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Please help - difficult 16 month old

(15 Posts)
foreverondiet Fri 19-Aug-11 19:04:32

DS2 is my third DC, and at 16 months every meal is a nightmare.

He will not eat any finger food unless its bone dry like toast / dry breakfast cereal / rice cakes / crackers / bread sticks. He will not even eat cake or ice cream and he will not touch toast if anything is spread on it. He will not eat bread. He will not eat any fruit other than raisins (unless pureed).

I can just about get him to eat 2 meals a day or pureed meat / fish provided I add lots of butternut squash and sweet potato and "force feed". He spits out any lumps and every mouthful is a nightmare - eg trying to sneak it in when he is distracted by something, I even dance for him to make him smile and then sneak a mouthful in. He covers his mouth with his hand or "kisses" the highchair so I can't feed him. I know he'd happily eat cheerios/weetos at every meal, but I want him to eat better than this.

I avoid giving snacks as then he is even less hungry at mealtimes and its impossible to get anything into him at all.

He generally eats at the same time as us or at least as DD (7) and DS1 (5) but unless they are having cottage pie or similar he eats different food. I always put some of their food on his tray - he throws on the floor. Generally he eats best with a tray covered in toys (ie distracted).

He does only have 4 teeth so not that worried about the lack of lumps (and DS1 had a gag reflex that he eventually got over). But this is not a gag reflex, more that he just doesn't want to eat what I offer.

I should add that he is happy to eat the Ella's kitchen fruit pouches (and some of the veggies ones but not all) - he sucks them straight from the pouch without any fuss, but they are expensive, keep this more for if we are out for the day etc. He is also happy to eat smooth yoghurt and fromage frais. He likes some odd things - popcorn, sunflower seeds, edemane beans. He also loves chocolate but he very limited access.

He has 2 bottles of milk a day - one in the morning (I could drop this and he might eat breakfast, but he eats dry cheerios so sort of think that milk and then cheerios is ok breakfast and I might not do better if I drop the milk) and one at bedtime. If he has the milk from a beaker he only drinks 3oz instead of 6oz, will probably do that for the morning milk soon anyway.

Based on all of this, he is getting a balanced diet, but will he grow out of this behaviour (has been same since weaning at 6 months, tried at 5 months but he wasn't interested at all).

foreverondiet Fri 19-Aug-11 19:06:15

Should also say we tried BLW but it didn't work - he wasn't interested in anything other than dry food. So started with purees etc. Have tried making meatballs and other stuff from BLW book, its all ended up on floor.

Zimm Sun 21-Aug-11 19:05:09

Hello - would you like to form a mini support group? DD is 12 months and will only eat vege purees when distracted, fruit puree, Ella's kitchen and yoghurt. For finger food she is exactly the same as your DS - anything dry, toast, crackers, oat bars, biscuits, raisins....She also east bananas, baby sweetcorn and olives! But that is all. I also turn meals into a pantomime because I am well aware she needs to get nutritious food down her. She used to eat better but this last month has been a total regression.

RitaMorgan Sun 21-Aug-11 19:13:10

If you stopped doing all the dancing and distraction and just put the food in front of him, what would happen? At 16 months I would finish the meal and take him down from the table if he throws food on the floor (or continues after fair warning).

girliefriend Sun 21-Aug-11 19:19:21

I would stop or cut down on the milk feeds, does he sit at the table at mealtimes and eat with everyone? I would just put his meal in front of him and let him get on with it - if he chooses not to eat than let him get down, don't offer any alternative and wait until the next mealtime. If he is hungry he will eat - no toddler will let themselves starve!!! If you are force feeding him all that will happen is that he will continue to resist to eat, let him get on with it and don't show him any anxiety that you have over how much he is or is not eating.

Good luck smile

foreverondiet Mon 22-Aug-11 00:17:47

Zimm yes support group good idea! TBH I wasn't worried until we had friends round and their 11 year old had very limited diet (that was affecting his health) - basically they had the same issues when he was a toddler and he never outgrew them. I'm hoping to hear from someone who had a toddler who grew out of it!

ritamorgan - if its dry like cheerios or toast he would eat. If its wet he would ignore it and if I tried to encourage him to eat it, he'd probably drop on floor. He would even ignore chocolate cake as its too wet for him. He doesn't care if he doesn't eat and wouldn't understand / care about warnings.

girliefriend re: cutting down milk feeds, well he is only having 2 so thats only around 12oz a day which is roughly what he needs. If I cut down/miss the morning one he'll be more hungry for breakfast, but as he'll happily eat dry cereal, I'm quite happy to let him have his milk first.... The evening one is at 7pm, 2 hours after dinner, and has to get him through the night, also he is quite thirsty then as he doesn't especially like drinking water in the day. But yes could switch morning one to beaker of milk with breakfast.

He has mealtimes (well dinner at 5.30pm) with DD (age 7) and DS (age 5), breakfast with me as well. Lunch usually on his own as (apart from summer) DD and DS1 at school, and I don't eat until I've got him into bed. At weekends he'd have all three meals with me and DH.

I guess the problem is that he doesn't really have the coordination yet to feed himself the healthy foods he "likes" (purees/yoghurts) and is violently opposed to finger food other than the dry food I mentioned before. Also he only has 4 teeth so harder for him to chew than other 16 month old babies.

If he doesn't eat he's in a dreadful mood as he's hungry, so I put him back in highchair but he still will not eat without distraction / forcing even if he's totally starving, he just screams unless its weetos or cheerios or similar. Its a control thing, he only wants to eat dry cereal I want him to have a wider diet.

