Withholding Food From A Two Year Old?

[deleted account] ( 32 moms have responded )

My kids had a playdate with a friend yesterday. The big kids (a 4 YO, my 3 YO twins, a set of 2 YO twins, and another 2 YO) ate lunch and went off to play. The moms continued to finish our lunches while the kids played. I was feeding my 8 month old twins while I was talking to the other moms. They are getting pretty good with solids and I was cutting up some meatballs and feeding them to my daughter Geneva and my son Griffin. Griffin ate a few bites and then seemed satisfied and stopped eating (both babies had already had their BM bottles). Geneva, on the other hand, kept eating and eating and eating (as is usual). One of the other moms (the mom of the 2 YO twin girls) commented on how much she was eating. I commented that Geneva is a bottomless pit when it comes to eating and that she will keep eating anything I give her. The other twin mom then said that she used to have that problem with her one daughter, O, and so she just limits her food. She then added that O will often ask for more food and she will tell her that she has to wait 20 more minutes before she is allowed to have more. She said that I should start doing the same with my daughter.

Now, for a little context, my friends twins were born premature (34 weeks) and were both low birth weight (3 1/2 pounds and 5 pounds). O is the "smaller" twin -- the one who was born at 3 pounds. Her mom is very small ("bitty" in her description) and comes from a family where being thin and small is the most important thing in life.

O and her sister are identical twins, and O is a few pounds lighter than V and is now shorter. O is in the 1% for height and weight; I believe her sister is around the 30% for weight and height. Considering that her mom admits to withholding food from O, it explains a lot in terms of why the girls haven't "caught up" in size. My daughter is off the charts for height (above 99%) and I believe around the 80% for weight. She's not heavy (she's actually quite thin), but she is very tall. She is almost as tall as O, even though she is over a year younger.

I literally almost fell off my chair when my friend admitted that she is withholding food from her 2 year old daughter and when she suggested I do the same. My daughter is a normal, healthy weight. I can't believe any parent would seriously consider holding back food from a normal weight child, let alone a child who is underweight. Do you think this is normal behavior for a mom?


Sylvia - posted on 01/13/2012




Also, I'm pretty sure that a low-fat diet is actively bad for babies' and toddlers' brain development...

[deleted account]

I'm sure in a very small minority of cases there are good reasons to withhold food from a toddler, but what you are describing is just ridiculous and probably harmful for the child, both physically and psychologically.

My daughter has been off the chart weightwise since she was around 10 months old and only now, at 28 months, is slowly starting to grow into her weight. Not once did it occur to us to limit her food-intake. We just make sure she has healthy choices most of the time. If I do feel she is gorging on something and keeps asking for more just for the sake of it, I simply tell her she can't have more of this, but can have an apple or banana instead if she's still hungry.

To think someone does that to a preemie whose already struggling to catch up is just frightening to me. I'd actually have a hard time sitting in the same room with a women like that...

Sylvia - posted on 01/13/2012




Rebecca, that's awful :(

Heather, I think what you're talking about is fundamentally different -- you're addressing a known problem (your DD's tendency to overeat and get a tummy ache or whatever) by managing *what* she eats and how much she eats of certain things that you know cause problems. (I do the same thing with cheese -- "yes, you can have more cheese, if you're still hungry after eating this nice fibre-rich apple I'm handing you right now" LOL.) Not limiting her intake in order to keep her weight down *when she's already small for her age*.

[deleted account]

Rebecca, your friends sound like a parcel of lunatics with the "push prizes" and forced gift-giving and now this.

I think your friend has an eating disorder.

Isobel - posted on 01/11/2012




the rule in our house (even though we have older children) is that the fridge is always available for fruits and veg...go ahead and gorge yourself if you are hungry. It was the same when they were babies too...once you've had your "meal" whatever that was, if you are still hungry, you get fruit and veg until you are full...seems to work fairly well for us.


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[deleted account]

Babies and toddlers (well, everyone, really -- but babies especially) need fat in their diets. Breastmilk is 50% fat and has way more fat than cow's milk. A good quality formula will have coconut oil in order to add more fat and get it closer to breastmilk quality.

Children should not be on a low-fat diet -- unless there is a medical reason prescribed by a doctor!

GAAAAH. I feel so bad for this woman's kids.

Lady Heather - posted on 01/13/2012




I wouldn't say I withhold food from my 2.5 year old, but I withhold certain types of food. She would eat forever and I don't think she needs to eat a big ol' pile of cheese. She will eat past the point of full if you give her enough and then she complains that she ate too much. So I give her good sized portions and if she wants more she gets veggie sticks and fruit.

