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3 year old refuses dinner and wakes up in the night hungry. Help!

(20 Posts)
BazilGin Mon 01-Dec-14 19:09:23

My DD has never been very good eating dinners. She literally inhales breakfast because she is so hungry in the morning. I wouldn't give a damn if she had nothing for dinner and slept through, but she wakes up at night hungry and as early as 5 am asking for food! She doesn't get anyhting in the night and nothing before 6. We have gro clock which she ignores but I am so sleep deprived I can't deal with her tantrums in the morning. I also have a 5 month old DS.
Dinner is at 5.30 ish and we go upstairs to start bedtime routine at 6 for both, but I need to put DS to sleep first so she usually goes to bed between 7.30 and 8.
So she refuses dinner ( or sometimes even sit at the table). I ask if she is hungry she says no. Once we get upstairs she often complains she is hungry. I offe her a piece of bread or banana but frankly it starts to become such a habit it annoys the hell out of me.
And then the 5 am wakings...please, help! What am I doing wrong? Should I not offer the alternative, i.e. Bread?
Should I insist she sits at the table? The whole dinnertime has turned into a massive power struggle and I can't cope anymore.

TittyBojangles Mon 01-Dec-14 19:12:49

Could you change bedtime round a bit and make tea later? She could have it after bath/pjs? So she might be a bit hungrier for it? Does she eat lunch ok? Any afternoon snacks/milk?

tiktok Mon 01-Dec-14 19:13:06

Dashing, sorry....what time does she have lunch and does she have tea/snack in the afternoon?

mipmop Mon 01-Dec-14 19:21:58

Could you try an earlier dinner and earlier bed? My 3yo wakes early (maybe 6am) and would be too tired to eat dinner at 5:30pm. When he is tired he behaves similarly- not wanting to eat/not wanting to sit at the dinner table, then realises he's hungry when upstairs. He has a few tired signs that are easy to spot, e.g. moving from one toy or activity to another without playing properly with any, being a bit whiny, upending toys and leaving them scattered on the floor... in that situation he'll eat if I help feed him. It's like he just wants my focused attention. I can appreciate you also have a young baby to think about.

TheBatteriesHaveRunOut Mon 01-Dec-14 19:32:13

smaller breakfast
early lunch
no snacks till dinner


BazilGin Mon 01-Dec-14 20:13:18

Thanks, lunch is usually at 12.30 when she is back from preschool. It's not huge, but she usually eats all of it. Then she has a snack at 3, usually just fruit though. I was thinking of making dinner later but I am going to start weaning DS doing BLW so ideally we will be all eating at the same time. I could also start earlier with no snack between lunch and dinner and then have a fruit or something just before bed...? Trouble is I want to fit it with the baby as well at the moment.

BazilGin Mon 01-Dec-14 20:15:26

Mipmop, what time do you do your bedtime/dinner? She is definitely tired, only just dropped her naps completely.

Gileswithachainsaw Mon 01-Dec-14 20:17:31

Why don't you do dinner at lunch time. Then something she will definitely eat at tea time. like sandwiches or peanut butter or toast.

or maybe beans on toast or scrambled egg.

Madamnit Mon 01-Dec-14 20:22:13

I've just swapped lunch and dinner around for my 2.5 year old, so big main meal at midday then simple dinner - makes dinner a WHOLE lot less stressful.

Madamnit Mon 01-Dec-14 20:24:19

Also no snack in between lunch and have an early dinner at 1630.

Jam sandwich or banana before bed seems a small price to pay for a lie-in!

DevonFolk Mon 01-Dec-14 20:27:46

I agree with main meal at lunch. I had to do that for DD when she was getting so tired she couldn't cope with eating a big meal in the evening.

waterrat Mon 01-Dec-14 21:31:31

If I leave it any later than 5/530 for tea my 2.5 year old will refuse dinner out of tiredness ... He eats with childminder at 430 which seems weirdly early to me ..but seems yo suit him ! Especially when there is no nap ..

If baby is only just weaning it won't matter what time they eat will it?

bigbluestars Mon 01-Dec-14 21:43:53

I always gave my kids supper at this age. Some toast or banana, cereal of muffin just before bed. It helped them get to sleep more quickly and helped them sleep longer. I don't see a snack before bed is a bad thing.

mipmop Tue 02-Dec-14 07:06:04

Would your 3yo eat something more substantial at the 3pm snack? Maybe some protein at 3pm after a decent lunch would help with the overnight hunger.

Anyway, to answer your question here's my 3yo's typical routine-
Awake 6-7am
No daytime sleep (afternoon nap was dropped a few months ago)
Noticeably tired in late afternoon, ready to start bedtime routine at 6pm and asleep by 7pm (or before).

He can eat a decent lunch (e.g. pasta and protein) so usually gets a hot lunch, depending on where we are.
Afternoon snack would be some fruit / veg sticks / maybe something more substantial.
Dinner is at 4:30/5pm and would be a hot meal. If dinner is later (e.g. family celebration/party type thing) then he'd get a more substantial snack in the afternoon and could eat a light supper when everyone else is eating a bigger meal.

mipmop Tue 02-Dec-14 07:08:05

I found the info and food ideas here really useful-

DixieNormas Tue 02-Dec-14 07:12:14

My youngest two eat at 4, much later than that and they are too tired. They have a banana or sometimes toast before bed.

SpaghettiMeatballs Tue 02-Dec-14 07:21:13

I switched the main meal to lunchtime and then it is sandwiches for tea and a cup of milk at bedtime.

It's made a big difference. Plus, if there is ever a meal she doesn't eat I have tea time still to go which I can bulk up a bit.

dreamcometrue Tue 02-Dec-14 07:21:44

Dh 2.2 has his main meal at lunchtime which made a huge difference. He's much more open to what he's eating and we're both more relaxed.
Then he has tea 5.30 ish of sandwich apple cheese etc.

youmakemydreams Tue 02-Dec-14 07:30:10

My two oldest were a bit like this and I did as others suggested and swapped the main meal to lunchtime for a while until they were less tired at dinner time.
It worked well and were more likely to eat something smaller in the evening.

BazilGin Tue 02-Dec-14 20:00:11

Thanks everyone, since cutting down on snack didn't matter one bit, I am going to give a bigger lunch, then snack and not worry about dinner too much. At christmas break, I will try swapping dinner/lunch.

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