32 answers

My 16 Month Old Not Wanting to Eat and Is Losing Weight. Help!

My 16 month old daughter has lost about two pounds and we can not get her to really eat. She is my third daughter and I have never had this happen and I just don't know what to do. The nurse at my doctors office said she needs to still be eating baby cereal, but we can't get her to do it. She closes her mouth tight and then once we get the food in she spits it out. I told her this and all she said was, "you have to make her eat it." How am I suppose to do this when I can't even get her to keep it in her mouth. I have even tried feeding her off my plate, but she won't do that. It seems that everything we try to feed her ends up all over the floor or the highchair. She does drink milk, juice, and pedisure but we try to spread it out far enough so she is not filling up on liquids. Today for instance we only gave her a sippy cup of pediasure in the morning, water with her lunch, and then milk with her dinner. She only ate few cheerios for breakfast, a few bites at lunch, and she only took one bite of dinner before she started throwing it on the floor. I am very concerned since she is losing weight and she now only weighs about 17.5 lbs.

She has been off cereal for a long time, and we do feed her what the rest of the family is eating. We have tried letting her feed herself, us feeding her, and her big sisters feeding her, but nothing is working!!! She no longer takes a bottle either and she won't drink baby formula.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I have a 18 month old who doesnt really eat that much at all. My doctor told me that as long as he is drinking his milk not to worry too much about it. He drinks more milk and juice than he eats food and he is as healthy as they come...he has just recently wanted to eat off of my plate and try different foods. I say give her as much milk as she wants...at least that will keep her from loosing weight and keep her tummy full!

1 mom found this helpful

There's a bad virus going around including a sore throat. You might give her some formula at each meal So she gets the nutrients and calories .

My daughter went through a stage at around 16 months where she would not let anyone feed her. We started giving her pasta, cut up meat and cheese that she could feed herself and she started eating again. My best friend has a two year old that refuses to eat anything but crackers so she started dehydrating vegetables so they were crunchy; it worked and tricked her daughter into eating veggies.

More Answers

My daughter was in the hospital for a burn and when this injury occurs they don't want to eat. I was skeptical that my girl who LOVES food would have this problem but, sure enough, we were in the same situation as you. They said I had to make her eat and she had to consume so much protien. I couldn't get her to eat anything. I could get her to drink a little. They wanted her to have no water because it will fill her stomach and offer her no nutrients, calories or protein. They said no juices because they were empty calories. They had an Insure drink that had extra protein and vitamins that she would drink. The hospital also made a protein shake for her. They were all water based so she was getting hydrated too. Getting her to drink was way easier then getting her to eat. Unless your doctor has said otherwise, I would let her drink her calories while still trying to get he to eat. You might also see if your doctor could recommend a protien powder for her or call Children's Mercy and see what they use in their "burn shakes". This way you know the amounts that she is getting is appropriate for her size. At some point "make her eat" is not a solution to the problem and your not getting any more help, advice or more of a solution I would ask to talk to the doctor and if that doesn't work, call Children's Mercy.

I read a few resonses and I would agree with the nurse. If there are tactile issues, children can be very stuburn about those things. But there are alot of fun activities to tackle them. Someone else mentioned a dietician and there is no reason why you couldn't request a referal or be denied the refural. I also agree that 16 mo is really old to be eating baby cereal. Did your other children still like baby cereal at that age? I know mine would have been spitting it out at that age, too. Have you every tried that stuff? And if she is seeing your other girls eating something else. Have you tried having your older girls try and feed her. If she is highly motivated by them then this may work.

1 mom found this helpful

If she has started losing weight you have to change your tactics. When someone goes on a diet their body begins to require less and less in order to feel full. By cutting back on her liquids she is requiring less and less to feel full.

I would start by giving her all of the liquids that she can drink. The pediasure is a great way to get the nutrition back into her body. Since she has gone on a food strike dont push it. Allow her to get her nutrition from her liquids for now.

By increasing the amount that she drinks and her calorie intake you will create a need for her to keep her tummy full. If it isnt full she will feel hungry. Right now her calorie intake is so low that she her tummy does not that much of a difference and it may take a while to get her back to where she was.

