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Thread: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants milk

  1. #1
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    Question My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants milk

    Hi!

    My daughter is 20 months old and loves to nurse, she nurses first thing in the morning (we bedshare), she nurses to sleep at nap time and at bedtime, and usually 1-3 times in the night. My concern is that she is not interested at all in new foods. In the past she had some favorites (noodles, cheese, green peas) but she rarely wants them anymore. She looks disgusted each time I put food in front of her, and would rather nurse all day than eat. For instance, throughout the day today she rejected eggs, tortellini, green peans, corn, cut up grapes, rice, fish, and broccoli without tasting any of it. The only "real" food she ate all day was 5 goldfish crackers. I used to nurse her on demand but now I have been limiting her nursing to just the 3 times a day, in hopes that she will get hungry enough to eat some table food. Its not working though and I'm feeling at a loss for what to try next.

    My family and boyfriend are telling me I need to wean her so she'll start eating, but I am hoping that I do not need to stop nursing her completely. Also, I keep reading that by her age she should be getting most of her nutrition from table food. Could she be lacking nutritionally from primarily nursing at 20 months?

    Thank for any advice or insights you can share with me!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants mi

    Welcome to the forum!

    First of all, how would you rate your LO's growth and development? If she's growing and developing normally, I think you can conclude that her diet isn't harming her. And while it's true that by age 2 most babies are getting most of their nutrition from solids rather than from breastmilk, there's nothing wrong with an all-milk or mostly-milk diet.

    I definitely don't think that weaning is going to "fix" your toddler's appetite for solids. What it will do is remove the one source of nutrition that she will certainly take! You might want to try some of the following, and see if your LO is inspired to eat mores old food:
    - Try keeping a food journal. You'll probably discover that your toddler eats more, and a more balanced diet, than you think if you look at her intake over the course of a few days instead of the course of a week.
    - Keep putting healthy and varied choices in front of your LO. Don't fall into the trap of offering only the foods that you know she will eat, because that may cause your child to become very picky and turn you into a short-order cook.
    - Model good eating habits. If your toddler sees you eating and enjoying all sorts of varied foods, she'll be more likely to try them.
    - Get your LO involved in food preparation. You cut up the broccoli, she arranges it on the plate. You put the eggs on the plates, she shakes some dried parsley on them. You assemble the sandwich, she cuts out shapes from the sandwich using a cookie cutter.
    - Try creative serving styles that may encourage her to eat more varied foods. Serve cut-up veggies in a cute container, with a cup of dip (ranch dressing is a big favorite in our house, but you can also use yogurt or peanut butter or ketchup). Make a face on your child's plate using the components of the meal- broccoli for the hair, olives for the eyes, red pepper slices for the lips, etc.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  3. #3
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    Default Re: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants mi

    I would add to mommals sugggestions- try finding 'good eating' friends for your daughter and arrange playdates over lunch or snack times. They can be kids her own age or slightly older. My kids always seemed to eat 'better' around munching friends.

    You have tried cutting back on nursing and it has not worked. So weaning entirely does not seem logical. Your breastmilk IS a healthy food.

    I also read somewhere that a 'new' food has to be offered several times before a child will try it.

    Try not to let food or mealtimes become a battleground. Assuming your child is healthy this is not a huge concern. Toddlers tend to be sporatic and picky eaters whether they nurse or not.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants mi

    Thank you both for taking the time to answer my questions!

    @Mommal - my daughter is doing great developmentally, hitting all her milestones and is (in my humble opinion) incredibly smart. She is average for weight (24 lbs) and below average for height (31 inches). She used to be 50% for height but is now close to 25% which concerns me, but her doctor was not concerned. We just switched to a new pediatrician so I plan to address her height percentage drop with her when we meet soon.
    @lllmeg, my daughter has a couple eating champ friends so I will get them together for some eating play dates

    It makes me feel better that you both agree her nursing is providing good nutrition, and that stopping nursing is not the solution. Thank you for the tips and advice!!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants mi

    I wouldn't be concerned about her height, either. One thing that tends to happen with kids is that their height growth will proceed in spurts. You'll notice your LO getting a bit chubby, and then all of a sudden she will shoot up and will be skinny again- and you'll need to buy her a whole new wardrobe! My girls bounce around on the charts depending on when they're measured- measure them right before a spurt and they will be relatively heavy for their height. Measure them right after a spurt, and their height percentile will outmatch their weight percentile.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  6. #6
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    Default Re: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants mi

    Hi Camille,

    I have a few questions to help me better understand your situation:
    1. How long an interval usually passes between breastfeeding and offering solids?
    2. How does your daughter respond to other liquid nutrition, like smoothies?
    3. Does your daughter exhibit a preference for certain textures? (E.g. Breads, crumbly foods, etc.)
    4. Do you let her self-feed?
    5. Does your daughter eat only when in a high chair, or does she have an opportunity to graze from a nibble tray while playing?
    6. If she eats in a high chair, how soon after she is finished is she let down?

    I'm interested in your answers and hope we can identify some low hanging fruit to win you some success in her eating!

