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Another thread about eating.

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

My 3 yo ds has recently taken to not eating at all. I know, intellectually and from experience, that 90% of kids won't starve themselves. I'm probably just being worked over by my very smart and mischievious little darling. I'm just looking for opinions because I'm not sure how firm to be. We are not a family who can afford to waste food. I try very hard to provide a balanced and nutritious diet that is also tasty and appealing to a family where everyone craves sweets and junk food. We have a limited food budget and I do my best to get healthy things with our money. 


Lately ds will drink 3 or 4 cups of whatever (water, juice, milk, smoothie etc) without eating anything on his plate. I tend to be a big drinker myself and I clearly remember being miserable as a kid ebcause my parents witheld drinks from me until I ate all my food, and I remember being really thristy and not allowed to drink anything. So I really hesitate to withold his drinks. Also, we season our food well and also eat a lot of spicy foods, so it seems kind of mean not to let him have water at least. But he doesn't eat!


As an example, up until recently a typical breakfast for him could be: 2 eggs over easy, a slice of toast with butter and jelly, 2 glasses of milk, a whole clementine (sometimes 2) and a piece or 2 of bacon. Lunch could be a pb&j sandwich, a piece of fruit or some canned pineapple or peaches (usually he would eat half a can), a couple glasses of juice (1/2 juice 1/2 seltzer water) and some cheese. Usually about 2 decently thick slices. Dinner is always a meat, a veggie, and a starch of some kind, and he usually would eat seconds of something. Again 2 or 3 glasses of drink. We also offer dessert if he ate a decent amount of dinner and that can vary from straight up junk food (cake and ice cream) to fresh fruit salad, depending on what's on hand and what we're in the mood for. He also eats a morning snack (usually fruit and crackers with spread--hummus or cream cheese or nutella) an afternoon snack (Annie's cheese bunnies or fruit snacks) and an evening, before-bed snack (almost always bread and peanut butter.)


I've never really pushed the food issue because I've never had to. Both of my chidlren have always been good eaters and if they weren't a couple days of sticking mroe closely to our schedule and cutting down on grazing (which in our house inevitably leads to bad nutrition as I dole out handfuls of cheese crackers all day) would fix it. now it seems like ds just drinks nonstop and doesn't eat. About Thanksgiving time he started saying that his tummy hurt. At the time we thought it was just to get out of bed because he would say x made his tummy hurt but then turn around and ask for y or z. Lately though he complains of stomachaches mroe frequently and has also all but stopped eating. Today he ate half a banana, a frruit snack thingy, and about half a bbq pork sandwich. Oh and a few bites each of potato salad and coleslaw. Now he is eating a piece of candy that I had promised him that he just now conveniently remembered. I don't think he is getting enough nutrition eating like this. He and his sister each have an 8 oz straw cup which was intended to be only for the car (both kids drink fine from a regular cup). Somehow they have migrated into the hose and are carry-me-around-and-fill-me-up-all-day-mommy cups. While I may only fill dd's cup every other day (and then only because I feel it needs rinsing and fresh water or juice, not because it's empty) I refill ds's cup with juice and seltzer water or milk at least 4 times a day, not to mention the times he refills it himself with tap water. I cut the milk out, thinking that it was filing him up. No change. I give him only ONE cup of actual juice a day and the rest of the time put only a splash of juice in with his water or seltzer water. So what do I do? I would be only with letting him not eat but he is cranky and overtired. Since this has started he has taken to sleeping 16-18 hrs in a single day. Going to bed at 9 PM, sleeping until 10 th next morning and still taking a three hour nap. His little sister sleeps less than he does! I am beginning to be concerned taht something else is going on here.


We have had some stress lately and he has anxiety and sensory issues which are exacerbated by anxiety, so I thought of the possibility that he is seeking the oral stimulation from sucking on his straw cup all day. He also chews it (and everything else) constantly. We are trying to get him in with an OT and into play therapy, both on advice of the pediatrician, but that is still several weeks out. He tells me 3 bites into his meal that his stomach hurts. I'm wondering if he has a gluten allergy or something, i
 don't know??? We laready know that red 40 makes him poop on himself and just generally go crazy.


