Child won't eat, at a loss..... — The Bump
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Child won't eat, at a loss.....

I have a 3 year old little boy who only eats plain bread, veggie chips and ketchup, dried cereal, pancakes, and french fries.  He does drink Pediasure every day for nutrients and I can get a vitamin down him because I mix it with fruit snacks.  I have bought the cook books, I have tried to leave him alone and let him eat and not pressure him.  Tonight was the first night that my DH and I just lost it and decided on tough love.  He sat at the table with spagetti and white bread for 3 hours until I was able to hand feed him the bread. Would not touch the pasta.  I seriously am at a loss.  DH doesn't want to call the doctor, he says this is just something we have to work through.  Thoughts???

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Re: Child won't eat, at a loss.....

  • 3 hours? Really? Really? Perhaps his eating/power struggle is related to something going on in your family. Is he bonded? Does he feel safe, nurtured, confident?
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  • When my SS came to live with us, he was the quintessential picky eater, Mac and cheese (the only pasta), PBJ (only grape), cereal and chicken nuggets. I do not eat like that and I will not run my kitchen that way.  DH and I were VERY clear that we would not cater to him before he came to live with us, but he choose it and then kvetched about it.  

    My aunt, a pediatric nurse practitioner, offered up this program that her pedis have been telling their patients.

    1) lunch and dinner should have three parts - veggie/fruit, protien and starch.

    2) the serving sizes of EACH part is ONE bite (age appropriate size is important) per age. Ex: a 3 yo lunch would start off with 3 grapes, 3 bites of organic cheese stick and 3 whole wheat crackers.  This is not enough to fill them up, but is not overwhelming for the child.  Most adults give kids adult size portions.  Even halving what we consider an adult size portion is still too big, given adult size portions are usually too big to begin with.

    3) of the three parts, make two partssomething he likes. He/she needs to eat all 9 bites, to include the new food, before he can get more of one of the other parts. The 6 bites is Not really enough to fill up a belly. In fact, people tend to want to eat more after starting to eat. So the probability of eating the last three, age appropriate sized bites gets better. 

    Remember that it can take 20 tries before a child will learn he likes the new food. 

    4) set a meal timer. No more than 20 mins. If he doesn't eat in the timeframe, no food until the next meal/snack.  And the snack, must be healthy. 

    5) do not argue, wheedle, beg or guilt. That makes this a battle...and he thinks he can win it. When you take the outward give and take away, he will lose interest in this form of control.  Which is what food battles are usually all about.

    6) look at other ways your son can gain some "control" - which is another way of saying independence. We used a TON of "choose between A and B" in our house and then moved on from there.

     

    It worked like a charm and SS was over his pickiness in about a month. And DD has never really given us a fight (at least with food) because we started her out on this program at 2.

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  • since most of his foods of choice seem to belong to a same food group/texture group, I think this is beyond normal childhood pickiness and not something you can fix by putting your foot down and demanding he eat what you say he should.  Google food chaining, that might be a good place to start.  Since he likes plain bread and pancakes, French toast might be a good place to start adding items to his diet.  You can add veggie purees to the batter too.  you have to go very slowly as you add new things, like the thinnest layer of peanut butter or jelly to bread or toast and slowly working up from there.  Baked sweet potato fries instead of regular fries might be good to try too.  Try to make every bite count as much as you can. 

    I would definitely address this with his Ped though and pursue occupational/food therapy, at least just to find out that there isn't anything mechanical going on that is inhibiting a normal diet.  FWIW, kids that had reflux, food allergies or frequent ear infections often don't eat a good diet.  For them, food = pain at times and some kids just don't forget.  DS is like this due to ear infections and FAs and he has not forgotten a single food that did him wrong.  

    DS1 age 7, DD age 5 and DS2 born 4/3/12
  • There was an article about this in March's Parents magazine. Check their website to see if they have it there. It might actually be an eating condition and not just being picky. Good luck.
  • As adults, we all have food preferences...so do kids! Not all kids refuse to eat as some kind of struggle for control. I am what a lot of people would consider a "picky eater" but, for me, I have food issues that I consider close to food allergies. There are a lot of foods that make me sick just to smell them (like tuna fish). I would have become malnutritioned as a child rather than to eat certain foods.

    My son is also a "picky eater"...he will eat almost any fruit, most grains, but very little veggies and meat. I try not to stress about it. I offer a variety of foods and make sure there is at least one thing on his plate that he likes. He can eat it or not eat it. The meal usually lasts until DH and I are done eating (unless he is still actually eating).
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  • DS only eats 4 food items.  He started seeing an OT and a nutritionist when he was 2 years old.  They have worked on so much with him, but have had little success.

    Currently we let him eat what he wants, he also drinks a carnation instant breakfast and gets vitamins.  He is offered new food daily and refuses.  We have made a reward chart for him for tasting new foods.  Five new tastes and he gets to go to chuck e cheese.

    When trying foods he is asked to smell the food (on the fork), kiss it, lick it and then taste it in his mouth (it may or may not stay in his mouth).

    For us, it is not worth the struggle of forcing him to eat food.  I wish he would eat more, but he just isn't going to right now and I am ok with that.

