Toddlers Not Eating

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19-month-old eats only milk, butter, and salt (and sand & dirt)

Jan 2014

My daughter is 19 months. She says no, mama, dada, wawa (for water), nana (for banana), ba (for butter) and baba (for bottle). She has had this collection of words for a couple of months now. At times she uses them to tell us what she wants; at other times, she just says them because, I suspect, they are all the language that she has right now. I know that on the spectrum, this is a delayed language situation, but I have not felt comfortable labeling it as such yet, or seeking help in that direction if that i what is called for.

Relatedly (at least in my head), she barely eats any solid foods at all. Most days her diet consists of maybe one or two bites of a fruit like apple or banana (though the apple she only chews up and then spits out), a couple of tablespoons of butter (which she loves and asks for by saying ''ba''), and some rock or sea salt. If she eats anything besides this, it is a banner day! I have tried almost every whole food under the sun (no grains), with lots of different flavor profiles: eggs, beef, chicken and fish, soaked and sprouted nuts and lentils, loads of veggies and soups. I continue to offer her a small plate of what I've prepared every day, several times a day at family mealtimes. She is very interested in having her own plate and using a fork to move around the food and pretend to bring it to her mouth (or to ours), but gosh if I can't get her to actually ingest any food. So, what does she eat? A combination of raw cow's milk and goat milk. I have played with reducing her consumption of this to see whether that would spur her hunger for ''real food,'' but to no avail.

It has always been like this for us, and I kept thinking (sort of like with the verbal ability) that our daughter was just developing slowly in this area, and would catch up later. But now it is really beginning to worry me. We have tried baby led weaning, feeding her ourselves, whole v. pureed, you name it. I am an industrious and creative person! But I am kind of out of ideas here. She is also the child at the playground eating rocks and sand by the handful, and this too has been going on for months.

Is there an undiagnosed anatomical or physiological issue that might be impeding her progress in eating and speech? We saw two lactation specialists when she was younger and I had low milk supply and it appeared she had trouble breastfeeding, but they never mentioned a lip or tongue tie. Should I get her craniosacral to see if there is a ''release'' that needs to happen? I have thought about this modality for her sleep issues as well (not sleeping consistently for more than 3-4 hours at a time and needing lots of snuggling to go back to sleep).

Though I am a fairly laid back person in all of this, and have drawn on this to calm my fears and anxieties regarding my daughter's development, I don't want to sit back idly if there is something I can do to help what might be suffering, or dis-ease, or I don't know what.

Rachel


[Editor Note: this question and its responses also appear here: Eating and speech ''issues'' in 19 month old]


You must get her checked for anemia ASAP. Calcium and iron limit each other's absorption, so when children drink excessive milk they're at high risk of anemia. I once saw a kid so bad he needed an emergency transfusion due to excessive milk. Persistently eating dirt and rocks can be a sign of significant anemia.

I question how adequate your attempts to limit her consumption were. She should go down to 16oz/day of any and all (preferably pasteurized) milk. The first day she may not make up for it with more solids. Maybe not even the 2nd. But as they say, hunger is the best sauce. Children do not voluntarily starve to death. You may still have some eating issues but I suspect that treating anemia and cutting back on milk are going to need to be the immediate priorities. Pedi


I can't comment on the development side of your question, but the thing that jumped out at me in your post was her diet. Honey - feed your kid!!!! I might be in the minority in this community, but I truly believe that kids need to be exposed and allowed to eat more foods than their parents might. Let the kid decide if she does/doesn't want to eat bread - for now, as long as what you're giving her is organic/made from whole grains/whatever, offer it to her! Bake it yourself at home if you are worried about store-bought stuff having bad ingredients (I prefer to bake at home myself, so I can understand that).

I get it that we as a culture eat too much wheat, but honestly, it's a pretty important part of all my kids' diets (I have twin six-year-old boys and an almost 15-month-old girl). My kids are very adventurous eaters and will try almost anything, but we have not really restricted them from any food groups. But I can tell you that ''soaked and sprouted nuts and lentils'' would probably not go over well. Kids go for stuff that looks appealing/fun and smells good - lentils don't really fit that profile!

Have you tried cheese or yogurt? My baby loves both!

I totally understand parents wanting to instill good, healthy eating habits on their kids. But the important thing is feeding your little one and making sure she gets a diverse array of foods with enough calories to help her grow. It seems her palate is going in a different direction from yours...maybe you should follow it.

Don't mean to be harsh... Annoyed w/the GF Craze


Hi Rachel, It is time to act. You need to find out what is going on. I teach kids with reading disorders and speech disorders are so often the first sign that something was up.

Your daughter's eating and language issues may not be related. Language delays often stem from processing not motor issues. Your daughter needs a hearing test first if she has not had one recently. If she has had ear infections, for instance, her ears may not be clear. If she can't hear well, learning to talk will be hard. She will hear sounds indistinctly and may confuse several of them.

See this page for how to get a free evaluation and speech and language services: http://www.acoe.org/acoe/StudentPrograms/ProgramsAndServices/InfantandFamilySupport A speech and language pathologist will be able to identify if the delay is caused by motor problems and is connected to eating or is a separate thing. And they can provide therapy for both.

The sooner, the better. Language development is cumulative. After you have the hearing test and the speech and language evaluation with the county scheduled read the chapter in Po Bronson's Nurture Shock on how to talk to your baby. It is fascinating. Here is a summary from it with 7 tips for talking with your baby. It is excellent. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Parenting/tips-toddlers-develop-language-skills/story?id=9491324

You can alter the trajectory of her language development by intervening now! The good news is that you are still in the realm of "early intervention" and your daughter's language skills are likely to thrive with appropriate intervention.