An 8 month old though? That's just weird and wrong.

[deleted account]

It is bad for their brain development. Babies and toddlers need fat. Her obsession with her weight and eating low fat food (for herself and now the girls) was one of the huge issues I had with her when she was pregnant -- we had the same OB and I know how much the doctor pushed a special diet for twins -- he wanted you to eat 3,500 calories a day and eat meat or a meat substitute at least twice a day. We were also both instructed to eat a bowl of Hagen Daaz every night or to have a smoothie or milkshake before going to bed (horrible, right?!). The goal is to gain as much as possible early in pregnancy because twins tend to come early and twin moms have a hard time eating enough later (due to stomach compression) so you want to get them as much nutrition as possible in the first and second trimester. U of Michigan actually has a whole protocol re: diet for moms expecting twins or more. She refused to follow the diet and would eat things like low-fat burritos the whole pregnancy. She improved her attitude a little bit when she went into preterm labor at 27 weeks and the doctor reamed her out for not following the diet and not taking care of herself better. She is completely obsessed with her weight and it's such a shame she is modeling and enforcing that same behavior in her daughters.

Janice - posted on 01/12/2012




I agree with Sylvia. There are many reason why you may need to limit your child's food intake but this woman is doing it just because she values being "bitty" over other things.

I am quite tiny, but its genetic. I am lucky to eat whatever I want and still be thin. Some babies are just naturally little (although my daughter was a chunky baby) and thats okay. Just like your daughter is tall is probably genetic. But to limit food to ensure your toddler is thin is just crazy! And suggesting to do the same for an infant is insane!

Sylvia - posted on 01/12/2012




No, that's not normal. It's bizarre. Limiting treats and junk food, sure. Limiting specific foods you know will cause constipation, yes. (We've sometimes had to have rules about how much cheese DD can eat at one sitting :P) And at a certain point you do start saying "No, you can't have a snack now, dinner is in 20 minutes". But what you're describing, especially in combination with the deliberate under-gaining during pregnancy, sounds actually borderline pathological to me. (Disclaimer: I am in no way qualified to diagnose an eating disorder -- this is pure pop-psych on my part.)

[deleted account]

My girls pretty much haven't stopped eating for the past 2 years. I limit type of food (though they DO get junk every day... just not only junk), but never amount. My 3.75 year old son out eats me quite regularly and would eat fruit all day long if I let him. I do 'attempt' to limit his fruit (yeah, after 3 small oranges in a row) intake just so he doesn't end up w/ the runs all day....

Not sure what percentiles any of them are in. The girls 10 year check up is this Friday, so I'll find out then. I will say that they are approximately 65 pounds and come up to right below my forehead (I'm just under 4'11"). Not sure what percentile my son is in now either, but at both his 2 year and 3 year check he was 25% for weight and height....

Ania - posted on 01/12/2012




I agree with Jaime. If a child ate full meal and asks for more she waits 20 minutes. I think it is a great strategy. That has nothing to do with mom being skinny. I'm skinny to I'm not witholding food from myself but I'm always sure to not over eat and I try to teach that to my son, who eats a lot!!! and it scares me sometimes he is 2 now...I guess it is a growth spurt. Remember that now most of foods that are produced are addicting. Sugar that is added to everything makes us slaves of food. The more veggies and fish and chicken the less we would probably eat, because it would not be that tasty...fat, butter salt and sugar make everything over the top good and we eat too much of it

Tracey - posted on 01/12/2012




If your daughter is 99% height and 80% weight she sounds OK to me. Love the names by the way.

Ez - posted on 01/12/2012




I have told my kids to wait for food (dinner in half an hour, not stopping for twinkies, we'll eat at home) but never really said no to food.

^^ This. My daughter will be 3 in a month and just this afternoon we were visiting my brother and she was asking for food. It was 5.30 and we were just about to come home for dinner, so I told her to wait. Occasionally I tell her no to something if I think she really has had enough and any more will make her sick. But otherwise, she eats when she's hungry. As much or as little as that may be on any given day.

I also have the 'fruit rule'. If she is still hungry after dinner (whether she ate it or not) she can have fruit. I will not send her to bed hungry.

As for intentionally limiting food intake because you don't want your toddler to get fat? That's revolting. And horribly ignorant. My daughter was a big baby - 9lb 6oz, 22in. She has never been below the 90th percentile for either height or weight, and has actually been completely off the chart for both at different times. It would have never occurred to me to deny her food. And now she is tall and lean. She has lost the baby/toddler chub and just looks about 4 instead of still 2.

