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What do I do about a toddler who only wants to eat AFTER mealtime?

Every day I make 3 meals. I either get food ready and put it on my 17 month old daughter's highchair tray or I offer bites from my own plate, depending on what we're having.

The problem is she won't eat. She sometimes will take a couple bites, but usually she won't even take that. And then 10 minutes after I clean up she comes up to me and says "Bite? Bite? More? Hungry?" She REFUSES to eat until we're all done. And even when she asks me for food, sometimes she won't eat it. So she's subsisting off of about 80% breastmilk.

How do I get her to eat with the rest of the family? Or eat period?


Asked by Ati_13 at 2:14 PM on Oct. 14, 2009 in Toddlers (1-2)

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Answers (9)
  • 17 months is a bit young for "3 squares". Little tummies do better with several small meals; many toddlers are just grazers. My daughter was at least 2 before she sat through family meals.

    Answer by rkoloms at 2:21 PM on Oct. 14, 2009

  • Offer her food, if she doesn't eat it without you coaxing her, clean it up, then offer a snack of fruit only in a small portion...after that is gone, no more food. she is testing you to see how much she can get away with. If you give in and feed her after you are done, she will know that she can get away with not eating when you eat.

    Answer by Jademom07 at 2:16 PM on Oct. 14, 2009

  • You make your mealtime her mealtime and you don't let her eat any other time. She has to understand that she can't just cruise on by and say "bite" and get what she wants. It doesn't work that way. Now if she has a set snack time, stick to that, but for meals stick to the normal meal time for everyone else and if she doesn't eat, she's out of luck. She'll come around.

    Answer by mom2BOYZnDad at 2:20 PM on Oct. 14, 2009

  • I would offer 3 meals a day and 2 small snacks each day. On a schedule, both of my kids know that you eat what is in front of you at meal time and you can have as much as you want. Snacks are small and they get to make a choice as to what it is, fruit am and whatever pm. I have to watch how muvh snak they get or they will not eat the meal.
    So I would try making the snacks smaller and maybe decreasing the breastfeeding to set times of the day. I still nurse my 22 month old but it is only 2 a day and just before sleeping. Or maybe making the breastfeeding the snacks and no thing else until meal time.

    Answer by DevilInPigtails at 2:34 PM on Oct. 14, 2009

  • She's very young. She'll catch on. She wants it when she's hungry, she can't understand yet that she can only eat at certain times. I wouldn't push it.

    Answer by mompam at 3:12 PM on Oct. 14, 2009

  • I tend to agree she's still a bit young for the mealtime concept. I'd sit her down to eat when you eat and let her eat what she wants. If she comes back hungry later, put her back into her highchair and offer the same foods. That way she'll start to get the concept of a "meal" rather than eating on the fly. It will also stop her from not eating a meal in hopes of a better menu.!

    Answer by momofryan07 at 3:18 PM on Oct. 14, 2009

  • mompam, thank you for reminding me of that. Sometimes I forget that she's stuck between being a toddler and being a baby. I'm trying so hard to transition from responding to a baby's needs to meeting a toddler's (which Michael J. Fox so aptly put it, is like suicide watch lol). I forget that there's still a lot of baby in her yet.

    But what about the fact that she will ask to eat and then refuse anything I give her? She'll even go so far as to ask for crackers or bananas or apples, specifically, and then refuse them when I try to give them to her. She seems to be hungry a lot but she won't hardly ever eat. The last time I got a decent meal in her was yesterday morning.

    Her height, weight and development are all awesome, though... so maybe I'm just being paranoid?

    Answer by Ati_13 at 3:40 PM on Oct. 14, 2009

  • I wouldnt' give her anything else, except for maybe a snack at a time you specify. If she doesn't eat, then she doesnt eat.

    Answer by Huntersmom819 at 6:15 PM on Oct. 14, 2009

  • My son is 22 mo and I push him to eat. I dont like the way his cousins just stand up in the middle fo meals and go and watch tv, then run back to the table for a bite, then run back to teh tv. They get up whenever they want. And never listen. So I make sure my son sits down and eats his meals period. There is no getting up and walking around. He does not get to get up then come back to a meal 5 minutes later.

    And about the asking then refusing what you give her.. give her a coupel choices, if she refuses it, then tell her no. Sooner or later, she will eat what you hand to her. Just make sure you give her a couple of different choices. Like my son gets two different veggies and fruit and crackers. If he refuses a veggie, he tries the other. If he refuses that, hes just sol and needs to deal with it. But I do keep in mind what he refuses. If he refuses something more than oen meal, I stop making it a few days.

    Answer by Kayere at 12:51 AM on Oct. 15, 2009