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« Q&A: helping a shy 4-year-old | Main | Q&A: getting a 9-month-old into a crib »



We're dealing with the "Oh my God you're killing me why do I have to sit in this chair" stuff here too, and she's almost 2 years 2 months now. Sometimes she eats with us, sometimes we feed her dinner and then eat together later, depending on schedules. Right now my second job is in a down period, so I am home more at night and we're eating as a family more. I am a slow eater and she and my husband are both speedy, so she gets really mad (the other night for the first time she tried to hurry me along--"NO water, Mama, EAT" as I took a sip instead of a bite!). We just try to keep her amused as long as possible and give up on the idea of meaningful conversation at dinner, because the point is to get her used to eating family dinners. Then maybe the "let's talk about our day" dinners I envision for my family will happen when she's older, I hope!

I also want to second what Moxie said about not worrying about what he eats. I vaguely recall a picky phase about 1 year, and often she will go through a few weeks where she eats almost nothing, and then eats like a horse, which I think is linked to growth and development. Best advice I EVER got is to not worry about their eating, because it's one of the few things they can totally control and if they see they can get a rise out of you, they SO will. I've even made the mistake of "Can you eat a few more pieces of broccoli?" only to be met with "NO" and flat out refusal of broccoli for the next few meals . My nephew barely ate at that age and all through his first year (too much to DO to stop and eat!), and he's healthy and bright. My SIL never freaked about his eating and now he eats pretty well.


My son did the same thing, refusing food at around a year. I knew he would eat finger foods; he did it for other people, just not for me. I just kept giving him pureed veggies and meats in a bowl, and letting him hold the spoon to feed himself. He was so much more willing to eat the mushy stuff (he had no teeth at that point), and I figured spoon feeding was a useful skill to have. But was it messy! He alternated between using the spoon and scooping stuff up with his fingers. But after a few months, he was pretty good with a spoon, and I did make the pureed stuff chunkier and chunkier until he was basically eating diced veggies. It also kept him busy in the high chair, so he'd sit for longer periods of time.


It's also possible that he's tired at dinner. Sanna is about the same age, and she goes to bed right after dinner. If we are a little late with dinner, she'll often not eat anything and scream. I don't know what time you eat dinner, but you could try eating earlier, or feeding your son earlier and then eating after he's in bed.

pnuts mama

i would agree with the idea to not make how much food he eats an issue- we went through a ridiculous amount of aggravation over this as well until we adopted the "not going to get excited about food" attitude. now, we put pretty much whatever we are eating on her tray in a dish (pnut is 18 months old) and whatever she eats, she eats, if not, whatever. if we are eating something we don't want her to have yet (rare) i have a stock of frozen leftovers of things she has eaten in the past to warm up for her, also certain sauces that she likes to put on stuff to make it tastier. sometimes she'll eat a favorite thing, sometimes not. i've had to learn to let it go, because as long as i am only offering healthy alternatives, i know she'll eat when she is hungry. and i know i don't ever want food to be a control issue with her. that's all i need!

also, 15 minutes is a long time for a 12 month old to sit peacefully in a high chair. is your baby tired? our kid still takes a short nap before dinner (2/4/3 system), and i'm sure that time not eating helps her get good and hungry for dinner. we let go of the battle of thinking that our kid would be able to sit still for as long as we can and as soon as she starts playing with her spoon/bowl or throwing food we immediately take her down and clean her up and she goes off to play while we finish. sometimes she'll come up to her dad while he is still eating and he'll feed her off of his plate as much as she wants- because at this age i'm happier that she's still eating vs. eating habits.

i know how very frustrating the whole eating issue can be. my best advice is to let it go. it's so hard, but i think our baby definitely could feel my stress surrounding it and it totally influenced her habits. good luck!

p.s. i know i always bring up teething- but our kid always eats like crap whenever she teethes. just something to consider!


This happened to me with my daughter as well at about the same age, and now at 3 years it's finally starting to get better. But don't do what I did and make it a power struggle -- the kid will win, every time. The more I broadcasted that I didn't care what she ate, the more she ate (and a bigger variety too). The bigger issue I made out of it, the less she'd eat. Also, don't know if your kid goes to daycare, but when this was at its worst I definitely noticed she ate more and with fewer complaints at daycare. So I worked it by sending the "challenging" food with her to daycare, and for dinner she got something she was more likely to eat.

Finally, we have discovered that bribes, or should I say, REWARDS for appropriate behavior, work now (probably wouldn't with so young of a child, but add this to your arsenal for later). That is, "if you eat your dinner you can have a cookie, otherwise, no cookie." Works really well right now, and I have no problem if she gets a fig newton after eating all her veggies.


All great info!