Also, Kim Lyons who teaches play with your baby classes locally has published a terrific e-book on playing with your baby. It has a section on development and then a ton of ideas for developing all your baby's senses and motor skills. It would be terrific to combine these play ideas with the language tips above. Susan


You don't mention your child's pediatrician. What does s/he say? If I understand correctly, she's mainly consuming milk. This doesn't sound like enough nutrition to me, but I'm not a doctor. Talk to yours. And I'm wondering why you never offer grains? Grains are part of a healthy diet and unless your child has a specific allergy to one or more, there's no reason not to serve them and every reason to offer them for their many nutritional benefits.

You mention that she eats lots of rocks and sand. Taking it at your word that she eats handfuls (plus she eats a small amount of fruit), then she seems to have the mechanics down and her refusal to eat other foods is behavioral, not physical.

Also, if she's really eating that much rocks and sand, that's a warning sign. She could have pica or possibly some developmental delays. One of the causes of eating non-foods like sand is nutritional deficiency. And at a very minimum, she can get lead poisoning from ingesting contaminated soil (more of a concern in some areas than others).

I'm also concerned that you're feeding a small child unpasteurized dairy, which can contain serious pathogens. And that your child is not eating a wide enough variety of foods to be getting enough iron and other nutrients for good physical and mental development.

All in all, I think you have some significant concerns here that should be addressed ASAP by a pediatrician. It may be that everything is normal, but you really should check. glad you're asking for suggestions


My son was speech delayed and had food issues as well. I, like you, was very, very worried and feared the worst. At 19 months, I had him evaluated through the Regional Center with a pediatrician's referal, and he qualified for free, in-home speech therapy. The therapist was amazing! She could tell that my son needed to strengthen his tongue and lip muscles and that he had some oral sensory issues. She came to the house and worked with my son every week. She also developed homework exercises and activites for me to do with my son that helped tremendously! By 2 1/2 years, my son was speaking clearly in complete sentences and was no longer speech delayed. At 3, he was reevaluated through the school district (the Regional Center releases children at 3) and no longer qualified for speech services. Now 10, he has no speech or sensory related issues. In fact, he is extremely articulate and likes public speaking - ha! I would recommend that you have your child evaluated through the Regional Center. Speak to your pediatrician and insist that you get the referral. No matter the reason for your child's speech delay and eating issues, early intervention is key! -- Been There


Hi rachel, I would like to encourage you to speak with a western medicine pediatrician. Hopefully they will refer you to the regional center (in case you don't have insurance). I suspect your darling one might seriously benefit from being assessed for structural problems that western medicine can help.

My first kid was slow to walk and talk, and we met with the RC, but his case was just normal slow development. My second kid has some medical issues, and we are doing occupational therapy to teach her how to swallow, and they look at all kinds of potential issues that we laypeople would never think of--I was surprised at the stuff they thought of to check for. It is HUGELY helpful. They train me to do the work with her, so I control everything that happens to her.

OT and speech therapy both work hand in hand, and I think your instinct that her speech and her eating may be connected is a good instinct. You're on the right track! I would encourage you to enlist the help of specialists to give you the info and training you need to help your little one make progress.

You mentioned CST, of which I am a fan. That plus the raw cows milk diet gives me the impression that youre not into western medicine and therapies. But I really want to encourage you to open yourself to it for now. It's saving my baby's life. Wishing you good luck. OT fan 


Hello, I have a 2 year old, so I know it's stressful to wonder if your child is doing what he/she is supposed to be doing each step of the way. My child has always been a very picky eater and would eat nothing but Cheerios if I let him, so your child's eating sounds normal to me. He goes through phases where he will eat more, but they are generally short and far apart.

I know a lot of kids around that age and their speech ability is so variable. Some are speaking in phrases and some know only a few words. So it seems like that is most likely normal too. I wouldn't be surprised if your child has a burst of language soon.

I wonder what your pediatrician has to say. If you are concerned about some kind of syndrome or disorder, I think a doctor would be the person most likely to identify that. Maybe you have already tried googling the issues you see? If you don't feel comfortable raising these issues with your doctor or you have not gotten answers that satisfy you then I think you should consider switching doctors. ask your doctor


Hi Rachel,

I too have a 19 month old daughter, and can empathize what a challenge this age can be when it comes to meal time.

After reading your description, and drawing from my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist, I think you should consider having your daughter's iron levels tested by her pediatrician. Due to the types and minute amounts of solid food she is, actually, ingesting, I strongly suspect that she is iron deficient (All the foods you described that she eats have little to no iron, including the milk). Relatedly, depending on the severity of a child's iron deficiency other areas of development can be slowed, such as language (see link). The good news is, if that is the culprit, once iron levels are replenished, her speech and language skills will too rapidly return to expected levels.

How to strategize the best way to get her to eat more nutrient dense foods with a variety of textures requires a more in depth discussion/analysis than I can provide here, since feeding difficulties can be the result of either physiological, sensory based sensitivities, delayed oral motor skills, or behavioral considerations (learned patterns). Teresa


Maybe I missed something in your post but have talked to her pediatrician? I would seek a medical opinion before trying alternative treatments like cranial sacral on such a young child. I would also be concerned about the risks of raw milk.

Even if you have issues with western medical treatments, having her checked out could be very informative. It could tell you if these behaviors are common, within the range of normal, or if they indicate a larger medical problem and potentially either alleviate a lot of worry or give you some direction.

