Feeding FAQ: 9-12 months – General Food Refusal

My baby of almost 1 year refuses lunch and wakes in the night after illness and starting nursery

My daughter, who is almost a year old, started nursery approximately 4 weeks ago. Unfortunately in her first week she picked up a virus which I don’t think has helped in her settling in. Since having the virus my daughter refuses to eat any lunch. She wakes around 7am has 4oz of milk from a cup followed by cereal and maybe some toast. She has a drink of water at around 10am and nothing else until lunchtime at around 11.45-12 noon. However, despite various attempts, she refuses everything that is put in front of her. I have tried her favourites and even foods she has not eaten before, just in case she was getting sick of the foods I was giving her, but unfortunately nothing seems to have worked. She then goes through the day with nothing else until tea at 5pm where she may or may not eat. She has milk at bedtime and is always in bed by 7pm. Unfortunately however she has now started to wake in the night, some nights she has cried off and on for half an hour or more and then gone back to sleep but some nights I am finding I am having to go to her to comfort her before she will go back to sleep.
The nursery she attends is very good and they do follow my routine, although she is so used to being with only me or my husband she is finding it extremely difficult to settle. Could the eating and sleeping problems all be connected to nursery?

If your daughter is still refusing to eat properly after a week of having a virus it would be a good idea to have her checked by your doctor to rule out any further problems. If all is well you will need to entice her to eat again. It can take a week or more for a baby’s appetite to properly return after illness.
Try making her lunch easy; things which can feed herself. Make it as attractive as possible, separating out the separate items, perhaps using a bowl with divisions. She can then see exactly what she is eating. Cut everything up into small pieces and encourage her to self-feed. Use finger food as much as you can – even things such as casserole can be spread onto bread rolls and offered. Give her small portions so she is not overwhelmed by the amount. Even if she does not eat her main meal, offer her a small amount of natural yoghurt and fruit puree as she may find this easier to eat if still feeling unwell.
The night-time waking could be due to feeling a little hungry, although it would seem unlikely as your daughter is not having a very big breakfast. It is more likely due to separation anxiety and starting at nursery. If she will settle herself back to sleep with no intervention then reassure her by day with lots of cuddles. If you do need to go in at night, try not to lift her from her cot but reassure her with your voice and a stroke or pat. Try to use the same words each night: “it’s night time, go to sleep”, then tuck her in if needed and leave. As she becomes more used to her nursery setting she is less likely to wake in the night. Keeping your interaction to the minimum at night as she adjusts to her new routine, will ensure she does not become dependant on you to help her return to sleep.
If your daughter does not already have a comfort object it may be a good idea to introduce one to her now. A small piece of blanket or soft toy which she can snuggle would be ideal. You may like to sleep with it yourself for a couple of nights before giving it to her. The familiar smell of you may help her in the night once she has begun to eat better and is more settled at nursery. If she does become attached to a comfort object, consider having a replacement and alternating their use to allow for washing and maybe being mislaid. Keep such an object for use in her cot only to help settle for naps and sleeping, not something she needs with her during the day.