Amy - posted on 01/11/2012




My son is 5 years old and in the 3rd percentile for weight, his 21 month sister only weighs 8 lbs less them him I would not withold food if he asked for it as long as what he was asking for was healthy. If he asked for an oreo cookie I would probably say no or say after you eat something healthy but I would never deny him anything since we have to go for weight checks. I should also add though he doesn't ask for food, he would go all day without eating if we let him.

[deleted account]

Sherri, keep in mind my friend is suggesting that I restrict the diet of an eight month old baby, not an older child. Would you really withhold a bottle from an eight month old baby because they slept past a certain time?

Tam - posted on 01/11/2012




Sherri, believe me, I'm pregnant with my twins right now and I'm 27 weeks. I've only gained about 10 pounds, and my doc told me I'd need to gain close to 40 over the course of my pregnancy. I think as long as the doc is good with you, then you're fine. But the guidelines I cited are just averages, from what I understand.

But people like the lady the OP spoke of... well, restricting your weight gain to minimal weight due to vanity is a whole different ballpark than those of us who simply cannot put on the weight we need in a healthy manner.

Elfrieda - posted on 01/11/2012




I think that with the context that you've described, that is really bad. That poor child!

On the other hand, I've cut my 2 year old off when he's wanted more watermelon or whatever after he's already eaten a lot. He's very chunky, though, so I don't worry about him being underweight. I don't want him to eat just for the sake of eating, so sometimes I say, "that's enough" or I give him some chicken or something he doesn't like as much just to see if he really is still hungry.

Rosie - posted on 01/11/2012




i'm thinking it all depends to me. i don't see withholding food for 20 minutes as any big deal. it can lead to better eating habits later in life. if she were saying no, and then not giving good again until the next meal i would think it's a problem. but having them wait to see if they are actually full or not, is healthy IMO.

Denikka - posted on 01/11/2012




After a full meal, requesting a child to wait 20minutes before having more is reasonable. A CHILD not a toddler. I would say 4years and up.

My oldest child (boy 2.5yrs), eats as much as he wants. Sometimes that's clearing his plate and asking for more, sometimes he only takes a bite or two. I leave that up to him. I also leave it to him as to how long he takes to eat. Breakfast and lunch have set times and we pretty much never have any problem with those. Dinner is when he occasionally fights us, so I leave it on the table until bed time. If he wants to eat, fine. If not, that's fine too.

This woman definitely sounds like she has an unhealthy relationship with food. It's very sad when a persons children suffer because of a parents problems.

As for her attitude about gaining weight during her pregnancy, pregorexia comes to mind. The less you weigh, the more you're supposed to gain. A woman of normal/ideal weight should gain between 30-40lbs. The more overweight you are, the less you need to gain. The more underweight you are, the MORE you need to gain.

I really wish some moms would stop being so selfish and worry more about their kids health and less about their image. (not referring to anyone here, but I've frequently heard of women starving themselves etc so that they don't gain any baby weight and risk being *fat*)

[deleted account]

I gained 60...ugh, but I had a big 9 lb baby, so I like to say that I only gained like 50! :) Quite frankly, even after being lectured in my first trimester about my weight gain, I could've cared less, I was HUNGRY! I would have been one grumpy pregnant lady if I were only eating enough to gain ten pounds!

Tam - posted on 01/11/2012




Rebecca, sounds like there are elements there that do not have any concern for health. I am pregnant with twins right now and having a hard time gaining the weight I should, but not for lack of trying. With each of my singleton births, I gained 25-30 pounds, commensurate with the doctor's advice. Putting your child's wellbeing at risk for personal image, whether while pregnant or imposing your insecurities to them, is wrong no matter how you look at it.

And if I remember right, very petite people are generally recommended to gain at least 35 pounds for a singleton pregnancy.

[deleted account]

To give further context, both my friend (D) and her sister (L) deliberately underate when they were pregnant because they "didn't want to get fat". D's sister (who was not carrying twins) only gained 10 pounds and brags about it to this day. My friend D, when she was carrying twins, ate low-fat food the whole pregnancy because "L only gained 10 pounds and I'm as bitty as her so I shouldn't need to gain more." I would say the whole family has an abnormal obsession with weight. L was actually scolded by her daughter's pediatrican about her daughters growth -- to which L responded that the pediatrican should worry about all the fat kids out there and not her daughter, who is just "bitty" because her mom is "bitty".

