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Those with fussy eaters - how do you keep calm & carry on?

(16 Posts)
Feelingverysleepy Mon 01-Sep-14 20:24:07

It is driving me insane.... Every meal cooked just pushed away, with an 'I don't like that' before he even tries it. Ds1 (2.10) seems to be able to exist on porridge for breakkie, a tiny few veggies from one of his meals manybe and then holds out knowing I'll give him weetabix before bed (am worried he will be hungry and sleep even worse than usual). Well, I've sent him off without any supper time milk & weetabix tonight - but as from tomorrow -
What do I doooooo???
Do I have to starve him into submission? It's getting to the point that he will only eat jacket potato and beans. I've stopped snacks and only give him water.
Read the advice re weekly v daily intake - it's only bloody porridge, yogurt & effin beans (as I figured beans would at least give him some protein).

VashtaNerada Mon 01-Sep-14 20:26:22

I bought a book called 'Getting the little blighters to eat' (I think) - really helped!

Feelingverysleepy Mon 01-Sep-14 21:06:17

Love that book title!! Even the title makes me feel I'm not alone. Thank you - off to get me a copy.

NotOnASchoolNight99 Mon 01-Sep-14 21:17:07

Your comment could've been written by me! Who has the answer??!! my son is nearly 3 and lives off cheese sandwiches and breakfast cereal. I'm torn between the stick to my guns and offer savoury or give in and let him eat what he'll eat and don't even think about it approach. It's driving me insane! I've got the book but haven't read it all, just odd bits. Any miraculous advice, anyone?

sharond101 Mon 01-Sep-14 21:51:07

I stressed for a long time with fruit and veg refusing DS who is now 2.3. I was pureeing all sorts just to get some veg into him and trying all sorts of trickery at mealtimes. One day I just decided enough was enough and that was it. He gets what is put down to him and left to eat it. What's left after we have eaten and tidied up is binned without fuss and when bedtime comes if he asks for something he gets a tea biscuit. So much less stress involved and mealtimes are happier for all of us.

QTPie Mon 01-Sep-14 22:11:12

I am old fashioned and believe that a child won't let itself starve. We live in an incredibly lucky society where there is so much choice in food, possibly too much choice. I think that good nutrition and good eating habits (from early on) are very important.

It is good to rule out "sensory problems" and things like GERD. I have no experience of these, but a friend has twins who were born really quite prematurely. They are incredibly bright, but both have sensory problems and GERD and these have greatly effected what they will and won't eat.

Sometimes there can be reasons for fussiness - illness/teething - in which case a plain piece of toast seems like a good substitute, otherwise it is "this is it or nothing" (if DS had a reasonable try, then he would get fruit).

I think that most kids have phases where they are fussier than others and phases when they are more likely expand their list of acceptable foods.

With introducing new foods, having the new food alongside a familiar one can help. How about a dinner of jacket potato with tuna mayonnaise and peas? If he won't eat the tuna and peas, he might eat the potato underneath?

I have been very strict on my no nonsense approach and it has always worked for us. I wouldn't say that DS eats everything, but his variety is excellent and nutrition/balance is excellent. At 4.5 he eats most fruit, a good selection of veg (including broccoli and spinach), rice, pasta, all meats, all fish, squid, shrimp, lobster, duck, Chinese food (including dim sum), sushi and sashimi, fajitas, will eat some Indian food, pizza, olives, pate, eggs, humous, pulses. Loves just about any casserole/stew. Strangely he doesn't eat ham, uncooked cheese and isn't a massive potato fan (will eat baked potatoes though, potato wedges and, of course, chips - working on the rest...).

DS started having cooked lunches at preschool at 3.5 (preschool attached to a proper school - good school lunches) and this has further widened his repertoire and willingness to try different foods. The school has the same approach as me: if they don't have a good go at their main course, no dessert (and the desserts tend to be rather nice...). I don't worry about what he eats or doesn't eat at preschool/school. He has a good breakfast at home, a snack on leaving school and then tea (pate and toast, scrambled egg and toast, pita and humous or similar, all with veg, followed by fruit). I trust that he eats pretty well and tries new foods along the way.

I think that battles over food can be a lot about control. So DS has a simple choice - eat it or don't eat it. So he does have control, but not the option to be fussy. DS is a very active, very healthy child.

