My 3 Year Old Daughter Refuses to Eat Anything!

Updated on September 04, 2019
T.W. asks from Eden Prairie, MN
20 answers

She will drink her apple juice and milk, so she’s hydrated but doesn’t want to eat anything- we’re going on 5 days! She’s happy, no fever and acts perfectly normal. She just ate an ice cream (I’m desperate). Went to Dr and said prob constipated so giving her Miralax to see if that helps. Anyone else have this issue or what else could it be?

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

Try prune juice.
See if she'll snack on raisins.
More fiber is fine as long as she's drinking enough fluid to keep it moving through her.

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L.C.

answers from Washington DC on

If she hasn’t pooped, you might consider some warm prune or orange juice to get things going.
As far as not eating, I’d pretend to ignore it. Make the meals, put them down. She eats or she doesn’t. No snacks. Only water between meals. If it continues, then another doc visit is warranted.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

I'm not sure why you want to think it's something else, if your discussions with the doctor indicate constipation. You know whether she's pooping a lot, right?

If that's a likely cause, I'd think you'd take her off dairy products (milk, ice cream, cheese) and get rid of the apple juice which has no nutritional value. Go to water (with the Miralax), or watery high-fiber fruits like watermelon (which most kids like) and clementines. No bananas.

Does she eat a lot of fried or processed foods normally? Those are big contributors to constipation. Check what she eats at day care or preschool or play groups too. Obviously you want to get her through this current situation, but I'd suggest a good look at what she eats at home (I understand the desire to use convenience foods but they're terrible from a standpoint of nutrients). You can make a lot of adjustments in small ways - whole grain alternatives, hiding vegetables in foods she likes, and so on. You can make your own chicken nuggets using wheat germ and bran as a coating, for example - kids love them and a quick fry in olive oil makes them pretty healthy.

You're right that hydration is key, and she's running around so that's good. Exercise is helpful. Just give more water and less dairy and see what happens in a day or so.

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W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

T.

Welcome to mamapedia.

Now you need to expand your daughter's palette. She needs to experience new food. Right now? She is learning how to get you to cave to her demands...as if she asked for a cheeseburger from McD's you'd get it for her because you want her to eat. As you said yourself "You're desperate". Stop being desperate. Her body will NOT allow her to starve.

Fix a meal. Either she eats or she doesn't. Don't fix her anything special. If she wants to snack on something? Have carrots, apples, oranges, banana's for her to snack on.

She needs to drink MORE WATER than apple juice. Also dairy is a "filler" - while good for you, it's a filler.

I would ensure that she has the opportunity to eat when you eat. What is laying around the house to eat matters too...does she have access to it? Does she get up when you are asleep and eats??

Did you give her miralax like the doctor said to? What happened?

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E.B.

answers from Denver on

I would stop giving her apple juice. Apples are a natural source of sorbitol, which can cause intestinal/digestive problems in some individuals.

A better choice right now is pure white grape juice (not purple grape juice), which does not contain sorbitol.

When our daughter was two, her intestinal problems were so bad that she ended up in Children's Hospital. Although sorbitol intolerance was not her only problem, I clearly remember the gastroenterologist telling us "if all my patients stopped drinking apple juice, I'd have far fewer patients". Apple juice is just fine for many people, but for the sensitive few, it's not. That doctor told us to give our daughter white grape juice, and to read the label to make sure that it was purely white grape juice (some are blends, some contain sugars, etc). You can find pure white grape juice in large bottles, but they also sell it (more expensively) in the baby food aisle in small child-sized bottles.

Make fun popsicles, or look for healthy popsicle options in the stores (no sugar, no artificial sweeteners). That can be a great treat for a kid who's not feeling so well.

I'd also reduce her dairy intake for now. Try Jello, and fresh soft fruits like berries and peaches and melon, and give her lots of water.

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S.S.

answers from Atlanta on

If your pediatrician isn't worried? You shouldn't be. IF YOU TRUST YOUR PEDIATRICIAN.

I would stop giving my kid apple juice and milk.

I would stop being desperate. Your body doesn't allow you to starve. It just won't.

Again, stop being desperate. If your daughter is fine? I would wonder if she's sneaking food somewhere. Or maybe she is testing you to see just how far you'll go to give her what she wants. And then she will rule the roost. That will be a BAD road to go down.

I have a mixture of food in my home. Fruits, veggies, snacks. We all know moderation. It's hard. But we do practice it. Do we go on binges? Yep. It happens.

During the summer, when we are all home (expect my husband who works outside the home) we have break and dinner together. Lunch? Well that is just lucky if we are all home at the same time.

Make sure you have fruit and veggies for her to snack on. When it's meal time? She needs to sit at the table with you. Whether she eats or not? Up to her. But she is being offered food. DO NOT beg her to eat. DO NOT PLEAD for her to eat. Just be nonchalant about the whole thing. Talk about your day. Talk about what's coming up during the week. DO NOT focus on her eating or not eating. Don't play into the game.

If you give her the miralax and she's NOT constipated? You will have a mess on your hands. And it's not an "INSTANT" Fix either.