Jennifer - posted on 01/11/2012




Doesn't sound right to me, but I do hate to make that call. If she is actually letting her have more food after 20 mins, I'd let it go, but if not, I'd be worried. I have told my kids to wait for food (dinner in half an hour, not stopping for twinkies, we'll eat at home) but never really said no to food. Candy is another issue! Normally healthy food is an anytime thing, junk is limited. Meals have always been an all you can eat affair with my kids, and even their overweight friends/cousins.

I do have a daughter who is small, and her weight is below 'normal'. We encouraged her to eat and eat when she was younger, but she use to be picky. Now, she is older and it is pretty clear she is geneticlly small, so we don't fuss. All my kids are on the 'too slim' side of normal, though, if they were overweight, it might be different......

Tam - posted on 01/11/2012




I agree that it depends on the context, but I remember reading somewhere (though I can't cite my source for truth, unfortunately) that children under the age of five don't normally have a medically recommended calorie intake limit as long as they are eating healthy.

However, my son hits some growth spurts, and I normally notice it more at dinnertime as he goes to school during the day. He'll clean his plate, ask for seconds, clean his plate again. Usually, if he asks for more after than, I will have him wait about 20 minutes to ensure he is still hungry. It can take around that long for the body to give the 'I'm full' signal after eating. Many times, if a person eats until they feel full, they actually end up overeating because of that delay. If he's still hungry after that 20 minutes, then he gets another helping.

But again, my son is six, not two. When he was so young, I let him simply eat until he was satisfied. Without a medical condition, or home conditions that encourage chronic overeating, a young child will generally only eat until satisfied, not until full, which is the way that human beings should eat to maintain a healthy weight.

[deleted account]

No, IMO this is not normal behavior. I can understand limiting food intake where there is a weight problem, but even then, the type of food eaten should be monitored and limited, more than the quantity. My son has out-eaten me for the last 5 years or so, he's hungry about every two hours and has free reign of the fridge, and they still tell me he's underweight. I would feel cruel if I told him he couldn't eat, or had to stop eating before he was full.

I met a girl once with the cutest baby. seriously, ADORABLE! Anyways, I was doing the normal ooo-ing and ahh-ing and I said that she was so cute and chubby (In my world, babies are SUPPOSED to be cute and chubby). Anyway, she got so pissed at me. Told me how rude I was for calling her daughter (about 5-6 months) fat. Uh..., really? So, I know that there are women that are sensitive about the weight of their little ones for aesthetic purposes and I think it's sad. No wonder our girls have body image issues.

Jenn - posted on 01/11/2012




No, not normal. She is either ridiculously misinformed on baby nutrition and growth or she is an idiot. Children who are obese are so because of the TYPES of foods they gorge on daily. Babies are constantly going through growth spurts and need to eat more during those times. It seems as if your friend is comparing her two children and finds one to be a more"desirable" weight than the other. Sadly, she will probably always do this, never even taking into account genetics and the simple fact we are all different!

My aunt is raising her granddaughter and for awhile would put limits the toddler's food intake...then she began to notice behavioral issues that revolved around foo. Thank God, she listened to the pediatrician and no longer makes food a battle" it is the quickest way down the path of lifelong emotional battles with food and our body! More women have issues with food because of their parents an any other reason! Healthy snacking is a good thing. Three meals a day for anyone is not healthy or wise, but especially for children. They need multiple small meals or snacks throughout the day. Not to mention, offering up water after eating will often fill their tummies up for a longer time between the next meal.

[deleted account]

as long as the child isn't overweight or obese, in which case i would understand asking them to wait 20 minutes to see if they are really hungry or just eating for eating, i think that's a bad idea.

Brianna - posted on 01/11/2012




no that is not normal mom behavior.. but i no a mom like that.. she is very tall and thin. she has 2 lil girls and she would withhold food from her girls cuz she didnt want them to get "fat" these girls are very tiny and are in way fat not even chubby.. i think thats horrible i mean as long as the food is healthy let them eat.. if it was chocolate then ya they can only have so much

Jaime - posted on 01/11/2012




I guess it would depend on how much food had been given to the child prior to withholding food. If the 2 yo ate a full meal, with enough nutrients/carbs, etc. and still asked for more, it would really depend on the circumstances. I know that kids go through spurts of eating very little, then eating normal amounts and then sometimes they never seem to stop eating. But perhaps with this little girl, she's always eating and maybe the mom wants to curb any bad food habits. If she was withholding her child's regular meal then I would be concerned, but asking the child to wait 20 minutes for more food isn't a red flag for me even if the child is under weight. If the child is constantly hungry and constantly eating, that's not necessarily a good thing. That could mean there is a serious medical issue that needs to be looked at. But it could just be a growth phase too. Like I said, it really depends on the circumstances.

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