The Appetite Slump
Feeding my children has never been easy. My daughter, who was born two months premature, did not sprout her first teeth until she was 15 months old. While waiting for her to finally leave her toothless baby smile behind, we had to get creative in order to maintain her nutrition. It took a lot of work and creativity, but eventually we had her diet fairly well balanced.
And then we hit the Appetite Slump.
This severe decrease in appetite may happen at any point between the ages of one and five, but most people report its occurrence between two and three years of age. Suddenly your child doesn't seem to be eating enough, complains at meal times that he isn't hungry, or literally will not eat unless you feed him yourself. But don't panic! This is just a normal stage of child development.
Toddlers tend to only gain four or five pounds a year. In fact, my little guy who weighed 20 pounds on his five month birthday only weighed 26 pounds when he turned two years. When your child is going through a period of slowed growth, they need far less calories to survive, and thus the appetite slump occurs. The technical term is physiological anorexia, but most moms know it as the mealtime fight.
To be sure that your child is simply going through this natural phase, limit snacks to just one snack between each meal, and trust your child to feed himself what he needs at meal times. Also, if your child is able to feed himself, do not feed him. Offer foods that are easy for him to eat -- such as small portions of finger foods -- and be sure to not over-fill him with milk. If you are still concerned, feel free to supplement your child's meals with over-the-counter vitamins that are age appropriate and approved by your family's pediatrician. In the meantime, try to keep mealtime pleasant and relaxing and remember the great adage, "This too shall pass."
As with all things, there are rare cases where an appetite slump may be cause for concern. If your child is losing weight, hasn't gained any weight for six months, has other symptoms of illness, or gags or vomits on food, contact your physician.