Author Topic: Kid not eating enough at dinner then complaining when we put her down...  (Read 2108 times)

jeromedawg

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Hey all

Wondering what those of you who have gone through this do when your kid often fusses and won't stop wailing because they're hungry at bedtime. And the reason they're hungry apparently is because they refused to eat most or all of their dinner. This has been happening with our younger one but it also happens with the older one too. Our schedules get out of order sometimes so that could be part of it. But my wife tries to feed them on a pretty regular schedule. The little one often says "All done" at dinner but then when we put her down she cries until we give her a string cheese and water.

reeshau

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How many hours is it between dinner and bedtime?  Smaller bodies are smaller systems, so they do empty faster than an adult; that's why snacks are needed throughout the day, too.  (of course, I snack too, but that's a different story)

For our son, we gave him a nightly bottle before bedtime into his 2's, and far after he was weened from the bottle for the rest of the day.  This was for 3 reasons: first, to get him to sleep through the night without waking hungry; second, to supplement vitamins and protein, as he was fussy about proteins, in particular; and third with something warm to calm him.

I'm not saying that's a catch-all, but I don't think it's bad to give her string cheese as a snack before bed, on the face of it.  Of course, son has also used hungry as a stalling tactic to going to bed, so we have to know when to call his bluff. And, at 3, we are past that phase, and he eats a big dinner sometime between 6-7 and goes to sleep just after 9:00 with no issues.  Your child may vary, but that's what worked for us.

elliha

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How old is the child? With a little one I would just make eating that string cheese and water as part of the bedtime routine no wailing necessary. If it is an older child, over 3-4 years of age that is not under weight I would explain before dinner that tonight there will be no string cheese, only water and you need to have all your food at dinner. Then I would let the child get over it and comfort if necessary but stick to this decision.

This is of course given that you do eat dinner reasonably close to bedtime so the child really isn't hungry for real. In that case I would serve something as a last snack like string cheese or something else that is not likely to make the child very energetic until they are old enough to not need this. My husband still really likes a sandwich before bed something I have never been used to and in fact I get problems with acid if I do eat one. My midwife during my last pregnancy was very angry with me for not having a last snack before bedtime and thought that I went without food too long each night as I don't have breakfast normally either. I just couldn't change the way I was wired though, pregnant or not.

cats

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If my son refuses to eat/finish a meal and says "all done", I let him leave the table and put his uneaten food in the fridge.  Then if he starts saying he's hungry or wants to eat later (like when it's naptime/bedtime), I say okay, do you want to finish the lunch/dinner from earlier?  If he says no, he wants something else, I tell him he has to finish the uneaten lunch/dinner first, and then we can discuss further snacks.  He has always either agreed to eat the remaining meal from earlier or decided he's not really hungry after all.  I don't really have a problem with dinner being split into two phases (though I might if it was happening often), but I don't want him learning that he can refuse to eat his main meal and then just replace it with a snack food later.

mxt0133

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I used to be a big stickler about family meals and eating at set times.  But then reality hit and my kids don't follow my eating schedule and when I tried to enforce it was just too stressful for the whole family for no reason other than my own stubbornness.

I eat at my schedule and ask the kids if they want to join me if we don't have some schedule to follow.  Otherwise they eat when they are hungry which for the most part is during normal breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours.  If they decide to skip a meal we don't force them to eat and usually make up for it during dinner or snack time.  Our household has become much more stress free once I let go of my family meal time expectations.  As other's have said as long as we don't waste food I don't care when they eat.

Zamboni

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My kids eat a huge amount of food . . . they cannot get all of the calories they need in 3 meals, period. When they were babies they nursed every three hours around the clock. When I tried to stretch it to four, following advice in books, they became very agitated. At one point I pumped and bottle fed to see how much they were eating: 40 ounces at every sitting, every 3 hours. Egad! No wonder I was exhausted.

