How do I get my two yr old old to eat when she's supposed to?

Amber - posted on 06/24/2010 ( 6 moms have responded )

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My two and half yr old is your typical picky eater..at times she will even refuse to eat her favorite foods, we always offer her what we are eating as well as other foods, both new and old faves, but lately the problem is she will refuse any real food at dinner time and then at midnight or sometimes even at 2am ish she will wake up cranky and crying about being hungry! Its causing both myself and my two yr old to lose sleep and energy as well as loss in patience..I don't want her going hungry but its become disruptive to everyone's sleep when she refuses to eat at a normal time, i feel like she went backwards and is in newborn mode all of a sudden..

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Louise - posted on 06/25/2010

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Right time to get tough. Giver her her dinner at the usual time. If she does not eat it then put it on a side table for half an hour. Remind her it is there and if she wants it she should eat it. After half an hour throw it away. When she wakes in the night do not give her food. She is using this as an excuse to get you up. It is a form of attention seeking. Put her back to bed and make her wait until breakfast. She will probably do this for a couple of nights until she gets the message that mummy is not going to reward her with midnight snacks and her attention at night. When she does eat her dinner give her lots of attention and cuddles and tell her how pleased you are that she will not wake mummy up tonight. Just remember a child will not intentionally starve themselves if she is hungry she will eat. I think this is a control issue.

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Lynda - posted on 06/27/2010

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Does she snack a lot during the day? I have a friend whose son was picky from the start and she commented on what a good eater my son is. Problem was, she was giving him snacks through the day (letting him graze so to speak) so he was more than likely not hungry at mealtimes. A normal healthy child will not starve (as was mentioned earlier) and our son went through a picky stage. We offered food to him and he would pick or eat very little. His weight was fine and he was healthy. I made sure he got his milk in the morning and offered drinks and food only at mealtimes, not during the day ( he would get yogurt or applesauce after naptime) and that helped a lot! They need to realize that there are times when they eat and times when they don't eat. If she's not eating during the day at all, you might want to have her checked out by your pediatrician just to make sure it's a picky phase and not a medical condition. Try to make sure she stays hydrated (I usually mix 50-50 juice/water) and my son likes that. There are also some rehydration formulas out there for kids who are sick and can't keep anything down. They are usually fruit flavored and she might like those. I would definitely knock out the midnight snacks, those are going to get her dependent on a nighttime feeding and you don't want that. I also gave things like yogurt, applesauce, small chicken nuggets, cheese, things that were kind of bland and he still likes those. I tried to key in on at least one thing he really liked and made a point to serve it at mealtimes. We also told him that he did not get an after dinner snack or dessert unless he ate part of his meal and that helped too. Good luck! It can be terribly frustrating.

Amber - posted on 06/27/2010

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I have tried the pediasure..she'll take a drink and then she'll spit it out..she won't even drink milk or choc milk anymore..

Chelle - posted on 06/25/2010

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Until about the 18 month mark i had a toddler and baby who would eat almost anything. I thought i was blessed. Meat, fruit, veg, you name it, it was a pleasure to serve him food and his appetite was hearty!

From 18 months on we have had a different child. He is a lot fussier and pickier. Doesnt seem to want to eat much meat all of a sudden and won't always eat what was some of his favourite foods before.

I rang the parent help line and spoke to them and was comforted by the fact that apparently anywhere to 18 mths to 2 years or so, a large portion of kids go through this phase where they get very finicky about eating, even if they were good eaters before. I was told that during this time it is best not to force them to eat when they really don't want to and often they favour the more blander of foods. I was also told its ok to let them snack more through out the day as long as they are healthy snacks. She also said that during this time parents can panic because there kids are likely to lose a bit of weight. She says this phase can last for a series of months and its not untypical for a baby that was a good eater in the first 12 months to be a not so good eater in the next 12!

So as frustrating as it can be, especially since we eat well and such a variety of stuff that we would love to share with him, we just remind ourselves that hopefully this will pass. I am noticing that he is gradually returning to some of the foods he likes and now that he is older most times wont eat food unless he is feeding himself it.

I do however think Louise has raised some excellent points and to be mindful of what we reinforce during the night.

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I suggest you try this:

When it's meal time, have everyone sit at the table (if possible). Set an empty plate in front of her and the rest of you just eat, ignore her. If she tries to grab food, serve it to her, and if she grabs off of your plate then let her. After a while she will realise it's dinner time not playtime or fuss time!

Best of luck!

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