My Child Just Won't Eat.

Updated on April 14, 2008
K.O. asks from Grace City, ND
26 answers

As a mother of 3, this only makes most days harder. My middle child who will turn 3 in August, is a horrible eater. I'm not talking picky, he just dosen't like to eat. I have taken him to the doctor, and have had him tested for several things, but nothing seems to be wrong with him. He is active and happy, but can be very moody. The doctors told me his eating was a phase, and he should grow out of it soon. Although they say a fist full of food is all they need at a setting, but sometimes I'm lucky to get that in 3 or 4 days. We have taken him to a pedatric allergist (the only one in our state) and he apparently has no allergies. My 6 year old, dosen't always eat everything, but tries everything on her plate. I feel that there is someting more to his eating than a phase. This has been going on since he's been about 18-20 months. He's been through the phase where he will only eat oatmeal, or waffles, and he phase of only eating peanut butter and honey sandwhiches. We stopped him having any peanut products RE our doctor, but said he could have it, since he had no reaction. He has atopic dermatitas (eczema) and was told he's high mantinance. As the regimin we have to go through everyday: 2-3 baths if possible, cotton only clothes or any thing that comes in contcat with his skin, no down filled anything, Aquaphor only on his skin (that's sortof like bag balm or petroleum jelly, but not and cost 14.95 for a 24 oz jar), we can't leave the doors or windows open in summer, and carpeting is not going to help (which our upstairs is). So I thought i should include all this so that if anyone else has this problem, some advice would be helpful. The fact that all he want's to do is drink is not helpful in the eating department. I cut down on how much and what he drinks, but it dosent seem to have any affect. Any advice or recomendations would be great!!!!

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So What Happened?

Well, I would first like to say a huge Thank You to everyone that had relpied to my question. I am so thankful I was introduced to this site. I have decided to not make my sons not eating a big issue. It's harder for my husband to do than me, and I think that makes me more uptight about everything. I have looked into all the sights and have spoken to others about some specific issues, and things are going "well". He seems to be slowly eating better. Even if it's just a couple bites of each item on the plate, and he says "done" fine with me. I say at least he tried. I very rarely do snacks at our house do to his not eating. But now (with unwanted help from my mother-in-law who can't contain from being in controll of everyone, because....sorry different subject HaHa) my son is potty training. Yes, he get rewared with candy corn for going in the potty, and jelly beans for not having an accident in bed. It seems to be working wonderfully. So, maybe this will help with eating. So again I thank all of you with a greatful heart for you comments and you concern. It's great to have all of you as my community of support. Thank you.

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B.K.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi K.,
Unfortunately I dont have any advice for you, but thought I should write you, because my 13 month old dtr is acting the same way. She does not want to eat any food whatsoever. She drinks fine (and I too had tried cutting back her fluids to see if that would make her hungrier, but it didnt work for us either). I wish I could provide you with some advice, but know that you're not alone. If I find out anything, I'll let you know. Please let me know if you do too. Thanks B.
(I'm 34 and a mom of twins (boy/girl)).

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K.L.

answers from Minneapolis on

I have 4 and my youngest is the one who wont eat. the others cant stop, so I guess it balances itself out. MY 2nd to teh youngest Had terrible skin problems!! you name ti, we switched the whole family to a much healthier product line http://www.shaklee.net/green_like_me. Cleared All irritants up and chagned So much.
as for the food. DOtn fight it too much, My drs advice was as long as their happy etc they shouldbe fine,, I personally supplement Blayden with Meal replacement drinks and give him as much leaway as I can, Ithink he will out grow it as he gets older, I see that with mine now tha the is in school

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M.F.

answers from Minneapolis on

Wow....this sounds like a textbook definition of Sensory Processing Disorder. Check out http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-proces... for the checklist.

My daughter was driving the teachers nuts at her montessori school, and we had the school district come in and observe. Turns out she has SPD. She has a different manifestation, but I'm told by her occupational therapist that most kids have the "symptoms" you describe of your middle child. Since diagnosis, she has been attending occupational therapy (play therapy) and has improved a great deal in just 5 months.

If you read through the checklist and decide that you think your son might have an SPD, you can either work with the school district's Early Childhood office, or get a referral for occupational therapy from the pediatrician.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful
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J.G.

answers from Milwaukee on

Hi K.,

To be quite frank, I would take him to a different doctor.

