Food and Meal times Again

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Happy New Year Everyone

I was wondering if I could pick your brains and get some ideas of strategies in relation to food and meal times.

Munchkin came to us at 20 months old and is now 3 years 5 months. She has always been a nightmare with her feeding even when in FC. Her FC noted that they would have to force feed her and she was hospitalised as she refused her bottle and would not take milk for a considerable amount of time. She would spit food out and just refuse it. Whilst in FC she was on jarred food and had free access to a treat cupboard of crisps, biscuits and chocolates as well as coke and fruit shoots. Her FC also reported that she would wake constantly during the night and could scream for up to 2 hours.

When she came to us, we had the jarred food as back ups but also tried to wean her onto solids. I used recipes designed for 6 - 9 months and 9 - 12 months as a start. We took it very slowly and she started to eat a better variety of lumpy foods. We found out she liked pasta dishes and bananas as well as toast., baked beans, grapes, yoghurt and dairylea for example.

Now, I know toddlers and children like to throw curve balls every now and then, but this is getting ridiculous. Summer last year she went on a hunger strike and refused meals, snacks (raisins, cucumber etc) and milk. We would offer her the food and if, after 25 - 30 minutes, she had not touched it, we took it and moved on with the day in the hopes that she would get bored after a couple of days and realise she was hungry. How wrong were we?

Anyway, fast forward to now and she is being a pain in the neck. Mealtimes in our house are stressful, frought and a dreaded time of the day. Munchkin refuses to eat or drink, I try and encourage but to no avail, she refuses so refuses. I take the food and let her leave the table. I have tried giving her theraputty to play with, music to listen to, eating in a different room, with the TV on, at a different table, everything. If she does not want to eat, she wont. So what happens? We are woken up at stupid o clock by a hungry child who thinks waking us all up is perfectly fine.

I will add she has a genetic anomaly, she isn't speaking either. I am not sure she recognises what hunger or thirst is as she never asks for a drink of food. SHe can feed herself and use a spoon and fork but wont if that makes sense. She would just sit and stare at it as if she doesn't know how to eat it. We try and work out of there is something wrong, like, does she need a motion, is she poorly, is she sick, but it is so hard when she is not communicating. Her latest party trick of a meal time is to pretend and force herself to fall asleep.

Has anyone got any tried and tested ideas we could try as this is getting to the point of stress and anxiety for everyone concerned.

Thank you


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Hi Costa - poor her, poor you! With her history and additional issues I think I might be tempted to seek some specialist advice. It sounds like you had got her onto a reasonably broad diet. Does she still eat any of those things? If so then I would be inclined to reduce all pressure for a while by just feeding her from the repertoire of things she eats. From time to time offer her something 'new' (that she used to eat), but if she doesn't want it then it is no big deal. If your worried that she's not eating enough then have fruit, raisins, rice cakes or whatever that she can help herself too when she's hungry. And if she's waking hungry I might even be inclined to put some chopped banana/ yoghurt/ bottle of milk by her bed when you go to bed so that she can have something to eat when she wakes without waking you. And if she's struggling with the spoon then I'd suggest you feed her. Basically anything you can do to reduce the stress/ battles for you and her.

Best wishes


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Hi Costa.

How stressful for all of you. My AD had a tiny appetite for the first 2 years and sometimes woke up demanding food in the middle of the night. She was 6 then. I can still hear the whine of ' I want food nooowwwwwwww!' it used to drive me mad as it's a basic need to be fed and I didn't want to leave her hungry but I didn't want to create a habit by feeding her. In the end like littlebear suggested I left a small snack at the side of the bed and she would have this and fall asleep. She then started getting up just to have the snack and I had to wean her off this. She also never recognised thirst and would have a thimbleful of water every couple of days. I used to leave chopped peppers, cucumber etc around and near wherever she was and she started eating these. Eventually her appetite increased and I was calmer as she was getting some nutrition and hydration. I was also doing 'here comes the aeroplane' till recently. With my daughter it was control and emotional issues rather than whether she was hungry and I got support from SW in dealing with it.

I really hope things get better for all of you soon x

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Thank you both for your tips. I am seeing the paediatrician again in a couple of weeks. I might ask her as well. I am not sure she will think to look for snack if I left it by her bed after all she walks around in a sodden nappy saying nothing!!!! Oh the delights.