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*.*.

answers from New London on

Hi---

Give her water in a cup often during the day. If you are going to the playground or out for a walk- Pack water! There is no need to fill your child with juice ---The liquid might be filling her up. Limit the milk and milk products until the constipation lets up,

I have given my child a few ounces of prune juice on an empty stomach to help with constipation and then a walk !! It usually works! If u mix it---Mix it with white grape juice--Not apple juice.

Three yrs old can be a VERY difficult age! Serve some healthy high fiber foods and do not offer too much liquid! Exercise is VERY important, too!

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J.T.

answers from Dallas on

If there’s any question of constipation being the issue, I’d stop with the milk - that’s only gonna make things worse... milk and apple juice aren’t great sources of hydration anyways. At this age, her main source of hydration should be water.

Additionally, milk is filling and is going to further reduce her desire to eat. If she’s otherwise well, I’d quit bribing with treats to eat(especially more dairy). Give the Miralax as the doctor instructed, and water, along with white grape juice. Offer food, even if it’s jello or applesauce. Don’t make a big deal or give a ton of attention to if she does/doesn’t eat. Kids this age are attention mongers, once they figure out something(not eating) makes you reactive - they may continue for that reason alone, even if there’s not an underlying medical reason.

Just relax, offer liquids and food regularly, and carry on with your normal daily routine otherwise. Now, if she starts exhibiting pain, other symptoms, doesn’t have a BM for many days, etc - check back in with the Dr.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

If constipated, she'll feel full - so I'd get her system cleared out - I'd add in water.

Offer the milk (drinks) with or after meals. It fills their bellies up. That's what we did. They ate more. (*juice may help with constipation, but just watch normally how much you give, 1 cup can have as much as 6 tsp of sugar so water it down if drinking a lot).

Water between meals if thirsty.

High fiber foods - fruits, veggies, and whole wheat/grainy bread/toast. Cut them into long pieces - like fingers. Kids like to nibble on those.

ETA: To get kids to eat more in general: I just did a lot of snack plates - for meals. Some fruits cut up, some whole wheat sandwich (fingers), or toast, some egg, some cheese, little bit of chicken ..

No distractions - I know iPads, etc. are popular, but kids get caught up watching screens, even TV. It's ok so long as they keep popping the food in. A lot of kids just don't eat though if left to their own devices.

Similarly, if they are too tired, kids won't eat. Key is to get it into them before they hit that overtired time. When mine were preschoolers - we fed them before our dinner. We would sit them down with their trays of our last night's leftovers, while we made dinner. They ate so much better.

If your child is just coming down with something (and not yet sick), they might be a little off. Sometimes that was the first sign for us.

However if constipated, she is likely feeling uncomfortably full. Get her moving and follow doctor's advice. Good luck

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T.M.

answers from Las Vegas on

Milk is a filler and could be part of why she lacks appetite. Try giving her water and in the meantime cook things that have a good aroma. Nothing brings on hunger like a kitchen that smells like something savory is cooking. Then you all sit down with your plates in front of you and chow down. Dont pander to a 3 year old, you are the MOM.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

My grandson was constipated at that age. He didn't want to eat. His doctor recommended Miralax to be used everyday even after he'd had a bm. He also told his mother to stop all dairy products and food that cause constipation, drink prune, apple and pear juice, eat prunes and high fiber foods. I no longer remember all the advice. I do remember that he continued to have constipation off and on for a couple of years but he stopped screaming with bowel movements.

I thought my grandson drank apple juice so looked it up. The juices help because they have natural sorbitol.

I suggest your doctor felt a firm mass in her bowls when he felt her abdomen. Constipation is common. I never have an appetite when I'm constipated. Why are you still looking for another cause?

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

i'd swallow back the desperation and recognize that your child is taking in calories and will certainly eat again if you stay calm and not-desperate.

engage her in preparing some simple food- cut up and saute some chicken, make some rice or mashed potatoes, steam some carrots. don't insist she eat any, just help you make it, and then watch you enjoy it.

ice cream isn't the end of the world, but i wouldn't start pushing sugar out of desperation.

has she NOT pooped? why would constipation be the go-to otherwise?

don't let this blip tip you over into food battles.

khairete
S.

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R.M.

