She will not eat!

(26 Posts)
lamby12 Thu 06-May-21 19:47:00

Hi just after some ideas or experience for my 2.5 year old. She's always been a fussy eater.
Despite never eating much she's always had tons of energy, typical toddler I know, but recently she's stopped eating even she sure bet foods and she's looking increasingly skinny due to a growth spurt.

She eats well at nursery, I've spoke with length at them about it and seen pictures! I feel this is all a power struggle thing as we're having power struggle behaviour about everything at the moment. She's never eaten well at home but always enough so I'm not worried, up to recently.

In a nutshell, she usually has a small cup of milk on waking. Then chooses her cereal for breakfast. She used to then have plenty of fruit followed by toast with something on so I knew she'd had a good breakfast. Lately it's cereal and a no to everything else, even if it's put in front of her.

Mid morning snack usually fruit/raisins/carrot sticks but now asking for biscuit and cake, tantrum if it's not those things then not eating anything else given.

Lunch usually sandwich but I'm trying to make it interesting, platter of mini pittas/wraps, toppings to choose, ploughman's platter etc. Still just picks out maybe a bit of cheese if that. Then pushes away saying 'no lunch'. I am taking the approach of giving yoghurt and fruit for afters whatever, but explaining no treat if she doesn't eat lunch. So she eats the yoghurt. Always used to eat the fruit now she doesn't.

Mid afternoon snack same as mid morning... sometimes I give a 'treat' like a few crisps or a biscuit sometimes it's 'healthy' and she won't touch it.

Dinner is the worst. Whatever it is she says 'no tea' and pushes away. She even starts saying this before it comes out. As with lunch trying to make it interesting or help yourself stuff, plenty of elements within the meal to choose from including stuff I know she likes. But she won't eat it. I've brought it as early as poss so she's not tired. Same as lunch with the yoghurt and fruit.

So basically she usually has cereal, and two small yoghurts on days at home. That's nothing?! Am we've tried bargaining i.e. if you eat this you can have x for dessert, but it just creates a huge battle and often doesn't work anyway. The current approach which I've been doing for a good month is to basically ignore what she does/doesn't eat or what she's doing, talk about other stuff over meal time, not make a big fuss or give lots of chances - just confirm if she's going to finish it then bin it. With all the above we try and eat together and the same as much as possible and I get her involved in prep when she is willing.

Any advice from anyone that's turned round a fussy eater? Or some reassurance that her next to nothing diet isn't a huge worry?! I'm gutted she's suddenly leaving all fruit!

OP’s posts: |
AnnaSW1 Thu 06-May-21 19:52:36

How many days does she eat at nursery? If she's there most days I really wouldn't choose this as a battle to try to win because she's mostly, over the course of the week, eating well.

Cipot Thu 06-May-21 19:56:06

My dd was like that. She could eat next to nothing, it was very worrying at the time. So we'd make a dinner we'd all eat. Let her take it or leave it. If she'd had next to nothing I'd give her toast later. And leave things out in the day like a bit of apple, a strawberry, a few slices of banana. She ate better if with other DC. Then at school they only had the option of hot dinners. And gradually she ate more and more things, as she was starving by lunchtime. By about age 8 she ate pretty much everything. I can't think of a vegetable she won't eat now. So I would say focus on getting calories in for now, then worry about the quality later.

Aprilshowersandhail Thu 06-May-21 19:56:44

Too many items to choose imo.
Basic tea ideas are worth a try.
Life is literally a picnic. And ime it's hard to decide what to eat first!

And less snacking!

lamby12 Thu 06-May-21 19:56:46

@AnnaSW1 nursery is 3 days. So she's at home most of the week. I take some comfort she eats well on those days. But I'd love her to just eat a bit more at home! It's definitely a behavioural thing rather than a not hungry/ not liking foods thing.

I've been extra firm recently on nothing after tea if she doesn't eat it and she's complained about 'tummy ache' at bedtime and asked for a biscuit. She's basically hungry. I hate sending her to bed hungry but if she knows biscuits are coming things will never improve.

OP’s posts: |
Amammai Thu 06-May-21 19:58:12

Follow ‘kids eat in color’ on Instagram- really good practical advice for encouraging children to eat without you feeling stressed. One of the main messages is to remember you can’t make them eat, all you can do is provide balanced meals and snacks at scheduled times. If they eat it, great, if not, you’ve tried. It’s hard initially but don’t engage in an battles or rewards. Just plate the food up, ensure there is something on there she does like (e.g toast or yoghurt), don’t put too much on so she’s not overwhelmed then sit down with her for your own meal/snack. After ten mins if she’s not eaten, just pop it to one side and tell her when the next meal time is then go and do something different. If she’s eaten some, ask if she’d like to sit for longer to eat more. Take some deep breaths and remember it will pass.

lamby12 Thu 06-May-21 19:58:16

Thanks @Cipot that's useful to know. I'm sure she'll grow out of it one day. Especially as she starts to understand she's only bothering herself (I.e hungry) by not eating

OP’s posts: |


lamby12 Thu 06-May-21 19:59:55

@Aprilshowersandhail yes possibly. To be honest I've tried to make things exciting looking and options as I realised everything was a bit bland and boring a while ago. Occasionally if we're having a rush or unplanned tea it's beans on toast or something in front of her and to be honest the result is no better... but maybe I'll dial down the options.