One thing I learned 'late' is that normal appetite for small children is lowest in the evening, for the 2-3 hours before they get tired/bedtime-ish (regardless of when they ACTUALLY go to sleep!). So don't expect dinner time to be a big stomach-filler. It isn't supposed to be, biologically speaking. (I know, we think, 'fill up to sleep through' but the reality is we're set up to digest best when we're NOT sleeping.)

20 minutes was supposed to be the maximum time we even ALLOWED Gabe to stay at the table for a meal, when we were doing the feeding clinic work, when he was 5 and 6 years old. You can go up to 30 minutes with school-age kids. Toddlers? Eh, 5 minutes some days! After two go-rounds with high chairs, we started out with booster seats, and went to eating at the table as quickly as possible.

I totally agree with not stressing about amount or choice. Pressing isn't helpful even if there IS an issue like reflux or food allergies. It only makes them feel ill AND nervous at mealtimes, not helpful. Let it go.

I have one child who will starve himself. Oral trauma, sensory issues, reflux... But the rest, even with their other issues, won't. If you're seeing a huge post-weaning growth drop (height, their weight tends to slow down by now anyway), you can talk to your doctor. Judge by the results, not the intake. Some 'chart correction' is normal between 1 and 2 years, so it may help for you to figure out what curve your child would be expected to 'stick', regardless of what their birth or early weight/size was:

Midparental height average is the standard for finding their reference percentile. Take father's height, add mother's height, divide by 2. For boys, add 2.5 inches. For girls, subtract 2.5 inches. Go to the CDC website and find the growth chart for 3-18 years. Find the midparental height you calculated on the 18-year line. That's the reference percentile. Anything within two lines above and below that line is normal range for them. (it comes out to about 2.5 inches up or down at adulthood.) I've found that a lot of parents I know get scared when there's not much eating, AND not much growing, but their child is totally normal (or even tall) height given the parents's heights. Worth checking before panic sets in! :)

We've gone to a 'family plate' approach with the twins, which seems to be working. Interesting having twins, because what would seem like inordinate pickiness in one is clearly not when there are two. Meriel likes her meat and veggies. Rowan likes pasta and fruit. Both will eat red meat but only if it is RARE. I'd likely have fretted more about the 'meat-freak, no pasta' thing if they hadn't just shared their plates. Here, you have the noodles, I'll have your chicken! Somehow just seeing the food go, somewhere, made it easier not to fret about who was eating how much of what. Meriel now eats pasta and fruit, and Rowan eats meat. I'm glad I didn't freak out about it (much!) at the time! (yeah, even knowing all I know about feeding through the clinic, I still fretted. I just kept it to myself!)

(and ditto on the teething, too... it is such a simple thing, but it can be a big deal!)


My approach with my 2 year old daughter has always been: It's my business what I offer her to eat, but it's her business what she actually eats.

That does mean that as she grows up and can procure her own food, it's less of my business altogether. But isn't that really the way it should be? I do the best I can to model good habits, but I'm not perfect and don't expect her to be.

(Her father, BTW, does try to stick food in her face. He just can't stand to see her miss out on something he thinks is delicious! We used to argue about this, but now I mind my own business with him as well. I guess after a long day, I'm more interested in eating my own food than policing anyone else's table habits!)


I'd also second that you need to push up dinner time a few mintues and see if that helps. My twin boys are great eaters but if they are extra tired, we are running late and dinner is later than normal, or if they are extra hungry, they don't eat so well. Try shifting your dinner up half an hour or so and see if that helps. We don't eat at the same time as the boys - too difficult at this age (they are almost 2) and also way too early for me to have a full dinner for everyone ready (the boys eat at 5/5:30).

Second suggestion may work for some and not for others, but both my boys LOVE applesauce. We get the organic no-sugar-added kind so it counts as a good fruit for them. Anyway, if we did their broccoli or brussel sprouts in applesauce, they both LOVE it and will gobble up their veggies.

As for the protein texture thing, I can totally relate. One of my twins is a protein fiend. The other, who is actually a better eater with respect to veggies, won't eat his meat "course". We just keep giving him some and then also we've tried dipping his chicken in hummus - that seems to work. Lastly, we don't stress too much and also offer him beans. We just buy large jars of organic kidney, black and gorbonzo beans, rinse and drain them and then feed them straight like that. Both boys love them!

Lastly, my boys are older so this may not work for you but my one "pickier" veggie eater always has a wooden truck of some sort with him at the table. If he won't take a bite of his veggies, the truck gets taken away until he does. It is amazing how fast he gets it. We don't make him eat everything - just enough so he gets in the habit of trying. More often than not, once he tries it he realizes he likes it and asks for more.

Anyway, hang in there. I've heard that the eating thing come and goes...