Our daughter had excema since she was born. I switched my laundry soap and her excema went away. I also switched out her hair care, laundry soaps, fabric softeners, bath bars, cleaning solutions for the bathtub, etc. Found a lotion that works really well. If you want to know more just e-mail me back: [email protected]____.com

I will share this with you. It is not to scare you. But my daughter was having a probelm where she was playing in the sandbox when she was about 2 years old. I caught her eating the sand. I scolded her and told her she couldn't do that because that was yucky. But she kept eating it everytime she was in the sandbox. I took her to the doctor. The doctor said it was a phase. Well, she had been doing this for a few weeks now. Finally she was growing more and more listless too. She was sleeping more and more, she wasn't the same active child she was when she was born. One day I found her just laying on the living room floor. I took her to the walk-in-clinic that day. My doctor wasn't in! There was a younger doctor. Thank God he was there! He looked at her and did some blood work. She was profoundly anemic! Her blood counts were at dangerous low. The doctor put her on iron and the rest is history. Her body was trying to get minerals through the sand. That's why she was eating the SAND...............

P.S. My sister lived on 2 or 3 soda crackers a day for months. She'll be 40 this year! She's a size two but she's a healthy size 2. LOL!

All I can say to you moms out there is this, if you think that your child is doing something out of the ordinary, YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD!!!! Get them checked out. If you have to see another doctor, go see another doctor. Please trust your intincts. All moms and dads have them.

It is better to be safe than sorry.

Best wishes and never give up. I have had crisis' over stupid little stuff too. I went over board with my first son. He was always in the doctors office. I bet the doctor thought I was nuts. I called my mom a lot too.

There really isn't a good book out there that allows you to be a great parent. We all learn that from going through it.

God Bless!

J.

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B.W.

answers from Minneapolis on

So, does he have allergies or not? I'm confused by what you said, an allergiest said no allergies, but you are treating him like he does have allergies?

If he's not eating, then making an issue out of it will only make it worse. It will make it a struggle and only cause him to refuse food more. Write down what he eats during the day and I bet it'll be more than you think. Otherwise, make the food, serve the food, and go about your day. DOnt' make an issue out of it, the bigger deal it is to you, and the bigger deal yoiu make out of it, the more he will refuse and make an issue out of it. Serve the food and let him eat what he wants, but if he doesn't eat, then he doens't eat. If he sees how nonchalant you are about it, he'll realize its not an issue any more and then it won't be.

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N.B.

answers from Milwaukee on

I just have a quick concern. Is your son getting a vitamin supplement? A friend of mine has a son who is 3 and also doesn't eat, and she makes sure he drinks enough Pedisure so that he gets the vitamins that he needs.

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L.H.

answers from Milwaukee on

Has your child been tested for acid reflux? I know many children won't eat or eat very little because of that.
I also knew a little girl who was put in a hospital for not eating. They had to reintroduce food to her little by little- different types and textures. It was hard on her family. If you feel there is something wrong check with another dr.

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T.I.

answers from Minneapolis on

You may have already tried this but, what about having him drink Ensure? It is a good way to get a nutritious meal w/o the food. Just a thought!

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C.W.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi K.,
Our daughter, who will be 3 in May, has had similar eating difficulties. She did fine as an infant until around 18 months, then starting just not eating much at all. It was making life and mealtime unbearable for all of us----with her not even wanting to come to the table, crying and throwing fits and us getting mad and using discipline to make her stay and eat something. Anyway, recently my ECFE class had a dietician visit and the same weekend we attended a Parent Fair that had a session on "mealtime madness". From both of these we gleaned some relatively simple concepts that have turned eating around in our home and really reduced the stress for everyone---most of these suggestions I believe are in an eating book (not sure which one) by Ellen Satter. Anyway, here they are in a nutshell:
--start by logging what your son eats in three days, rather detailed, to give you a real sense of what you are offering, when and what he's consuming
--do the eating schedule of 3 meals and 2 snacks, at relatively same times each day
--snacks are quite small and varied
--no milk or juice between meals, only water
--no snacking on the go, in the car or while playing/in front of the TV, they should be at the dinner table
--have a ritual of some kind at mealtimes or just dinner, that includes them, we decided on just lighting a candle at dinner, praying together and having her blow it out at the end, signaling no more eating until breakfast time
--and we took away the punishments of not eating, she still has to sit with us but whether she eats or not is her choice and now that her tummy has been "trained" better with the schedule, less milk and snacks, it's more ready to try things at meals

I hope some of this is helpful. Best of luck.
C.

