Getting My Toddler To Eat - Being referred to a specialist - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 03-21-2011, 11:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi everyone. I am kind of at a loss and thought I would turn to the vegan community here to get any input you might have.  I will try to keep it short.


My son is 19 months and weight ~19 lbs.  The same as he did at 12 months. He was born (full term) at 4 1/2 lbs so normally this wouldn't even remotely phase me (or the doctors), except for the fact that he's fallen completely off the charts simply based on the fact that he's not gaining any weight. 


At his 18 month check up last month they told me to add rice protein powder, oils, etc. to his hemp milk (which he still drinks out of a bottle only b/c that's the ONLY way he'll drink 'milk' at all - I had to quit breastfeeding due to health reasons of my own, otherwise I'd still be nursing). They wanted him to drink 36 oz per day of this "formula", however we're lucky most days if he will drink 8 oz total. So clearly that hasn't helped to pack on the weight.


Our doctor, who is very natural, basically said it was pack weight on him (and they are fine with the vegan thing) at each weekly weight check from here on out or it was a feeding tube!! Totally freaked out, I began adding oils to his juice (something I wouldn't normally find healthy, but since it's pure fat, then okay).


His first weight check after that initial appointment he gained almost 1 lb.  Except he wasn't very still on the scale, so I don't know how accurate it really was.  The 2nd week he dropped 2/10ths of a lbs. The 3rd he stayed the same (last week) and we were referred to a gastroenterologist at the children's hospital here. Our appointment is Wednesday.


I am freaked out for a number of reasons.  Obviously I want my baby to be healthy first of all, but I am not comfortable feeding him animal products.  I don't believe they are healthy (not to mention the ethical standpoint which is also equally as important to me) and I know it is completely possible to be a small child and be a healthy vegan.  I am just really worried that the specialist we're seeing Wednesday won't be as open and educated about our diet choices as our family doctors are.  It doesn't help that my husband still eats meat and is starting to feel like our baby needs meat to gain weight. 


The biggest issue is he's just not a huge eater.  He will often refuse many different foods (and I always said I wouldn't make 20 different meals to choose from, but when you have a scary situation like this you start to lose your mind and you will do anything to make them eat, you know?) and if I do find something he likes he will eat a few bites and be satisfied.  And then refuse the thing he loved the next day.  I feel like these are all normal toddler behaviors and I am so scared to make food an issue for him, so I don't push a lot.  But at the same time...he needs to gain weight.  They are worried, based on the staying the same weight for 6+ months, about his brain development (which I can totally understand), however his development has been on track or ahead for everything so far. His fine and large motor skills are great, he repeats EVERYTHING you say, he can tell you what he wants, label everything, and is now stringing words together even.  He sleeps well and is otherwise happy and "healthy". So when our doctors referred us and labeled him "failure to thrive" it was heartbreaking for me.


Has anyone ever run into something like this? I feel like even if I offer him non vegan foods it won't make a difference b/c he either won't like them or eat very little anyway.  Dairy products are not an option whatsoever. Do you think the specialist will respect my views here and realize that it's not about WHAT he's eating so much as how he's eating (so little, etc) or some other problem internally?


The two biggest things, avocado and nut butters, I can't get him to eat, even hiding it in things.  And he's not a smoothie drinker.  He will eat fruits, veggies, and then small amounts of pasta and rice (which I add oils/veg butters too), vegan chili, etc. But it's obviously not enough... I can't get him to eat any sort of coconut milk yogurt, ice cream, or vegan "junk foods" even. :(

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#2 of 6 Old 03-21-2011, 06:23 PM
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How stressful - I'm sorry hug2.gif


Some kids are just small.  But having him checked out by a specialist is a good idea as there could be a malabsorption issue or something going on, though that would be more of a worry if he was eating a lot. 


I have had a lot of the same issues of pickiness and not eating and turning up his nose ast something he ate the day before etc. with my youngest who also is difficult to get the weight on, so I know a bit about how frustrating it could be.  I wish I had more suggestions for you, but most of what I try with him involves dairy or nuts. 


Muffins are one thing that helps though.  I try to make them for him so they are high in fat but not too high in sugar.  Peanut butter muffins (or peanut butter banana) are great for that, if the peanut butter flavor (less in the ones with bananas, as the banana can be pretty overwhelming) doesn't put him off them.  Sometimes with a bit of chocolate chips in to make them that much more tempting. 


There are lots of good vegan banana bread recipes, or it is pretty easy to veganize, so if you find one that looks particularly good and high in fat, just add an extra banana or so and whiz the bananas in the blender and it acts a bit like eggs in baking so you can leave them out. 


