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3 year old not eating

My daughter will be turning three in three more months.  For the past week, her appetite just isn't there.  I thought she was maybe constipated because she had been complaining off and on about a tummyache.  Then I picked her up from daycare last Friday and she was just really not herself.  She just stared out the window like she was exhausted.  I brought her in, and doc said nothing was wrong and that it was probably that she was constipated.  I have been trying to give her fiber rich foods, but she just won't eat.  She even passed on a lollipop.  She just held it in her hand.  So, I resorted to using a glycerin suppository last night, which did enable her to have a BM.  I did not give her one today, and she did not have a BM.  Her mood was ok, but she just really is not interested in eating at all.

I'm at a loss...I am worried that she is losing weight.  Especially since she hasn't really eaten much at all.  She probably eats 2 bites if I'm lucky.  But she does drink her juice.  I try to ensure that I don't refill her glass until she eats more.  And I've tried taking away TV after dinner if she doesn't eat.  Any thoughts?

Two to three year old are classically picky eaters and frequent complainers of stomachaches. It is unclear to me if your daughter’s scenario represents a normal variation or a situation that needs to be addressed.

A single week of decreased appetite does not concern me. Children often have weeks were they eat well and weeks where they eat poorly. When children are sick they (like adults) do not feel like eating. Is she currently sick? fever? cough?

A common parenting mistake is letting your child drink too much juice. Juice has enough calories to decrease hunger, but not enough calories to get kids to grow. We limit our kids to 2 to 6 ounces of juice in the morning with breakfast.

Stomachaches are also difficult at your daughters age. 2 to 3 year olds often localize all pains to their stomachs. Meaning children may feel upset, ear pain, tired, hungry or a even a headache and report their stomaches hurt.

Is she constipated or not? Is she having hard, pellet stools? Constipation would have to have been present for several months to stop a three year old from eating and running around.

If she is constipated it needs to be addressed. A glycerine suppository gives short term relief, but is not a long term solution. She would need to take a medicine by mouth and address stool withholding behavior. If she has constipation to this degree it should be managed by a physician.

2 to 3 year old children need very little to grow. Is she really losing weight? If she is losing weight than she has a serious issue and she needs to see her doctor. If she is eating little, but growing well than this is normal 3 year old behavior.

Bottom line: If she is not doing better than she should go see her doctor.



Written November 2011 by
Dr. Gordon, Windermere Pediatrician


 is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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