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J.O.

answers from Wausau on

This would probably make my mother (a dietitian) cringe- but short term, simply to get some calories and nutrients in him, what I would do is start making nutrient-rich smoothies. You said he will drink, so it seems to me that would be one way to pump some nutrients in him.

I agree long term though w the other moms who said keep trying to find the medical reason.

{{{hugs & prayers}}}

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A.C.

answers from Madison on

Hi K.,

Since your child is sensitive already, with allergies, you might want to look into something called Sensory Processing Disorder. The books "The Out of Sync Child" by Carol Stock Kranowitz and "Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)" by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller offer some great insight into this disorder. (I personally like Dr. Miller's book better, as I feel it's more user friendly.)

SPD is a neurological disorder. Your son could have sensory over-responsitivity, which can manifest in one or more sensory systems. Some of the ones that can be affected include sound (auditory), touch (tactile), taste (gustatory), and smell (olfactory).

We knew since my daughter was born that she was different. At the age of two, she grew from wearing a size 2T to a 6x. My daughter has trouble with needing to constantly have her mouth stimulated--she'd rather eat, even when she's not hungry. Like your son, my daughter liked to drink Yo-Jo and juice...but she drank so much, her Pediatrician asked me to get her switched over to water, because the extra calories weren't good for her. That was a challenge and a struggle.

She also has trouble with an over active bladder and constipation. She has trouble processing information or making a decision rapidly, retaining information, and needs time to shift gears when going from doing one thing to another. Unlike children who love to run around and play, my daughter would much rather sit and watch TV or a movie/video. Since the age of two she could sit and watch the same movie over and over until she had it memorized. Because only when she had it memorized, did she not get scared or upset by what was going on on the scene; she had "control" over the situation.

She gets upset and cries very easily--at least, she no longer does the "fight or flight" response. That used to be when she'd take off running to hide somewhere, screaming or crying at the top of her lungs.

For your son, if he has SPD, SPD can affect the taste and texture of the food, how it feels and tastes in his mouth. He might only like hard, crunchy foods. Or soft, squishy foods. Some kids only like pasta; others hate it. My daughter has a very limited variety of foods she'll eat, and at the age of 8 yrs, we're trying to coax her to try other things.

A child with SPD can be either overstimulated or understimulated. The books do a good job of explaining all of the different areas.

It wasn't until I read these books that I diagnosed my child. When I asked the Childhood Specialist we finally took her to see when she was 5, she told us that yes, my daughter does indeed have SPD. It falls under the Autism Spectrum, and isn't recognized by the psychiatric association, which can make it extremely difficult to obtain any medical or behaviorial help. Lucky for us, my daughter is able to get speech, OT/PT, and Reading Plus help through our school district. However, the Children Wellness & Fitness clinic I take her to to help her with her exercising and weight would only be possible if we had our current health insurance.

My daughter is also very sensitive. If your son is, too, another great book to read is "The Highly Sensitive Child" by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. A helpful website might be The KID Foundation, which was set up by Dr. Miller to help publicize SPD and for further scientific research and study.

I hope some of this is helpful.

A.

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A.T.

answers from Waterloo on

Hey K.! Most kids go through the picky eater stage. Mine all did. I have three kids, ages 16, 14, and 5. If your child is at a health weight, you are offering healthy foods, I wouldn't worry. Kids eat when they are hungry. Making an issue out of eating is just going to create more problems, making it a control issue. My 5 year old pretty much hates everything also. I provide a healthy meal and we don't discuss how much she eats, we simply offer the foods and leave it at that. Good luck :)

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G.G.

answers from Appleton on

Have you ever had him evaluated by a speech pathologist? Some speech pathologists specialize in feeding therapy as well. (For those kiddos who are extremely picky/problem eaters). I am a pediatric speech pathologist (birth to three ages) and I do feeding therapy as part of therapy. Does your son seem to have any issues with different food textures? Does he eliminate complete food groups? Or does he eliminate certain textures groups- such as crunchy foods or "mushy" foods? I would ask your doctor for a referral to a speech pathologist who specializes in feeding therapy to get him evaluated and hopefully that will help him add to his food repertoire. I hope this helps! Good luck.
~G. G.