Sugar is something that also stimulates the appetite. Under normal circumstances I probably would not recommend this but try milk shakes. Make them yourself using a small amount icecream, yogurt and a fuit baby food added to her milk. By keeping it on the sweet side you begin to stimulate her appetite.

I would also say that her age there is a lot of psychology that you can play with her. At meal times you may not want to put her in her high chair. As the whole family sits down to eat, you may choose to just ignore that she is even in the room. This usually creates a need to be with the family and do what they are doing. Do not get upset or act like it bothers you if she does not want to join the family the first time. You may be surprised that by the end of 2 or 3 meals that she wants to sit and laugh and eat with every one else. Do not give her one bite until she asks for it. Make her idea, this way she is less likely to spit it out.

I know how concerned you must be, I would be as well. Dont worry about getting her to eat right now. Worry more about getting her back to nutrition and if that has to come in liquid form for right now, then so be it.

1 mom found this helpful

Im not trying to scare you but my baby is almost five months and weighs over 16 lbs. Yes hes big, hes in the 75% for his weight so thats not ridiculously big. But I would try to get to the bottom of it right away. Maybe she is sick? I wouldnt be happy with the answer that nurse gave you. I would hound them until they can give you real advice on how to handle it. I mean this isnt just picky eater, she doesnt want to eat at all it sounds like. I remember my daughter going through phases when she just wasnt eating enough, one week I thought she would starve and the next week she would eat like a grown man. But she never lost 2 pounds. Thats a lot when you are talking baby. How long has this been going on? Hopefully you can get some real answers and help from her doctors office. I dont think they have heard the last of you on this one! Good luck, its probably just a phase, but I would be stressed too!

1 mom found this helpful

I have a 18 month old who doesnt really eat that much at all. My doctor told me that as long as he is drinking his milk not to worry too much about it. He drinks more milk and juice than he eats food and he is as healthy as they come...he has just recently wanted to eat off of my plate and try different foods. I say give her as much milk as she wants...at least that will keep her from loosing weight and keep her tummy full!

1 mom found this helpful

Just wanted to let you know my niece, 17 mos, doesn't eat whenever she is teething. She is also small, and a very picky eater. She is getting lots of her molars right now and went from 19.8 lbs to 17.5 lbs at her last visit since she was not eating. The pediasure is a good idea. Can you start her on a multi-vitamin?

1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.:

I haven't gotten a chance to read the other posts so I apologize in advance if this is a repeat. My daughter went thru something similar to this when she was teething. Also, she also does not like to eat if I feed her. She will eat if I give her the spoon to feed herself. This is very messy as she turns the spoon upside down before it goes into her mouth. So applesauce ends up on her but pudding does stay on the spoon! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I don't have any great insight into your issue. But, you may want to try putting more into drinks. You may want to try smoothies with yogurt and banana in them for example. You could put a bit of baby cereal in them also. Don't put in so much that you can't liquify it.

I also know that "fighting' about eating is a bad idea. You could try different, calorie/nutrient foods. Her tastes may be changing. She may have developed a distaste for certain textures. This may be a "stage' she will move out of. In the meantime, "beef" up her drinks.

1 mom found this helpful

I know that if they are constipated they won't want to eat. The little guy I watch loves homemade oatmeal (2.5 min in microwave) mixed with yogurt (full fat Yo-baby). He wouldnt' take the baby stuff anymore and I switched to this and he loves it. Good luck

1 mom found this helpful

C. I don't mean to be crass but I think you need to find yourself another Doctor. Obviously there is something more going on here than her unwillingness to eat. My suspicion is possibly fluid on the ears which would build up pressure in the jaws and make it painful to chew (this happened with my son and he went undiagnosed until he was 3 and is now 5 and STILL won't eat anything that takes a lot of work).

As for getting her to eat cereal...make up the largest bottle you have and use the scooper you use for formula...make up the normal amount of formula for the bottle but add 2 scoops of cereal to it. Make sure you have the larger nipples on the bottle as it is thicker so a small opening nipple will be difficult to get anything out of. If she gets too constipated from it, subsitute 2 oz of prune juice or apple juice for the regular water in the formula. That should help tide you over until you get a second opinion.

