Sudden Change In Appetite Among Toddlers? Here's When Not To WorryAn expert points out that a "child's food intake decreases accordingly when they hit 2 years old."CREATED WITH UNILAB
It’s impossible not to worry when the kids don’t eat as much as they would on a regular day or are suddenly exhibiting picky-eating tendencies. As parents, the first thing that instantly comes to mind is this: Is something wrong with my child?
A sudden loss of appetite can be linked to an illness, but it could also be a normal occurrence among toddlers. This is why knowing what is really causing this loss of appetite is the first step in properly dealing with it, followed by building healthy eating habits to make sure kids get the nutrients they need.
These are just some of the insights Dr. Jamie Isip-Cumpas, a pediatrician, shared with Smart Parenting during a recent interview. Here, she enumerated the possible causes of appetite change in toddlers, as well as ways to help boost their appetite.
What are the causes of change in appetite among toddlers
According to Dr. Isip-Cumpas, a decrease in food intake is pretty normal among toddlers because of their slower growth rate.
She said: “By the end of the first year of life, most children will have adapted to a schedule of three meals plus two snacks per day. [But,] since the rate of the child's growth decreases toward the end of the first year, the child's food intake also decreases accordingly when [they] hit 2 years old.”
She also pointed out that it’s also possible that kids turn away food because they snacked a bit too much in between mealtimes.
“As long as the toddler is gaining weight and developing appropriately for his age, then the sudden loss of appetite should usually be just temporary,” Dr. Isip-Cumpas emphasized.
However, if the loss of appetite extends for a longer period of time or is starting to affect the kids’ weight negatively, the pediatrician said that there could be underlying medical issues — such as common cold, gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, or viral systemic infections.
Kids who are experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation may also show a decrease in appetite, she said.
Stress could also be the culprit. As explained by the doctor: “Sudden appetite loss in children may also be related to stress or any changes in the child's schedule, a death in the family, [or] a change of environment or caregivers.”
“This loss of interest in food may also be accompanied by difficulty in sleeping or any other behavioral changes,” she added.
Why it’s essential to encourage a healthy appetite in kids
Parents know that a balanced, nutritious diet is essential for children to grow and develop properly — but that's not all there is to it. According to Dr. Isip-Cumpas, “When children have a healthy relationship with eating, then less feeding difficulties in the future arise.”
She said that often, these difficulties occur because parents can be “excessive” in their insistence on eating a certain way, and their kids not being able to comply. “But, when parents are aware of certain expectations regarding their child's food intake and when to worry, then there can be a much more pleasant mealtime for the whole family.”
“A child's eating habits are very much molded by the whole family's eating habits,” the doctor said. “As long as the whole family eats a varied diet and the child is growing and developing appropriately, then many of these episodes of loss of appetite are temporary, and the child will ultimately pick up the family's good and healthy eating habits.”
How to help kids have a healthy appetite
Here are some of the tips Dr. Isip-Cumpas shared to help parents encourage a healthy appetite in kids.
1. Encourage kids to eat on their own
Foster independent feeding by giving them their own set of utensils and letting them hold these with their own hands. Assist them only when necessary. It also helps to provide kids with seating fit for their age, such as a high chair or a booster seat.
Don’t be too much of a clean freak, too! Instead of constantly wiping children’s mouths, Dr. Isip-Cumpas advised to let them be messy when eating and just clean up after they’re done.
2. Make meals and mealtime schedules age-appropriate
Giving kids meals at three- to four-hour intervals, said Dr. Isip-Cumpas, would help maximize kids’ appetite. It’s also a good idea to limit mealtimes to just 20 to 30 minutes.
The doctor also recommended that the meals themselves be age-appropriate, have a variety to them, and are served in small portions.
3. Create an environment conducive for eating
During mealtimes, make sure kids can focus on just eating. No gadgets, toys, or books — even if they’re desperately asking for them.
Likewise, be aware of your own behavior or facial expression when sitting with your kids at the dining table. Hold in your temper even when you see them not eating as much as you’d like them to.
A “pleasant, neutral attitude with a smiling face” during mealtime is key, Dr. Isip-Cumpas said. “Mealtime is very much a social activity and a way to bond and converse with the rest of the family members. Keep the atmosphere pleasant and inviting especially for the young ones.”
4. Consider incorporating an appetite stimulant into kids’ diet
Giving kids an appetite stimulant is another way to boost a child’s appetite and help make sure they are getting the daily nutrients they need — provided that parents know and understand its cause. As Dr. Isip-Cumpas said: “If you don't address its underlying cause, you won't really be able to correct the loss of appetite.”
An appetite stimulant is a type of supplement that, when taken in as part of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, helps stimulate or increase a person’s desire to eat.
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Lysine is an essential amino acid that helps ensure proper growth. It aids a person’s metabolism, which in turn results in increased appetite. Iron is an essential mineral that helps lower the chances of anemia and helps in a person’s overall stamina. The different kinds of vitamin B assist the body in producing energy and help keep the nervous system and the blood healthy.
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Many factors affect children’s appetites and what matters is parents help them build healthy eating habits so they become #BatangGanadoSaLahat!
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Dr. Jamie Isip-Cumpas is a pediatrician who received her medical degree from the University of Santo Tomas. She finished her residency in pediatrics at The Medical City and is a facilitator at Education for the Upbringing of Children, or Educhild Philippines. She is not affiliated with Smart Parenting, Appebon®, and Unilab, and is not endorsing any of the brand’s products or services.
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