Talking about: When a toddler refuses to eat

Last May I wrote about my daughter refusing to eat.  Over the past 14 months the progress has been slow but steady.  As our daughter was not living with us until just before Christmas it was a mystery we only viewed when we would go to visit her on holidays or time off.  Her grandparents used a lot of resources to feed her, effort and time.  To feed her a single meal would take 1 to 2 hours and leave quite a mess all over the place.  So what has happened since December in this area?


Our daughter recently turned 2.  She is now only drinking milk/formula mix 3 times a day, once for afternoon nap and twice at night, bedtime and early morning.  We have started to wean the formula back by replacing 30~50 percent with whole milk, this process is still in its experiment phases.  Her interest in food is growing and growing well, sort of.  She is more interested in what others are eating then what you try to feed her, even if it is the same thing.  Her favorites all include easy to chew and digest items; bread, crackers, noodles, rice, corn, bean sprouts, spinach, asparagus tips, nuts, raisins, and soups.  The hates meats and only like egg yokes, not the whites (unusual from my experience).  She is curious about foods, just not enough to really try to eat them. 


Her eating habits, that of trying to feed her, has only marginally improved.  She still refuses to sit still to eat, is easily distracted and easily bored with eating, and is easily frustrated and upset while eating.  Try to feed her to fast and she will spit food out on the floor or gag herself to the point of actually throwing up.  Try to feed her something she does not want and she will run away or throw a huge fit.  She seems to like it best when strangers feed her instead of family.  If other kids are around and eatting then she will eat better.  The only thing that will make it easier to feed her is the TV, something I loathe but have to put up with.  Getting her to eat a full meal is still quite a chore and can take up to an hour or longer depending on her mood, and yes food still ends up all over the place (she refuses to sit to eat, only eats standing up and frequently runs away).  Being 2 it is really hard to discipline her but her eating habits are only marginally getting better.


My wife’s parents stated she acted the same way to eat, and it took hours to feed her with 2 to 3 people chasing her to feed her constantly.  Chinese children are considered healthy only by how fat they are, as Sophia is only half Chinese her body does not hold fat the same way and her metabolism is sky high, like mine, and her weight is below her age group, but she is taller then kids 6 months older then her still.  My mother states that at 2 she is beginning to exert her independence and feel out the boundaries we will set for her, she is also getting to the point of seeking out the world and being curious and easily bored with everything (except TV of course).  She is eating now, but not enough to keep up with the weight guidelines and expectations of her Chinese grandparents.


I am happy to see her use a fork and spoon to eat, she tries to use chopsticks but only with very limited success and she always uses them backwards.  She has started to roll play feeding her dolls and stuffed animals, I encourage this as it shows she understands the concept and to see how she deals with them.  She is listed in her progress book as eating well in school, her grandmother insists she eat a double lunch to gain weight, but she has come home from school in the afternoon and acted starving so it is hard to tell from that.  She is full of energy, never tires, but never seems interested in food.  Not sure if this is a stage or if she has the odd ability I do of ignoring what the body is telling you, I can forget to eat for days on end if pre-occupied or too lazy to clean up the mess from cooking.  What ever the case, she will eat now, does not refuse to eat like she did 9 months ago, so for those parents looking for something other then advice (I get 10 to 20 search hits a week on this very topic) then it is something they begin to grow out of after some time. 


It is distressing to see a kid not eat.  It is hard to remember they have much smaller stomachs and higher metabolisms so their eating requirements are totally different.  I have been there and can say from observation, it will pass slowly.  Encourage their curiosity but be prepared when the attention shifts, it is just their nature.  They have odd likes and dislikes and will change in an instant sometimes demanding something different halfway through a meal, its part of the phase.  Keep an eye on the weight, thin out the formula and give more water during the day.  Cut their foods into smaller easy to chew portions, if they can’t chew it quickly they will refuse to eat it again.  Encourage roll play so they can get a sense of how they should eat.  I let my daughter feed me a little at home, hoping it imprints her with the sense of accepting the food when it is offered to you to her.  And the largest word of advice, Patience!  It is frustrating but all a part of growing up, at 2 she is exploring and experiencing many things for the first time so I have to keep remembering this.  I hope over the next 9 months it will mostly pass and then it will be just the matter of getting her to eat all her dinner, and not chasing her around the house to feed her.  Time will tell.

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One Response to Talking about: When a toddler refuses to eat

  1. Tracey says:

    Ugh! lt sounds really stressful.

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