My Toddler Won’t Eat and other musings

strategies for improving feeding toddlers

Today I want to talk about something near and dear to my heart — my toddler. My toddler won’t eat.

A few months ago, I wrote a hahafunny post about what it’s like to eat at my toddler’s exclusive restaurant, which at the time served a little of everything and a lot of nothing.

“How cute! He wont’ eat a durn thing. Isn’t that just adorable, that little rascal!”

After about 500 meals that involved begging, pleading, wagering, manipulating, crying, yelling, more begging, more tricking, a little bartering and a whole lot of stress, the eating thing isn’t so cute anymore. My toddler won’t eat, and it’s stressing me out.

I’ve gone to Facebook, which — I mean, I do love you people, but the advice I get there is pretty awful — and I’ve gone to Twitter which is almost as bad. We’ve tried every trick in the book. It’s like when my toddler lost his mind and wouldn’t sleep for a month.We leaped that hurdle, and I’m sure we’ll leap over this one, too. It’s frustrating when I try everything and my toddler won’t eat….still.


Here is a list of things he will eat always:

  • Cookies
  • Cheeto puffs
  • Candy
  • Popcorn

Here’s a list of things he will eat if the mood strikes him:

  • Pizza
  • Rice
  • Fruit
  • Green beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Bacon
  • Cheese sandwich
  • English muffins
  • Yogurt
  • Cheddar broccoli soup
  • Spaghetti
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Corn

Here’s a list of things he will not touch, not even if he gets a cookie in return…not even if he gets to throw every piece of clothing out of the laundry basket or empty the tupperware drawer or go down the backyard slide 14,000 times if he just eats one…flipping….bite:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Beans
  • Pretty much everything else that does not appear above

As I get older, I learn more about myself, and it’s become painfully clear that I’m a control freak when it comes to my child. If things dont’ go just like I expect, I freak. If he wakes up, I sit and stew and fuss and ask everyone who will listen…WHYYYYY. It’s the same thing when my toddler won’t eat. It was the same thing 27 months ago when he wouldn’t nurse. It’s hardest when I compare what he does with what he should do. “He SHOULD sleep through the night.” “He should eat with us.” But “should” will drive you crazy, so I have to get over it. It is what it is. My toddler won’t eat, so I should just keep doing what I’m doing until he does eat, right?

But then — THEN! mother’s intuition sneaks up like a ninja, slicing through my pediatricians “It’s a stage! He’ll be fine” advice.

“This is NOT normal.”

“This will NOT pass.”

“Something is UP, honey, and you should figure it out.”

strategies for improving feeding toddlers toddler won't eatSo, fate intervened while I was browsing the Instagram feed of one of my best friends from college. Her son is a bit younger than my toddler and he was chowing down on some delish looking whole wheat pasta and sun dried tomatoes. Kelsey (who is my husband if you’re following along) asked her how she got him to eat so well. She offered to give us some feedback from a speech language pathologist POV. After several texts back and forth and an email list of foods similar to the ones above, she sent me some resource links, providers in my area and some ideas for making mealtimes less of a battle. After the first link, how to determine a picky eater from a problem eater, I felt like I could cry from relief… was exactly like when my toddler won’t eat. It’s normal. He’s normal.

I wish there was a conclusion to this post. I wish I could say that I read her strategies for improving feeding and it worked the first day. I mean, there’s still time. Maybe it will work tonight. But it probably won’t, and I’m OK with that. As long as there is a plan, I’m cool.

Thank you Candace for your support and time and love. To be continued…..

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16 comments to My Toddler Won’t Eat and other musings

  • oh wow I can understand your frustration with this! I hope the new techniques your friend told you help! And if so, write another post so we can learn! ;)

    thanks for linking up again!
    Rachel recently posted..On Breastfeeding…

  • Rachel

    I’m clicking that link NOW. Connor still doesn’t eat very much. It bothers me. But, we have learned to ignore the list of “shoulds” as you mentioned above. He eats best in our living room with the iPad on his favorite show. Is it ideal? No. Does it mean he gets a little bit of nutrition he would otherwise NOT get? Yes. So, it works for now. Can’t wait to read that link! Thanks for sharing.

  • Jack went through this (and still isn’t much of an eater) and now Nolan, who used to never turn down ANY kind of food is doing the same thing.
    It’s hard not to get frustrated but my pedi told us not to worry too much. She said all kids do this and as long as they get one decent meal in them a day they are fine.That said here is what has helped us:
    *downright foolery (we sneak veggies in the form of the V8 juice blends, present hummus as yummy dip for chips & crackers and mix in pureed veggies to applesauce)
    *Let them help make it. As Jack gets older he likes to help us cook. I find that if he helps make it, he eats more of it.
    *We abide by the “must try one bite” rule and we don’t discriminate at what we think they may or may not like. When we make dinner or go out to eat we let the boys try different things even if they may not be viewed as “kid” foods. Turns out they like them most of the time. I think sometimes parents turn their kids into picky eaters by not giving them certain foods because they think they are not for a kids.But if all you give them is Mac and Cheese and hot dogs then that is all they will like!!