OP’s posts: |
lamby12 Thu 06-May-21 20:02:02

Thanks @Amammai I will check out that account.

Your post has made me feel better. I feel like I'm failing sometimes because she is getting such a poor diet but I'm trying so hard!

OP’s posts: |
Sirzy Thu 06-May-21 20:03:43

Don’t get into a battle of wills.

Calories in is more important than making some point and she will win the battle of wills!

Feed her what you know she will eat. Make new foods available but don’t have any pressure to eat them

Aprilshowersandhail Thu 06-May-21 20:06:45

When my toddler and baby ds's went through a few weeks of illness (hospital for croup) and then eating badly I put whatever I had cooked in an open fun lunch box and they ate it at the table with their fingers!! Worked well!!

Amammai Thu 06-May-21 20:07:37

Apparently one of my cousins survived on only ketchup sandwiches for a period of her childhood after refusing to eat anything else. She’s now in her thirties and eats normally ☺️

Purplewithred Thu 06-May-21 20:07:57

FWIW, as the owner of two grown up children who used to be terrible eaters
- DS is still pretty fussy at 30 and has a small appetite but he's fit and well
- DD will eat most things at 27 but has recently gone veggie. She's healthy as a horse.

I often say I'd have been a much better mum if I'd had Mumsnet. I stressed and worried over DS - it seemed so unfair, other people's kids ate, what was I doing wrong? So we bargained and pleaded and strategised and made a big issue of it and it really didn't help. Take the excellent advice above, accept that it's just her way of trying to exert some power, and let it pass, as it surely will.

AnnaSW1 Thu 06-May-21 20:17:46

As you believe it's behavioural don't pick it as a battle. You won't win as you can't physically force her to eat. If you are sticking to your rule of nothing else to eat if she doesn't eat dinner then I'd include something as a part of her dinner each night that will still be fine and appetising to eat if she says she's still hungry at bedtime. We did this for a while. Things like mini breadsticks or a yoghurt, something that's zero effort and won't be wasted if it's not eaten but is a part of the original dinner which is available to eat if she really is hungry before bed.

catsjammies Thu 06-May-21 20:19:15

When mine have gone through stages like this I pack a Yumbox full of various bits and that's the food for the day. If they eat it fab, I pack foods I know they love and I make no comment on the order it is eaten. I let them graze through the day whilst playing and remove meal times. They aren't offered other food until yumbox is empty or they've had a fair crack at it.
Typical box if they're being fussy includes: plain pasta and peas for the main, baby bel and ham for some protein, cucumber/carrot sticks for veg, apple/berries/tinned peaches for fruit, milk biscuit and some dried apricots for the snack, a vitamin gummy and a smartie or two in the little treat section.
A Yumbox is my ultimate parenting hack, we love them.

howsoonisnow85 Thu 06-May-21 20:21:28

My DD is similar & Im having some slightly better results by not doing sit down meals. So will prepare sandwiches, fruit etc then just hand her bits to eat as shes pottering about & playing. She definitely eats alot more this way. Not sure if its because she doesnt like being in the highchair or if shes just too distracted to remember to play up! Might be worth a try!

Megan2018 Thu 06-May-21 20:25:27

Ignore it.
I was the world’s worst eater from 2-11. Ate practically nothing and wouldn’t touch milk either. My poor mother had me in and out of the doctors. Nothing worked.
I was skinny but healthy and just ate a really limited range of food. I had the same breakfast and lunch for 9 years, and only about 3 dinners. No fruit and limited veg.
From 11 I got much better and eat practically anything now.

Kottbullar Thu 06-May-21 20:29:52

You just have to serve up the food ignore what she's eating or not eating. Just make sure there's something on the table that's a safe bet.
I wouldn't bother with snacks unless they're fruit and veg if she's tantrumming over biscuits etc.

If mine started moaning about an upcoming meal I'd just say "ok, you don't have to eat but you do have to sit at the table" and move on.

Pipecleaner50 Thu 06-May-21 20:32:29

My youngest was like this. It really was a battle of wills.

I started setting a timer for 30 minutes. We sat to eat in the kitchen so used the one on the oven he could see and hear. Put meal out in front of him and gave him 30 minutes to eat it. Anything left after 30 minutes went in the bin. He wasn't allowed away from the table before 30 minutes.

Once I stopped battling him, cajoling him and trying to bribe him and generally just ignoring his behaviour, he started eating better. He still doesn't eat loads now compared to other kids his age, but he's growing well.

If he asked for anything after meals etc, I made it as boring as physically possible. No sweets or biscuits. If she's hungry before bed, give her toast.