While my child has not had these specific issues, he is small for his age and had some thankfully minor though challenging medical issues. Our pediatrician has always been very calming and reassuring while also proactive and helpful when treatment was needed. Another mama


Hi Rachel, It sounds like your kiddo would benefit from a speech language and feeding evaluation. You could ask your pediatrician for a referral to a speech language pathologist, or seek help through Regional Center of the East Bay which provides services for free for children under age 3. You could also find a private practitioner. The clinician should take a complete history, observe your child eating and drinking if possible, and do a language evaluation which will probably consist of a lot of questions for you, since 19 month olds are typically not very compliant with testing procedures. I would go ahead and get this done sooner rather than later, as language and feeding delays can often be treated successfully, particularly when the child is young. Erin


If your daughter truly eats nothing but milk, butter, and salt, I think there is a decent likelihood that she has iron-deficiency anemia (or is well on her way to developing it). Pica - the desire to eat non-food items like dirt - is one (rare) symptom of iron deficiency. Another symptom is decreased appetite. You can read the basics about it here:

http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/ida.html#

I would suggest that you immediately get your daughter to the pediatrician to find out if that is indeed the case. In fact, I am a little surprised that this did not come up at her 18-month check-up. Screening toddlers for anemia is standard. Has she just not been to the doctor? Or did your doc miss this? If the doc missed this, I would consider finding a new doc. In any case, a pediatrician can put her on iron supplements which will help until she matures to the point of being capable of eating all the delicious food you are making her. (I applaud you for continuing to offer her the family's food and not coercing her into eating things she doesn't want to. I think this is the right way to go in the long run. All the pushing food around on her plate is actually important work; she is learning how to eat at the table with the family, and those are the first steps. Hooray!)

Regarding language, the number of words you describe doesn't sound like a ''delay'' to me (although I am no expert). I just wanted to say that my second child had a similar number of words around that age, and then he went through a language explosion all at once, midway between 18 months and 2 years. Our pediatrician said that is incredibly common. Language development often proceeds in bursts. Also, I think my son had more language than we gave him credit for. The same few syllables actually had many, many different meanings (''ba'' meant ball, blankie, butter, bird, bus... anything that started with b). He was talking, but we were actually a little slow to catch on.

Best of luck to your family. Mom of a milk-lover too


Hi there -- I'm so sorry for your worry about your baby; I know these things can be very stressful. I can't comment about your concern about your daughter's language development (except to suggest talking to a pediatrician about it -- you didn't mention a doctor, but I would strongly suggest talking to an expert about this if you are concerned -- doing so usually makes one feel better about such things!) but I DID want to chime in about your food concerns.

You said you are not giving your daughter grains, but you didn't say why. If there's no diagnosed allergy to a specific grain, I think you should absolutely reconsider that decision. My 22-month-old has gone through times when he won't eat much, which I agree is very distressing. However, he will almost ALWAYS go for a piece of buttered, whole-grain toast. We buy Alvarado Street brand, and sure, it's not homemade, but it's got real, healthy, whole-food ingredients, and my little guy loves it. Some days he has even had two or three pieces and not much else. (Sometimes we're able to sneak something on it: avocado, occasionally hummus or cheese. And of course there's sugar-free jam, that's always a winner). Other types of grains also seem to be more palatable to him on the days when, maybe because of teething (who knows what it is?) he's not into eating: he really likes steel cut oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta -- all whole grains and all totally part of a healthy diet. I know you are worried your daughter may have an underlying condition, and I can't speak to that, but it seems like some grains, in some form or another, are definitely worth a shot!

Best of Luck! Mama of a Toast Eater


15-month-old eats only pureed food, with a DVD

April 2006

I have a happy 15 month toddler. Who eats only puree foods only while watching a dvd.He eats very little regular food. I am worried. Is he going to be eating baby food while needing to watching dvd forever or is this a phase? How do i stop this? From 12-13 month he went on a spoon strike. He just breast fed. I was so worried.So when he began eating with a dvd i was glad.Now it has become a habbit. I see other kids eat regular food and think i must not be doing something rigth but don't know what it is. Sure would like to hear from other moms who might have delt with this. Thank you for you'r time. rupa


My daughter only ate pureed food at that age, too, and I was amazed to see her peers eating adult-type food. From the time she started solids, she hated anything with any texture to it. She would just spit it out. Her favorite food was breastmilk for a long, long time. I really just went with the flow and assumed that there was a good reason for it (like maybe some delay in the ability to chew and/or swallow). As time went on she accepted soft foods and then crunchy or chewy foods, and now (age 4) eats just about any texture. I also discussed it with her pediatrician, but he was not especially worried, probably because she was doing well otherwise.

I'm not sure what to tell you about the DVD part of your question, but I definitely relate to your desire to do whatever works to get food into your child! anon


Your toddler doesn't need this, he's only trained you to think that he does. It's very very normal for toddlers to start eating less, and bending over backwards to get them to eat only teaches them about manipulation and even eating when not hungry. They are instinct driven creatures and won't starve themselves. My son would go through periods of barely eating for several days, then eating non-stop for several days. It's really hard not to panic when they don't eat as much as we think they should. I really had to control myself from just giving him unhealthy choices, bribing, or using tv to get him to eat and it paid off. Now he is 3.5 yrs old and a very healthy eater - he prefers healthy food, and stops when he's full, even if it's something like ice cream.