    Ok this officially the longest comment ever…sorry. Hope it helps!
    Angie@MamaInsomnia recently posted..Stop the (p)Insanity

  • But to know there is a plan- it’s such a relief, isn’t it?
    Shell recently posted..Pour Your Heart Out: In a Quiet House

  • Jamie Miles

    My children have all changed what they will and will not eat many times. I hope your situation gets better because it is frustrating. I have a husband who is a VERY picky eater. I had to make peace with that 25 years ago.

  • Oh it’s so hard when they start that. I have a husband who is a picky eater, after a while I just gave up and started making things I think he would like. I told him I was tired of the same things and we needed to branch out a little bit. Our son is into the refusing to eat, but his is more, he wants candy and cookies. And I hate it, but I tell him he has to try dinner, and eat some before he gets anything else. But its a fine line cause I don’t want to do the whole “clean plate” thing. It’s such a struggle. I hope things get better! Or at least less frustrating!
    Audrey recently posted..A Peek Into Our Week # 5

  • Kids are like miniature dictators. Seriously…there is nothing they don’t control/sabotage/stress you out over. I’m glad you got what you needed to ease your mind and figure it out!
    Greta @gfunkified recently posted..How To Do Date Night When You Have Kids #iPPP

  • I totally relate to this. I have a 3yo that does not like to eat anything but chicken nuggets, Pirate Booty and salt and vinegar potato chips. I am at my wits end. She’ll eat strawberries but only covered in chocolate. She won’t eat any meat other than the nuggets. I’ll be interested to see if the plan works. Visiting from PYHO.
    AnnMarie recently posted..I am Flawed

  • oh man, i know you know this…but…you gotta let those shoulds go. your guy will eat. I’ve learned the more you make a big deal out of something, the bigger a deal it becomes. truly. he’s a person same as you and me. sometimes I’m hungry sometimes I’m not. some days or months i eat more. sometimes i don’t. same goes for your toddler. it will work itself out :) xoxo.
    sarah sundayspill recently posted..#ippp: put yourself in the photo. you are interesting enough already.

  • I’ve been blessed with an excellent eater, but have seen friends struggle to get their toddlers’ and preschoolers to eat. Often times, it is a sensory issue. Bravo for finding something that is working!
    NJ @ A Cookie Before Dinner recently posted..Random Confessions

    • Amanda

      Thank you! It’s tough because you know….we LOVE to eat at my house. Thankfully, he ate well yesterday. Hoping it passess soon!! Thanks for stopping by :)

  • I’m sorry sweetie. My 3-year old has a pretty limited diet as well but we are working on it and she SEEMS to be getting better… Hugs. Hope the plan works!
    Elaine A. recently posted..Things Overheard in my Swagger Wagon

  • Oh my gosh, I would be freaking out too! I’m glad you found some advice and help that makes sense and gives you some relief. Good luck with the eating, and the stressing.
    Tara recently posted..Finally, a post…

  • I’m so sorry, my friend.

    We’ve spent the past ten years dealing with the opposite problem: Our son eats ravenously all the time.

    He’s constantly hungry and overindulges – his height and weight ratios are way off-balance and we’ve been advised by doctors to work on his BMI for years. Like you, I’ve lost a lot of sleep, but we’re worrying about the future health issues our son will face if he enters adulthood overweight.

    As far as restricted eating goes, I read somewhere (sorry, I can’t remember more specifically) that with a toddler, it’s better to look at the variety of foods they eat in an entire week rather than with each meal or even a single day.

    As long as during an average 7-day period (barring illness or vacation or something weird) he’s getting a little dairy, some fruits/veggies, a little protein, some complex carbs, he should be good to go.

    Either way, we parents beat ourselves up thinking every single meal needs to be a glorious food pyramid or else we’re failing our kids; we worry that they’ll starve themselves or end up obese.

    Then, for some kids (I think maybe for Jack), the attention they get during mealtime battles becomes the reward, you know?

    It’s so hard to know how to handle either situation. But being visibly stressed about it can’t be good for us or for their ultimate attitudes about food. Being calm and never letting them sense the frustration is probably the best for everyone.

    I know. I know. Easy to say, hard to do.
    (DANG it.)
    julie gardner recently posted..How To Not Write a Novel

  • This is something I dread. Before I had E, I would read a story like this and think “well that sucks for her but that’s not how it’s going to be in my house.” And now that he’s here, we are experiencing all of those moments. Like when my friend said, “my daughter used to be so good at getting her diaper changed and now it’s a battle” and I thought “hmph! Not here!” And E was super awesome about it, until he learned to roll from back to front last week. Now it’s a battle. With tears. Every time. I’m making all of his purees myself with the intention of creating a well-rounded eater. It would be just like Murphy’s Law if that whole thing backfired on me. In which case…I’ll be back.
    Allyson recently posted..Random Musings Friday: The Week in Review in Pictures

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