It seems to make a difference with my 12 month old daughter whether she is at the table or pushed aside by herself. She enjoys having her chair pushed up next to the table with the adults and "big kids." Also, the main thing to get into a child that age is fluids. If he is still drinking plenty throughout the day, everything should be fine. As for the fussing, try to catch him as he is about to get squirmy and let him down from his high chair before he starts fussing. It makes the meal so much more enjoyable to have him content!! I hope Moxie's advice and the comments afterward are helpful to you!!


Ditto the tired, ditto the distracted...lots of good advice. Quick comment on the meat: our older son was a vegetarian for his first two years. He would eat meatballs, sometimes, and that was it. No other meat at all would pass that gullet. We are cheerful carnivores here, but were willing to accomodate; at that point he was eating rice & beans, tofu, tons of milk, cheese, etc., so we weren't nutritionally worried about protein and were happy to accomodate him.
Fast forward a year plus a few months to his baby brother, who LOVES meat. His first taste of turkey, he literally screamed for more and wiggled with happiness in his seat. Suddenly Son #1 wanted turkey too. We gave him a little, since he'd always hated it; he chowed it down and asked for more. So, I don't know if he just outgrew his disdain for meat, or just wasn't going to let his brother have something he didn't, but that's what worked for us. Having him be vegetarian was vaguely inconvenient, but not terrible, so I wouldn't worry too much. Good luck, though, the "food fights" are very stressful. (Our current battle is, "I'm not hungry for carrots, I'm hungry for cookies!" but that, as they say, is another story...)


Oh yeah--around this age Mouse would eat avocado chunks. Sometimes buttered rice. Avocado. (Luckily she was like yours and did more variety at daycare.) We just went with it, since there wasn't much to be done...and got her out of that highchair and into a booster ASAP. (Get a school-lunch style tray with compartments and put it on a sticky, non-slip placemat.) That helped a bit for ours. (For reference, she's now an almost-3 who eats beef stew and asparagus...and still quite a bit of avocado.) :) You'll get through this!!


We found that our daughter is sick of the big high chair for some reason. She was constantly trying to stand up and every meal was turning into a battle--despite the fact that she's eating fine. My mother had bought us a portable booster to travel with, which at the time seemed just an extravagance. But, I've discovered that she really prefers sitting in this booster-like contraption (maybe it's more like actually sitting in a chair at the table so more like one of the family?). This is the one I have, but I think there are lots of different models: http://www.fisher-price.com/fp.aspx?st=2011&e=detail&selcat=bgboost&pid=27475
It attaches really securely to the dining chair.


I'm noticing, too, that my 15 month old doesn't eat as well at dinner as he does at lunch. I'm relieved to see other commenters reporting the same thing! Yep, it's probably because he's tired so I am going to concentrate on that noon time meal now. The other thing I've noticed, is that nope, he would rather not sit in a high chair, either. However, he WILL sit in our laps and he eats more that way.

Also, my son eats what WE eat - and we mostly eat Thai, Indian, Persian, Greek, and Middle Eastern. My husband is Indian and he's very amused with how Americans think babies need bland food (and yes, conversely my grandma is horrified with what we give our son!) Anyway, I don't make special food for my son - the only thing "special for him" that he gets these days is YoYo Baby drinkable yogurt.


My 10 month old has not yet really taken to solid food in any form (and yes, I've tried many). Some days he eats some other days he refuses. We've gotten some BAD advice about this - including from health care professionals who should know better but this book was a winner. Check it out - it will help you relax and know everything is OK:
My Child Won't Eat: How to Prevent and Solve The Problem by Dr. Carlos Gonzales (publishes by La Leche League Intl)
Dr. Gonzales has really down-to-earth explinations of infant and toddler nutrition and eating dilemmas. This book saved my sanity!


I think that it is perfectly reasonable to expect him to sit in his high chair unti he is done. But then let him down. It is just too much patience to ask of a 1 year odl to sit docily through your dinner. The amount of time they spend at the table will get progressively longer as they get older and want to be part of what is going on. In our house the kids get down when they are done eating, unless we are a restaurant, then they may only be excused when we are all ready to leave. We eat in sit down restaurants rarely enough and they are a huge treat, so the kids have no problem with this rule. (but I did have to train them into it a bit, by bolting down my food the first few times! LOL)
As for 1 year old pickiness, especially centered around dinnertime. I do think this is normal. I also think several things are gonig on. First of all, one year olds arent growing at the same rate as babies any more and their caloric needs may actually be less than they were a few months ago. Second of all, I second everything Moxie said about emerging independance, and Third, about it centering around dinner time. I remember how Dr Sears used to describe this time of day as "happy hour" for infants because it was generally a fussy time of day. Well my one infant who this was particularly true for is also the one who just doesnt eat much dinner. He is tired and wound up by the end of the day still. He is now four, and while he isnt as picky as he was between 1 and 2, he still has only minimal appetite at dinner time. I make sure that the foods he eats at breakfast, lunch and snacks are no less nutritious than he would be getting at dinne. In fact this kid often eats two breakfasts.
So as moxie said, offer lots of healthy foods, dont stress about how much he eats. I would add the suggestion to become more creative about how to get protein and veggies into him in his early meals so if dinner is nothign but a few bites of bread, his overall diet is balanced.
oh and ps. Keep offering the foods he rejects, and offer often! I have found this method very successful to getting my kids on varied diets.