As I said I don't allow snacks because it makes matters worse, so by lunchtime anyway he is starving (and tired) - because all he'll have had all morning is the morning milk and some dry cereal at breakfast time. But he still resists, and would still ignore the food. Have also tried other things, eg late breakfast at 9am, early lunch at 11am.

I guess from hearing what you are saying maybe the answer is that once he is big enough to feed himself things that he "likes" - like cottage pie / fish pie / yoghurt, then at that point I need to stop all milk apart from the bedtime milk and leave him to it. I think too big a jump to get him to feed the finger food himself, I mean what sort of baby doesn't eat ice cream or cake!

RitaMorgan Mon 22-Aug-11 00:33:42

Is it just fussiness, or is there some kind of sensory issue/additional need that makes him particularly sensitive about food?

4 teeth shouldn't be an obstacle to eating most foods, they don't chew with their front teeth anyway. Is he not able to use a spoon to dip into yoghurt or anything?

I would do as girliefriend suggests and just put the food, normal food, in front of him and don't make a fuss of it. If he doesn't want to eat don't make him. If he realises the choice is either eat, or be hungry, he'll decide to eat.

SummerLightning Mon 22-Aug-11 02:54:12

My now 2.5 yr old was v similar at that age - at least at some phases anyway. He is still pretty awful but he is expanding his repertoire. Savoury food is now houmous sandwiches, bread in general, cheese, fish fingers and pesto pasta. Also had recent successes with breaded chicken and salmon but wouldn't say they are definitely on the menu yet! He will also eat most fruit now whereas at that age it was just bananas. It was very very stressful but now I just don't worry about it so much. Partly I have realised it is not going to get better overnight and partly it's better now you can talk to him about it. We eat as a family when we can and he often eats nothing (tonight beef stir fry and rice - nothing eaten) but this is how he has surprised us on occasion so definitely the way forward. Also cooking with him, showing him foods, etc. Also try and make meals relaxing, we do try and persuade him to eat but always jokingly and just say that's ok, but it would be good if you'd at least try it. Tonight he ate one segment of nectarine for his entire tea! He will probably wake early tomorrow now and I have insomnia so tomorrow is going to be fun...
I would give up on the dancing around sneaking food in... I found it drives you crazy and it's probably not a good habit to get into either. Does he willingly eat cottage pie/fish pie or is that something you have to "sneak in"

Zimm Mon 22-Aug-11 09:01:09

I think whilst posters such as *ritamorgan*mean well they perhaps have not experienced the true horror of a non-eating child! DD is perfectly capable of 'letting herself starve' well going to bed hungry and waking up at 3am demanding milk - well I'm back at work now so no thanks! Also for me, I worry about DD's iron levels now she is a year plus - she DOES need to eat and get iron from food.

SummerLightning Mon 22-Aug-11 09:21:11

I'm with you Zimm, I don't think a toddler will actually starve themselves but my experience would show that they will eat practically nothing for extended periods if given food they don't like to the extent they will be grumpy, will wake at night, etc. It is really no fun and very stressful.

Another bit of advice. Don't beat yourself up about taking the easy way out if you just can't face a battle one meal here and there. Having a meal of weetos, raisins and toast won't kill him and it's better that than you show your frustration and end up turning it into a battle.

I went to the health visitor around 1 year as I was so worried and she gave me a leaflet that said all the sort of advice you see on here - don't turn it into a battle, keep offering, small portions so not to overwhelm, let them get messy and play with textures, cook with then, etc. I think I still have it of you want me to copy it out.

RitaMorgan Mon 22-Aug-11 09:26:20

I have worked with a few non-eating children, and in my experience (where there is no SN) they tend to eat better when there is less emotion and pressure involved. Food/eating is a very emotional issue for mothers, I do understand that - but no healthy child will starve themselves (going to bed hungry is not starvation). Whether or not you give milk in the night is of course a personal choice though.

Zimm Mon 22-Aug-11 10:06:31

Hear what you are saying rita but working with a non eating child is not the same as being a parent to one. You are right of course - no emotion is best but I think some kids just need more persuasion to eat than others. For my DD food bores her - she has never had much curiosity about it. Fair enough, many adults feel the same and just eat what they need. She is extremely curious about any number of things but food is dull to her. So I try and make it interesting. And I will do what is needed to encourage her to eat because I am not getting up in the night to feed a grumpy one year old. Not when I know she can do 12 hours if she eats enough.

GemmaMummyOfTwo Mon 22-Aug-11 10:12:17

I am having the same issues with my daughter at the moment, i dread mealtimes (although i don't show that i dread it!)

Curious to know how your LO is growing, how much does he weigh? and what percentile is he on? My DD is 15 months and has just lost half a lb - down to 17lb 12oz now and it's stressing me out terribly. sad

Seems to me there should be more support groups for parents like us - there's loads for breastfeeding, but not for beyond confused!

Zimm Mon 22-Aug-11 10:14:48

Well said Gemma....

foreverondiet Mon 22-Aug-11 22:58:47

Gemma, yes DS2 also quite small, another reason I don't want to leave him to starve.

rita He had no special needs that I know of. But if I were to put normal food on his tray and leave it, he would eat absolutely nothing (unless it was dry). He'd then scream at 7pm when the bottle was empty and he'd be grouchy all day as he was hungry, and be up in the night hungry. During the night I'd probably have to give milk as he'd then be too tired to eat. Would rather force feed. He doesn't even eat chocolate cake (or ice cream) because he doesn't like soft food.

summer Sometimes he'll open his mouth semi-willingly for the cottage pie (generally when he's playing with my car keys). Sometimes I need to dance around sad. But other food eg cake or meatballs I couldn't get him to eat regardless of what I did.

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