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13 month old - food battles. Someone please help

(14 Posts)
BalancingStick Sun 04-Sep-16 14:02:10

I've just put my 13 month old down for his afternoon nap hungry. He's gone to sleep but I feel like the worst mother alive. I'm sitting here sobbing - I'm at the end of my tether with his refusal to eat.

He was premature so we weaned him at 7 months - he loved food and took to it quickly. From the beginning he loved it - ate anything and everything so long as it was delivered to him on a spoon. He had no interest at all in finger foods. Then at 9/10 months the problems started - he refused to eat anything other then the Ella's packets (the ones meant for 7 month olds). This lasted for 3 months - it meant that for this period he only ate Ella's packets, anything else got spat out, thrown on the floor, smeared across the high chair etc.. He always drank his milk (formula and then cows milk once we transitioned over). At 12 months we seemed to turn a corner - it wasn't without issues at meal times but slowly we have managed to get him to eat home cooked food and he has begun to eat 'lumps' - they have to be soft but he will eat them.

However the past two/three days have been hell. Meal times have consisted of him screaming, sobbing and refusing to eat anything. All food just gets chucked on the floor. I'm giving him meals that loved last week - so I know that he likes it, can eat it. I'm using the Ella's weaning cook book (the meals for 12 months plus) - he loved the packets so much I thought the meals might go down well as well. He is just refusing to eat. My feeling is that it is a control thing - he doesn't want to be fed BUT can't yet feed himself. I sit him down with the bowl and two spoons - one for him and one for me. He will still drink his milk but I was so stressed at lunch time (he was screaming and screaming - god knows what the neighbours think) that I could feel a rage building so I had to put him in his cot before I lost it. I feel so ashamed.

His routine is:
- wakes at 7.30/8am
- breakfast at 8am (porridge with fruit) - he always eats this
- snack at 10am (toast with peanut butter/ fruit) - 50/50 whether he gets or not
- lunch at 12;30 (cooked meal followed by 200ml milk)
- nap at 1pm-3.30/4pm
- snack at 4.30pm (yoghurt and fruit) always eats this
- dinner at 6.30pm (cooked meal followed by 200ml milk)
- bath and bed at 7.30pm.

He is a fantastic sleeper, walked early and met all milestones. He is generally easy, laid-back and happy/ smily. He just doesn't seem to want to eat much at all and then goes crazy if I try and make him. He was a lazy breast feeder - would eat to take the edge off his hunger and then give up. I persevered for three months before the HV told me to top up with formula as he was losing too much weight. He loved formula/ bottle feeding and still drinks all his milk. He is now on 25th centile for weight - although he was last weighed at a year when he was eating (Ella's packets). I think he will have lost some weight since then. He has seven teeth.

I don't know what to do - do I just offer the food and just give up if he refuses in the belief that he will eat when hungry? How long do I try to feed him for? Should I still give him his milk if he refuses to eat his food? Should I give finger foods even though they all end up on the floor?

I'm at a complete loss and just want someone (anyone) to tell me what to do. I feel like the food battle has been going on for 4 months now (tbh I think we stress about him losing weight too much because of the breast feeding issues we had - the HV made me feel like shit) and I've had enough. I'm also 25 weeks pregnant with ongoing morning sickness so I'm also exhausted and sick of feeling sick! I don't want to feel stressed as I'm worried about another premature birth - I think DS's prem birth was due to extreme stress I was under at work at the time. Please help.

Lules Sun 04-Sep-16 14:11:29

Are you sure he's hungry? The snacks and meals seem quite close together to me. If he always eats his breakfast and his afternoon snack then maybe he hasn't had time to be really hungry at the other meals. Could you try cutting out one of the snacks or just giving very small ones? Mine is slightly younger and wouldn't want to eat that often, but does eat a lot at each meal (normally)

LadyShakespeare Sun 04-Sep-16 14:41:51

Easier said than done, I know, but try not to stress about it, because if mealtimes become a battle then quite honestly you will never win. You simply cannot force him to eat, and he will not starve himself! I would go on offering him finger food and whatever cooked meals you fancy (easy prepped stuff if you don't think he'll eat a great deal, as there are few things more depressing than slaving away over something only to have it outright rejected.) If he eats it (even a little bit) then praise him (but not over the top); if he doesn't, let him leave the table without comment and get on with your day. Try not to get too stressed about him 'playing' with food either - I know it's messy, but it is partly how they learn. Try to sit down and have a little bit of whatever it is he is eating too, but do your best to resist staring at him, trying to force it on him etc - I think most adults would find that off putting too! You really want to keep meal times relaxed and let him feel like he is control.