So now that they are older they sit for meals with the family during which time they decide how much to put on their plate to eat, and then I let them eat whenever they want between meals. When they were preschool age, I had a "snack basket" on a low shelf that was filled with pieces of fruit, nuts, and a couple of granola bars. They had freedom to always eat food from the basket and I did not try to regulate what or how much they ate other than just not refilling the basket with a particular item. Was their dinner "spoiled" sometimes? Sure. Since I let them scoop their own portions, they just scooped much less if they were full from binging on fruit and nuts.

Now, as teenagers, they have full fridge and cupboard access. Guess what? They often eat pieces of fruit and yogurt, etc. as snacks all on their own. Sometimes they want salad with their dinner. It's amazing. Sometimes my daughter chooses to eat 3 cups of yogurt within 30 minutes (and she is still thin.) I never say anything about it.

Around 8 pm I often make a big production of announcing "The kitchen is now officially closed. If you want more to eat, then you will have to make it yourself." They always eat more. I don't worry about it as long as they clean up after themselves.

I've never understood the huge control issue parents make of eating and food . . . seems to me like it sets people up for problems later.

jezebel

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We always eat as a family, sometime between 5:30 and 7pm.  Our youngest is a very light dinner eater, generally.  They have to stay seated during dinner and we gently encourage eating but don't force it.  Both kids frequently express hunger at bedtime unless we eat later, around 7.  We offer the same thing each time, whole milk and/or a banana during story time.  It's quick, filling, and they don't eat bananas unless they are legitimately hungry.

You may want to push dinner time back a bit closer to bedtime if she is consistently not that hungry during dinner.  If that's not the issue, I might offer a quick whole food at bedtime that she would reject unless truly hungry.  It solves the problem without encouraging the practice.

ETA to respond to Zamboni, it's not a control issue for us.  Our kids basically have unlimited access to fruit, even as we are about to serve dinner.  But skipping dinner and eating at bedtime is not a practice that will fly in my house (which I think is the OP's concern).  Dinner is at the time it is for a reason, namely that my little kids go to bed at 8 because they wake up at 6 or earlier. 
« Last Edit: June 26, 2018, 11:52:27 AM by jezebel »

ysette9

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My oldest is a light eater and always has been, so when she complains about being hungry at bedtime it usually is legit. We offer whole milk but no food so that she gets calories if she needs them, but it isn’t a drawn-out delay tactic.

Side note: was that a typo? How can any baby drink 40 fl. oz. (1.2L, right) a session??

Zamboni

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Lol, yes, that was per day . . . my bad. Hilarious, though, either way. My poor boobies . . .

Some cultures eat dinner at 10 pm. In those countries, earlier dinner would be considered weird. Something to ponder.

TrMama

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Try serving dinner later. They'll eat more if they're actually hungry, plus then you'll have fewer hours until bedtime.

However, it's only likely to get you a temporary reprieve. Children are like hobbits. Mealtimes for my super active kid go, breakfast, 2nd breakfast, elevensies, lunch, teatime, dinner, 2nd dinner. And the 2nd dinner is often a real meal she eats at the table. String cheese and water would never cut it.

jezebel

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Lol, yes, that was per day . . . my bad. Hilarious, though, either way. My poor boobies . . .

Some cultures eat dinner at 10 pm. In those countries, earlier dinner would be considered weird. Something to ponder.

Yes, and in some cultures, the bus doesn't come at 6:30 AM.  You can't take one aspect of a culture out of context.

Cassie

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i always gave my little kids a bedtime snack.  Their tummies are little and can't hold a lot of food.

ysette9

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Lol, yes, that was per day . . . my bad. Hilarious, though, either way. My poor boobies . . .

Some cultures eat dinner at 10 pm. In those countries, earlier dinner would be considered weird. Something to ponder.
That sounds more like it! My little one was in that same 1L+ a day range before she started solids too, eating every three hours around the clock. No hope of sleep training in that situation. It does eventually get a bit better once you can feed them things like avocado.

ysette9

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Try serving dinner later. They'll eat more if they're actually hungry, plus then you'll have fewer hours until bedtime.