VashtaNerada Tue 02-Sep-14 06:46:01

For us, DD is clearly very scared of new foods (although there is certainly a fair bit of stubbornness thrown in!). The difference between her eating habits and DS's are stark. We are very slowly getting there (although the day she eats a piece of fresh fruit are probably in the distant future!). I have three main rules:

1) Dinnertime must be fun. We used to argue at every meal and it made her hate eating. We try really hard to chill out now (and yes it's hard sometimes!)

2) Sneakily get stuff into her (vitamins, fruit 'sweets', banana cake, etc). Apart from anything else this calms me down a bit.

3) Gradually introduce change at her own pace. We spent ages working on her 'allowing' vegetables onto her plate. We've also (gradually and calmly) introduced new foods such as tomato soup and jacket potatoes (often comparing it to food she already eats - soup is 'ketchup flavoured' etc) and then make sure she eats it once a week so it doesn't become scary again.

4) I know I said three - but we all eat the same meal. She can leave it if she doesn't like it.

LittlePink Wed 03-Sep-14 19:37:21

We've just gone through an incredibly frustrating 10 days or so of "don't like that" "don't want that", pushing things away and screaming NO! I don't like it. Then really annoyingly she started accepting one mouthful of food into her mouth and refusing to swallow and keeping it in her mouth for 30 mins or so and refusing spit it out or swallow it. Anyway, im not sure if this will work for you or not but it seems (fingers crossed) to be working for my DD (shes 2.3 mths). I give her some choices of what she might eat then I invite her to come and help me make it. She puts however much pasta (for example) that she wants in the pan, then if its say a sauce I give her a wooden spoon and let her mix it all herself and hope that she gains a relationship with what shes making. It seems to be working so far. Its a bit of pain for me to have her stood next to me at the work top as im always stressing about the danger of it like putting her hands on the cooker or grabbing a knife or something so I make sure shes completely safe and watch her like a hawk and somehow we make it through unscathed but I had to try something new, it was getting ridiculous going to bed on no dinner and waking at 5.30 hungry. We cant have that!!!

jaabaar Wed 03-Sep-14 20:38:41

Best thing that worked with all my husband side and our daughter is to only cook once and if she does not eat say ok that's fine when you are hungry you can have the food I cooked. Was difficult at the beginning now she eats everything. Best thing is make no fuss and starve him to submission.

Poppins27 Wed 03-Sep-14 20:50:54

I had exactly the same with my Dd 2.6 until about 3 weeks ago. She has always been a major fussy madam with foods, I have cried with frustration when yet another plate if food was dismissed without even an attempt at eating it.

We went in holiday in May which was the worst period ever, Dd existed I chips, bread, banana and ice-cream....nothing else.

When we came home things had to change. So there started good old fashioned bribery!! grin

I would plate up something she would like ie Yorkshire pudding but would ask her to try something else first like a carrot...along with some way over the top positive responding (Learnt through potty training at the same time) I'm pleased to say she has gradually grasped it!!

Dinner time is amazing now, tonight she had gammon, new pots, carrots, peas and sweet corn. Then asked for melon before I was able to use it as a yoghurt bribe!!!!

I am fully prepared for her to go through phases now refusing food again BUT I know at last she can finally do it!!

Feelingverysleepy Fri 05-Sep-14 10:17:40

Thanks everyone. I'm sticking to the rules in that book recommended up thread (getting the little blighters to eat). Might take a long while, but at least I'm not crying with frustration & meal times are more relaxed.
It's all so clearly related to him trying to get my attention & it's so funny to see him totally confused when he can't get a rise out of me. He even returned to the table and tried a bit of something new yesterday as I refused to engage with him over food refusal.
As long as I know everything put in front of him is healthy then he can choose how much / little he wants to eat.
The day he eats a tomato I will cry again- with happiness! (Tho will do so in secret, so he can't tell I'm fussed about it!!)
Here begins the long haul.....

mummyxtwo Sat 06-Sep-14 10:49:20

I found a book called "Just Take A Bite" helpful. My ds1 (now 5.5yo) had severe feeding difficulties as a baby with reflux and oesophagitis and was in and out of hospital and tube fed. He completely refused to feed and didn't even start weaning until 15mo and has never eaten fruit and veg. It has been a very long slow road since then to encourage him to eat and try things, but it has helped to understand that he has a phobia of putting anythng in his mouth and swallowing it, and we've worked with that. Dd2 is a different matter, as she doesn't have ds1's history and a good reason to be fussy. She is a far better eater than ds1 but I have been tougher with her because she doesn't have his excuse! It helps to understand what is going on, if they are just being fussy, or if there is any other cause or issues, and that book helps in that respect.