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W.L.

answers from Minneapolis on

Children's Hospital has a Feeding Clinic that may be helpful for your situation. A friend of mine recently took her son to the clinic.

Here's the link: http://xpedio02.childrensmn.org/stellent/groups/public/@X...

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T.V.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi K.,

Have you considered that your son may have some type of toxin that is interferring with his eating and also causing the eczema. Have thought of trying some sort of detox that is gentle as well as nutritional?
I know of a company called Dr Organics. Thwy have wonderful pure whey protein powder with vitamins and minerals already in. They also have a Firstfruits and GreensNow powder. These two products have eas vegables inthat will help to detoxify the body and slough off the stuff in the gut so that nutrients can be absorbed. It is wonderful tasting and is really effective. It is perfectly safe and very nutritious for anyone. You just give children less. It is totally organic. I will give you a website to check it out. You will not be sorry and it has been formulated by a Dr. He formulates for Dr's clinics, hospitals, pharmacies. The website is www.drorganics.com/9409558.
They also have one product that your son may like called Body Shot. It is syrupy and tastes like jelly. You can actually put it in beverages or in yogurt or even spread it on toast. It has all of your vitamins and minerals in. At least he would be getting some nutrition. It also has your omega oils in already. Are you giving your some omega oils now? That is really critical. His body could possibly be nutrient deficient and therefore he maybe doesn't have an appetite. It is well worth the time it takes you to check it out.
I have worked in a chiropractic office for 7 years that stressed nutrition. If you aren't fed on the inside, you can't expect the outside to work either. These products will feed your body on the cellular level. The Body Shot is in your endocrine system is 30 seconds.
I wish you every success in this challenge. Please try this for your son and see what happens.

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J.H.

answers from Milwaukee on

You poor thing. How frustrating... I am worried just reading. Trust your gut... if you feel this is something more... keep looking into things. Maybe keep a log and look into help at Children's Hospital? Maybe see another Ped. for advice? Could he have an allergy to wheat or glutin? Trust your gut if you think of something more. There is website that speaks of eating problems bein signs of other things... I don't know the name... but try googling it if you have free time (with 3 and a farm I would image you have none...)... or if you have a friend that could help research...

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D.D.

answers from Minneapolis on

Sorry for the late response! We are having trouble with our 22 month old as well. He is only eating about 5 different foods, and we feel like we have to force him to eat! We met with a nutritionist who gave us some suggestions (i.e. a very regimented eating schedule), but we've just started that. She also recommended that he be evaluated at the Feeding Clinic at Children's Hospital, so we are in the process of setting that up. We're not sure where that will lead us, but maybe it's something worth looking into for you as well?

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S.A.

answers from Chicago on

Wow! You've got a lot on your plate. The only other thing I can think of are his teeth. Maybe they hurt him and that makes him not want to eat. I encountered this when I was working with children in Head Start. It's actually quite common. Give it a shot. He's got to see the dentist soon anyway because he's 3. Let your dentist know about his eating habits, or lack there of, and see what he/she thinks. Good Luck.

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K.S.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi K., there may be some other issues that the dr.s are not considering. It seems like he has a lot of sensory issues. Have you looked into Sensory Processing Disorder? Sensory issues can occur in the mouth as well - how the food feels in his mouth, how it smells coming by his nose. Does he or has he had an issue with gagging or spitting up? It may not be allergic reaction, but sensory. You might consider taking him to a speech therapist who specializes in oral-motor therapy and feeding issues. They can work on things like textures in the mouth, etc. (If you are interested in this, contact me and I can give you the name of a great therapist). Also, some autism spectrum disorders have a tendency for sensory issues. Does he have any speech delays? This may also be a sign of autism, apraxia, and other special needs. It is worth checking into these as soon as possible because early intervention can work wonders.
Good luck,
K. S

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S.S.

answers from Minneapolis on

K.,
Have you had him tested for celiac? It is an allergy to gluten (found in wheat, oats, barley and rye). You can do more research on www.celiac.org
There are many different side effects of celiac but I know that it can effect your skin. Some soaps, toothpaste, shampoo and lotions contain gluten as well. Your doctor can do a blood test but that is not allows correct. My blood test came back negative and then I had a abdominal byop done and that showed that I did have it. I just recently meet a lady that her daughter would not eat anything either and she was taking her to the doctor because she wouldn't eat and she was started to get a bloated belly. She was not eating foods because she knew that they were making her sick. I would definetly look into it. A lot of people don't know about it but 1 in every 133 people have it. My mom and two sisters have it and so far my children do not but it is something they can grow into. Good luck.
S. S

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R.C.

answers from Sioux City on

You don't say how well your son is growing - if he's following his percentile curve and not suffering from his diet, then it really isn't something to worry about. Unless it is a sensory thing like some of the others have posted, I guess.