But frankly, any nurse that just tells you in exasperation that "you just have to try" when you are a seasoned parent and have obviously been doing that and are calling at your own wits end needs to find a new profession because she is obviously overwhelmed. It unfortunately seems to be a trend in Dr.s offices of processing as many patients as possible to get the insurance payments but we are now compromising the integrity of our healthcare for it. Remember a Dr/nurse gives you THEIR best recommendation...it's not set in stone and there are other's out there that may have another opinion...frankly, I think you need to find another opinion.

1 mom found this helpful

Good Morning C., Get her to the DR. and I would certainly not be A Happy Mama about the advice you got to MAKE HER.. Come on you can not force a baby that age to eat. If they won't help or give you some other Lame Brained answer, find another Ped /or baby dietician.

You might try putting some cereal in her milk bottle, see if she will take that. Make it thin enough she can still drink it. But get her to the Doctor and BYPASS the Nurse.

God Bless you C., I think this Nana is really ticked at some of the medical professionals. Unbelievable

K. Nana of 5

1 mom found this helpful

Has she been pooping? Maybe she has a tummy ache and just dont want to eat.

C., I'm a speech and language pathology grad. student and my humble advice to you would be to get a referral to a speech and language pathologist through your pediatrician who deals with pediatric eating disorder. Sometimes kids don't like certain textures or need to experiment with food on their own level. Moreover, the other moms had good advice about making sure she doesn't have an ear infection or other factors that are causing her pain when she eats. It seems like she does well with liquids, just not solids. I would really recommend going to a speech and language pathologist that deals with pediatric dysphagia. I hope she does not have this problem anymore since you did write in in Jan. take care

Hi C.,
(By the way, your spelling of "C." is the RIGHT way ;-)
I have a hold of something that could help. I work with a company that produces nutritional supplements that are taken in shake form. The children's product is complete and total nutrition formulated for children, it includes Omega 3 and fatty acids for brain growth, and it tastes yummy!
Email me if you would like more information.

Maybe she is teething...a lot of little ones lose interest in food a bit when they are teething. Offer a variety, even if it means letting her nibble between meals. Weight loss is frightening, especially when they are very petite, but as they become more active they do usually drop a few pounds. Finger foods that she can feed herself will be more appealling, heck let her get messy even, my son Loves to feed himself applesauce. You can also fortify a lot of the foods you give her, be sneaky! She will eat, and hopefully this is just a phase. I would add more milk to her diet
( although I understand you may be afraid she is filling up on liquids) Far better at this point that she is getting the nutrients she needs rather than in what form.
Lots of luck!

Our 19 month old goes through spurts where she will not eat. I can't believe the nurse told you to force feed her baby cereal. My daughter wouldn't eat it from day one. Who would want to? It's gross. Hang in there. She may just be stubborn and only want to eat if it is her idea. Try letting her snack throughout the day. It worked for us. My daughter is only in the 15th percentile for weight. Unless you feel there is a medical problem for this, keep in mind what MANY other mothers told me during our first bout of this..."If she's hungry, she will eat." Listen to your gut feelings. Moms know there kids.

Hi C., You have gotten some great advice from the
other moms and nanas. I agree that she might be ready for
regular food. My grandson is almost two and he ate the
baby cereal for a long time but we used to mix it with
baby fruit. Now they eat oatmeal (the packaged kind that
comes in fruit flavors)! My daughter is really conscious
of feeding them healthy and they all three eat alot of
fruits and veggies.... they also make smoothies in the
blender with plain yogurt milk and fruit. The kids love it!
I agree with Nana of 5 that the nurse is crazy to think you
can force a child to eat! My grandson also would bite down
and refuse baby food at a certain point so we started him
on regular food and it made him happy! Good luck and don't
worry I think she will eat when she is hungary! L. Nana
of 5

There's a bad virus going around including a sore throat. You might give her some formula at each meal So she gets the nutrients and calories .

Hello C.,

Sounds to me she's going through a phase with the "texture" issue. Yes, I'd be concerned about the loss of two pounds as well. The nurse did you no favors by offering that advice.

I read the previous responses and agree with most. However, if you go with the recommendation of making her food sweet, be careful!! Kids have a soft-spot for sweets!! Once you get her eating sweet foods, it maybe even harder to get her to start eating non-sweet foods. Just be careful.

I liked the idea of not having her eat with you at meals at first. Make her WANT to be at the table with you.