The thing is, 1 year olds really don't actually need to eat a great deal, and they are pretty good at knowing how much they need. It actually sounds like he's doing pretty well - fruit and porridge and a bit of yoghurt is all my 2 year old eats some days! It is entirely possible he's not all that hungry come dinner time.

I do sympathise, when my previously good eater suddenly went off her food at about a year old I got myself pretty stressed as well. Then I stumbled across a copy of 'Toddler Taming' in the library and one phrase stuck with me: 'no child ever starved themselves from stubbornness.' So true! And sure enough, the phase passed.

Honestly, it's not worth making yourself miserable over. Make meals as relaxed as possible, accept you cannot force him to eat and so there's no point trying, and have faith he knows what how much he needs.

Good luck!

LadyShakespeare Sun 04-Sep-16 14:43:45

Also - if he doesn't like being spoon fed, he can definitely feed himself! Not necessarily with a spoon, but it's quite possible to eat spaghetti bolognese with your hands. Messy, and agonising to watch, but possible.

BalancingStick Sun 04-Sep-16 21:09:29

Thank you both for your suggestions. I was hoping that he would wake up hungry and wanting his dinner but nope! Dinner time was just as difficult as lunchtime. I'm going to try and be a bit more relaxed about this - its just so hard when I know he must be hungry and that he definitely likes the food. I'm absolutely certain it is more of a mental game going on. Honestly kids should come with a manual - trying to figure them out is hard!

Coconut0il Sun 04-Sep-16 21:27:36

Definitely relax OP. He will eat it if he wants it. I would offer small portions/bits of food throughout the day, he'll eat some of it. My DS2 is just 12 months and like yours always eats his breakfast but other meals are hit and miss. The most he's eaten this week was some pasta with a tomato sauce, I put it on his high chair and he used his hands. Messy but he ate it. Today he's had hardly anything, he's still bf but most of his food ended up on the floor.

BentleyBelly Sun 04-Sep-16 23:12:06

Are you eating with him or just sat focused on him trying to spoon feed him? Have you tried giving him a small portion of your lunch/dinner and sitting and eating with him and just let him go for it with his hands? My daughter refused a spoon completely and this is what we had to do. Put a plastic sheet down, put him in old clothes and just let him play...some food will definitely make it to his mouth even though you feel like it all ends up on the floor!

bramblina Sun 04-Sep-16 23:16:13

I was going to ask are you sure he's hungry, too? Have you tried baby led foods, just put it all down in front of him whether it's soup with a spoon, or toast and grapes, and then just tuck in to your meal. If he's hungry he'll eat. Maybe he's teething?

Heloise1982 Mon 05-Sep-16 09:04:18

* its just so hard when I know he must be hungry and that he definitely likes the food*

What makes you sure he is hungry? If he seems happy without it and is refusing to eat it, my guess would be that he isn't! Especially if he's had an afternoon snack.

Children this age don't really need to eat 'meals' - it's fine is he just grazes throughout the day. But if you so want him eating dinner, perhaps try dropping the afternoon snack and bring dinner earlier. 6.30 seems quite late - is it possible he's tired? Might be worth a shot! smile

Footle Mon 05-Sep-16 09:14:59

Dr Spock, American childcare guru in the olden days , had a good bit about imagining trying to eat with a nervous giantess hovering over you with a spoon..

albertcampionscat Mon 05-Sep-16 13:35:41

He might like to hold the Elllas himself.

Caterina99 Mon 05-Sep-16 13:58:34

Don't have a huge amount of advice as my 14 month old DS is a very good eater and hugely active but looks like they have very similar routines.

Maybe cut or reduce the lunch time milk? DS has milk in a cup with meals, but only a bedtime bottle nowadays. Also depending on how much he's had for lunch, the afternoon snack can be really small, and then his tea is around 5/5.30 (although we do 7-7 ish so 6.30 would be too late for us for that reason).

Also agree with other posters, try and eat at the same time as him, let him get on with it rather than feeding him, and just generally make it as low stress as possible. DS also is much more fussy with food when he is teething, not well or too tired

BalancingStick Mon 05-Sep-16 20:44:26

Thanks everyone - lots of good ideas to try here. The giantess with the spoon image made me laugh! I'm willing to give anything a go - hopefully we'll have some success with some of the ideas suggested above. Feeling a lot more calmer today too which has helped.

Footle Mon 05-Sep-16 23:11:47

Don't forget he can drink water now in place of some of the milk. This should help leave him hungrier for food.

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