Today I bought some naked protein smoothies and i've been putting those in his cup all day. I figured at least he'll be getting some protein.


 How would you or have you handled this?


post #2 of 8

Have you tried a few days with nothing but water to drink? Do you think he'd still fill up on water and not eat?  Just a suggestion, b/c I notice with my kids if we have anything other than water to drink, even just milk, they tend to drink a lot more and eat less.  When we've had nothing in the house to drink besides water they really do seem to have better appetites.  I certainly wouldn't withhold fluids, but water only is just fine - especially if there are plenty of healthy foods to choose from. 


Hope you get some other suggestions. 

post #3 of 8

Have you taken him to the doctor? Honestly it sounds really worrisome and I would want to look into every medical issue. Though my kids have never, ever, on any day eaten as well as you say your child used to--they also never, ever have eaten as poorly as he is doing now. The big eating changes, complaints about pain, and the sleeping would make me really want to get it checked out. Please do.

post #4 of 8

I would take him in for testing. It does sound concerning. I would insist on a CBC, celiac panel, thyroid panel, and stool tests, and maybe a RAST allergy test for good measure. I would also keep a food diary for "proof" to the doctor.

post #5 of 8

The list of what he used to eat sounds like tons of food for a 3YO honestly. Maybe he was just going through a growth spurt then because that's a lot of food.


Our kids must eat a couple of bites before they get a drink, or they would drink, drink, drink and not eat anything. I don't make them eat their whole meal, but going a few bites without a drink will be okay. We also tend to have only water, milk with snacks. I buy 1/2 gallon of juice every 2 weeks, and we usually don't drink all of it. So I'd definitely limit him to water at meals to see if he's just filling up on the calories of juice & milk. 


You have had so much upheaval in your lives that I honestly think psychological/emotional problems are more of a concern than the sudden onset of a physical condition. Trauma can cause physical symptoms, and he's been through a ton. What your kids have been through for what sounds like their entire lives isn't just "a little anxiety." It's the kind of upheaval that really can cause lifelong problems if not addressed. I am not blaming you - just to get that out of the way. The situation is what it is, but I really think trying to address the trauma will be more productive. It can cause even the excessive sleep.

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the ideas. I would tend to agree with you, visionarymom, that it is more likely to be physical manifestations of emotional issues. But I also can't rule out an actual medical problem. It's so hard to know how much to push him...on the one hand, if the lack of eating is a symptom of increasing anxiety, then pushing him to eat would eb counterproductive and probably make it worse. On the other hand, the fact that he will eat junk food all day if I let him (although he complains of stomach upset, and takes a lot of breaks, he will continually graze on cheese crackers and fruit snacks all day if allowed) makes me wonder if he just doesn't feel like eating what is offered?


I don't have a pediatrician whom I reall trust in terms of discipline and parenting advice. I only go to her for medical issues. So discussing this with her isn't likely to be fruitful unless I already have an idea of what is going on. The practice is pretty pro-CIO, anti cosleeping, for example. I imagine she would tell me to do something discipline wise that I'm just not comfortable with. Of course, I won't know for sure unless I ask!

post #7 of 8

I'm not sure that a pediatrician would respond to the following: went from being an excellent eater to complaining of stomach pain after a few bites, went from normal sleep to taking 3 hour naps, sleeping more at night, to being a discipline issue. I'm sorry, I don't know what's going on in your life, but I feel like ruling out a medical issue should be a top priority, like today.

post #8 of 8

Even if the pediatrician does think it is some sort of behavior thing that doesn't mean you have to listen to him or use any sort of discipline technique he might recommend. I would take him in and get him checked out. It could be stress/anxiety, or it could be something medical, or it could be nothing -- a growth spurt, a phase. Wouldn't you feel better if the doctor ran some tests and ruled out anything serious?


I hope your DS is back to his old self soon!

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