Tuesday, June 07, 2005

When Toddlers Will Not Eat

By Christina VanGinkel

Every mother has experienced it. The day your infant, always a good eater, suddenly turns away from whatever it is you are trying to feed them. Their little mouths clamp shut tight, they turn their heads away, and no amount of cajoling or tempting will get them to eat. At first, you are not too concerned, as they are still drinking their bottles. However, after a few days, you do start to worry. My daughter recently called and told me that my grandson had not eaten for nearly two days. Alarmed at first, I asked her if he was drinking, and she replied with a quick yes. She also backtracked and said he had eaten a few things, such as crackers and an apple, but had not eaten any meals. As he is usually the first one to the table and the last one to leave, I could understand her worry, yet as long as he was drinking and eating some, I really did not think she had any reason to worry. As I am not a doctor though, I advised her to give her pediatrician's office a quick call and to run it by the doctor. He told her pretty much the same thing I did, with an additional note to keep track of his eating habits for a few days and to get back to him immediately if she noticed any drastic changes as far as not eating or drinking at all.

Why do toddlers often do this? To see how much control they have, maybe because they are truly not hungry, or they decided that they want to hold the spoon themselves, and you are not giving them the chance. These and a million other reasons could all be correct. Infants and toddlers are amazing people. At no other times in their lives will they be growing so rapidly and forming new thoughts and ideas as they are in these first few years. One of the most profound changes is when they discover that they can alter the world around them, through ways such as not eating unless they really want to.

Within a few days, my grandson was back to his regular hungry self, devouring his meals in full, as if nothing had occurred. My daughter never did figure out why he did not want to eat for those few days, and she probably never will. It could have been that he did not like what she was offering, or he was just not hungry. She did have him still sit at the table for all the meals, and I think this was a good way for her to keep him in his regular routine. While she does not have a strict schedule for him, some routines such as mealtimes are very regular.
If you happen to go through this, I would recommend a call to your family doctor or pediatrician to rule out any serious problems, and then to just hang in there. Sooner, rather than later, your toddler will decide that eating is the best choice.

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