Author Topic: 18 month old mealtime stress  (Read 342 times)

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Offline Conniesmummy

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18 month old mealtime stress
« on: February 25, 2017, 13:10:06 pm »
Hi, I have a very strong willed 18 month old lg. I can honestly say I lose sleep about mealtimes they are so bad.
The only one I like is breakfast cos she eats like a horse then.
A typical day looks like this.
Wake up around 6:30, 6:45-7 sippy of milk.
8:15 breakfast, any cereal followed by fruit of some description.
09:30 ish, snack, malt loaf bar or a biscuit.
Then the fun begins....
Lunch around 11:30 ish as she is usually getting tired around 12 ish.
Lunch is hit and miss and doesn't matter what I offer, even things she's eaten lots or in childcare, she will mess with and refuse. She's even started looking offended if something she doesn't like has touched something she wants to eat.
She will have her nap then and around 2-2:30 I'll offer her a snack, usually raisins or fruit, occasionally a fruit pouch. Although part of me wants to offer something like toast if she hasn't eaten much lunch.
Evening meal I do around 4:30-5 at the latest. This again is hit and miss. If she hasn't eaten much I will give her supper of some dry cereal or a small biscuit about 6 ish with a sippy of milk. She usually goes to bed around 7.
I've noticed her weight has dropped a bit and it's worrying me.
If I offered her cakes and biscuits or cereals all day long, she would eat loads. My mum doesn't help cos she just says give her what she wants, but how would I ever get her to eat anything ever again.
It came to a head at lunch today and I ended up in tears. Doesn't help that hubby is working away at the minute either so it's all on me. All credit to single parents out there.
I've always been quite focused on believing no child will starve themselves but now she's lost weight I'm worried 😓
Any help would be appreciated,
Thanks x

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Re: 18 month old mealtime stress
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2017, 22:23:07 pm »
Hi there
Sorry to hear you were so upset today, especially when your DH is away. It can be very upsetting and frustrating when LOs appear not to be eating much.  Please do take comfort in your own words though, "no child will starve themselves" - and especially she is not going to waste away in the time your DH is away.

Appetites can drop noticeably in toddlers and if it follows a growth spurt it is even more noticeable, their eating goes back to a "normal" amount but us parents have become used to the growth spurt amount so in comparison it can seem like they are living on fresh air.
You said yourself that she eats like a horse at breakfast and it is very common for toddlers to take in more of their calories in the morning and earlier hours of the day rather than the afternoon and evening hours - they do not need to eat in the steady "3 meals" like older children or adults do but can take in most of what they need in the morning which often leaves parents feeling like they ought to eat a similar amount in the afternoon. So please know that your LO is not much different to other toddlers, perhaps this will help.

Looking at your routine, I could suggest some things to try and see what you think.
- taking into account she eats well at breakfast you can offer different things at this time, if you like the balanced meals you prepare for lunch or dinner you can save a portion of this for the following morning and offer it at breakfast time. It sounds odd I know but I was given this advice when my DS ate almost no protein, I took the chance and offered an egg at breakfast instead of his usual muesli and he just ate it - I was very surprised I had expected him to refuse and scream his head off.  I always felt much happier with the rest of the day knowing he had a full portion of protein at breakfast, it took the pressure off.  He had also (similar to your LO) been refusing egg at lunch and dinner although I knew he liked it in the past.  The thing was, by lunch and dinner he wasn't hungry enough to want it but at breakfast he had a great appetite.

- The morning snack seems to come quite early and seems quite big IMO.  A usual snack time is around 11 ish which is getting very close to her lunch time so, you could leave the snack early and reduce the amount or switch what you offer, or you could let her wait until 11am (ie skip the 9.30 snack) and do a "split lunch" which many people find works around the nap.  Basically you offer some of the lunch time food groups at 11 and the others after nap at 2pm.  Have a think about how changing the timing of this snack/lunch might help.

- The morning snack, if you decide to continue offering early at 9.30am,  you can switch for something from one of the food groups she is skipping at lunch/dinner - veg or protein.  Whilst steam carrots or green beans might not seem like "snack food" to you, it is perfectly acceptable to offer these or other veggies, or half an egg or some cold meat or fish for snack.  In terms of what you offer try to think about the portions of various food groups across the day.  Each meal doesn't need to be "balanced" but across the day her intake should end up balanced.  ATM it might be heavy on carbs and fruit but light on veg and protein.

- When it comes to the afternoon and evening, if you know she has already eaten a portion of protein, a couple of portions of veg and a portion of fruit you will likely feel less anxious about what she eats for dinner or the amount she eats.

- LOs obviously like sweet foods.  Sure if you offer cakes and biscuits all day she will likely eat them.  If it was me I'd probably cut right back for several days or cut out all cakes and biscuits for several days and then re-introduce one small portion per day once her other food groups has increased.  As you are concerned about her food intake the way I would see it is that every bite needs to be from one of the vital food groups so that she is getting good quality food with the vitamins, fats etc that she needs to grow well.