One thing that worked well for us was ''grazing,'' that is having healthy snacks sitting out for periods of time so he could be active and come and go to eat as he pleased. Now that he's older we've been able to gradually train him to sit through a meal. And since toddlers are so active and don't like to slow down to eat, it's good to give them high calorie/fat foods so they get more bang for the bite. Like whole milk, not skim. Our doctor illustrated it with an ounce of whole milk cheese compared to an ounce of let's say chicken protein. The cheese has more calories so they get more for what they're eating.

One more thing, studies have shown that children tend to overeat when eating while watching TV. They are so distracted and they mechanically eat. So there could be weight issues down the line, or again, they learn to eat when not hungry. anon


You need to stop showing DVDs as a way to get your child to eat. It's not a healthy association - the brain is occupied with the sound and sight, and not registering the enjoyment of food, or, more importantly, whether the body is truly hungry and when it is full. It it too easy to over-eat when watching TV or a movie. I would talk to your pediatrician regarding your child's health and food requirements. The doctor should be able to give you information on correct amounts and portions your child needs right now. It's much smaller than you think! Try to relax and keep exposing your child to food, even if it's tiny, tiny amounts. Let him have fun squishing bananas - and then licking his fingers. Show him how to dip foods - apples slices in yogurt, for example. Play with cold noodles. Roll frozen peas. Make sure he's present when your eat your meals, make it enjoyable and talk about the food. Give him tiny tastes. Different textures, tastes - as long as it's all safe sizes and he won't choke on it. Let him explore safely on his own rather than insisting he eats with a spoon. Children want to copy the people they love the most - their parents! And even the pickiest children do get hungry. It will happen. Another Mom


Have you tried non-pureed foods in broth? The foods might be soft and wet enough for him to eat. This could be a start? anon


I just wanted to respond b/c I wanted to give you a different perspective. I have two kids - a one year old and a two year old. My one year old is a GREAT eater - solid ''adult'' type foods that she can feed herself. Little bites of steamed broccoli, cubes of tofu, cooked chicken, carrots, crackers - you get the idea. A dream come true when it comes to eating. My 2 year old was NOT. At her age, he NEVER ate things like this. He'd gag if his food was not pureed and chopped up into the tiniest pieces. He also didn't want to eat in his highchair, but rather while playing or watching a video. I decided to pick my battles. And eating was not one that I wanted to pick. He ate well while playing or occupied with toys, videos and so on. As the months went by, he graduated to foods that were chunkier in texture and...he starting eating sitting down in his highchair or at a table. As they say - monkey see, monkey do - and that was the truth with my son. At his playgroup, or if we were at the park, he'd see other kids sitting down eating and he'd do the same. I find that he eats much better with other kids or when other people (aside from myself) offer him different foods. He's not the greatest eater today at 25 months, but I don't have to occupy him with toys and videos to get him to eat either. I guess my point is that my son grew out of the pureed/dvd dining phase and is eating ok these days. And my other point is my one year old eats like a dream and I didn't do anything differently with her - same parents, same parenting methods, offered her the same foods I did my son - and she's just a better, more advanced eater than he was at her age. I also am not opposed to letting my kids watch a video or dvd from time to time either and I think I have a bit more of a relaxed attitude about some things in general. I don't let my kids run around and eat b/c obviously they could choke, but I don't sweat it if they want to eat a bagel on the sofa either. My parents had a similar attitude about feeding me and my siblings and to this day, we can all make it through a meal without watching a video! :)
Just a different perspective


15-month-old refuses to take food

April 2005

My fifteen month-old daughter has started refusing food. When she refuses the spoonful of food that I offer her, I simply put it away and try a few minutes later. It worked in the past, but not anymore. I have always fed her with a spoon from her baby bowls, and in the past few months, I have started giving her finger foods. The main foods, though, come by way of the spoon/bowl. I have the feeling that she wants to feed herself, or, that she wants to try new foods. Regarding feeding herself, aside from a few finger foods, she hasn't really starting using a spoon on her own because she mainly wants to chew the spoon. Regarding new foods, I have been trying a wide variety of new foods, but they usually do not stimulate her to eat. I am worried that she will not gain weight and/or start declining on the growth curve. I feel as if I am failing my daughter in this way. Can you recommend any books of recipes for small children? Do you have any other advice? Thank you. Concerned Mom


My daughter has been eating finger foods as her main source of food since she was about 12 mos (she is now 19 mos). She found it much more interesting to feed herself than for me to feed her. Almost anything can be finger food--just cut the food into bite-size pieces. Yogurt was about the only thing I had to continue to spoon feed for a while, but there came a point where she'd rather try to eat it herself with a spoon (and get very little) than have me spoon feed her. I mush cooked sweet potatoes into little balls so she can pick them up and eat them. Same with squash. At 15 mos, I still steamed most veggies, so that they were soft enough for her to eat, again, just cutting them into bite-size pieces. Pinto and black beans are good finger food, as are tofu, corn, scrambled eggs, toast, and chopped fruit. I believe most 15 month olds are definitely ready and prefer to feed themselves. Good luck. anon


