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How to manage food refusal

We all know meal times can be a stressful part of parenting so I would like to share some advice from my Save Our Sleep Feeding book to help with food refusal. These common toddler feeding issues have simple solutions and I may just have the to answer your prayers.

Once your toddler is twelve months and you start to see their individual personality come out you might notice a few things that they do that you are not overly happy with, for example hunger tantrums, cupboard raids, food refusal or you might have a toddler who will only eat in front of the television.

Below I discuss the most common problems parents of toddlers have contacted me about.

How to manage food refusal

If your toddler refuses to eat her meal you will only encourage further refusals if you try to cajole her into eating, or keep offering different foods in the hope she will eat something.

At each meal offer your toddler the food you have prepared for her. Set a timer for 20 minutes and then invite her to the table. If she refuses to eat the meal or asks for something else, say, ‘No, this is your dinner today. If you aren’t hungry that’s fine, you can leave the table. If you change your mind later your meal will be here for 20 minutes.’

If your toddler has not come to the table and eaten within 20 minutes, tell her dinner is over and take her meal away. But if she asks for her dinner within the next hour, give it to her. Within a few days you should find your toddler is back to eating her usual amount of lunch or dinner.

If your toddler only wants to eat junk food, I recommend you continue to offer healthy food and nothing else. If she is willing to sit at the table but won’t eat, you get a timer and say, ‘In 20 minutes your mealtime is over’. If she refuses to eat, take the meal away and don’t offer her any more food until the next mealtime. But you can bring the next mealtime forward if you think your child is hungry or if she is asking for food.

Watching TV at mealtime

Turning on the TV or playing a DVD to distract your child at mealtime can cause all sorts of problems.

The routine can get to the stage where she won’t eat unless the TV is on, which means she is unlikely to eat outside the home. There is also the risk your child will associate TV with eating and will demand snacks every time the TV goes on.

If your child is already addicted to TV, I recommend you follow my approach described above for dealing with children addicted to junk food.

Read more on toddler tantrums at meal times – Is your child having a hunger tantrum?

For more tips and advice read Save our Sleep feeding guide

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