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  • Call your pedi.

    Giving pediasure is probably doing more harm than good. Filling him up with liquid calories is counterproductive, unless he is dangerously thin.

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  • imagesmsalat:

    Our rule is: She eats what we give, no substitutes (unless it is something totally inappropriate for her like super spicy food).  She gets no more than 20 min. to eat.  If she eats then she can get a small dessert (small scoop of ice cream, fruit snacks, popscicle, etc), if she doesn't eat, then no dessert and no food until the next meal.

    I will take her plate that she didn't eat, wrap it up, and put it in the fridge and if she decides she is hungry and wants to eat something, that is her only option.  Nothing else.

    This is exactly what we do.  We also make an exception for foods we know she just doesn't like.  (Heck, I don't like cooked carrots and I wouldn't want someone forcing those one me!)  Also, I agree with the comments about portion size.  Get a plate specifically for toddlers (Target sells them by the toddler cups).

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  • We are in the same boat. My daughter literally eats nothing either and from what I've heard with most of my friends (minus one whose son eats anything) they all say the same thing. We have good days and bad days on food, but I don't force anything. Her staples are PBJ, hot dogs, fruit, some veggies, cheese and crackers and grilled cheese. Our most successful meal of the day is breakfast (she will eat most breakfast items). I have spoken to the pediatrician about it and he said, you offer healthy options,  if they eat they eat, if they don't they don't but they will not starve themselves, when they are hungry, they will eat. He also suggested the small portions for them and to keep in mind when you are making it they they will probably just eat 1/2 of what you've offered. He said some days 3 year olds will eat everything in sight and the next day 1 grape and that is it, it is all normal.

    Also-watch the snacks. I am bad about offering her snacks because I WANT her to eat, but then she won't eat meals. Sitting at a table for 3 hours is not going to solve anything.  Many times DD's dinner is yogurt, fruit and a granola bar, which is fine by me. I don't expect or demand her to eat what DH and I are eating. 

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  • imagebyrne15:

     We have made a reward chart for him for tasting new foods.  Five new tastes and he gets to go to chuck e cheese.

    For us, it is not worth the struggle of forcing him to eat food.  I wish he would eat more, but he just isn't going to right now and I am ok with that.

    I have been through:  early intervention (to make sure it wasn't a mouth issue), 2 pediatricians, 5 daycare workers (with a combined experience of almost 100 years) and still, my son eats about 6 things.  I feel your pain.

    I agree with the above poster about doing the reward chart- that was recommended by everyone and it has made a small dent in his pickiness.  He even realized he would eat a few bites of an apple and like it.  But those victories are few and far between.

    First- I would ask how big/small your LO is.  My pedi was ok with his pickiness (with a vitamin) as long as we keep trying new foods but mainly because my son is in the 99th percentile so he doesn't need the calories. 

    It is a day to day struggle and sometimes I get frustrated but I never force him to eat if he doesn't want it.  I grew up with a psycho mom about food who gave me such a complex about my body becasue of it.  I swore I would never do that with my kids.  I encourage him to eat without forcing anything.  I teach him about strong bones, muscles and healthy eating without giving him guilt about calories.  I dont' want a power struggle over food.  I don't want him to be spiteful about food becasue he's mad at me and it's a control issue.  There is no right or wrong- we all have our personal views about food - but I guess I'm writing this just so there is an awareness that food=control=body image issues can start young and forcing a child for 3 hours to sit and eat is in my personal view, not healthy for a child's mind or body.

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  • Please do not make your child sit at the table for three hours! My parents did this to me often and I would have so much anxiety before a meal.  It was terrible.

    DS is a great eater so I do not have much advice for you.  I know from my BIL & SIL how stressful it can be to have a picky eater.  One of the things their pedi suggested was so cut out some of his liquids.  He was filling up so much on liquid he was not hungry.  Good luck! 

    April 2009
  • Lots of good advice from previous ladies on here. Your dh says he doesn't want to call the pedi but I would call to find out a better approach for your child then making him sit at the dinner table for 3hrs and making it a traumatic experience. That makes me so sad for him. My alcoholic dad used to do that to me when I was a kid and it never worked.

    For my girls it always helped to see the food many times. Like the pp said, it could take up to 20 times for them to see the food before they want to eat it. I notice this to be true for even food my girls haven't eaten in a long time too. When I reintroduce foods, I might have to give it to them a few times before they start eating it again.

    Also, I use other people. If my girls see grandma or a friend eating a certain new food, they are more likely to eat it and think it's a cool.My nephew has autism and I know they were last trying to give rewards for just trying(a bite or two) of a new food.  Good luck to you.

     

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  • I'm sorry - I can't pussyfoot around this - what you're doing is fuckedup and will lead to serious, serious future food issues for your child. 