Also, give her the liquids. Sometimes you have to break the "rules" to keep your baby healthy. When my son was that age, he didn't have much in the way of liquids. Dr's teach us to give more solids than liquids... so I see your frustration.

Great job on being such a caring mom! Take these ideas of all of ours and see what happens! I know things will turn out OK!

Good luck and God bless!! ls


You have already gotten some great advice here, but I thought this might help, too.
My son does not like baby rice cereal. He never did. We switched him oatmeal or mixed grains, and he would eat it better, but not great. We started mixing it with applesauce and cinnamon (no sugar), and he couldn't put it in his mouth fast enough!
I tried to get him to eat regular oatmeal, but he doesn't like the texture.
So at two years old, one of his favorites is still baby oatmeal with applesauce and cinnamon. It sticks to the ribs and has a lot of great nutrients in it!

Good luck!

Hi C.,
I would try to put baby fruit in her cereal. I had to do that with my son.When he use to be on it. He got to wear he wouldn't eat it.Even regular applesauce are applesauce with cinnamon I used he loved it.You could also try not the baby oatmeal they have out that has fruit in it. Are even cream of wheat. Another thing you could try. Is before dinner only give her water. For 2 hours before you eat. She may be filling up on liquids.I had to do with with my daughter when she was this age. She wouldn't eat because she filled up on liquids. Before dinner. So I gave her water 2 hours before dinner and with her dinner. If she ate her dinner then I would give her something else to drink instead of water.After she ate. It can be tough but just be patient.It will get better.GOOD LUCK. I hope this helps.

try this:

Blend: Yogurt, banana's, strawberries (or fruit of your choice),and a little sugar together and freeze in popcicle mold. It has lots of protien, fruit, and babies love to naw on it.

I really hate it when nurses or doctors give advice like this! My SIL was told by a dr to give her daughter anything she wanted whenever she wanted it b/c her daughter fell off the charts about this age. Now she wishes that she hadn't listen to that dr because she created a monster with bad eating habits. Stop worrying so much and give her what she likes to eat. I could never get my kids to eat the plain baby cereal. Your daughter most likely has teeth so she should be able to eat anything that you put in front of her. That doesn't mean she will. Also, at this age, they are still learning and experimenting with their world. I don't know very many toddlers that don't throw their food on the floor or make a mess. My SIL used to give me a hard time with my first one because she wouldn't get messy enough. My oldest liked me to feed her. Just keep trying different foods and don't worry so much about the quantity that she is eating. She will eat enough to fill her up and she is probably getting more food in her mouth then you realize. If you are really concerned about whether or not she is getting enough nutrition, keep doing the pediasure and maybe even give it too her more then once a day. Keep her on a schedule and she will get what she needs.

Hi C.! I would advise you to give her more milk. It is a complete source of nutrition for her. It will help her to get more calories and eventually she will want to eat. My son was not eating much when he stopped nursing. He was 2 1/2 at the time. He would drink milk and that was a large part of his caloric intake. Good luck!

It'll get better. Our son went through the same thing. I swear he didn't eat anything but whole milk for about a year. He would have 4-6 bottles a day. He gained weight most of the time, but he did go through a time when he lost a little too. I think he just lost the weght because he was constantly on the go, and NEVER slowed down!! His Dr. said he was growing just fine, so I didn't worry about it because I knew he would start eating sometime. He's now 2 & a half and sometimes eats more than I do!! I would just make sure she's drinking lots of whole milk until she's ready to eat. It's hard not to worry but I think probably every kid goes through this stage, hang in there!!

A doctor once told me that kids are much smarter about eating than we are, they will eat when they're hungry. If they aren't feeling well they will stop eating to let their tummies rest, where we would still be looking for something that might go down and stay! A child will not starve itself if it is being offered food, don't stress about it, she will eat. My kids and grandkid's never liked baby cereal and usually started eating the same thing we did at 6 or 7 months. My granddaughter now is almost 8 months old and eats what we do, she only has 5 teeth, but she can gum anything, of course we give her very small bites, I think this helps new teeth come through. She is the height and weight of a 13 month old, her sister is 4 and has been brought up the same way, the 4 year old is so skinny she can fit into her little sisters clothes, she is very picky about what she eats, but eats a good breakfast every day.
I am a mother of 3, a grandmother of 6 with a degree in Child Development. I would recommend that you let her feed herself, yes it's messy, and feed her the same thing you eat. She's old enough to see what you are eating and she probably wonders why she has to eat this mush, I disagree with the nurse, at your daughter's age she should be eating something with more substance than baby cereal.

