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Bread and water. Or just water.

So, Mia has been sick. Persistently sick, and then cranky and screamy and whiny and just not pleasant. Also, she has stopped eating. Today she ate some cereal, half a fruit bar, three ounces of yogurt and two tortilla chips. We've tried things she likes, things she hates, things she has never seen before. She keeps telling us she is hungry but then refuses to eat. This is where you come in.

Step One: Tell me this is normal. Tell me this is just what toddlers do. Tell me about the time your kid ran for a week on water and three bites of fruit leather.

Step Two: Tell me what to do. How do I get this kid to eat?

Comments (36)

You may think I'm totally insensitive for posting this, but I don't have kids and this is the best I can do:
I have a dog who, on occasion, refuses to eat. She'll go two days with only a nibble or two, for no apparent reason. The first time she did this, I took her to the vet, convinced there was something grossly wrong with her: intestinal problem? cancer? ear infection? And the vet told me that number one, she's 32 pounds and doesn't need a whole lot to sustain herself. Number two, when she's hungry, she will eat. Simple as that. I'm not saying kids are like dogs by any stretch of the imagination, but Mia will indeed eat when she's hungry. Maybe keep some food around in her reach so she can eat it on her terms? I feel like an a-hole for this post since I don't have kids of my own yet, but I'm really sincerely just trying to help. God help me when I do have them.

cheerios always work for us and we've recently discovered Biscuit LOVES jamba juice so you could get some calories and vitamins in via smoothie

We've been all over the map with Lady and eating. It can be REALLY stressful, and Lady is tiny for her age, so I routinely get worried that she isn't eating enough. My pediatrician always reassures.

I'll just preface this by saying (like a good mommy bearing advice should...) call your pediatrician to double check. Not only is it better to get the professional's opinion for the record, but it might help set your mind at ease too (it does for me).

Ok, onto the sympathy and the "we can relate"s! Lady goes through weeks where all she'll eat are bananas and cheerios. Some weeks, it's the yogurt or nothing. Her appetite sucks (SUCKS) when she is sick, which of course she has been since mid-November. The only thing she reliably wants in her sippy cup is water (so I can't always sneak milk in there to pad the crappy eating). Usually when she's not eating well, there are other issues too (being sick, for instance, or being a toddler...) so we have a very unhappy girl on our hands and it's hard to tell if she's just being pissy or if she's hungry. Usually, we ride it out. When I feel like it's getting excessive I call our pediatrician to get the "she'll eat when she's hungry" pep talk, and the mild dose of "you're not a terrible neglectful mother and your child will not starve to death under your watch" reassurance that I need.

The appetite usually resolves itself on it's own. If Mia feels sick, she may not want to eat just because she feels like crap. She will definitely eat when she's hungry.

But call your ped to check in and get a little reassurance.

also, forgot to add my tricks for getting Lady to eat when she doesn't want to.

1. Eating on the go: I put her in the car and let her take something in her snack trap. This only works if your kid loves being in the car.

2. Eating while unrestrained: although Gerber does NOT recommend this, I let Lady walk around the kitchen between bites of food. It's usually something like yogurt followed by applesauce, but she'll take a bite, play with the magnets on the fridge, and then wander back to me for more. I think it's less stressful than sitting face to face in the highchair.

3. Cheerios cheerios cheerios. I put cheerios in her snack trap and let her carry it around following "a meal" in her highchair (in quotes because there is no actual eating of food going on in the highchair). I recently discovered that she also likes dried dates mixed in with her cheerios, like a little trail mix, so if Mia likes raisins and cheerios you might want to give it a shot.

The snack trap has saved my sanity at least 50,000 times in the last 3 months.

If she's not vomiting, I'm not terribly concerned about the amount she has eaten so far, but the fact that she keeps saying she's hungry.

We go through periodic food battles with our 4 year old, but he simply refuses to eat until he decides he's hungry enough to eat.

It sounds like Mia is hungry and wants to eat, but can't for some reason. It could be teething or maybe a sore throat that hurts when she swallows? Could be something else?!

I would probably call her pediatrician if this is still happening in the morning. Stick with fluids and soft foods that are easy on the mouth and throat. Soup, pudding, jello, yogurt, etc for tonight. Ice cream sounds good!

Don't panic. Just take your que's from her. *hugs* Hope she feels better soon!

It's normal, stop worrying about it.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way... That's what my mom would tell me. That's what alot of people will tell you. It's probably the best advice. If she's hungry she'll eat. However, my first child was and still is a non-eater. And it worries me constantly, even though he's 5 and a half and hasn't wasted away to nothing yet. If you're truly worried call the Dr. Try pediasure instead of milk, or carnation instant breakfast in her milk if she'll drink it. That always made me feel a little better. Something is better than nothing.

Suz is right. Get some jello or ice cream or any other easy to swallow cool food. If she has a sore throat this will feel good. My kids could almost always get down a pop (ice pop).
Try some ginger ale (the kind with sugar) or pedialite or Gatorade, to help get her electrolytes in balance. Then don't worry. I know, Haha!. But really. try to relax and maybe Mia will as well.
Let us know how she is in the morning.

