: if he is hungry, he will eat it. DS only gets dessert (fruit) IF he has made a good attempt at his main meal. Basically if he doesn't eat what is I don't of him, then he isn't hungry and I don't worry.
My two have breakfast at 6, snack at 8.30, lunch at 11.30 then nap. Snack at 3, supper at 5.30. I would question the wisdom of giving a toddler tea - they're not supposed to have caffeine - and I would also move the sandwich to a bit later and call it lunch. Definitely not main meal of the day immediately on waking from a nap!
My toddlers get two chances but if they refuse, that's it. Nothing till next meal/snack time.
Frankly, if 17mo DD doesn't want lunch then it's over for her and I don't really bother bribing her. She normally has a good appetite though and only doesn't eat if she's teething or unwell. She's a solid kid so I don't push it. I try to keep meals chilled out because my own childhood was appallingly stressful during meals.
My mother insisted I ate 4 Weetabix with full fat milk for breakfast from the age of 4. Equally large portions for lunch and dinner. I often felt sick with the stress of being force fed such large amounts. I see my mother now doing the same with my little DD - she actually pushes the food into her mouth. My mother has diet issues and only eats cake and coffee so it's a messed up situation.
Like someone above said get rid of all the distractions , if shes hungry shell eat, go completley the opposite chillaxed about the whole thing set your self a time limit say 10 mins if she hasnt eaten within that time , that it , lunch is removed.
Hi Lady Catherine,
Our DD is around the same age. She also eats breakfast between 7 and 8, but I find that if she has any carbs mid morning (like a piece of toast at 9 or 10am), it spoils her lunch. So we still give her a snack, but fruit only and as early as possible so there's about 3 hours before lunch.
The other thing is, it's really hard to get her to eat anything in the first hour after she gets up from her nap. Maybe time for you to change around the times of her snacks and meals? Or replace 11am with only fruit, and at 2pm leave her to run around for a full hour after nap before offering food. We're a few months on now, and it's all worked itself out nicely. We're able to change main meal between lunch and dinner-time without much issue.
Your toddler has 2 cups of tea a day?? That is insane!! Children shouldn't be drinking tea! Am shocked!
Imo she's having too many meals in one day, no wonder she's not hungry.
I would give lunch around 11.30am (sandwich or whatever), then nap. Small snack after nap then hot tea around 5.30.
Get rid of the distractions and let her eat however much she wants - if she doesn't eat much, after a while give her a small and non-exciting snack (apple or whatever). I am personally not a huge fan of 'eat this or starve' at such a young age but perhaps I'm too soft
I don't worry about what ds eats. DH worries more than me, but he eats when ges hungry and doesn't when he's not. He's not fussy, which helps! I just let him graze throughout the day. Some days he eats like a horse, others he just picks.
Today he had cereal, an apple, crumpets, lentil soup and is now having sweets. I've got no idea about timings.
If they are growing and have plenty of energy it doesn't matter what they eat over a 24 hour period, its their diet over time that has to be balanced.
I like to think I am training ds to be in tune with his body's needs.
And be aware that toddlers can get by quite happily on seemingly tiny amounts of food, DS1 used to go a whole day on 1/4 slice toast, a small bit of cheese and a yoghurt. She won't starve.
I'm also at the 2 cups of tea, milky or not for a 22 month old!
Quite apart from anything else, caffeine is an appetite suppressant, which may be why she doesn't seem hungry. I'd ditch the bottles of milk, too - not necessary by this age.
Red Bush tea is caffeine free if that is any help? BUT anyway it is probably because the tea is so milky that is putting her off lunch, oh and the sandwhich at 11.00am! Try giving her lunch before her nap and see if she eats better?
Too much food for her appetite over the day. I would remove lunch and just have a sandwich or snack half an hour after she wakes, just let her appetite guide you, then nothing til a main meal at around 5-5.30.
Handbagsatdawn has it. She is getting far too much attention over it and it is nothing to do with food, it is about control. Get rid of the distractions. Serve the meal- don't comment in any way, even if she gets on and eats it. If she doesn't eat it take it away, without comment.. Serve pudding the same way, don't give her the idea that you are more anxious about certain foods. DO NOT serve snacks. If she complains about being hungry just say, in a rather surprised, but bored tone, 'well you would be, you didn't eat your dinner' and don't offer to do anything about it. She won't starve.
By this age they only need half a pint of milk a day. I'd give her a cup of milk with breakfast and drop all the bottles completely tbh. She might be hungrier then.
Agree to drop the cups of tea, and shift the hot meal to he evening.
But in general, if DS refuses a meal (he is 22mo too) he doesn't get anything else. He eats well mostly do waiting an hour or two for a snack won't do him any harm.
If it helps my 22mo had yesterday:
7am cup of milk, one weetabix with raisins
12: broccoli and stilton soup, slice of bread and butter, Greek yog with honey
5: moussaka and green beans (small)
That's it - no more milk, no puddings etc. I'd rather he ate his meals.
And he is 98th centile
NO TEA that is crazy! Milky or not!
You should look at what they are eating over a course of a week rather than fretting over one missed meal.
It does sound like too much food and a too big a meal after her nap.
I think meal fussiness is a normal developmental stage. I would give a snack lunch and save the meal for dinner. Most toddlers prefer separate foods to mixed food in my experience so I serve our food but deconstructed - shepherds pie is a small bowl of mash, finger carrots and tiny meatballs rather than mince - easy enough to make alongside the main meal but more acceptable with a toddler. I would definitely stop the distraction stuff, and would avoid hovering, just sit alongside and eat own lunch.
My DD eats
7am crumpet, some apple and a yogurt for breakfast. water to drink
9.30-11 nap. 4oz of milk
12ish Sandwich, cucumber and carrot sticks. some peach or plum or other soft fruit. water
2ish Baby treat (goodies, cereal bar, rice cakes with cream cheese, biscuit). water
5ish SUpper, what we are having but a smaller portion. water, some more fruit
6.30 bed, 4oz of milk.
23mo dd2 is heavily encouraged to have one taste of everything on her plate
beyond that it's up to her. fruit is offered after every meal, regardless of what's been eaten
we have breakfast somewhere between 7.45 and 8.30, lunch 11.45 - 12.30, nap starting between 12 and one, often a snack on waking at 2ish, and tea somewhere from 5-6
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