- It is quite normal for weight to fluctuate a little. I believe (off the top of my head) that the guidance in the UK at this age is to not weigh LO more than once every 6 months, I think the reason for this is because weight fluctuation can panic parents and lead to unnecessary worry.  It is within acceptable fluctuation for the weight to drop a line on the centile charts and would not be any cause for concern until LO had dropped two lines.  If this is the case I would book an appointment with a doctor to get some additional help and support.  Weight can drop when LOs are poorly or teething and their appetite drops, often they will still eat their fav foods (like cakes) at those times but refuse their normal healthy foods.  They can quickly regain the weight when the teething pain has passed.

- a toddler portion is very very small. The size of their little hand is a rough guide. for example a quarter of a piece of fruit is a full portion (and many would eat a whole banana which is probably 4 portions in one go!) and as a guide toddlers would be recommended to have just two portions of fruit per day - that is only a half of a fruit!  A portion of vegetables is just 1-2 tablespoons and just 2 servings are expected across a day.  Looking at just how much she has might help you feel more comfortable about the amount she is eating and perhaps give you the confidence to stick to your balanced meals rather than offering additional cereals or biscuits due to worry.

I hope something here helps.
And hugs - it can be so hard for us, our natural instinct is to feed our children, try not to worry too much x


Offline Conniesmummy

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Re: 18 month old mealtime stress
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2017, 12:59:35 pm »
Thanks so much for your reply which makes perfect sense. I think because she used to be a good eater and now she refuses so many things she's once eaten, I'd gotten myself in a bit of a tis.
She has started eating cheese again, which she point blank refused for ages, so I'm hoping this will happen with her veggies.
It's so hard to think about what to offer her at times and then not to get over excited when she eats something and just keep giving her the same!
You are right about the fruit.
This morning she had her cereal as normal with a sippy of milk and then ate a while satsuma.
She is a fruit bat.

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Re: 18 month old mealtime stress
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2017, 14:52:46 pm »
Mine also has always loved fruit. It's great of course that they like it but it can end up filling them too much so they aren't hungry enough for other things.
Mine had a little phase (I think it was after illness or teething that prompted it) when he really only wanted to eat dried fruit, after a short while I just decided to tackle it head on. I did basically what I described above (WRT cutting back biscuits/cake) and cut RIGHT back on fruit and dried fruit for several days. The first and second days were the worst, he was pointing to where the fruit is kept and asking, then crying, then crying hard. Throughout I cuddled him, didn't get angry or tell him off for wanting it, and said things like "yes I know you want it, I know it tastes nice, I'm not getting you any, I need to look after you".  Honestly it only took a couple of days and his other food groups picked up quickly, then I reintroduced small portions of dried fruit again.

I know it is frustrating to keep preparing various foods for them to be refused too, there is a temptation to stick to what you know she'll eat, I understand.  You can split her meal into one thing you know she will eat and one thing you are not sure about if that helps - it doesn't need to be a huge range of different foods, it just needs to be balanced and healthy.  If you prepare various foods for yourself you can just save a little portion for her for the next day rather than always trying to think of new things or preparing her separate meals every day which ends up being frustrating and tiring.

We all get into a tiz over something or other - deep breaths, try to un-tiz yourself. Meal times need to be stress free for everyone so that you can all enjoy your time together and the eating experience :) hugs


Offline 4isstillnighttime

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Re: 18 month old mealtime stress
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2017, 19:57:32 pm »
I would totally agree with all the advice you have had. Just to say....I have twin boys. DT1 will eat loads at breakfast - porridge then a crumpet and a drink of milk. Then he will eat at morning snack or lunch (one or the other so if I def want him to eat lunch, no snack) and then often that's it for the day. A few mouthfuls of supper. My rule is that if a meal is something he really doesn't like he has to try one bite, and then he can have toast instead.

DT2 is the opposite. Breakfast is a massive battle, but by supper he is starving and eats like a horse!

What I do now is:

Usually just new things if they have had a big lunch, then if they don't eat it I don't get stressed!
Tiny portions so not too much waste
One snack a day
If they are v tired (like swimming days!) then we have easy finger food for supper.

And this one is a bit controversial- but we always have 2 courses. Our puddings are very nutritious and healthy and although my rule is that they have to finish their main first, my portions are tiny. So there's another chance for them to eat!!

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Re: 18 month old mealtime stress
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2017, 13:09:23 pm »
Thanks for stopping by with your suggestions and support 4isstillnighttime.