This is normal.
I hope she's feeling better soon.

I would say, if she is not eating because she isn't feeling well, concentrate on keeping her hydrated - water, pedialyte, popsicles. If a sore throat is a concern, maybe a little children's tylenol or motrin a half hour before she eats. I would guess sore throat since if she was nauseous, she probably wouldn't be asking for anything at all. But if that IS the case, I would start with a bland BRAT diet (not a judgement on Mia. B - bananas R - rice A - applesauce. Also might be good with a sore throat. T - toast.)

Will she do smoothies? Those would be cold and you could probably sneak some fruit and yogurt in there too.

While I generally adhere to the rule "they'll eat when they are hungry", I kind of take a different stance when there is illness involved. She will still eat when she is hungry but it may be harder for her, even if she wants to. Like I said, I would concentrate on keeping her hydrated and watch her temp, urine output/concentration and energy levels for signs of dehydration.

I hope she feels better soon!

As long as she is still pee-pee'ing regularly you don't have to worry too much. She is probably hungry, but since she has been vomiting so much she is gun-shy. She's a healthy girl. Keep liquids (pediasure)in her and keep trying, she'll eat when she needs too. It's hard not to worry, but you'll get through it!

When Sara was about two, gastroentritis was making the rounds (many little ones ended up in the hospital). Our dr. recommended jello in liquid form (mix it up, but don't refrigerate to make it gel). She drank it out of a bottle (this was before sippy cups). Just a thought...she was "sick" but not SICK and we made it through...

Well...I don't mean to let it sit around on the counter and go rancid. Just keep mixing up new batches and offer them to her...

My eyes are too tired to read everyone else's comments so I may be repeating. So here goes:
As long as she is getting fluids, she is fine. Just keep checking her urine output. She may drop some weight but her appetite will return. It is better to offer her choices and have her pick than to try to force her to eat. That just becomes a power struggle.
Whatever bug has been goin' around So-So Cal has been killing appetites for about 10 days. Very nasty bug.

Well, this will sound like an exaggeration, but I assure you, it's not. My middle kid didn't eat much of anything but a slice of cheese a day for, no not weeks, months. From 18-24 months, she gained a pound and grew three inches. Her father tried to force-feed her, literally. Didn't work. I left cheerios and cheese and bits of fruit cut up for her. I offered bits of whatever was for dinner. I swear she ate the cheese and drank water and some juice and ate a multi-vitamin daily. She's 19 now, 5' 2" and a shapely size 3.
I say you're doing fine...keep things she normally likes on offer, consider a multi-vitamin (I hear those gummy ones are popular) and keep in mind that a stomach virus can leave her lactose inolerant for a while, so cheese, milk and ice cream may not be on her list of faves. Live culture yogurt would be a good try though.
Hang in there!

try the new nutripals drinks....they replace a meal and are for toddlers when they won't eat! My son gulped one back (vanilla) when he was sick and was hungry but did not want to eat (i suspect it was a sore throat...he is not too verbal yet).

I remember the biggest bonus to being sick when I was a kid: milkshakes! My mom would let us have milkshakes for meals if we were sick (well, not if we were "stomach" sick, because that would be unadvised). I didn't know until later she was stuffing them full of malt/protein/vitamin C powders, but it tasted good and went down easy on a sore throat. I see other posters have suggested smoothies - that's probably a fantastic modern-day alternative.

I have no real-world experience to suggest. Kate will sometimes have a meal or two where she doesn't really eat, but she usually makes up for it within a day or so.

Good luck, Mia Momma (oh, great - now I have ABBA stuck in my head).

I'm on my third and fourth toddlers, and the eating weirdness is in general totally normal.

Do you mean she's sick as in she's still vomiting? When my kids are vomiting, I find they pretty much stop eating--which, frankly, is good for the vomiting clean-up. The only thing that's important when they're vomiting is fluids, which is why if it goes on more than x number of days (x varies depending on how energetic/wan and pink-cheeked/pale the child seems, but is usually 2-4 days) I call the pediatrician just to be sure.

In Mia's case, it wouldn't be the not-eating that would worry me, it would be the hungry-but-not-eating.

I am sooo not experienced in this...Dean is only 15 months and so far eats pretty well. But he really hasn't been sick yet either (did you just hear me knocking on a bunch of wood? 'cause I just hurt my hand)
Anyhow...I agree, call and see what the hottie Doc says. Other than that, if she is still taking fluids, you really shouldn't worry yet. They say kids WILL eat when they are hungry enough. I know I know, easier said than done. I can say this logically right now because it's not my baby in pain. If it were me, I'd be freaking out. I am a big help aren't I?

I don't have any advice cuz I don't have kids but I did show my mom the pictures you posted Tuesday and she thinks Mia is absolutely precious.

Is it bad that I don't really care whether my twins eat or not? I just want them to stop squealing and pointing at nothing in particular, and then lying on the floor kicking and screaming because I don't know what they want.