    Take him to the doctor to rule out any kind of health issue or issues w/ texture/swallowing, etc.  If there are no problems w/ that - let it go.  Serve healthy options at meals and snacks, try to make at least one thing on each meal a food he/she will eat (even if it means 2 gummy worms on each plate), involve him in shopping for food, setting the table, picking his plate, planning and prepping meals, have him help you plant a small garden if you have space and time for that, vary around where he's eating - maybe he wants to eat in the kitchen or try a different seat at the table, try moving dinner time up/back 15 minutes, etc.  Dont' put so much pressure on dinnertime as a "big" meal either - if your LO wants to eat a huge lunch or breakfast and only nibble at dinner, let him; its healthier for him.  After all those options are presented, let him eat what he wants based on the healthy & approprite choices you offer.

    Don't make meals a battle of wills - it won't work out and and it will just make your life and your LO's miserable and tense.  I'd also cut out the pediasure - unless your kid is dangerously underweight (which your doctor will tell you) you don't need it and he's likely not eating regular food b/c he has the option to drink pediasure instead.  You are setting up your LO's relationship w/ food for life - don't make it unpleasasnt.  He eats what he eats, don't overfeed him, give him a small group of options so you don't work yourself up about "wasted" food, etc.

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  • Holy crap. Some of you women are so controlling. Ease up a bit.
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  • Some tough love might not be a bad idea (we are having spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and if you do not eat it by the time everyone else is done their meal, then you can wait until snack time to eat.) We have to do it with DD and meat especially.

    The other thing to try is exploring shapes and such as far as things like pasta goes. DD loves wagon wheel, bowtie and alphabet pasta like its nobody's buisness. Cucumbers cut with little cookie cutters to resemble giraffes? Gobbles them.

    And one last thing is to try is a bribe method that we have to pull out (especially when beef is on the menu). Madi can have a drink of her milk/juice/whatever after she has 2 bites. Then she hands the glass back and has some more. She doesn't even realize anymore that we are bargaining with her and just eats whats infront of her and asks for a sip of her drink.

    Good luck!!

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  • imageSpenjamins:
    Holy crap. Some of you women are so controlling. Ease up a bit.

    I have to agree. 

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  • imageJinsy80:

    imageSpenjamins:
    Holy crap. Some of you women are so controlling. Ease up a bit.

    I have to agree. 

    and we wonder why we have an obesity epidemic. ...

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  • I feel your pain. DS is very picky. He loves all fruits and veggies, thankfully.nour main problem is dinner. I offer him what we are eating and if he doesn't eat it, he doesn't eat it. It is frustrating, but we do everything possible to make sure it isn't a battle.
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  • imageKathrynMD:
    imageJinsy80:

    imageSpenjamins:
    Holy crap. Some of you women are so controlling. Ease up a bit.

    I have to agree. 

    and we wonder why we have an obesity epidemic. ...

     

    Not my kids lady! My 4 1/2 year old is 36lbs...I'm just happy when she eats. And the baby actually has sensory issues...she's in EI. When they eat something semi-healthy, it's a good thing. I'm not going to have food rules. 

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  • imageJinsy80:
    imageKathrynMD:
    imageJinsy80:

    imageSpenjamins:
    Holy crap. Some of you women are so controlling. Ease up a bit.

    I have to agree. 

    and we wonder why we have an obesity epidemic. ...

     

    Not my kids lady! My 4 1/2 year old is 36lbs...I'm just happy when she eats. And the baby actually has sensory issues...she's in EI. When they eat something semi-healthy, it's a good thing. I'm not going to have food rules. 

    I agree w/ you - we have so many weird hang ups about food/discipline/love and it all gets whipped up (hehe) together and we end up as children and adults w/ a very fuckedup emotional relationship w/ food.  The easier/low stress we make eating, the healthier our kids and their relationship to food will be IMO.

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  • Hi, I actually just heard about this type of picky eating on a radio show, and it can be genetic or behavioral.  It isn't your fault.  Here is a blog that talks about feeding problems: www.feedingtherapyhelp.com.  Many docs will just blow this off, but it can become an actual problem if it affects nutrition and weight gain.  Sometimes it goes away, but sometimes it persists into adulthood. This is very selective, so I would be concerned and don't feel bad about that.

     

  • DD doesn't eat meat. Never really has, but I still offer it to her. Fi is a pickier eater than either of my kids, and we have the same "rule" as one of the pp's. Eat it or don't. It will never change. I have tried cooking something different for everyone, but I don't have the time nor the patience to do so. My stepdaughter comes over and refuses to eat anything I make. I have tried everything I can think of to make a noncrap version of what she says she wants to eat (she doesn't even eat veggies at her house), and she still doesn't like it. It's a constant battle, but I don't let her sit at the table and whine about it. If you don't want to eat it, you may be excused from the table. When kids are hungry, they will eat. Giving him that power now is just making for a bigger issue as he gets older. Assuming there are no medical issues, I'd stick with it. I usually offer an alternative if they don't eat any of what I make (because I'm certainly far from an amazing cook), but it's usually an apple, carrot sticks, homemade granola bar, etc. I think making a bigger deal out of it causes it to be much more of an issue.
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  • I have the same problem in my house. I have taken to catering to what he will eat, so I avoid drama. He often has cereal or oatmeal for dinner. I'm marking this so I can re-read it later and try some of the things people have suggested.
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