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Appetite Slumps

Many parents worry that their toddler's appetite has decreased. Appetite slumps are common between the ages of 1-5 and especially between the ages of 18 months to 3 years old. Children these ages are so interested in their newfound freedom (being able to walk) and explore their environment that many times they do not want to sit still for a meal! During these ages children are also not growing nearly as fast as they did during their first year of life. It is often normal for a toddler to gain 3-5 pounds a year. If your child has a normal energy level and is on a similar growth path on their growth chart, usually a decrease in appetite is normal.
It is important to follow your child's lead in regards to quantity of food. Please do not force feed your child as this can interfere with the normal pleasure of eating and teach your child to eat past their normal state of fullness which can result in overeating and obesity. Your child will usually eat enough calories to play and continue growing at their appropriate rate.
When feeding a toddler, you should offer healthy options (such as vegetables, fish, chicken, eggs, fruit) instead of processed carbohydrates and sugars (such as cereals, white rice, Goldfish, Animal Crackers). This way, even if your toddler only eats a few bites, you know they are getting the nutrients they need. Also, try serving your toddler less food than you think they can eat, so that they feel accomplished when they finish what is on their plate. If they want more, you can always give it to them. Limit snacks to healthy options at most twice a day and only if your child asks. Also take a look at what liquids your toddler is eating. Water is the best drink for toddlers as fruit juice is high in sugar and lacks the fiber that would normally make them feel full. It is much better to eat a fruit than drink fruit juice. The maximum amount of milk recommended for a toddler is 16oz per day. If your toddler is drinking more than 16oz of milk than they will not have room for the nutrients that they need to take in from solid food (remember that cow's milk is an appropriate diet for a baby cow, not a baby human!). If your child eats leafy greens and/or cheese or greek yogurt, than they are usually getting plenty of calcium and do not even need any cow's milk in their daily diet. Once your child is capable of feeding themselves, please let them do so (even if it makes a mess!). Softer finger foods can be started around 8-10 months and most children can spoon feed themselves by 15 months.
Eating in our culture is a very social event. Bring your child into family meal times and draw them into the conversations. Avoid making mealtimes a time for criticism or a battle for control. If you have questions or concerns please bring your child into the office. Concerning signs would be if your child is loosing weight, has associated symptoms of illness such as diarrhea or fever, your child gags or vomits some foods, or someone is punishing your child for not eating. Your child's appetite will increase when they become older and need more calories. And remember skipping a meal here or there is harmless.

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