And this one is a bit controversial- but we always have 2 courses. Our puddings are very nutritious and healthy and although my rule is that they have to finish their main first, my portions are tiny. So there's another chance for them to eat!!
I'm not sure that this is as controversial as you might think. There are quite a few members who follow the "division of responsibility" idea when it comes to feeding their children.  We had a thread on it somewhere but I can't find it just now.  If either of you are interested to read about it further I could hunt it down or ask around for it though.
The general idea is that it is the parents role to provide healthy balanced food at reliable times. The child's role is to eat it.  Within this deserts (the healthy sort like plain yoghurt or fresh fruit, or the less healthy sort such as cakes/sweets) are often served at the same time as the main meal and the child can eat whichever food they want first. There is no "one more bite," no cajoling into eating, no "mains first then desert" just food is served in sensible portions.
As it is the parents role to provide the food the parent controls what is served and the portion size, there is no giving in to a childs to demand for extra cakes etc but neither is the cake withheld as a prize for having eaten something else.  It's a method which seems to work pretty well and certainly seems to reduce the level of stress in parents who are finding themselves overwhelmed by meal times.
Quite a few of the BW community mentioned on the thread that this was pretty much how they approached feeding their children even though they had not heard of the book or author at that time.


Offline Conniesmummy

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Re: 18 month old mealtime stress
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2017, 13:16:44 pm »
Thanks for all your help.
Creations. I think I may give this a go, offering 2 courses in small portions at the same time. I have done this sometimes without thinking, I'm sure.
She has made a little progress in that she will put foods into her mouth that in the past she has simply ignored on the plate, or taken off the plate. I think it's difficult at the minute because we are experiencing the 18 month sleep regression too and she always seems tired at mealtimes, so will mess more. I do try and jiggle her mealtimes slightly to help, but some days we just can't. She is in nursery 2 days a week where there is mire structure. But to be fair, she is the same there, although sge has eaten things there that she refuses for me so I think there is an element of toddler mind games going on too.
I have suffered quite badly with pnd and anxiety and if I'm honest my hubby I'd working away at the minute and I'm struggling a little  :'(

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Re: 18 month old mealtime stress
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2017, 15:07:10 pm »
I'm so sorry to hear that you are struggling just now.
If you do not have a current pnd thread perhaps you'd like to start one?  For a hand to hold, an ear to listen, tips from others who have been through similar?

I'm going to try to find that Division of responsibility thread for you.  It may not have any current posters in there but someone may come back with further tips or support on the method if you post on it, or you might take encouragement from the previous posts that were there even if it is quiet on the thread now.
For now I will see if I can give you a couple of external links which may help you understand the method as it can be something to get your head around if it is a new idea to you. Try these:
http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/dor/divisionofresponsibilityinfeeding.php
http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/11to36months.php
http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/eatingandgrowthindex.php

You can always post here too of course!

There is another aspect to eating I experienced with my DS and that was cycles of distrust in food. He was an enthusiastic eater of solids from the word go but with several developmental phases I saw a link in apparent fussiness over food.  It made some sense to me that with greater mobility (starting to walk or starting to run) a child could instinctively feel a greater sense of danger (ie they can get away from the care giver, can access more items/objects).  Often bouts of SA come on with these big developmental mile stones and for good reason, it helps to keep the child close to mum and safe.  Well, it kind of follows that a child with greater mobility could also instinctively have a new distrust food as this could help to keep them safe from eating wild berries or other bad foods.  With my DS I saw his food intake drop and realised a couple of things:
- he checked and compared our plates, he needed to see that Mummy was eating exactly the same, this made the food safer
- he continued to distrust foods until I tested each item.  I acted a little like the court jester who would taste the kings food to make sure it was not poisoned and from my DS's plate I took one item and showed him I was testing it "let's see if this carrots is good...mmm yes, it's good to eat. Let me check this cucumber...mmm yes that fine, fresh and tasty" and so on.  And sometimes I joked and said "no poison there, all food to eat".
- if I served food in a different format he needed to be told what it was and if it was safe.  eg because we did BLW I usually served carrots in batons. One day carrots came in a stew as semi circles (Daddy had cooked) and my DS had no idea what it was. I did a little playful thing of telling him it is a carrot (he did not look convinced) and said "here let me check that it is carrot and if it is tasty - ooh yes it's definitely carrot, definitely tasty and good to eat, would you like some?" - but not force him to take a piece - he did taste it and seemed amazed that it was indeed carrot.
- even with a limited verbal vocab LOs understand a great deal of what we say so the communication is really helpful both to explain what food is but also to just chit chat and make meal times pleasant for everyone.

maybe this can help a little.


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Re: 18 month old mealtime stress
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2017, 18:33:10 pm »
One of the other mods kindly found the support/chat thread for me, so here it is:
The Division Of Responsibility trust model for selective eating child
It's quite an old thread so there is a warning on the reply button asking people to think about if they really want to reply or not - I don't think you need to let that put you off if you wanted to post there though. There may still be some members around who have read more of the literature than I have who may be able to offer you additional support.