AliceW89 Thu 06-May-21 20:35:49

Speaking as an adult who, as a child, society would have described as an awful eater (my mother says I pretty much lived off minute amounts of egg sandwiches, ginger nut biscuits and pears well into primary school...) creating a stressful dynamic around mealtimes, bargaining with food and labelling food ‘good and bad’ before a child can properly understand why isn’t healthy in the long term. At 2.5 everything is testing boundaries and I would agree with one of the above comments - don’t channel this into food if you can help it. I know it’s hard - as parents we have the importance of healthy eating drilled into us. But fundamentally you can’t and shouldn’t discipline a child into eating.

If you are genuinely concerned about her weight you should speak to your GP and ask for a referral to a dietician. If however this is more of a behavioural thing then I would fully take my foot off the gas peddle. Keep modelling the good behaviours - she helps you prep and sits with you at mealtimes, make that non negotiable. But leave the eating up to her - continue like you have been doing: don’t praise her for eating and don’t scold her for not eating, be completely neutral. I wouldn’t even ask her if she’s going to finish her meal and make a point of binning it. It feels a little pointed. Don’t make the end of the meal about the food - ask her if she wants to leave the table instead.

If she’s hungry before bed, offer her something she will eat within reason. I would be surprised at 2.5 if she has the capacity to link ‘I didn’t eat my tea because I didn’t like it/I wasn’t hungry at the time/my mind was elsewhere’ with ‘I am now hungry and my tummy hurts’. I respectfully disagree with the notion that she’ll start rejecting all her meals if she knows biscuits are coming. Biscuits are tasty and a forbidden treat and just another way to test limits - it’s not that she is eventually going to replace all meals with hobnobs.

Also, at 2.5 everything is a phase. The whole of childhood is one long phase - she’ll eat fruit again, I’d bet my house on that. Mum reports I suddenly became interested in cooking with her at about 8 or 9 and now, as an adult, I live for cooking food food and eat pretty much everything. Good luck x

lamby12 Thu 06-May-21 20:36:49

Thanks so much for all these replies, it's so reassuring to know she's not totally unusual. My few friends with similar age kids apparently eat everything?! That must be a dream!

Yes I think we will steer away from biscuits etc and keep the snacks healthy and just 'available' out when she's playing. She's becoming too demanding in asking for them all the time now.

We are already taking the 'not bothered what you're eating' approach and not creating a battle. But I am being strict about meal times because she's started the 'no lunch' 'no tea' tantrums and I said well mummy's having lunch and it turned into 'no mummy lunch' and trying to stop me sitting down! Which I thought was too far in terms of me being bullied by her... so we're sitting down for every meal. But often I sit on the floor at her little table and she sits on her little chair, not the high chair. I'm trying to vary it.

OP’s posts: |
Mylittlepony374 Thu 06-May-21 20:43:02

Someone told me (severely restricted eater here due to ASD) that kids get their calories over a week, where we do in a day. So if my son ate nothing one day, not to worry as he would make it up later in week. I'm still not sure if this is scientifically true but i watched both my kids after that and they did seem to average out over the week. It made me feel better, I don't worry now when he just eats 2 crackers and 4 pistachios, like today.
The Dietitian was also VERY clear that we should not make food a battle. Put out good food. If they eat it, great, if they don't, not to worry they'll eat something else another time.
Hope that helps in some way.

squishmittens Thu 06-May-21 20:43:19

Just don't make a big deal of it. Best thing I've found is to just carry on with family meals - ignore the fussy toddler. You put the food out on the table, let her choose what she wants to put on her plate and let her eat as much or as little as she likes. Once the meal is over, that's it until snack time. Kitchen's closed.

lamby12 Thu 06-May-21 20:43:30

Some really great ideas and experience here thank you.

I agree with the PP who said she can't yet link that she didn't eat and now she is hungry. She definitely can't at the moment. I just meant I know she is hungry straight after tea from her temper and her saying tummy hurts, and looking in the cupboards! So I know she is hungry and it's power struggle rather than not hungry.

She had a tummy bug a few weeks ago and she was dehydrated. We had to offer everything going like ice cream etc to get liquid in her and then any food she fancied whilst she got her strength back. This I think is what has tipped us back to a much more challenging place food wise than we already were.

OP’s posts: |
Snowpaw Thu 06-May-21 21:02:10

My daughter is a similar age and recently went through a big growth spurt - before that she was eating really decent portions of most things I cooked, like she was storing up ready to do a big grow, and she shot up and now her appetite is really small. For tea tonight for example, I’d made a nice chicken pie, mash and veg. She put a tiny bit of pastry in her mouth, maybe ate a bit of that and a spoon of pie / mash but that was it. Then had custard but refused banana. So basically custard for tea. I just think she’s not in a hungry phase. I’m not going to stress it because I know she will eat when she needs it. I’ll do her an egg based breakfast on days she’s not eaten much the night before. Trying to just stay chilled out at mealtimes, if she doesn’t want it I know she won’t starve and the cycle of increased hunger will come round again soon.

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