I think you may have found the answer to your own question, which is that she may want to start eating on her own. Our daughter flatly refused to be fed by us beginning at about 10 months, I think, and it was hard because she had no idea how to use a spoon. But she learned, and for a while she ate almost everything (even things like cream of wheat) with her hands. What's wrong with letting her chew on the spoon? It's part of how she'll become familiar with it. Our daughter went through stages where I was sure she would die of starvation, but so far she hasn't! What I do at every dinner meal is offer her a fruit, a vegetable, a starch and a protein in one of those plates with compartments (hers happens to be Winnie the Pooh) because she is a good eater, but does not like it when the foods mix. At breakfast I give her some dairy thing (cottage cheese, yogurt), fruit and toast or pancake or waffle. She gets cheese at every meal because it's the one thing she'll reliably eat. I also give her foods over and over and over. I probably gave her broccoli 10 times before she ate it -- now she's a big broccoli eater. I haven't found a great book for recipes for this age. I have ''Super Baby Foods,'' but hardly ever use it. Also, ''Baby's First Meals'' is popular but waaaay too much work. I used those more when I was actually making baby food. She basically eats what we eat now, so I'm not too concerned about recipes. Anyway, I don't think your daughter will starve! I have heard, though, that it's a bad thing to force the issue. She's probably going to be eating well again before you know it. Used to Worry About the Same Thing


16-month-old eats only crackers and cheese

April 2006

I've read the helpful posts on BPN about picky eaters but am really struggling here and hoping for help. My daughter stopped really eating solids around 8 months after enjoying nearly everything. Since then, she only eats crunchy cracker- type things and nearly freaks out when she even sees the dinner table, a plate of undesireable food or her parents eating something she doesn't like. She won't try anything and I'm loathe to shove it in her mouth. Other than cheese and some soy based crunchy snacks she's getting no protein- seems like it's a texture more than a flavor issue but who knows. We're still nursing but trying to limit it.

Even with snacks she loves, she doesn't eat a whole lot and I'm wondering if I should just stop giving her things that are non- healthy and have all options be good ones. Should we make her sit at the table when she so hates it? will this end?

many thanks, we've tried nearly everything. anon


I could have written your post. My son never ate baby food. He lived on mother's milk and Cheerios for months. I ended up getting a bunch of stuff from ''Just Tomatoes''. It's all freeze dried food. He eats freeze dried tofu (God knows why, but thank goodness!). The first veggies and fruits he would eat are all freeze dried too. I would give it a try. They have a web site. Also, try bacon in the microwave. It comes out crispy, and is one of the few sources of animal protein my son will eat right now.... Good Luck! Picky eater's mom


18 month old won't eat without entertainment

Jan 2006

Help. I think my wife and I have mis-trained (?) our son's eating habits. Our 18 month old son does not eat very well at home. He often doesn't want to feed himself and won't eat (or be fed) unless we read to him, play with him, sing him songs or let him play with his toys while being fed. He goes to daycare 8am-5pm where he supposedly eats lunch well (and eats a lot) and at times by himself, but at home, he has to be fed while being entertained and sometimes won't eat very much.

I think that this could be because since he started getting squirmy and impatient in his in high chair (maybe around 15 months?), we really didn't want him to be a child who wouldn't eat in his highchair and runs around the house only to come back every so often for a bite. So, we started letting him play with his toy cars and eventually other toys and now his read his books while in his highchair. We've even resorted to singing him songs to get him to stay in the chair, all the while feeding him his food which he will eat if he's occupied somehow.

Now, the problem could be just that he likes the food at daycare and not ours, but I suspect that even with less desirable food, he would eventually want to feed himself without being distracted. No?

I spoke with someone who suggested that we try just giving him his meal and then letting him feed himself. If he doesn't eat then take him out of his chair and keep putting him back in an hour later until he gets hungry enough to eat himself. However, since we both work and he has to go to daycare 5 days/week, we don't really have the time to try this out except on the weekends which sadly are often as busy as the weekdays.

Has anyone else had any other experiences like this? Should we continue to cater to our son's meal expectations to be entertained/occupied just to get him to eat? Or, anyone have any surefire 18 month old appropriate recipes? Entertaininment for meals


It's not that you've mis-trained your son, it's that he's trained you!

It's quite common at your son's age to be a picky eater or even to eat less than before. And especially if he is an active boy, they just don't have time to sit and eat. It will pass. My son was never a very good eater, and there were days when I was really concerned about him not eating enough. He just didn't want to eat no matter what I did. But everything I read said that this is normally at this age, and that if you really push it, you're just teaching them to eat when they're not hungry. They WILL eat when they're hungry. And there are some kids at this age that are naturally just ''grazers,'' that is, they'd rather pick every now and then than sit for a big meal.

So pick your battle. Do you want him to eat without the constant entertainment, or do you want his butt in that seat no matter what? I chose the eating w/out entertainment and would set out several things out on a kids table in the dining room for him. He'd run around and kept returning for food, he was a grazer and there was no way around it. When it was time for me to take him to day care I'd sometimes put some stuff in a tupperware and give it to him in his carseat. Not something I thought I'd ever do, but hey, he'd eat and we'd both avoid a power struggle. Your trying to get your son to stay in a chair and eat on your terms can start becoming a power struggle. As your son gets older he'll be better about doing what he is told as long as you are consistent. They mellow out and are better about sitting still. You know that expression ''the terrible twos?'' Well, I think the two's are a breeze compared to the 18 months to 2 years. anon


We accidentally started raising a grazer and a kid who wouldn't want to eat unless he could beg and walk around with stuff. I decided to nip it in the bud. We are making some progress with our kid who is now 22 months by establishing a routine and sticking to it.

First, we were told by our friends with kids that it is highly unlikely our kid will starve. If your kid is eating at daycare, you have a little manipulator on your hands and you need to break him of it.

We also work full time but have gotten very good at the same dinner routine. My husband comes home around 7. Son and I get hom around 5. When we come home, he and I unwind together by reading or listening to music. Then, I prepare dinner. I serve him what we are eating (and, to be fair, I do try and prepare stuff he'll like like chicken, pasta, potatoes).

When it's time to eat, he gets a plate just like us. I give him various utensils to experiment with and something to drink.

