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7 Reasons Why Your Toddler Has Lost Their Appetite

Sometimes a toddler who won’t eat is just being picky, but an appetite that isn’t there at all is another story. Your concern is justified if you’re worried about your toddler’s loss of appetite. Often, a toddler’s loss of appetite is a sign of an underlying medical condition that needs treatment. 

At Westmed Family Healthcare in Westminster, Colorado, board-certified family physicians Clifton Etienne, MD, Michael Cavanaugh, MD, and Flora Brewington, MD, provide infant care and urgent care visits when your toddler isn’t being themselves. 

Sometimes small children don’t have the words to express their physical or emotional feelings, so clues like not eating can tell you they’re not feeling well. 

Before you pick up the phone to book a sick visit, you can try simple strategies to encourage your toddler to eat like offering their preferred foods or keeping distractions away from the dinner table. 

It’s important to note that many children between ages one and five experience appetite fluctuations, and they’re often not cause for concern. If you’re still worried, consider these possible reasons for your child’s low appetite:

1. A recent developmental leap

Early childhood is full of incremental growth spurts and developmental milestones. Sometimes kids eat less because they’re busy exploring their new abilities. Your little one might avoid a meal because they’re exercising a new level of independence and control. 

2. A sensory issue

Eating is a sensory experience for everyone, especially a growing toddler. Your child might take issue with a part of the sensory experience of eating specific foods or food types. Perhaps food is too crunchy, wiggly, or smelly for your child’s sensibilities. 

While a little sensory defiance is typical for toddlers, extreme sensory preferences or dislikes could indicate a sensory processing disorder. 

3. Fatigue

After a long day of activity or a long night of disrupted sleep, your toddler might be too tired to eat. Occasional mealtime fatigue is typical, but if it happens a lot, consider increasing the size of specific meals while reducing others. For example, if your child is going to expend a lot of energy on a particular day, consider feeding them a big breakfast and a lighter dinner. 

4. Teething

As your child transitions from infancy to toddlerhood, teething becomes a complex challenge. Your child might cry more often as new teeth erupt, or they might decline to eat because of their discomfort. To bypass this issue, consider giving your child cold foods that soothe the sore areas of their mouth. 

5. An infection

From ear infections to the common cold, many common infections can reduce the appetites of small children. If your child’s infection doesn’t have symptoms you can see like a runny nose, a low appetite could be a sign of an illness you’ll notice eventually. 

Infections that cause a sore throat or fever are especially likely to stifle a toddler’s appetite. If you suspect your child is sick, don’t hesitate to book a sick visit at Westmed Family Healthcare. 

6. Food sensitivities

Many children are born with food sensitivities or develop them as they grow. Around 8% of children in the United States experience food allergies, and many more experience sensitivities like celiac disease. 

Sensitivities don’t cause life-threatening reactions like some food allergies, but they can cause digestive symptoms in toddlers like gas, bloating, diarrhea, and tummy pain. 

7. Constipation

Constipation in toddlers is caused by very solid stools which slow down the latter end of the digestion process. Beyond a reduced appetite, a constipated child might have fewer than three bowel movements a week, distinctly large stools, or painful bowel movements. 

Visit us for a sick visit today

If your toddler’s low appetite doesn’t let up or comes with other symptoms like diarrhea or fever, it’s time for a sick visit. Call Westmed Family Healthcare today to book an appointment or schedule one online anytime.

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