Is your toddler not eating? Toddlers have intense likes and dislikes. Picky eating is a normal phase but a 2015 study published in Pediatrics, The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that 50% of toddlers who need medical attention for picky eating are neglected. Find out the difference now.
Why Is Your Toddler Not Eating?
Pediatricians explain that toddlers can eat the same food for an entire week or month without getting bored and suddenly push the same dish away without any reason. Your tiny tot’s likes and dislikes can change drastically from one day to another and there is no need to worry about it.
A teething or ill child may refuse to eat until things go back to normal. That’s definitely ok given their ‘busy life’. Ask your child what’s missing in their meal to know their preferences. Give them options and allow them to choose within those options rather than accepting every whim. (Making them ‘believe’ they have the power can satisfy both of you.)
Toddler Losing Weight
Toddlers lose baby fat as they grow and picky eating is not the only reason for weight loss. You can determine if your child has a healthy weight using the BMI chart provided at your pediatric clinic based on age and other growth factors. A child being underweight is not a cause of concern if they are developing physically and mentally. Every child has his or her own speed of growing. Therefore, compare your child’s growth with the previous history rather than with children of the same age.
Toddler Not Eating and Only Drinking Milk
If your toddler wants a snack before bed, it may be due to a long gap between dinner and bedtime. You must choose a less tasty snack because older children may reduce dinner servings for a midnight snack.
Drinking requires less effort and milk fills the tummy compared to other liquids. Toddlers are masterminds when it comes to avoiding tiresome tasks. Therefore, they may put up a temper tantrum or refuse to eat until and unless you give them milk fearing your toddler might go to sleep hungry.
Do you know that toddlers only need 2-3 dairy servings per day? Dairy here includes milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. These are three steps you can inculcate into your child’s daily routine to encourage them to eat:
Eat With Them
Toddlers are highly impressionable. Sitting down with the child and eating the same food as the rest of the family will encourage them to participate with the family at the table. You can also expose them to a variety of diets through this practice.
Three times of food and two times of snacks is an ideal routine. You can schedule breaks for your child rather than feeding them on demand. This will teach them to hold their hunger and regulate their daily routine once they go to school. Make sure your child eats more food than snacks and a bottle of milk is often considered a snack for children above 12 months.
Rather than switching on your child’s favorite show or putting up your own performances during mealtime, you can opt to make the food look appealing. Children are attracted to colors. Go for bright and colorful cutlery or whip up themed food items to motivate your toddler to eat.
When Is It Serious?
Pediatricians always recommend keeping expectations low. Expect your child to eat only 1/4th serving, expect them to cry for tasty treats, expect more pickiness, etc. There are times when appetite loss can be concerning. Here are a few common symptoms:
Toddler not eating and sleeping a lot
An 11-12 hour sleepy time is highly preferable for toddlers. You may have accidentally dressed them too warm and caused them to feel lethargic. This could have them skipping mealtimes and reducing their calorie intake.
Delay in development
You may require an appointment with your pediatrician or feeding therapist if,
- Your child gags and pukes while feeding.
- Poop is suddenly different in color or texture.
- Delayed oral and motor activities.
You will need professional help if your child is dramatic about expressing dislike towards food varieties like complete abstinence, constant crying, or throwing things. These indicate an underlying mental illness.
There are a lot of things happening in their little worlds. Your toddler may be stressed due to:
Sibling rivalry, bullying, pets at home or in the neighborhood, irregular sleep cycles, or any sexual or mental abuse you are unaware of. This can impact their health and eating habits.
Even though your child’s picky eating is normal, you can always seek help from your pediatrician when in doubt. Analyze whether you fear your child is hungry or your motherly instinct trying to detect something wrong.