If she is drinking I wouldnt worry too much. Yeah, I can put my daughter's favorite macaroni and cheese and if she doesnt feel like eating it might as well be a bowl of rattlesnakes. She has been sick, give her a few days to start to feel better before you spend a lot of energy worrying. Good luck!

First of all, remember that in some ways kids are infinitely more intelligent than we are. If she doesn't want to eat, there could be good reason for it. If she's teething there's mouth pain; if she has a sore throat, things could feel scratchy; if she is congested, she may have sinus pain; etc. The good news is that no child has ever died on a short term diet of "cereal, half a fruit bar, three ounces of yogurt and two tortilla chips." Pinky swear. Kids do this crap and then they stop. What can I say, they are crazy brilliant.

As for making her eat... why? This will pass and the more you make food an issue, the more it becomes one... at least, in my experience. I could be talking smack. If you're worried, just keep offering her foods, things that feel and taste different and see what takes. Don't sweat the small stuff. It'll work itself out.

And remember, kids are strange.

Step One: Tell me this is normal. Tell me this is just what toddlers do. Tell me about the time your kid ran for a week on water and three bites of fruit leather.

yes, yes, so yes. Michael is a great eater and he goes through this. Right now he is going through a period of eating nothing but fish sticks.

Step Two: Tell me what to do. How do I get this kid to eat?

Hmm-starbucks scones, wait, thats just my kid! My ped suggested milk shakes. You can try juice but Michael hates it. Bottom line, my ped said if your toddler gets 1 good meal 3 times a week you are fine. They really can survive on little food.

Good luck!

I think everyone on here has explained it enough that this is normal but I can totally agree with the PP who posted about not being kept in a chair although I'm sure some people would say that it's wrong. Damien (who's almost 18 mths too) won't eat breakfast but if I let him carry around a bowl of cherrios or chex he'll gobble it all down. We used to have the same problem with his older sister so I would put out a snack bowl and let her graze through the day. It's worth a shot. Good luck!

Here's what I know:

1)Toddlers know when they're hungry and they know when they aren't. I know that sounds crazy, but hunger is a basic instinct and a kid who is hungry enough will come around to eat something.

2)Sometimes you suffer from the kind of sick feeling that makes food the furthest thing from your mind. Maybe that's what she's got.

3) If she has a cold or is teething (or both), that creates an awful lot of mucous that is draining into her stomach. That causes the pukes, but it also creates a sense of fullness.

4) Little bites are better than nothing. I promise she'll come around.

Also...get a doctor to check her throat to makes sure it's not irritated.

of course this is normal, and you need to just keep offering her food. Simple as that. She WILL eat when she gets hungry enough.

I imagine I'm reapeating what has already been said, but, well, it's midnight & I really should go to bed so I didn't read the other comments. Anyhoo, yes, it's normal; remember it myself. And my niece who is 3 months older than Mia is doing the exact.same.thing right now...she's barely eaten all week, and she hasn't been sick! It is a phase, keep offering food, and as long as she's not dehydrated or losing weight drastically, she is fine. Hope all the sickies are long gone by now!

When my brother was little, he got a lot of ear infections, and when he got sick, the only thing he would consume was peach juice. For days. I know it made my mom nuts, but eventually he would get hungry enough to eat something else and it would be ok.

Hope Mia gets better -- and eats something -- soon.

It is normal. Kids will eat when they want to eat. Toddlers become wary of eating after a prolonged espisode of vomiting. But she'll eat again just give her a day or two for her tummy to feel better.

Normal I'm afraid. Especially if she doesn't feel well.

The only important thing you have to worry about is fluids, as in make sure she's getting some and keeping them down so she doesn't dehydrate. We make MF ice spoons which he likes to suck on when he's sick. ;-)

Poor little Mia baby... The only thing I have to add to all the good advice you have received is to offer her an ice-ee. Hope she is all better soon.

faith

Trying one more time.

Probably everything hurts like her throat and her tongue. I know that's what happens to me when I'm that sick.

And nothing tastes like it should.

It will pass. I've had good luck with Chloraseptic (non alcohol version) for throats.

Just keep trying tiny bites of soft foods that she likes. I do well with cooked cereal like farina for the girls and my mom made milk toast with butter for me when I was little.

The first poster is correct. What you need to look for is signs of dehydration though. Chapped lips, listless, when she cries there are no tears. Just before that, probably around 24 - 36 hours, go get her an IV. Until then, make sure she can keep down a popsicle ( sp? ). If she can keep that in she's keeping in liquids. Mine had to get the IV and when she did, she was totally different and cured. Be concerned more with liquids than solids.

~Jef

You don't. Ignore it. She'll eat when she wants to.

Ignore it.

Really, ignore it.

It's harder than you think. IGNORE IT.

I remember reading a post by Dooce lately: she said her daughter didn't eat for 4 days or something, and then finally ate a plate of french fries and collapsed in it, exhausted. This has stuck in my head because it's funny.... See? normal. Don't worry!

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