I freeze smoothies in a popsicle mold as eating popsicles is often a lot more enticing than drinking smoothies.  One of my favorites is peanut butter, banana, high fat Greek yogurt (not sure what would be best to replace.. maybe soy creamer or possibly coconut milk or coconut yogurt if the coconut taste isn't too strong with the rest of the ingredients) and a bit of chocolate syrup, between the banana and the chocolate syrup I don't think the peanut butter taste is too bad. 


Hmm.. I also pan fry tofu strips or cubes, and I'm not shy about the oil when it's for my youngest, though I blot off more for my other kids  and bake tofu with almost no oil when it is for me.  The kids dip theirs in ketchup.  


Good luck.  I hope you find solutions that work for you guys.  


Oh, and 12-24 months is the hardest time for this. I've found, anyway, with all three of my non-eaters (though the first two were a piece of cake compared to the third) their food intake picked up a ton and they started gaining again right around when they turned two.   

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#3 of 6 Old 03-21-2011, 06:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you so much.  That all is really helpful to "hear".  I told my husband exactly that - that the specialist could be a really good thing b/c they will either find something wrong and know how to "fix it" or tell us he's perfectly healthy.  I think either one would be better than the stress I have right now and the worry with the weight checks every week, etc. 


I've tried the banana bread and muffin route (I swear this kid's eating habits are the opposite of mine! haha Doesn't help that I am trying to LOSE weight), but I hadn't thought of freezing little smoothie popsicles - he might actually really like that! Thanks!

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#4 of 6 Old 03-21-2011, 08:40 PM
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The smoothie popsicles are a hit here, too. That was about the age that my daughter completely started refusing to eat. I'd have been less scared if I hadn't been a low milk supply mom that had a very slow-gaining infant. As it was, I was a wreck. Smoothies made with fruits and hempseeds and almonds frozen into popsicles were often 2 meals out of the day. She's now six, and while she only weighs about 45 pounds, she's 4'1" and incredibly active. And only sometimes a picky eater to the point of making me crazy. (and I can totally empathize with the skinny kid that needs calorically dense foods while you're watching your weight. BTDT) Good luck, I know things will sort out!

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#5 of 6 Old 03-21-2011, 11:15 PM
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We're not vegan, but I had 3 kids just like your ds. One is 7 and STILL very thin. Some vegan things they all liked:


Chummos! You can even add a bit of extra olive oil on top of it. My kids will eat chummos on anything, dip veggies in it, smear it on bread, etc. 


Falafal, deep fried yummy goodness. Extra points if you can get him to eat it in a pita that is slathered in chummos, with french fries stuck in (the Israeli way, LOL)


Fried tofu. You can dip it in flour than water and do shake & bake style, then fry.


I'm not sure if it's vegan, or if there are vegan brands, but the nuttela spread is chocolatly and nutty and very good.


My kids also love stir fried tofu. Maybe not as high fat as fried, but I cube it and stir fry it in a pan with just a touch of soy sauce and garlic and they will pop the cubes like it's going out of style.


I make baked beans in the crock pot with ketchup, sugar, maple syrup (the fake stuff), a bit of soy sauce. They come out really yummy and 2 of my kids will eat them straight or mixed with rice and come back for more.


Good luck! After everything 2 of my FTT kids are normal weight (if a little on the thin side) today, and one is still very skinny (but healthy) at 7. It just seems to be the way our kids grow.

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#6 of 6 Old 03-22-2011, 12:08 PM
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One thing I always did when my kids were little was to have a tray with a bunch of sections with all kinds of food out all the time.  Kids your son's age tend to get easily distracted and stay very busy and don't have as much patience to eat it seems!  Plain beans were always a big hit, I would have a few different types for them to choose from to munch on.  Also fruit slices with a dried fruit seed or nut butter spread to dip in.  Sandwiches... these would be cut into shapes, or about the size of a finger, with a variety of spreads, and some baked tofu and tempeh also cut into finger slices... oh and baked fries of all different kinds of potatoes along with ketchup mixed with nutbutter to dip in.  I took that tray and followed my kids around with it and had the tray always available and in sight.  I definitely noticed the more options they had... and just a small amount of each option and everything kept separate (until they put it together if they chose)... the more they would eat.  Like if I just had one type of bean or one type of fruit or one type of fry, etc... they wouldn't seem interested, but with a few variations they would become interested in them all.  Or even sometimes just cutting the same thing into different shapes, they would take a bite of one and even if they didn't like it they would try a different shape, lol.  I also made meals where they didn't seem to want to eat into special tea parties and we'd really play it up getting dressed up and bringing in our invisible or stuffed animal friends and making up descriptions about our foods and mmming and aweing with each bite. 


Beyond that I did have one friend who's daughter did not put on any weight even though she grew inches in over six months (very tall skinny toddler!) and she's 17 now very healthy (still tall and skinny -like her father!)... she was still breastfeeding though (I mean during that period of no weight gain when she was a toddler, not now, of course). 

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