However, it's only likely to get you a temporary reprieve. Children are like hobbits. Mealtimes for my super active kid go, breakfast, 2nd breakfast, elevensies, lunch, teatime, dinner, 2nd dinner. And the 2nd dinner is often a real meal she eats at the table. String cheese and water would never cut it.
My big one is just like me in that we have to eat every three hours or disaster ensues. So yes, breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner (for me, pre-bedtime snack). When I lived in France where snacking between meals is frowned on and y host family didn’t eat dinner until 7:30pm I spent most of my time famished.

Zamboni

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Lol, yes, that was per day . . . my bad. Hilarious, though, either way. My poor boobies . . .

Some cultures eat dinner at 10 pm. In those countries, earlier dinner would be considered weird. Something to ponder.

Yes, and in some cultures, the bus doesn't come at 6:30 AM.  You can't take one aspect of a culture out of context.

6:30 am is actually later than our bus time and it is totally uncivilized . . . one more reason for me to move overseas!

talltexan

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Mid-year my daughter's bus time was moved from 7:25 to 7:35. I cannot tell you how much that relaxed our household morning routine. Even ten minutes made such a difference.

Mon€yp€nny

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Our kids are not too keen on dinner either. They get cold milk or water before bed. We don't give them anything else when they are hungry. They had the chance to eat but they didn't want it, next meal will be in the morning.

nessness

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3.5-year-old: if she has eaten an appropriate amount of dinner, she can have a healthy snack, like a piece of fruit. If she hasn't eaten much dinner, she is offered more dinner. But once we tell her it's time to get ready for bed, she is no longer allowed to tell us she's hungry or ask for snacks.

Side note: I don't believe in making kids eat food they don't like. Our rule is that she has to try dinner, but if she doesn't like it, she can have a substitute meal of my choice (usually a PB sandwich, which she likes okay but not enough that she'll forgo other foods she likes for it).

16-month-old: She generally goes to bed shortly after dinner. If she eats very little at dinner she'll wake up hungry in the middle of the night, so I'll make sure to offer at least one food I know she'll eat with dinner, but she doesn't snack after dinner. Depending on how old your younger one is, I'd probably just start offering her string cheese with dinner, that way she gets fed but doesn't "win" by refusing her dinner and getting what she wants.

jezebel

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We don't offer an alternative dinner.  But we always include at least one side item that we know the kids will eat.

Cassie

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I didn’t want to fight about food with my kids. If they didn’t like dinner then they could have a pj sandwich.  I was strict about many things but not food.

elliha

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When it comes to food I think that it is important to find a good balance. I think that most kids need some control of their food intake done by parents and some on their own and what is best is not necessarily the same for all kids. My daughter is really bad at controlling how much she eats. As a baby she would eat and eat whatever we served and didn't stop eating until it was gone or she puked. No problem at all when she was nursing but once regular food was introduced we saw this happen and we obviously started controlling how much was put on her plate to avoid overeating. She ate the food on her plate and occasionally asked for more which she was given but not a third portion. Slowly she has learned to eat more reasonable amounts and now only occasionally need to be told that she has had enough. Her grandma had a lot of problems with this and told us we were too controlling and she kept sneaking food to her outside of meal times and then she would not eat during the more important meals and then grandma fussed about that which we never do. Don't want to eat? Are you feeling well? Was it not tasty? OK, you can have a sandwich or some yogurt. It was tasty but you are full? OK that is fine. We do let her have a snack if it is not just before lunch or dinner for example fruit, crackers or cheese so she is not starved either but just letting her pick what to eat and when was not working out.