He does not have to eat what we give him. It's his choice. At first, there were many dinners where he ate nothing or had some yogurt for desert. We let him do what he wants. It took some time, but he's gotten so much better at being a good little diner. You just need to keep at it. Do the same thing each time.

Our rules are: if he throws food on the floor, we assume he's done and he goes down. Anytime he begs for food, even snacks, we put him in his high chair to eat. If he pitches a fit or refused to eat with it in the high chair, too bad. It's the high chair or nothing. Again, it took a while, but he is now getting the picture.

Also, we had to curb our roaming and eating too. So, now, Mommy and Daddy only eat at the table (and the house is cleaner for it). He really is getting the point that you eat at the table and he's been so much better at trying new things.

Worth a shot. anon


Hi! It sucks, doesn't it? Toddler eating habits are so off the wall sometimes. But I can honestly say that this might be one of those times where a little tough love is in order. My son can be soooo squirmy and all that in his highchair (he's 20 months) so we have decided to live by the golden rule of ''parents decide what and when they eat, the kids decide how much''. If he gets out of control and stays that way after a few warnings, then he's out of the chair. You don't need tons of time to do this. You have dinnertime, use it. Then, he's done eating. No more food... our son has a cup of milk before bed, and if he didn't eat dinner, he stays hungry. He learns that there are consequences to his actions, and dinner has become a lot more fun for all of us now. Sometimes there are days where he had a lot to eat all day, is actually NOT hungry, and will go play while my husband and I finish our food. I let him decide... it takes a while for him to figure this all out, but believe me, if you stick with it, your child will unlearn the habits.

Good Luck!!! Sarah


I would imagine your very young son might be needing attention from you. Why not treat mealtimes as a special time to talk to your baby, smile, joke, eat, play, sing....It sounds like he spends very little time with you as it is, let alone singing, playing, reading, etc. and maybe he is smart enough to have figured out a way to get more positive attention from you. Also, all the things you describe sound like things that relax him and make him more in the mood to eat. Maybe he is not feeling so relaxed, or is picking up on your constant on-the-go energy and this is affecting his appetite. You can do some hardline behavioral things like taking him out of his seat and trying again an hour later, but I would suggest you first analyze the motivation/need behind his behavior.. My approach would be to talk to him and have fun with him during meals, just as you would with anyone else. Play counting games with his food, joke around, make the banana do the banana dance on his tray(those slippery peels have some smooth moves!), have a good time. Meals are supposed to be a fun, relaxing, social time anyway, right, more than another thing to get done in a day full of to-do's?
- A single mom who loves to talk to her baby and play during meals


Breastfeeding 19-mo-old not eating

Aug 2005

My daughter is 19 m and nursing about 5 times per 24h. I've been thinking that she'll wean when she wants to do it by herself (though right now I'm not quite sure that it would work). Anyway, that's not a problem yet (will be around her 2nd birthday probably). I'm worried about her eating, she really doesn't eat much, but she's not skinny. Has chubby legs and arms a.s.o. There've been some changes, like moving to Berkeley from Sweden when she was 15 m. She did eat a little better before. Now it has gone so far that she would choose breastmilk instead of other food. I have to put on her favorite dvd and while looking at it I can put food into her mouth. Not always anymore actually, now she turns away her head sometimes. I really don't know how to deal with this. I'm worried that it's not enough with breastmilk and just small amounts of regular food. During one day she eats for example: a small portion of yoghurt (with pumpkin seeds), a half avocado, a cooked carrot, 1-2 small meatballs/fish, a small portion of porridge. A half of banana and raisins as snack. Almost every evening I'm thinking that has she really got enough of food today. luige


My youngest is 26 months old and still nursing, on-demand until about a month ago. He's gone through phases with food, eating lots for a while, then eating frighteningly little. He's completely healthy though, so I don't worry about it.

The day's food you described for your daughter is actually more than my son eats some days, and it sounds like she's getting a good variety. As long as she's healthy, and you aren't locked in a power struggle over eating, I think you can trust her instincts regarding how much she needs to eat.

If food becomes the object of a power struggle, it can be so damaging---to your relationship with your child, to your child's ability to even know what and how much they want/need to eat---and food can get attached to all kinds of complicated emotional issues, etc. To me, it's not worth that kind of stress to cajole my child into eating what someone else thinks he should. Good luck. DL


Is she gaining weight well? Does her body have enough iron? If the answer to both those questions is yes, then you're only dealing with a behavioral issue and not a nutritional one. A great book is Ellen Sattyr's ''Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense''. She says over and over again that many toddlers would happily drink their entire diet than eat, and talks about behavior strategies for parents to make sure that toddlers get an appropriate diet.

I would definitely get her blood checked for anemia. If a big portion of her diet is milk (of whatever kind) it's a risk, both because calcium interferes with iron absorption and milk can displace more iron-rich foods. I would closely follow her weight gain. Any concerns with those would need to be addressed promptly. Otherwise you can try to transition her to a more food-oriented diet as quickly or slowly as you like. Kate


Breastmilk alone can and does provide sufficient calories and nutrition for some children for 2 or even 3 years! So if your primary concern is your daughter's health, relax. Monitor her weight gain and overall health, of course, but if she is growing and developing normally, then she is getting enough to eat.

If your concern is that you can't handle how often she is nursing, or if her diet is not calorie-dense enough for healthy growth, then you may consider weaning -- total or partial (I do know a couple of toddlers who had weight-gain problems that were resolved with weaning) -- or you may be able to get your daughter to eat a higher proportion of calorie-dense, nutrient- dense foods without the trauma of parent-led weaning. But given your list of what she typically eats, you are already doing a pretty good job of that (the avocado and yogurt are great choices), and actually it looks to me as if she eats plenty. Remember that small children have small tummies!