Jane Plane

Since no one has yet recommended "Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense" by Ellyn Satter, I will. Lots of common sense approaches to feeding time to remove the battle of wills over meals.

My kids have both inherited my husband's blood sugar issues, and will get crabby and refuse to eat when they are overhungry. We've solved some of our mealtime issues by giving them both substantial protein and fat snacks when we all get home from our day or in the late afternoon, while we are preparing dinner.

The issues we haven't solved by being proactive, we've decided to let go of and stop thinking of as issues. They each get a children's vitamin every day, they are obviously not starving, and there's only so much you can force when it comes to what goes in their mouths and stays there.


I have to agree with the re-offer foods at a later time- my 20 month old son recently shocked us by gobbling up large portions of carrot and broccoli after refusing them for months (as much as possible we feed him whatever we're eating for dinner). He also LOVES blueberries, which are surprisingly high in protein plus plenty of other good vitamins, etc - we give him frozen wild blueberries for "dessert" several nights per week and he would eat the whole bag if we let him.
He also refused to sit in the highchair at all around 14 months (although the was fine with it at daycare, and will usually sit in one in a restaurant) - he wouldn't sit in a booster seat either - so he just sat on a regular chair next to us for about a month (which did look rather cute/silly), until we tried the booster again and now he is perfectly happy in it (we have the fisher price one mentioned above (~$25) - we don't use the tray, just push it up to the table and use a no-skid dish).


You guys are amazing! Thanks so much for all of your suggestions. I am thinking that I will definitely push dinner up by 1/2 hour for him. Knowing that it's not mandatory that he eat with us is a big relief. And I will start working on my "you are not freaking me out" face and will stop counting peas and pasta shells.

Also, knowing that I'm not creating bad habits by letting him out of the chair is incredibly helpful. It's just so hard to guess what's right for what age. We actually had him in the Fisher Price booster you guys mentioned when he was younger & then "graduated" him to the highchair! Looks like we went backwards on that. I'll drag the old booster out again tonight.

Anyway, I've got a fistful of notes and ideas about dinner and am eager to try them. I can't thank you enough, Moxie & all!


I totally agree with every single bit of advice Moxie gave - and especially with the "let him down as soon as he fusses" advice. I think it reinforces what little calm time they spend in the highchair, especially if they're let down before a full blown tantrum. If nothing else it might save your marriage a lot of stress (if you have a significant other in the room, too). No one feels happy with a screaming toddler, or watching an irritated adult. Both my little ones went through this, and peace has pretty much returned at mealtimes (my kids are now 20 months and 3 1/2 years). Good luck and great advice, Moxie!


Thought of one more thing--try putting food on your plate instead of his. He might just ask for it with a lot more interest (sometimes anyway). :)


If you feed him separately, I would encourage you to sit with him and snack on the same foods you're offering him. We're communal creatures, and eating together seems to me to be built into our emotional needs.

When I know dinner won't be on the table by the time my daughter (mentioned above by Brooke) needs to eat in order to be in bed before melting down, we sit at the table together and she has dinner while I snack on her dinner. Maybe she wouldn't care, but I really prefer it.


I am facing the problem of "i will not open my mouth to any food" with my 9-month-old naughty baby boy. I was really worried and depressed and when i read about all those comments of letting go and not getting really worried, i will try to do that. His food problem has become a constant worry on my mind and i can think of nothing else but what to feed him at the next meal and how will he take it. There is always a struggle between the both of us and as correctly said by someone "baby always wins" and i end up in depression because he has not eaten. I will try not to force feed him and let him go. But if there are other suggestion on how to deal with this, i would be happy to be advised.


hey, i have a 18 month old that is apparently underwieght and he is not eating when i give him his meal and i normally feed him veggies and things that he used to like and now he won't eat them. I don't know what to do can you please help me, i have gotten a lot of advise but a lot of it doesn't seem to work, like jst putting it on our coffee table, but i want him to know that he has to eat at the dinner table. But you know whatever will make him eat.


I have a daughter that is 15 months old and she gaves alot of problem to eat, i took her to 3 doctor , change her milk 3 times & the bottle & still she does not take her feeds well. at this present time i use a syringe to feed her & still she gaves alot of problem. she stop drinking her bottle at 9 months.Some doctors gave her peritol, a Appetite medaction & still it does not help. she does not want solid food also. Can you gave me a reason why she might be giving all this problem . Thank you so much

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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