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Toddler mealtime mistakes � determined to reverse them

(22 Posts)
MillionPramMiles Tue 25-Mar-14 11:45:54

I think we�ve gone badly wrong with mealtimes for our 22 mth old dd. We�ve given in to letting her watch the iPad at mealtimes whilst coaxing her/spoon feeding her. I don�t quite know how it got this bad. What she eats is healthy, she�s never had chocolate/crisps, rarely has ice-cream/cakes, only has fruit/oat crackers/bread sticks etc as snacks. But the only food she can reliably be left alone to eat is bread/cheese. In order to get her to eat veg/fish/proper meals etc we end up spoon feeding her in front of Mr Tumble.

I feel a real failure and I know it isn�t dd�s fault. Thankfully she�s at nursery 5 days a week and eats healthy meals there without any coaxing so I know it�s just bad habits. Dd�s on the 90th percentile for weight but only 25-50th for height. She�s always been a big baby (shot up to the 90th by 3 mths and was ebf) but there�s no genetic reason for dd to be large (dp and I are both slim and on the short side). I feel we�re just setting up bad food associations.

So as from this weekend we�re going cold turkey on the iPad. If dd doesn�t eat and throws it on the floor so be it. No more following her around with a bowl of fruit while she�s playing. I�m going to take the �if she�s hungry she�ll eat� approach. Am dreading it. Please tell me it�s retrievable and we haven�t screwed her up for life. I see other people�s toddlers just sitting at the table tucking into their meals happily and wonder where we�ve gone wrong sad

Blueuggboots Tue 25-Mar-14 11:53:44

You've not failed at all.
My DS went through a phase of not wanting to sit at the table and wandering around whilst eating.
Do you sit with her to eat? We started sitting down with him to eat. It's made a real difference. It's not perfect and I do have to still feed him sometimes (he's just turned 3) but he knows we sit at the table and the tv/iPad eat goes off.
Don't worry!!

TinyTear Tue 25-Mar-14 11:54:31

I think main thing is also to let her eat at her pace...

my DD eats by herself but sometimes I know she is playing up, so I joke about feeding her like a baby and go with the spoon... (this only because she likes to play at being carried like a baby sometimes as well)

(she is 26 m so just over 2yo)

I do sometimes leave her with a plate of pancake / crumpet / roast chicken on the side while she plays and watches Peppa and she eats in her own time...

You say your DD is at nursery, does she eat all the food and snacks there? How is she at weekends?

Also asking as mine eats MUCH better at breakfast and lunch and then in the evening doesn't want that much food... so I just make sure on weekends we have the main meal at lunch and there is plenty of breakfast and healthy snacks and i try to relax if she only wants half a crumpet and some cheese in the evening...

SweepTheHalls Tue 25-Mar-14 11:57:04

You are doing the right thing. It'll be hard while she learns the new wY at home, but she won't starve herself! Just be strong about meal times at the table, try to eat breakfast and lunch as a family if you can. Nothing is irretrievable, especially at such a young age.

MillionPramMiles Tue 25-Mar-14 13:03:39

Thanks all. Dd does eat at the table (in her high chair) and we sit with her and eat something. It�s not always the same thing, dd has her tea earlier than us so we might be having a snack but if dd shows interest in what we�re eating we offer it to her.
She eats fine at nursery, some days she�ll eat everything and some days she�ll eat more of her tea than lunch (or vice versa). Rarely does she have a day where she doesn�t eat much.

I think I need to stop stressing about it. I think it stems from when she was a baby and she wouldn�t sleep during the day, she just wanted to bf all the time (probably why she grew so big). I got into the habit of feeding her lots in the hope she�d sleep.

Dd still has a bedtime bottle of milk but I think that�s normal at this age? She�s a bit reluctant to give that up....

zirca Tue 25-Mar-14 13:10:04

I have to say that we only had to do the, "You don't eat your dinner, you go hungry until the next meal," routine once. Ever. DS went through a phase of not wanting to eat anything except for yoghurt when I was working, and it was a nightmare. One night he just played with his food and refused either to eat it himself or let us feed him. So I left him with it for 20 mins. Then took it away. When he wailed for food I re-offered him dinner. Nothing else was offered until his bedtime milk (which we gave him a bit more of than normal!). He woke up hungry, ate toast for breakfast, and ate at least some of every dinner after that.