Our son is a fruit-maniac, he will eat fruit at any time we do stop him from eating it just before meals but he is pretty good at regulating his intake so we don't have to be as watchful with him as his sister. He is also more fussy with food and will only have potatoes one day, only vegetables another or only meat another. Some days he only wants ketchup... We offer everything on the plate unless I know he will not eat it like with certain meats but we are aware of that he will often not finish it but still get good enough nutrition to get through the day. He will stuff himself with potatoes if that is his food of the day and tomorrow he will have carrots. Looking at the week as a whole he eats a good balanced diet.

ysette9

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I heard that you need to judge balances nutritional intake for kids over a time period of a week, not a day. So if the kid eats only fruit today and only potatoes tomorrow that is okay, provided the rest of the week balances that out. 

MDfive21

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i worked this question into our bedtime routine.  'is your belly full?'

dinner, bath, ask the question, bedtime.  give yourself enough time to go in the kitchen with the kid, find something that requires no cooking or cleanup, eat quickly in the kitchen, then it's off to bed.  keeping it quick reduces the potential for bedtime stalling.  'i'm hungry' often means 'i want to stay up later' or 'i want to watch another peppa pig episode' so keeping it quick and supervising means no more videos and no stalling.

tyrannostache

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Is this every night? Our older kid went through few stretches like this between the ages of 2 and 4. We would just give her a cheese stick or a cup of whole milk--I figured she was having a big growth spurt.

bogart

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Can't add much to what the other posters have said, but count me among those who give an alternative dinner option (could be PB & J or a banana, honestly whatever's easy + a routine not-too-desirable-but-liked-food) and whose kid pretty routinely eats a second supper even if (as he usually does) he ate a good first supper.  No sense of how old the OP kid is and mine's now almost a teenager, but not unheard of for him to eat, say, a bowl of cereal, a banana, and two pieces of toast ~30 minutes before bedtime, after having eaten a good dinner.  He's also incredibly active and weighs about (I just did the math) 1.3 lbs. per inch of height, so -- on the scrawny side; I figure he just needs the food.

talltexan

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My son pulled this last night. My wife and I fought about it, then we gave him blueberries, and that seemed to satisfy him, although it meant he got to sleep a lot later. Hoping it's just a growth spurt thing. 

TheWifeHalf

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Until menopause set in, I was the same way, so I understood my kids needed something before bed. So they got it, almost always a nutritious something

mm1970

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If my son refuses to eat/finish a meal and says "all done", I let him leave the table and put his uneaten food in the fridge.  Then if he starts saying he's hungry or wants to eat later (like when it's naptime/bedtime), I say okay, do you want to finish the lunch/dinner from earlier?  If he says no, he wants something else, I tell him he has to finish the uneaten lunch/dinner first, and then we can discuss further snacks.  He has always either agreed to eat the remaining meal from earlier or decided he's not really hungry after all.  I don't really have a problem with dinner being split into two phases (though I might if it was happening often), but I don't want him learning that he can refuse to eat his main meal and then just replace it with a snack food later.

This is what we do.  Our kids are now 6 and 12.  The 6 year old can't eat a ton in one sitting.  If we have dinner at 6 and he's hungry at 8:30, I give him his leftover dinner, or some fruit.

Sometimes he's trying to delay bedtime.  Sometimes he's hungry.  If we assume it's #1 and it's really #2, we pay for it, because he won't sleep well - will wake up hungry in the  middle of the night.

2Cent

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Hey all

Wondering what those of you who have gone through this do when your kid often fusses and won't stop wailing because they're hungry at bedtime. And the reason they're hungry apparently is because they refused to eat most or all of their dinner. This has been happening with our younger one but it also happens with the older one too. Our schedules get out of order sometimes so that could be part of it. But my wife tries to feed them on a pretty regular schedule. The little one often says "All done" at dinner but then when we put her down she cries until we give her a string cheese and water.
When was the last snack time? In our daycare they used to give a big snack at 4:30. So yea, they won't be very hungry by 6. After moving dinner to 7 they ate better and didn't need food before sleeping or in the night anymore. They would wake up at 6 though, so in the weekend we'd put a small snack next to their bed so they'd give us an extra half hour.