answers from Albany on

I agree with all the comments below. I would add that you could make the food on her plate look appetizing and interesting. Her food should be colourful..not just beige. Get a 6 section ice cube tray and in each of the sections put (for example) chopped apple cubes, orange sections in small pieces, organic raisins or dates, melon circles created with an apple corer, 1 chunk of watermelon and banana circles.
For vegetables you can do the same with frozen peas, tiny carrot sticks, tiny cauliflower florets, 2 tiny tomatoes cut in half and red and green pepper squares. Put dip (mayo) in a cute, little dish like an egg cup and tell her it's 'dip dip' for her vegetables. Just the name might intrigue her.
Of course, add some protein like a hard boiled egg. Maybe make a peanut butter(and jam) sandwich with butter so it isn't too hard to swallow. But make tiny squares...or roll up the crustless sandwich and press it down a bit.
Never give children juice. And even milk is unnecessary. Water is perfect (preferable osmotic filtered). Oatmilk is another option. Look at mammals; babies are weaned and never drink milk again. We are the only mammals to continue drinking milk (and shockingly of another mammal!) past infancy. Calves grow up big and strong eating grass.
Like some said below, don't pay attention or encourage her to eat. Walk away and leave her alone to pick and choose and experiment. Or eat with her but try to let her be to examine the food and possibly taste it rather than chatter. If she cries, ask her if she would like music on while she eats.
Tell her that after lunch you are going to do something fun which will lift her mood and possibly get her to eat her lunch in order to do the fun activity.
If she turns her nose up at everything, don't give up and say she won't eat those foods. Don't eliminate them. It may take a week for her to eat a decent amount of the food. You keep offering them every day with some variety. And make sure she is hungry when she comes to the table.
Inviting another child over who is a good eater often works. In daycare, children eat much better. I got my daughters to eat my homemade, very nutritious, chock full of vegetables and chicken minestrone soup (90% ground in the blender) by telling them that we were going to have Sit-on-the-Floor soup. They were 3 and 6 years old and very picky eaters. We sat on the floor and I spooned the soup into them (yes, 1 spoon!) and they laughed and loved it from the first bite. But previous to that they had fussed, cried and carried on about it at the table.
Just keep offering her ONLY good food (and set the example), maybe arranged on the plate to look like a face or on a pretty plate. Change the venue; picnic on the lawn, at the park, at Grandma's, with her bunny watching her, moving the highchair to a different spot. CREATIVITY and no pressure at all. You'll haver a good, little eater in no time if you offer only nutritious foods. It's quality that's important, not quantity. GOOD LUCK, T.!

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N.B.

answers from Sarasota on

She's 3 and you are mom. As the others have said, stop being desperate. I'm in the medical field and can tell you, kids will not stave. She's got your number at this young age and she is also testing to see what needs to be done to get what she wants. If you keep giving her juice, you are setting her up to be heavy when she is older. I know my daughter would have loved if I caved and gave her ice cream, but instead if she didn't eat, after sitting at the table with the family, then she went to bed without food. This only needed to happen a few times when she realized that eating what was there was better than that pit in her stomach. At 2, if she had pizza, it was full of veggies. At 4, she was helping me pulls the ends off of asparagus. Kids are blank plates that we as parents fill(no pun intended). We see so many overweight kids in our clinic that have parents that are fully in control of what they have access to. Yes, there are some medical conditions out there but that is really a small percentage. Good luck, be strong, and know that you are creating a future of health and not disease.

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B.A.

answers from Minneapolis on

Listen to her doctor. If you are not happy with what her pediatrician says, get a second opinion from an actual medical professional. We are parents or grandparents here and not qualified to give medical advice. Besides, we do not know and have not examined your daughter. You do realize that Miralax is not an instantaneous solution and will take days to work.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

I remember my son doing this. Milk would fill him up so much at this age he would have no hunger and would not want to eat food. Just one glass of milk would do it.

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燕.张.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi T.,
You are not alone. When my daughter was three she didn’t like healthy food. She would eat a lot of food your daughter eats. Now she is thirteen and loves eating different types of foods. It is best to have your three year old watch a channel of different types of foods and their benefits.
好运气
-张燕怡

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K.M.

answers from Fargo on

My son has to have ketchup on everything or he refuses to eat. He will eat anything as long as there is ketchup. He might be allergic to something. My middle son is allergic to dairy like really bad and gets constipated from dairy.

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R.P.

answers from Tampa on

Good morning! Not sure what others recommend but I am sure some great advice.. very knowledgeable ladies on here.

I will suggest more water less juice. Milk is filling so I would slow down on that too, and honestly .. I personally would never give ice cream! Despite or not that’s milk and sugar ( obviously depends on what kind).
but see if you can grab a friend with a similar age daughter and go out to eat.
Also kids get their eating habits from parents. Eat colorful foods.
Also see if you can involve your child in helping. Like if you do chicken cutlets.. have her break the egg ( even if you need to fish out the shell), roll it in breadcrumbs ( use big bowl not to make a mess) and do on. Positive outlook on helping and cooking and hopefully that will lead to food being consumed.
This might help too:

https://www.pinterest.com/amp/zoomiami/animal-snacks/

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B.F.

answers from Philadelphia on

Have you considered that the constipation could be causing a lack of appetite? She may be drinking fluids because they don't look too heavy, but watch what she drinks. Some drinks contribute toward tooth decay, even ones with natural sugar to them.

It's a good guess on my part but if she is stuffed/backed up it may be signaling her brain that her digestive system is already full, thus not wanting to eat. Get her cleaned out, and I bet the appetite will start returning to normal. And I'd ask your pediatrician what KIND/form of laxative to use. I'd think by now she needs something stronger and more quickly acting than just prune juice, for instance.

Or another good idea--contact your pediatrician.

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