15 answers

19 Month Old Doesn't Want to Eat

My 19 month old has always been a difficult child to feed. He has little to no interest in feeding himself unless it is pretzels, graham crackers or tofu and occasionally Kix or Cheerios. Other than that, he refuses to even try to feed himself meats, fruits, veggies, etc. I have constantly struggled with feedings. He drinks only from a cup, but wont drink and eat at the same setting. Feeding is always a power struggle and I have now become so desperate to keep him eating that I have allowed him to sit in his Little Tikes Car and watch Barney while I spoon feed him yogurts and Baby Food. I don't know what else to do. Whenever I try to put finger foods or even bowls of food in front of him on the table he immediately says "no" and throws it on the floor without even considering it. I have also tried letting him sit in my lap and feed me food, but he still doesn't care about eating it himself. I'm sorry this is so long...If anyone has advice on how to get him to want to eat by himself and try foods I would greatly appreciate it!

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Everything Gayle said is right, my son was the same way and I got tired of making seperate meals. The only time I would make a seperate meal is if I knew he didn't like what we ate-spicy stuff. So, I sent him to bed with nothing to eat if he refused. Nothing to drink either because he would fill himself up on drinks then. That only lasted a few days and then he started eating with us. you need to show him who's the boss!

More Answers

I'm a 61-yr-old mom & grandma. I have a 37-yr-old son who will eat almost anything (except asparagus :). My mother-in-law has stated repeatedly that she was lucky to have 2 boys who will eat anything. I've told her it wasn't luck; she expected them to eat what was put in front of them, and there wasn't a choice. You've let your little one have way too much power, and it'll only get worse. The day will come (& we've seen it in some of the posts on this site) when you'll be cooking separate meals for your son. That's not in the best interest of him or your family. It's not in the nature of a human being (regardless of age) to starve itself to death. That being said, it's up to you to be the parent. #1-Get Barney out of the feeding routine. #2-Put your son in the place (high chair, booster seat at the table, etc.) where you expect him to eat his meals, and be consistent in this. #3-Put small amounts of the food (cut into very small pieces at first) you expect him to eat at each meal in front of him. This needs to be the same meal you and your husband are eating. #4-TELL HIM that, if he throws it on the floor, it will go in the trash, and he won't get anything else to eat for that meal because that WAS his meal. #5-NO SNACKS BETWEEN MEALS! You can give him water or small amounts of milk or juice. #6-Go thru the same procedure at the next meal. Your little guy hasn't starved, but he WILL be hungry and more inclined to do it your way. He'll catch on very quickly. Obviously, you can expect tears and crabbiness when he does get hungry before the next meal. Be prepared for it. Give him a cup of water and explain to him again that he's a big boy now and he'll be able to have food at the next meal; but it will be up to him to eat it himself. He needs to learn NOW that there are consequences for misbehavior (throwing food). Hunger is a consequence and a pretty good motivator.

Best of luck to you, G.

2 moms found this helpful

Hi J.,
Just another thought...perhaps it could be more of a sensory issue. Sometimes kids don't like the texture, look or feel of foods. I had a friend who's little boy was like this. It was such a struggle for her to get nurishment into him. If you have not addressed it with your pediatrician already maybe he/she can offer some more help.
Good Luck
(oops, sorry I just read someone elses post about sensory
issues....didn't mean to repeat)

Why would you son want to eat? He needs a routine and an expectation that when he is at the dinner table, its time for...DINNER. No TV, No snacks, no exceptions. When my kids were going through growth spurts I would have a "snack" basket of healthy snacks, but other than that we had breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snack times. Play times are for playing, sleeping time is for sleeping and meal time is for eating. You child is in control and it will only get worse. Be the parent.


I have 5 boys and the youngest is 18 months old right now. Toddlers know when they are hungry and when they aren't. They have a crazy way of getting what they need to grow and develop. Is he growing at a consistent rate? My kids would seem like they were starving themselves for a week and then all of a sudden would eat everything in sight for a day or two and then a growth spurt would usually follow.

I wouldn't get too upset when he doesn't eat (unless you notice considerable loss of weight) If it really concerns you call your pediatricians office and ask them, I'm sure they will tell you the same.

Your son will know if you are getting stressed or upset about this. DO NOT make it a battle. I'm sorry to tell you that you can't win it. If he doesn't want to eat don't make a big deal about it, just offer some food at the next meal or offer some snacky food throughout the day. Healthy things like cubed cheese or cut up fruit. Pretend like the snacks are for you, and offer to share, make a big deal about how MMMMMMMMMMM good they are, if he wants some fine. Otherwise act like you could care less if he eats or not.