As for eczema, has he seen a dermatologist? My kids have it too, and the dermatologist told us NOT to bathe them every day, that it dries out the skin and makes it worse. There are also medications that can help it clear up very quickly, even if not permanently. If he doesn't have allergies, you definitely shouldn't be treating him that way, because it might cause him to develop them! Possibly your doctor is a little out of touch and you need to see someone else.

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L.B.

answers from Hickory on

That would be really hard. My little brother had to drink ENSURE because he didn't eat enough. Here is an article on "what are we feeding our kids" - I am not sure it has the answer for you but that it was interesting and it gave me a very different perspective on feeding my kids! http://www.wholisticdr.com/article/feed1.html

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W.M.

answers from Minneapolis on

Hi K.,

I work part time as a speech pathologist. One of the things we address is kids who don't eat. What you describe as phases of preferred foods are what we call food jags. Often when a kid is done with a jag, the food they were jagging on is gone from their diet. This makes a bad situation worse, as I am sure you know! Whatever the reason he does this (usually they had a reason that no longer fits, but they have not changed the behavior), I understand your concern. While most kids who are picky eaters WILL eat when they get hungry enough, about 5% WILL NOT eat, even when they are hungry. I agree that it is important to figure out what is going on. Trust your instincts.

There are speech pathologists and occupational therapists who work with kids at outpatient clinics and/or feeding clinics. They can help you find ways to help your son eat a good variety of food. The program I have seen the best success with is called the Sensory Oral Sequential (SOS) program. Google it for more info.

If you feel you arfe not getting good satisfaction from your doctor, consider seeing a different pediatrician. My daughter and sons also have eczema (it varies in severity depending on the weather and how dry the air is). Our pediatrician recently suggested we mix equal parts of Cortaid and Aveeno Baby lotion (or Aquaphor). The results were great - it cleared up within 3 days. I understand you are looking for a solution to prevent it, but this may help in the meantime!

Good luck!

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C.K.

answers from Cedar Rapids on

"Don't trust the doctors" is right -- sensitivities such as your son's too often go undiagnosed. For 20+ years I paid for expensive MRIs, shrinks who called my daily migraines "psychosomatic," a Russian Roulette of prescription drugs -- and then a dietician suggested I try a gluten-free diet, and voila, my life changed.

The poor kid. Oh, I feel for him. And for you, the parents, and all the frustration that goes with undiagnosed conditions!

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K.M.

answers from Sioux City on

I also had a child (age 5) much like yours. I didn't like what the doctors were telling me - and went with my mother instinct. I found someone who does natural medicine and they said that my son had some "kinks" in his instestines. They massaged his stomach for about 15 minutes and the kid has eaten like a horse ever since. He is now 15 years old and six feet tall! I believe in following my instincts, not the doctors advice. Talk to people in your area, look for a chiropractor or wholistic health provider. It could even be a vitamin or mineral deficiency that is making your son feel like he is not hungry. Keep checking around. Good Luck!

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C.H.

answers from Des Moines on

Thank God for peanutbutter!! My daughter would eat nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for 6 months. Don't worry have them drink juice and water during the day and milk only at mealtimes. NO all day snacking either, that accually hurts them they are not hungry when they need to be. Breakfast, small AM snack around 10, Lunch, PM snack around 3, Small again, Dinner thats it. Also make sure there are other foods they like available during mealtimes they will eat other foods eventually. Replace the chips and candy with fruits and vegatables, my kids did not have these until they were in school. and we didn't have them in the house until the youngest were 8.

We had Fresh cut carrots, (cooked for younger kids) and grapes, apple slices, Peaches, Celery, cheese... all in a bowls for snacking ready in the frig. Peanut butter, cinnamon and raisin in a jar on the counter. Makes your life easier when the kids come home from school and can make their own snacks!

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