Cotherstone Tue 25-Mar-14 13:15:27

It's so hard, I'm with you that food is one thing I get very stressed about. I also have the less food, less sleep worry. You've certainly not screwed her up for life though smile

There's nothing wrong with letting them eat in front of the telly sometimes, it breaks things up - we have carpet picnics occasionally.

I imagine it won't be that easy to suddenly start having her meals at the table without the iPad but she will do it. Consistency is the key, but there will be people with more experience of this along soon I expect.

Re the milk and snacks - our 26mo still has bottles of milk in the morning and at bedtime, I don't think that is unusual at all. However we are breaking the afternoon bottle of milk and forcing her to use a beaker so that she has more solid food as a snack.

For snacks, when DD is in a fussy mood I have a little bowl of snacks available. I offer it to her, she probably says no, and I then I show her very clearly where I am going to put it so she can help herself. If it's a really bad day she won't but we're trying to stick to our guns. Without making any fuss or show of it, if she is having a good day, at least trying to food put in front of her and not playing around with it then the snacks will be a bit nicer and she might have a cake or a biscuit in the afternoon instead of just oatcakes or fruit. If it's a bad day then the snacks aren't very exciting. We don't actually mention this, there's no "well done, you ate vegetables so now you get a cake" so she doesn't see it as a clear reward.

The thing to remember, and it is so hard to do, is that no child will actually starve themselves. It might take a while, and it might be difficult with tantrums etc because they are hungry, but they will eventually eat if they are hungry. Just keep offering a choice of food, don't react if they throw it or refuse it.

RoganJosh Tue 25-Mar-14 13:31:05

Our fussy one is definitely a lot less fussy when he's hungry. I try and limit snacks, by being at the park for example. It makes a lot of difference.

MillionPramMiles Tue 25-Mar-14 16:19:45

With my dd if I offer her something she automatically seems to say no. At a friends recently she just helped herself from the buffet table and was eating parma ham and cherry tomatoes quite happily without being offered anything. She�s definitely happier wandering around eating but I do want her to sit at the table at mealtimes (and she does so quite readily at nursery).

I need to relax about it and not get wound up about cleaning pasta off the walls...again. Incidentally what�s the best way to get tomato stains off painted walls smile

ianleeder Tue 25-Mar-14 16:35:40

Oh I have done that with 2 of my kids! I know I have myself to blame here. The first one age 5
refuses to eat unless he has my iPhone and my daughter just copies him and demands my phone too! I have tried to hid me phone, or any gadgets but they scream and refuse to eat (both of them!).my youngest is underweight and don't eat well if I don't spoon feed her with my phone on watching peppa pig. My husband don't give in and my family tells me off for setting bad habits. It's my fault but both eat terrible without tv. I'm looking for answers too hmm

Cotherstone Tue 25-Mar-14 17:13:32

Have you tried giving her a tiny buffet of food at the table?

What's telling is that she will eat well and try other food when it's not you giving it to her. Which means in my mind it's you that is the problem, or it's you that she is fighting. Not that I mean that to say that you are the problem, just it suggests that's what is going on in her head. Something about your reaction is perhaps prompting this. So no reaction, take the food away.

But I'm well aware that while that's the advice that is always given out, it's bloody hard to stick to it.

MillionPramMiles Wed 26-Mar-14 09:02:50

Sometimes I do give her a snackie plate, ie bits of bread, cheese, salad, etc. for her to pick at. She tends to eats a tiny bit and then start throwing it around.
Sometimes I do want her to eat veg, fish, meals etc that aren't finger food though.

Yesterday we decided to let dd dictate whether she wanted to eat anything (she has tea at nursery at 4pm but doesn't go to bed till 8pm so usually has yoghurt/fruit/toast type thing at home).
She asked for yoghurt, ate one spoonful then pushed it away.
She asked for some of the cucumber and houmus I was eating, I gave it to her, she chewed it a bit then spat it out.
She asked for banana, I gave it, she took one bite and threw it on the floor.
She asked for a biscuit, I said no but offered fruit/yoghurt.

I didn't coax her to eat more or offer her anything else (as I would normally have done, especially as she only ate half her tea at nursery) so she just had her bedtime bottle. She woke 45 mins earlier than normal this morning but that might be a coincidence. She didn't seem hungry this morning.

I found it a lot less stressful though so intend to continue!

Bumpsadaisie Wed 26-Mar-14 11:28:37

Hey hey hey.

In parenting nothing is "for ever". You are in charge and you can change things.