One more suggestion I would make is if you are giving him juice, I would eliminate that from his diet. It is just sugar water, basically empty calories and if he is filling up on juice he may not feel hungry for the substantial food later. We also give our toddler a chewable multiple vitamin every day. They are sweet and he thinks of it as a treat. We break the vitamin into about 3 or 4 pieces and give them out one at a time until he has chewed and swallowed them. It makes me feel better to think at least hes getting some of his bases covered when he doesn't eat much.

I know its hard not to worry about them, but all of mine have gone through this stage and the last one is in it right now. Good luck to you and I hope this helps.

That must be frustrating... I hope it gets better. Maybe you can see if he'll 'dip' his food? Our son is the same age and sometimes he doesn't seem interested in eating, but then he'll dip it... we have him dip it in salsa or honey mustard or organic ketchup.. I figure the sugar isn't good for him to have, but if it gets him to eat chicken and other foods.. so be it!

Everything Gayle said is right, my son was the same way and I got tired of making seperate meals. The only time I would make a seperate meal is if I knew he didn't like what we ate-spicy stuff. So, I sent him to bed with nothing to eat if he refused. Nothing to drink either because he would fill himself up on drinks then. That only lasted a few days and then he started eating with us. you need to show him who's the boss!

I agreee with Gayle.. you have let this feeding thing get out of control. so now you have to get control of the situation.

Stop the craziness of feeding him while he is so engrosed in the TV that he doesnt even know that he is eating.

Put him in a highchair and give him some regular healthy food choices...

My daughter (2 1/2) eats almost everything.. my son (14 months) is still a bit fussy but we are working on it.. we put regular healthy food on his tray.. if he doesnt eat it.. that is his choice but we do not feed him cookies instead.

Your child will eat a balance diet if you only offer a balanced diet..

Hi J.,

You may want to discuss this further with your son's doctor. He may have a sensory/texture problem. Your doctor could you refer yo to someone who will help with that. I think it's a speech therapist that would help. There's so much that can be done to help with that. It doesn't sound like it's flavors to me. I think it might be a texture problem. Good luck, S.

DEar J.,

Your request didn't say how long this has been going on, but I am going to assume that it has been awhile, How is his weight? Is he gaining adequately? I have to agree with the first response, that this could be a sensory issue. My son has sensory issues and food is a aprt of his scenario. We just thought he was 'picky', but everytime he would try to eat something else he would gag. Yours doesn't sound that extreme, so be patient, and give it some time, like a month, to see if he changes. I would cut out the power struggle, just put the food in front of him and see if he eats, and if he doesn't, take it away, and see if he eats at the next meal/snack time. Is he able to feed himself, or does he need you to feed him? If he isn't able to feed himself, it may be a motor skill issue, is that the problem? That can also be diagnosed and addressed with occupational therapy. Toddlers will respond to their basic need of hunger, unless there is a problem getting in the way of that, like a sensory issue. This may feel extreme when you first start, but you need to see if this is just a toddler issue or something more, that an occupational therapist can help with. Good luck.

Most kids will eat if hungry. My plan of action with my lil one has always been to place food in front of her at the table at regular times. I try to sit down to eat a little at the same time, and try to eat something similar. Then we "talk". I over exaggerate how delicious any new foods are for me to eat but I don't believe in force feeding children. If she eats she eats. If not she'll be offered food again at another time. I try to pair new foods with old time favorites. She tries new foods more often if she's not tired. That's how I do it with kids I watch too and some hold out for a long time but eventually they eat what you serve when you serve it or at least try a few new foods. I read you may have to offer a food a dozen times before a kid may eat it. So I don't feel bad serving foods I know she hasn't liked in the past. I don't allow grazing between meals which ruins appetites but will occassionally adjust meal time depending on the amount previously ate. When my lil one has thrown it on the ground purposely. I just end meal time and remove her calmly from the table without much reaction but a clear no throwing statement. By the next meal time she may not want to throw it again because she'll be hungry to eat it. She only has done it a couple times. She gets plenty to eat and is growing just fine. Eating together should be enjoyable not a battle. You can't or shouldn't usually force a kid to eat. Kids will eat if they are hungry. Little kids sometimes don't need to eat as much as we think and they will let you know if they need more. Offer very small portions so you don't overwhelm.

Best advice I've ever received...No child will ever starve himself to death! I believe he will eat when he is hungry. As for WHAT he eats, maybe it's time to do away with the graham crackers and cereal. It's more of a battle of wits. And in time, the taste buds change as well.