I used to do daycare, and I think 16months is WAY to old to be eating baby cereal. I am glad to see you do feed her from your plate, and are substituting with pedisure. I know that my son at 9 months wouldn't eat anything, until he got big kid food. Is she eating the same things as her big sisters? maybe she wants to be big like them. Also he would stop eating anytime he had an ear ache, or sore throat, it just hurt to much to swallow. Also see that she isn't pulling a fast one on you. I have known kiddos who will not eat JUST to get what they want. (cheerios, peanut butter, chicken nuggets,etc.) I hope this helps.

My daughter went through a stage at around 16 months where she would not let anyone feed her. We started giving her pasta, cut up meat and cheese that she could feed herself and she started eating again. My best friend has a two year old that refuses to eat anything but crackers so she started dehydrating vegetables so they were crunchy; it worked and tricked her daughter into eating veggies.

Hey C.,

I am a registered nurse, and an old pediatrician told me something one day. She said there are 3 things you cannot force a child to do: 1. Make them sleep, 2. Make them go to the bathroom, and 3. Make them eat. The "nurse" at the MD's office should know this. I agree with one of the other moms and take her in for the MD to evaluate her to make sure she doesn't have any physical reasons why she is not eating. Once that is determined, it's quite likely she has some tactile issues--meaning she doesn't like the way the food feels in her mouth. There are methods to address this with different types of therapists (i.e. speech or occupational). You have every right to be concerned. For a 16 month old to lose over 10% of her body weight is a big deal. I think that until you can get her into the MD, give her what she will eat or drink. I wouldn't cut back on anything that has nutrition and calories such as Pediasure. I will keep you in my prayers. J.

Your baby is probably just going through a stage. Usually letting them eat off your plate takes care of it, but if that isn't helping, I would NOT cut back on the liquids to get her to eat solids. Liquids have the highest concentration of calories with least effort. I would push the pediasure until she starts eating more real food. You can't afford to go on principal with her, she is too young to be reasoned with, and forcing her to eat will only make it a bigger power struggle, and you could end up with eating disorder issues when she is a teen. Push the milk, juice, and pediasure, and give her a gummi vitamin (and padlock the rest) until she does better on her own.

Does she not like baby food? She should be able to eat that by now. Maybe she doesn't like the way the cereal taste. We used to mix the oatmeal cereal with fruit baby food. My girls loved the variety. That could be something also, she may not like the taste of what she is being fed. Try other things. I hope this helps a little. Good luck and God Bless.

I guess I have several observations/suggestions. First if she like to drink her milk she is definitley not getting enough. You should give her at least 4 sippy cups full whole milk per day. Pedisure will at least give her vitamins. I think you should be sure to offer her plenty of every type of vegetables and fruits there are to see if she might pick something up and like it. They can be so colorful that something just might interest her. Also you might try a large syringe to put baby cereal and maybe even other strained foods in the back of her throat. She is at the age that she probably understands some of what you say. After you have tried the syringe let her know that if she eats some of her food you won't have to do that again but she needs to eat. Also try brown rice, small pieces of turkey, chicken. Keep trying because it is very bad that she is loosing weight. I thought my daughter was very small at 12 months when she weighed 17 lbs but she continually gained even in small increments.

Solid foods do not necessarily have the most calories, fat or nutritional value. Just keep offering a variety of solid foods and eventually she'll be interested. If she likes milk and liquids more than solids, you could try giving her smoothies. Blend up some banana, yogurt and milk. You could also add Carnation Instant Breakfast. Start off with a thinner consistency, and you could gradually introduce her to thicker smoothies with a chunkier texture. When my son is being picky or teething, I can usually get him to eat a whole banana if it's been blended into a smoothie. Sometimes, he won't drink his milk or even touch a banana alone, but blended together they are like magic and he always sucks it down. For his snack, I often make a smoothie that includes whatever fruit he rejected at breakfast.

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.