I've found that making variations of what dd2 would eat helped her to increase her eating. From baked beans we progressed to "four bean feast" (Ella's kitchen recipe, basically home-made baked beans with a variety of beans and chopped tomatoes and green beans and diced carrot and butternut squash) and then various bean hotpots, and once she was used to the tomatoey-texture and flavour she would accept similar casseroles and meat added etc. That probably sounds a bit pandering to her, and perhaps an "eat it or go hungry" approach might have been just as reasonable, but her eating has improved a lot and she eats quite a variety of foods now.

But equally, don't drive yourself nuts with worry. Ds1 eats a variety of chicken nuggets, pizza, sausages, waffles - basically dry textures - and no veg or fruit apart from apple, carrot sticks and 2 flavours of fruit baby jars which I still give to him just to get some fruit into him. I try to improve his diet by at least making my own chicken nuggets etc but the fruit / veg remains a worry. His paediatrician is hugely reassuring that he'll be fine and that hopefully his eating will improve in time. You could consider vitamin supplements in the meantime if you're concerned about your ds's diet. I'm a GP and I see a lot of anxious mums whose child "will only eat cream crackers and nutella". At the end of the day you can't make them eat, but most fussiness is just a phase and will improve with time. Just try to appear calm and not let him see that you are stressed by it, so that he doesn't associate eating with stress. It's easier said than done, I know. All the best, sorry for the long ramble! x

notmuchofaclue Mon 08-Sep-14 15:54:43

I've just ordered a copy of that book too, thanks for the top tip! I have chilled out a lot recently about my fussy little eater but I don't feel like I have any kind of plan....hope this book will help!

Bumpsadaisie Mon 08-Sep-14 16:55:34

Don't despair OP. Some children do stay fussy even when they are much older, it is true.

But for many it is something they grow out of. The toddler/preschool years are the years of prime fussiness!

My eldest is 5 now and MUCH more adventurous. My second is very conservative. I am hoping he will grow out of it.

PacificDogwood Mon 08-Sep-14 17:03:48

I have 3 who eat (pretty much) anything and everything, and then there is DS4(4.6). Sigh.
From when he was weaned he would only ever entertain beige - his diet is still entirely beige….

But -

He has recently bitten in to a cucumber!
He's had a small carrot stick.
He does eat 'red sauce' (in which I hide any number of other vegetables) and fruit puree (anything that happens to be in the fruit bowl) on pancakes - as long as I feed him.

He is the picture of health, has more energy than I can cope with and is growing/developing just fine.

Here are my top tips:
Do NOT allow the dinner table to become a battle field. If you try to stick to your guns, he will stick to his. He will 'win'.
Do all the usual to ensure 'good eating habits' as others have said, offer him the same as anybody else, always have something on the table that you know he will eat and leave him to it.
If he refused something, remove it without comment.

He will not starve. He won't. Honest.
This is not about 'winning' or losing - it's a developmental thing and in some children there are specific reasons why they refuse, in others it's a stronger developed sense of 'self' ("I can say no, and nobody can make me")

Mine is just becoming mature enough that he understands the concept of needing to try something to figure out whether he'll like it or not - he still doesn't try, mind, but he understands that it might be a good idea.
Never in his entirely life has a strawberry or raspberry crossed his lips - I mean, honestly?!

Anyway, good luck.
Google 'food neophobia' if you want - I don't particularly need/want a fancy word for what my DS4 struggles with, but it's an interesting read.

BravePotato Mon 08-Sep-14 17:09:53

I have the answer.

Just chill and relax.

Porridge is super nutritious. Oats is a super food!

When my DS was that age he only at scrambled egg, toast, banana and milk. And pasta.

DH and I turned it in a huge pressure thing until I said I did not want to live like this.

We pretended not to mind, we had dinner together where possible, offered him his "safe" food and often put a little bit of something new alongside.

No pressure, no threats, no breathing down his neck.

And over the years he started to eat better.

We just pretended we did not mind, and pretended to be calm, until being really calm and casual bout whatever he ate (or did not eat) became second nature. We did not even coax him to try new stuff. We ignored the issue until it went away.

He became more adventurous over time, and now eats completely normal, anything we eat.

You cannot make a child eat, and turning dinner time into a battle field is the most counterproductive thing you can do, in my very limited experience!

As long as you don't stuff him with junk food (which you don't), eating the same old safe food does no harm. He'll branch out bit by bit.

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