You might also want to look for ways to offer your daughter some extra love and comfort, which she probably needs right now as she's still adjusting to the big move, other than nursing. This will be especially important if you do decide to wean her before she self-weans.

I have a nearly 15-month-old daughter who nurses quite a bit more and eats a lot less other foods than her older brother did at the same age, or even at a substantially younger age. But both kids are quite healthy -- and I am a big fan of toddler nursing for all sorts of reasons -- so I don't worry. Nursing mom


First off, if she's not skinny, she's getting enough food. Kids, unless they have a severe health problem, do not starve themselves. If she's hungry, she will eat what she needs. Second, the more you obsess about her eating solid food and try to force her to eat it, the more problematic it is likely to become. Between 18-24 months is when kids start saying ''no'' like it's their favorite word -- and resisting stuff parents try to get them to do. One strategy you might try is to always give her solid food before nursing, so she'll be hungry, but not to allow her to become extremely hungry (offer her snacks every 3-4 hours or so). And often what works is to put her in her high chair, put some food in front of her (I usually tried 3-4 pieces of 2-3 different foods, say chunks of avocado, bits of pasta, and chunks of chicken), and then to do something else yourself but in the same room, so she doesn't have your undivided attention. She might not eat much at first, but if she gets used to this being the routine, she might start eating more. You might even think about alternating solid food sessions, and nursing sessions, so that she doesn't learn to just ignore the solid food and wait for the milk. Try things out, giving them a few weeks before rejecting them, to see what works best. Karen


That sounds like plenty of food to me, and an especially well- balanced diet for her age. A couple things to consider:
* It's very common for 1-year-olds to have a sudden decrease in appetite/interest in food as their growth slows down and their mobility increases. It's not necessarily due to your recent move or other life changes.
* The average weight gain in the 2nd year of life is only about 4 lbs, or a 20-25% increase. (Compare that to the 1st year, when babies' weight increases ~300% from birth!)
* The pediatrician Berry Brazelton has written (see his book ''Touchpoints'') that minimum daily food intake for a 1-year- old should be: 1 pt milk (or yogurt, cheese, etc.), 1/4 c. of food with protein and/or iron (such as meat, egg, or fortified cereals), 1/8 c. fruit or OJ, and a multivitamin if you can't get the kid to eat additional fruits and vegetables. And that's IT!
* Have you tried letting her self-feed? It may be a battle over control rather than over food per se.

Check with your pediatrician of course, but it sounds like she's doing fine. Don't worry!


Actually, it sounds as if she's getting a good amount of food. Don't worry unless she's not gaining enough weight, really. anon


Weaning 20-month-old - she's not eating food

Sept 2005

I wonder about weaning. My daughter, 20 mo, eats so little, mostly she thinks that breastmilk is hear main food. I know that she has no intensive growing at the moment, but when she gets hungry she only wants to nurse. She'll cry if I tell her to eat something else, or serve her something else. Should I let her cry? It feels cruel to me.

I've started the weaning process, so she doesn't nurse at daytime anymore, only sometimes at noon before nap. She shows no interest in wanting to eat proper food, accepts only a couple of things. What should I cook, how can I serve her food? I am tired of trying and thinking out things, when she does not like anything, refusing or spotting out the food. Why can't she eat like other kids... Is it stressy for her while weaning? I'm afraid that she doesn't get enough nutrition when I stop nursing her.

No grandparents of other relatives here (live in Europe). I guess that most difficult will be to stop the bedtime nursing. Any ideas how to manage this? Does she forget about nursing after a while, starts eating well? worried


Give yourself a break and see a lactation consultant for a weaning plan ;) I saw Sarah Duskin at Day One in San Francisco and we made a daily and month-long plan for weaning. Her best advice: give real treats for snacks - like cookies, and distract your toddler by taking them outside or to exciting activities during former nursing times. Lots of toddlers eat very little so take heart! Mom of two - one weaned one nursing


Hi, Just keep working at it. Try offering baked goods (muffins, bread, bagels,), pancakes, waffles, toast (different ways). Try really good, ripe fruit. Try steamed green beans, broccoli, baby carrots, red pepper.

Sometimes the shape matters, so try presenting it different ways. My daughter liked stuff that she could grasp herself and feed herself ( so long rectangles worked best). One shape of pasta may be fine and another yucky!

I think it helps if your child can see you eat something. I swear my daughter wouldn't touch pasta until her grandpa took a big hunk of spagetti ( without sauce) and ate it in front of her from the ends up! JM


Almost 22-month daughter will not eat

Sept 2006

Our otherwise perfectly healthy 22-month daughter barely eats. It started during a bad cold, so we just assumed it was that. However, it's now been almost a week since the cold got better, and she literally eats next to nothing. I feel overjoyed if I get her to eat a cheese stick or a few bites of avocado. She will sometimes eat bread products, but that's really about it. She sometimes acts like she wants to eat--takes a bite or two-- but then she spits it out or pushes it away.

She does drink a lot of milk (soy). I know this may get in the way of her appetite, but I only offer it once she's denied any and all food. She drinks up to 30ozs of soy milk a day. Is this the reason? (This has only been happening since she stopped eating; normally she drank 6-10 ozs a day.) I'm afraid if I take the soy milk away she'll dehydrate and wither away to nothing.