Stop the iPad.

Stop spoon feeding her.

Put something in front of her that she likes, cut up into small bits, sit down with your own food and enjoy your own meal. Chat to each other, chat to DD and ignore her eating completely.

You have to act like you couldn't care a monkey's bottom whether your DD eats or not. Don't forget, she has a "parental anxiety" sensor that only has a 0.000000001% margin of sensitivity error - and if she knows you are anxious, she will be anxious too, and she will act this out by playing up. You won't be able to hide all your anxiety but hopefully you can downplay it.

I know you use Mr Tumble to distract from the intensity of the sitting and eating experience. Could you use talking to her instead, or making funny faces? Anything to take the heat out of putting her on the spot to eat while you are worrying "what has she eaten?is she eating? will she eat? will she starve? have we ruined her forever" etc etc.

If she just eats a nana and a yoghurt, so what. Don't worry about it.

Good luck smile

Bumpsadaisie Wed 26-Mar-14 11:31:34

PS they do chuck stuff around at this age. She will grow out of it later.

You could start setting some boundaries around the throwing. If she throws, pick it up and say "oh dear, its all gone now" and put it in the bin.

She will soon get the message that she loses her food if she throws. If she chucks it all perhaps you could "save" it from the bin and offer later on, when the moment of confrontation has passed.

Bumpsadaisie Wed 26-Mar-14 11:32:44

Final post, with mine, they started chucking food once they had had enough. They often ate tiny amounts in the evening.

Maybe try giving her a tiny amount of food? Eg a third of a breadstick and one cheese chunk? If she eats that she can have more.

SearchingforSleep Wed 26-Mar-14 12:52:11

Sounds like you are making some really positive changes. smile Food can be so stressful.
Not much to add to all the good advice but wanted to recommend the book My Child Won't Eat which I found hugely helpful in allowing me to relax and trust my daughter about how much she wanted to eat and not attempt to coax food into her - hopefully setting up healthy eating habits for life. It really does help to take all the confrontation out of the situation - she eats as much as she wants and we remove at the end and never comment on the amount eaten and just get on with enjoying mealtimes together. smile

My Child Won't Eat!: How to enjoy mealtimes without worry by Carlos González

Good luck with all the changes you are making smile

Cotherstone Wed 26-Mar-14 12:54:00

Other things to remember that might help

Most children rarely have three big meals a day, so if they've had a decent breakfast and lunch they might not be interested in dinner

It helps to look at what they've eaten over a week, rather than a day

I agree with taking food away as soon as it's being played with or thrown around. But last night sounded good! She'll eat when she wants to. It won't be easy but just stick to your guns. And well done on not giving in to the biscuit smile

MillionPramMiles Wed 26-Mar-14 13:53:05

Thanks all. I actually feel better after last night, we just sat and chatted, ate our own meals, was much more relaxing. I get the feeling dd was expecting more of a reaction and when she didn't get one she simply asked to get down from the high chair to play.

I did tell dd not to throw food on the floor (in the same way I'd tell her not to throw her toys etc) but I also said 'if you don't want it that's ok' and moved it away from her.

Am actually looking forward to experimenting at the weekend just to see what happens!

mrsannekins Wed 26-Mar-14 15:20:17

I found a really helpful book called 'Getting the little buggers to eat'. It's quite thin, but is basically the 30 golden rules when dealing with toddlers and food.

The main message is that you can buy it, cook it and put it in front of them, but you can't force them to eat it. I have this mantra running through my head constantly with DD (26 months) and actually she is generally eating better now that the pressure has been taken off. I also consider what she eats in total over a week, rather than concentrating on what she eats everyday!

MillionPramMiles Tue 01-Apr-14 16:46:57

Just wanted to feedback on this, thanks for all that posted, it helped us resolve to do better.
We've not used the iPad at all for mealtimes. Dd threw most of her meals on the floor and ate mainly yoghurt, toast with houmus, tomatoes, porridge and grapes all weekend so not unhealthy but not massively nutritious either. She didn't ask for the iPad though.
We're definitely going to continue with it.

bonesarecoralmade Tue 01-Apr-14 16:52:37

If she is 90th for weight and 30th for height, why are you coaxing her to eat?

Bumpsadaisie Tue 01-Apr-14 17:46:40

yoghurt, toast with houmus, tomatoes, porridge and grapes all weekend

This sounds perfect for a 22 mth old!

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