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Relaxing and Efficient Tips When Toddler Refuses To Eat

tips when toddler refuses to eat

Mom’s Question:
I have a 21-month-old daughter who barely eats anything – ever. She will take a couple of bites of something then refuse to touch anything else or eat another bite of anything period! She is constantly drinking, and still takes her bottles – I have tried to give her milk in a cup and she won’t take it, I have tried to give her a bottle to hold to feed herself – she won’t do it!

She only will drink milk if it’s in a bottle and I am giving it to her. Which if that’s the only way she’ll do it then so be it!

But I am so worried about the not eating thing, she always has eaten lot’s of food and it has slowly tapered off and now it’s barely anything. I have tried everything, what do I do?

(Buchanan, MI. U.S.)

Baby Helpline:

Some Tricks To Get Toddler Interested In Eating

I know it is worrying when a child doesn’t do what we think is best for them. As Moms we want our kids to thrive and it is concerning when we think they aren’t getting enough food.

Firstly, your daughter knows exactly what she needs – You! Being cuddled and nestled up with her Mom is the best thing for her right now.

Don’t worry about the amount of solid foods she is eating, getting into a battle with it all, it just makes you more stressed and her unhappy and can set up food issues.

All babies and children go through stages of not eating much. Even adults! We sometimes will go for a few days not feeling like much to eat. We worry about our children because we are the ones providing all their needs while they are little. Just relax with it all and most of all enjoy her. She will get back to eating again!

When my kids were tiny they sometimes would only eat the same food for days, and say no to everything else! Toddlers are learning to assert some power and want to have some control over their environment. Food is a classic area where parents get into a power struggle with their babies. The best way to short cut that battle is to opt out of it! Choose fun over a battle any day!

Here are some ideas of offering food in fun ways, but don’t even ask her if she wants to eat it, just have it available within reach.

Here we go with the fun eating ideas:

  • Make a smiley face out of fruit or vegetables and she can pick up pieces when she wants. For inspiration , check out Fun Food for Fussy Little Eaters.
  • Have little pieces of fruit or cheese or cooked veggies in a little container among the tea set, or inside something so she has to work to get it out.
  • Make a game out of it, feed Teddy, feed Mommy, feed Daddy, but Don’t feed baby … unless she asks for some too.
  • My kids were much more likely to eat finger food than having a bowlful in front of them. My daughter never liked to be fed, she always wanted to do it herself! (Find ideas on healthy, safe finger foods here.)
  • Give her food in the bath! (don’t worry, it’s no less hygienic than the tray on her high chair!) bits of apple, carrot, cucumber etc. (Toast and Muslie don’t work too well! 🙂 )
  • Wrap up little parcels of food in tinfoil or paper – a few grapes, some carrot a tiny sandwich. Let her discover them in the toy box. (just keep track of where you put them!)

Hope this gives you some ideas, but most of all just relax and have fun with her, that is the best nourishment you can give her. She is getting plenty of calories with the milk and she will eat again I promise! You won’t be nursing a 12-year-old! 🙂

Have Fun,

PS. This online course on positive parenting has great tools for toddler power struggles, as well as tantrums and lots of other behaviors. It is a great course! They also offer completely free webinars, so be sure to check it out!

More On Children’s Eating Habits


Oct 28, 2014

a must for moms of 2 yr old babies

by: bharathi

Hi Paula
Very informative tip..I appreciate the confidence shown through your experience.. each and every 2yr old passes through this stage..and those moms if they read your suggestions they will regain their peace of mind.. thanks a lot

Nov 13, 2014

Great suggestions

by: Tanvi

Your ideas are so relaxing, gives motivation to try new, removes all the tension

Happy to read your suggestions


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