I recently heard someone describe kids like this as ''air''- eterians, since they seem to live on air. Is this normal? When do I worry? Should I be putting her on vitamins? Any tricks?

Thanks for your thoughts,
Jewish mom wanting to feed her child!


If you're not philosophically opposed, switch to real milk and please do not give your daughter so much soy milk. For one thing, soy is being revealed to be pretty bad: http://www.westonaprice.org/soy/. But aside from that, if you give her real milk (preferable raw, but ok if not) you'll get more calories out of the 30 oz she is taking in. If the food intake is limited, try to think of the most calorie and nutrient-dense food you can for each bite! Anon


Your child is practically two. Barring any medical problems or other developmental stages (could she be teething?), many pediatricians and dieticians say that 2 year olds ''know'' how to regulate their food intake. There are days when they will eat all day long and others when they will barely touch two slices of bread. My son didn't seem to eat as much as his friends or cousins but he is not underweight and I have learned to just relax when he doesn't feel like eating. We used to give him everything under the sun because we were worried he'd wither away. But then, I just decided that he'd eat what we ate or I'd place a variety of things on his plate that I thought he may like; if he didn't want any of it, then we wouldn't feed offer anything else to him. We'd take away his food after we were done having our meal and by the next mealtime (or the next day if this was dinner) he'd want to eat. Have you tried this? good luck! anon


You may wish to read about soy milk at www.westonaprice.org and at http:// www.thewholesoystory.com/, both of which have some really solid data and studies about the use of unfermented soy. As the information therein relates to your daughter's lack of appetite, soy does contain trypsin inhibitors that block protein digestion. Nori


This is such a difficult age child to feed. Children this age eat a small amount; generally the growth rate at 2 years, is much slower than that of 1 year olds. Serving sizes are 1-2 tablespoons for each food group. Given that, drinking lots of milk can really fill up these kids, and take away desire and interest in feeding. It is recommended to limit milk to 16-24 oz for this age. You can give it to her frequently, just smaller amounts. Also, children this age also are beginning to act more independently, so will do the opposite of what you want; it is recommended to just offer the food in small amouints, and not focus or comment on the quantitiy: You are in charge of the food and she is in charge of the amounts. Check out Ellyn Satter's books on feeding young children. Another factor is the more attention one gives to a bad habit, the more that habit is being reinforced. It is a lot of work to feed young kids Peds dietitian


I listen to ''your own health and fitness'' a radio show on KPFA, hosted by Lana Burman. She had a physician/chemist on her show years ago. He said that excessive soy can actually turn off pancreatic enzymes that facilitate the absorption of vitamins A,D, E & K. Her digestion maybe effected by the amount of soymilk that she is taking in. I have also met two women in the past year who are in their 20's and drank soymilk as children and now vomit when they eat anything that contains soy. Please go to www.kpfa.org and look up the radio show, ''your own health and fitness'' shows' host email address. Lana Burman is a nutritional expert lunayogini[at]yahoo.com


I think it is quite normal to loose your appetite when you are sick. And sometimes it takes a while to get back to normal. You said that it has been almost a week since the cold got better. She could still be recovering from the cold even though she seems fine. Sometimes cold viruses can irritate the digestive track. I know they do for me. You might try giving her foods that are easier to digest and won't irritate the stomach. Rice is good, and so are vegetables. I would avoid cheese or bread because dairy and wheat are hard to digest. Whenever my daughter got sick, our whole routine would be thrown off. Her sleep patterns would change, her emotional needs would change, and her eating habits would change. And these changes would sometimes continue for several weeks AFTER she got over being sick. I called it the ''1 step forward, 2 steps backward'' syndrome. Perhaps your daughter desires only soymilk because it reminds her of being more of an infant. Did you feed her soy milk since she was on infant? Did soy milk replace breast feeding? Do you give her the soy in a bottle? Sippy cup? Anyway, my point is that the soy drinking might be giving her a feeling of comfort and security. You might try to give her other things that give her a sense of comfort and security, like reading to her, cuddling with her, etc. I would also caution against too much soy for long periods of time. There have been reports on the possible harmful effects of too much soy in children's diets. You might consider trying rice milk or almond milk instead. And if you are worried about dehydration, then add a little water to the soy milk, increasing it each time she has some. This may help ''wean'' her off of it too. Also, talk to your pediatrician. They may have other suggestions on what to feed her while she is on her ''hunger strike''. They may say that the soy milk is fine, and that she is just going through a phase, as long as she is getting enough calories and is not loosing any weight. Good Luck Laurey


Is it possible that your daughter has a sore throat? My daughter will not eat solids when she has a sore throat, and will make up for it with liquids (nursing, in her case). Hopefully the problem has resolved by now, but if not, you might check with her pediatrician anon


I had a very similar problem with 2 children. Both of my sons scarcely ate for a period of at least a year for the eldest and several months for the youngest. I did not try anything drastic. It has turned out that as they discovered foods they really enjoyed they began to eat regularly.

Also, I am a child care provider and I have noticed recently that at least 2 clients supplement their children's diets with pediasure, prescribed by their children's pediatricians. anon


The taking bites and spitting them out sounds a lot like pain from teething. Try giving baby ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil), and then feeding half an hour later. If that doesn't work, it may also be a mild stomach bug, which should resolve in a few more days. (I remember when my son had one whose only symptom for about five days was refusing food. I was beside myself, and actually relieved when he finally threw up, so I knew what was going on!)

If the solid food strike goes for more than two weeks, a call to your dr. may be in order, even just to get a weight check and set your mind
at ease jewish mama feels your pain