Your former champion eater now turns his nose up at everything. Where did his appetite go?
I am going through this phase where my 18 months old doesn’t really want food. He is ready to eat snacks, but not a proper meal like lunch or dinner. I am trying to figure out what it could be, as it’s really frustrating for me when my child refuses to eat whatever he used to love earlier. I’m trying to give him what he wants (obviously junk food is his first preference) but I’m avoiding that the most.
What it is:
Your little one used to have a steady appetite. Now he refuses to eat much of anything, including his favorite foods.
Why it happens:
A drop in appetite is to be expected at this stage of development. Your child is experiencing a normal slowdown in growth from his baby year — and with it a need for fewer calories and food. In addition, a growing desire for control (recognize the theme?) and involvement in the world around him (who wants to take time out to eat when there are so many other exciting things to do?) also contribute to his erratic eating.
What you need to know:
Try not to worry. Your toddler’s refusal to eat is usually temporary. A young child’s interest in food will wax and wane — dipping during teething, spiking during growth spurts, dropping during bouts of contrariness, and so on. But over a period of several days or weeks, most toddlers consume the necessary nutrients needed to thrive. As long as your child continues to gain weight and inches and remains healthy (aside from the usual colds) — and as long as his weekly total intake seems sufficient (don’t look at each day in a vacuum) — there’s little reason for concern. (Welcome to the toddler years!) When should you worry? Consult your child’s doctor if you notice any unusual weakness, lethargy, fatigue, fever, prolonged irritability, or weight loss.
What to do about it:
• Don’t take it personally. Just because your child rejects the food in front of her doesn’t mean she’s rejecting you. It’s also not a reflection of your parenting skills.
• Avoid pressuring your child. Research has shown that children who are pushed or coerced into eating are more likely to develop food-related problems. Instead, let your toddler decide how much to eat and when to stop. This will teach self-regulating skills when it comes to food. When your child is finished eating, let him leave the table.
• Provide healthy choices. While you can’t — and shouldn’t — make your child eat, you can make sure that what’s on her plate is nutritious and nourishing.
• Keep it small. Start with undersized portions and offer seconds if he wants more. A mountain of food can be overwhelming (“You want me to eat all that?!”) and he might just reject it all if it feels like it’s too much to tackle.
• Reconsider your child’s seating arrangement. Is your toddler trying to tell you he’s outgrown his high chair? He may be more willing to sit down for a full meal if he doesn’t feel confined. (Most toddlers are ready for booster seats when they understand directions and regularly follow them.)
• Make mealtimes a pleasant, low-key experience — free of distractions (like the TV or siblings playing nearby).
• Talk to your pediatrician about giving your child a daily vitamin-mineral supplement made for toddlers.