  7. #7
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    Default Re: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants mi

    @mommal - What you said about growth spurts makes a lot of sense. Now that you say that I'm thinking that is probably what is going on with my daughter, because she has chunky little thighs and squishy fat cheeks

    Hi Alphawoman, thank you for taking interest in my situation! Here are the answers to your questions:
    1. I offer her breakfast 1-2 hours after breastfeeding, then I offer her lunch before naptime (so by that time it has been 5 or 6 hours since breastfeeding), then after nap I offer her a snack (usually an hour or two after she gets up, and usually she nurses right when she wakes up from nap), and then dinner time is at 6:00, so that is at least 4 hours after her last nursing session.
    2. She won't drink smoothies, unfortunately. She won't even taste them. She drinks water very well and also will drink cows milk from a sippy cup. I don't give her any juice.
    3. She seems to like starchy foods most (cheerios, crackers, bread, pasta) and likes dairy products (cheese, cream cheese). So to answer your question, its not really specific textures, more specific tastes that she goes for...mostly salty, bland whitefish foods.
    4. Yes, I don't put anything in her mouth. I cut up her food and put it on her tray and she knows how to use a spoon (or can use her fingers of course).
    5. Usually I give her breakfast on a plate on the coffee table so she can eat it as she plays (if she decided to eat), lunch and dinner I serve to her in her high chair while I eat beside her. Her afternoon snack I give to her on the coffee table. What kinds of things do you put in a nibble tray? Do you leave it out all day?
    6. She usually fusses when I first put her in her chair, then plays with her food (sorting it or pushing it with the spoon) and usually drinks from her cup and chews on it a little while. If she's being calm I will leave her in there or if she gets mad and is asking to get out I will get her out, but tell her she needs to play alone and let me and her dad finish eating.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants mi

    Hi Camille,

    It's my pleasure! I really want to help you as I've BTDT with my DS16mo. I appreciate how nerve-wracking it can be to be concerned about a child's food intake.

    BACKGROUND

    We worked with Dr. Newman, who counselled us against sudden weaning to induce appetite. He mentioned that, in his experience, this strategy is unnecessary and can even cause problems if the child is still reluctant to eat. So, all that to say that your instinct to maintain nursing frequency is on point.

    Given that physically and developmentally she's doing well (I assume you've done a quick heel check for iron, which is the only potentially "at risk" micronutrient) I'm inclined to say she's just slow to warm to solids like my DS. It sounds like you're taking a relaxed approach to solids, which is ideal. I would even offer the breast more, not less, in lieu of the water and cow milk, but that's a personal preference and not science.

    IDEAS

    1. Gradual introduction of new foods to "safe favourites"

    Given that your daughter enjoys breads and cheese, maybe you could try a bunch of foods containing those elements with one or two ingredient variations to introduce new foods. So, an example progression might be:

    Meal 1: grilled cheese sandwich (real cheese, not processed) + 1 favourite fruit and/or veggie
    Meal 2: grilled ham and cheese sandwich + 1 favourite fruit and/or veggie
    Meal 3: grilled ham and cheese sandwich + fresh tomato soup + 1 favourite fruit and/or veggie

    Another example,

    Meal 1: Panzanella (toasted bread salad)-- in chunks with feta and tomato, tossed in olive oil and vinegar
    Meal 2: Same as above, with avocado
    Meal 3: Same as 2, with corn, beans, cucumbers, etc!

    Just an idea that worked with DS. I had to repeat each "meal" over several days before introducing the variation. I also cut the sandwich/panzanella into single bite pieces, which work well either at the table or in a nibble tray.

    As a side note, meatloaf is still his favourite protein because it crumbles easily!

    2. Keep a nibble tray and cup of water out all day. I change over my tray every 2ish hours.

    Foods that go over well in our house and don't make a huge mess: chicken breast cubes, mini meatballs (homemade), cheese cubes, diced fruit, halved berries, roasted cooled vegetables tossed in olive oil (beets, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc), raisins, crackers, bread, Israeli couscous, grilled cheese sandwich pieces, various beans, cooled soft pasta like macaroni or tortellini.

    I put out maybe 1-2 Tbsp of food total at a time and refresh as needed. My son seems to eat more volume total if I put out a small quantity at a time. I also do "floor picnics" with him where I offer Greek yogurt or messier items. When he first started eating, this is where DS' appetite first picked up.

    3. Keep high chair time extremely short.

    I found DS hated being held down in his chair. Once he could get down whenever he asked, he became more enthused about mealtime. He's often up in his chair 5 minutes, at most. He's just one of those babies who is ALWAYS learning and exploring. Maybe your daughter is similar?

    4. Limit distractions

    I used to always read to my son at meals, but I found he does better with just eating and conversation. This, like idea 3, is probably more of a personality-driven issue than an "eating" issue.

    Camille, I really hope something here works for you. I'll be checking back periodically to see how you are and will be cheering for you!!!

    Hugs,
    Alphawoman
    Last edited by @llli*alphawoman; March 2nd, 2013 at 04:02 PM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants mi

    Thank you so much Alphawoman! I put out a nibble tray this morning and she has been eating from it small bits at a time I am going to put your tips into action and I'll fill you in in a few days on how its working for us! I really appreciate your advice.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: My 20 mo daughter has no interest in food, only wants mi

    Awesome! I'm delighted that she's responding well so quickly! Very excited for you!

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