My younger brothers lived off spaghettio's, hotdogs, and PB&J until they went off to college. Obviously dorm life doesn't allow for those 3 options. They now eat more variety than any of us would have imagined.

Hi J.---From what I read, you shouldn't worry too much about your son's eating habits. I have my own business as a Wellness Educator and I frequently use Dr. William Sears as a resource. The following is from his website, www.askdrsears.com.

"Why toddlers are picky. Being a picky eater is part of what it means to be a toddler. We have since learned that there are developmental reasons why kids between one and three years of age peck and poke at their food. After a year of rapid growth (the average one-year-old has tripled her birth weight), toddlers gain weight more slowly. So, of course, they need less food. The fact that these little ones are always on the go also affects their eating patterns. They don't sit still for anything, even food. Snacking their way through the day is more compatible with these busy explorers' lifestyle than sitting down to a full-fledged feast.

Learning this helped us relax. We now realize that our job is simply to buy the right food, prepare it nutritiously (steamed rather than boiled, baked rather than fried), and serve it creatively. We leave the rest up to the kids. How much they eat, when they eat, and if they eat is mostly their responsibility; we've learned to take neither the credit nor the blame.

Toddlers like to binge on one food at a time. They may eat only fruits one day, and vegetables the next. Since erratic eating habits are as normal as toddler mood swings, expect your child to eat well one day and eat practically nothing the next. Toddlers from one to three years need between 1,000 and 1,300 calories a day, yet they may not eat this amount every day. Aim for a nutritionally-balanced week, not a balanced day."

You might like to go to his website and read the rest of the article. Please feel free to contact me for other ideas. There is no charge for the 'education' that I offer. I do use a wonderful whole food supplement called Juice Plus+ as a part of my business. JP+ is 17 different fruits, veggies and grains in capsule, chewable or GUMMIE form. It is my family's nutrition insurance. The gummies can be cut into very small pieces and at least you know he will be getting a wide variety of nutrients despite what he eats from the dinner plate.

Feel free to contact me with any questions and for other tips to optimize your family's nutrition and health. Be well, D. ###-###-#### www.dianeshealthed.com

Hi J.,
Your son sounds like he is having food issues related to textures and sensory issues. This is not all that uncommon with kids - problem is, and understandably, moms want their kids to eat and kids need to eat - so it becomes a BIG power struggle over which moms really have no strength. This is often a medical issue and needs a professional such as a pediatric Occupational Therapist to address the sensory issues that your son is having and teach you techniques and foods to try that can increase the types and amounts of food he is eating. You are a wise mom to be concerned. I don't know where you live - but you could call Beaumont (they have a pediatric clinic on Coolidge in Royal Oak) or Childrens Hospital downtown and explain what you need. If you go to a hospital type setting insurance generally covers it. Good luck.

I think every mother has been in your shoes at one point in their life. Do not despair. He is 19 months old and sewing his oats, if you will. He is mastering new skills and getting a rise out of you is one of them. One of the best things my pediatrician told me was to not look at nutrition on a daily basis but rather take a 3 day average. Do not force him to eat but sit him down at regular intervals through out the day and offer him whatever you are eating. If he eats great. If not, no big deal. Let him down from his chair and try again later. We have a loose schedule in our house of breakfast, morning snack, lunch, after nap snack, and dinner. Some days my kiddos eat voraciously all five times, other times they graze. But the key to our success is they cannot eat outside those times and they eat what I fix.
If you are worried he is not getting enough nutrition then speak to your pediatrician about a liquid vitamin supplement.
Also something to think about: is your little guy teething? My 19mos old is currently cutting his molars and this really effects his eating habits. He doesn't want to eat cause he doesn't feel well.
As for sensory issue comments: My eldest has diagnosed sensory issues, and while other's comments are well meaning I fear they could scare you needlessly. I could go on and on. If you would like more detailed information or resources I am glad to send you some links and talk with you about my experience.
Good luck with your little guy and welcome to toddlerhood!

HI J., Isn't great that we can get so much good advice!

And I think you've received a lot of great input.

Having been thru some of these same sorts of things where our son even at 17 months of age knew he could engage his parents by controlling the situation thru eating behaviors...He's now 24, 6'4 230 and while he is overweight he is now owning his food choices and making really good ones!

Only you know if it is a controlling behavior. I hope that does not seem harsh to you.

My equal concern is one that has been voiced already and that is sensory issues. That is not alarmist to bring up but your best line of defense to evaluate it now. I have some very good resources...learning and referrals to excellent occupational therapists. I would be happy to give you what I have.


Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.