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  • Post last modified:May 17, 2020
  • Post comments:10 Comments

toddler stopped eating

Mom’s Question:
My toddler stopped eating and I am worried! Here’s the situation:

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 lots 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

Normal or Not for a Toddler to Not Want to Eat?

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!

Relaxing Ideas when your Toddler Stopped Eating

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.

  • 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 the 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 Musli 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!)
  • Make sure YOU are happy and positive while you’re eating your food. Research has shown that kids exposed to positive family meals and a variety of foods, will develop healthier eating habits. So if you’re having a great time while eating, your daughter will most likely become interested in participating over time when food is associated with a positive experience. Don’t force her, just let her see and experience the positive situation (and interesting foods).

I 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 bottle-feeding a 12-year-old! :-)

Here is another similar question that answered, where the feeding has become a major power struggle and how to reverse that toxic situation.

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

If your toddler stopped eating or you have a ny ideas on how to solve the situaion, go a head and add your comments below! You find many more Baby and Toddler Feeding Q&A.

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Sana

    My 21 months old son has stopped taking milk bottles all of the sudden and he is not taking milk even in cup and also not eating yogur. Though he live eating yogurt and taking his milk and overnight he has stopped. I an really worried because he is not good in eating solid food as well. He will just eat one or two bite or spoons of anything offered to him.
    What should I do i want him to take milk at least once in a day.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Sana,

      Is all his other eating unchanged? In such a case, it can simply be completely normal toddler picky behavior. Although the calcium, protein and D-vitamin are important nutrients in milk, they are also available in other foods, such as cheese, tofu, leefy greens, salmon and oranges.

      You can also try to sneak milk, cream, or yogurt into e.g. a smoothie, a cereal bowl, some pasta sauce, and so on. Try to be creative! DOes he like oatmeal porrige? Try cooking it with milk instead of water!

      What happens if you give him finger foods or simply allows him to feed himself even if it gets messy? My youngest was super picky at that age, and it certainly helped when he was allowed to feed himself without any pressure at all. He prefered to use his hands… It get very messy for sure, but he ate more!

      If your son loses interest in eating after just a couple of bites, make sure to make healthy foods available often. It is quite common for toddlers to not want to sit down and eat for very long. Life is too exciting! Combine with this toddlerhood being a picky age, we really need to be creative, stay away from power struggles, and make food fun and and easy.

      I hope this helps!

  2. 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

  3. Amy Lu

    I really like that you suggest not stressing over a toddler not eating. I think this is very normal for children to go through. I have found putting a variety of food on my child’s plate, even if I don’t think she will eat it helps. She often surprises me.

  4. Tanvi

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

    Happy to read your suggestions,

  5. Erin Nichols

    My daughter is the exact same way! She rarely eats, and sometimes I get really frustrated, but most of the time I just try and remember that she knows when she is a hungry and will eat when it’s the right time. I haven’t tried most of your strategies, but I will be using a few of them in the near future.

  6. Emily Bendler

    These are great tips. My son goes through phases of eating more and eating less. It all evens out in the end. We just try to have mostly healthy option available so that when he does eat, its good food.

    1. Paula Dennholt

      I agree, Emily. Kids don’t tend to starve themselves for real. It’s much better to try to have a relaxed perspetive and offer healthy alternatives when they do actually eat. Thanks for reading!

  7. Dani Adams

    I know I will be referencing this in the near future.

    1. Paula Dennholt

      I’m glad to hear that, Dani! Thanks for reading! :-)