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Its good you are seeing the paediatrician to discuss this - as there may well be other things involved. My son has a hormone condition and overeating is related to this (compounded by poor impulse control, the results of poor early care etc) I wonder if you could give her one of the bottled milk shakes - which are very high calorie - at bedtime or leaving it by the bed for if she needs it during the night? Presumably if she calls you during the night she is able to feel hunger to some extent? Perhaps she could start the drink and then if there's still some left put it by the bedside in case she needs it during the night. Not ideal but may be easier than trying to get her to eat. The paediatrician could also refer you to a dietician or a therapist too if necessary

Lack of ability to experience hunger may also be related to trauma

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Thanks Safia

She doesn't call during the night. We hear her babbling to herself and walking around her bedroom or waking her sister up!!! She never indicates she is hungry or thirsty or even if she needs a wee.

She was seen by a feeding clinic in November 2016 and discharged as they didn't see any problems. They said that as she was rating a range of food groups over the week then that's fine. Things change though so I will ask again. One of her impacts of her genetic anomaly is short stature and low weight.

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I sympathise, I have had, and still do have, complex food issues with Lapwing, ( now aged 8). Neglect can mean that children don't understand that hunger needs can be met, it also can confuse them about what the feelings around hunger are, they are all mied up with needing attention and not getting it, or getting the wrong kind.

Anyway I was advised by our therapist to assume that Lapwing had had no consistent routine or nurture around food and when we had problems with her eating to treat as a 14 month old, so spoon feeding, sitting her on my lap, singing to her while eating, playful with her eating. I think the mantra we were given was - 'Think younger' - , even now at 8 nearly 9 sometimes we still have to do that.

I was also advised to give up on worrying about what she ate, as long as she ate something, ( this is easier said than done) but 4 years in I am still having to feed her very basic foods and keep myself in check at the sheer frustration of it all. But is has got better, slowly and in a one step forward , two step back kind of way. The main thing for me has been stopping myself getting too stressed by it.

But from reading your post it sounds as though your little one also suffered inconsistent care/neglect and just does not know that her needs can be met, hunger, being dry, etc. I hope your appointment with the Paediatrician will give you some strategies, or signpost to other therapy that may help.

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Dear WLC,

I know what you are going through. It has been our experience and nightmare. Have you come across the concept of “Division of Redponsibility (DOR)” or the Trust Model of feeding”? It was originally developed to deal with childhood obesity but has now been adapted to help families like ours.

As you mentioned, food and feeding our kids is complex. With all my respect to the Paediatrician, they may not know how to deal with feeding in the contex of developmental and relational trauma, attachment difficulties, sensory integration, separation anxiety, drugs and alcohol exposure in the womb, etc that our kids might have suffered. We don’t even know what went on when they were not with us!

There is a book “Love me, feed me” written by Dr Katja Rowell which addresses these issues and much more including genetic disorders that interfere with feeding our traumatised kids.

It is not a miracle book. The model requires a lot of pacience, creativity and indeed Trust. It is based on structure and nurture that our kids need. It focuses on who is responsible for what. We parents are responsible for the what, where and when. The kid for the how much. This in turn increases the kid sense of security “there’s food for me, at the table, every 2-3 hours” for example rather than “I scream the place and get food” or “I walk about home and there are pieces of food everywhere”.

The other aspect is sensory integration: observe yourself what textures (not flavours or foods) she likes; soft, crunchy, hard, etc. Can she chew? Can she swallow? Where does she likes to seat when she eats? Soft/hard places? The floor? Your lap? Does she needs cuddles and kisses before/during/after meals? Is she very active/upset/distant before meals? Not using cuttlery, might be pointing towards a sensory processing difficulty too.

I feel for you. I’m there. Mine is older than yours and hardly eats. What I have changed is my approach. No more power struggles, anxiety and pulling hairs out.

You can buy the book on Amazon. It was recommended to me by a very experienced adopter of three kids now adolescents. I ignored the recommendation for a while as thought there wouldn’t be anything I hadn’t tried. One night, I was at the edge of the power struggle and thought “At least buying this book makes me feel I haven’t given up”. Long I knew it was going to be so helpful!!!

My very best wishes,


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Wondering if you’ve tried easy cooking recipes? I found this encouraged my son to eat new foods. Texture as mentioned above has always been key, but most important has been me learning not to get too het up about it and my mantra when he won’t eat anything was - oh you can’t be old enough for that yet , you’ll have to try it again once your taste buds grow/change.

I’m not sure it will help immediately- it didn’t for me, but it did give my son both an easy reason for not eating x now and an easy reason to try x later.

His diet is still texture related, but he does eat a broad range.

The other and more important thing is to ignore all the advice you get that isn’t helpful! Reward yourself for being patient and not for achievement.

Hope you find some helpful tips.

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