My daughter has never been a great eater. Well except when she breasted and she self weaned at around 16 months. How can I get her to eat? She will give in and eat sometimes, but other times I feel like she is starving herself. She gets so grumpy and inconsolable sometimes because she is so hungry. But I can't get her to eat! I try to explain to her that if she eats she will feel better, but it just doesn't work. Any ideas?
There is really no reasoning with a toddler and the more you beg and try to talk them into something, the more their instinct is to resist.
My daughter went through a phase of wanting to grab on the go and eat mostly carbs or fruit. I realized that at some point, eating we were going to have to stop winging it and have meal and snack times. Whether she ate or not was up to her, but three times a day we sat down at the table for lunch, and three times a day we sat down at the table for snack. As she was little, she never really ate much at one time, which is why we had so many snacks and meals. Breakfast might be two bites of oatmeal or a scrambled egg, a snack might be four grapes and one bite of cheese. We just had to get into the habit of meal TIMES and snack TIMES. I think all the free feeding and grazing of toddlers can set you up for issues later and as it turns out, my daughter does much better with a predictable rhythm to her day. This was actually a big step towards finally getting her to sleep and nap regularly as well, which was a HUGE bonus.
I also think asking what they want leads to problems. For one thing, even after they pick something I think they are still considering other options. Take that out of the equation. You know what your child will eat and you know how you'd like for her to eat so don't set something up where she wants gummies instead of real fruit or pudding instead of real yogurt. You're the mom, you get to choose. Now if my daughter requested something, I could work with that. I'm not going to give her strawberries when she's specifically asked for apples just to be contrary and controlling.
Every book I've read on the subject has said two things - the parents decide when and what, the kid decides if and how much. It's up to you to offer healthy options and regular intervals, it's up to your child to eat or not.
I totally agree with @NiteNicole - in fact there is a childhood dietitian named Ellyn Satter who talks about that very thing, it's called the Division of Responsibilty with meals/eating. Google her name and you will get her website with lots of good articles to read. You can do pre-selected healthy choices "apples or strawberries" for snacks; but meal times with a "take it or leave it" approach. Another thing to consider from a nutrition standpoint is how much milk she is drinking. We noticed at about 26 months my son was just not eating much at all. We decided to limit his milk to 1-2 sippys at breakfast and it was like magic, he definitely started eating more!
DS: Logan 6/14/10
DH 31; Me 30; DD 5; DS 1; Baby boy due Dec 17th
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My daughter was exclusively BF till 14 months and ate amazingly until now...she will be 2 in a couple weeks and won't hardly eat anything. I try all kinds of stuff and the only things she will eat is Greek Yogurt, CLIF bars & Oatmeal sometimes. Everything else is a fight. I always offer the same things and she has to choose 1 of them and then if not wait until she is hungry enough. Very frustrating. I limit her drinks to water only as well and use Juice and milk as an incentive to eat.