3 Year Old Not Eating Only Drinking Milk (Reasons Why & What To Do)

There could be so many different possible reasons why your toddler wouldn’t want to eat any food that you give them and just scream for milk every time. It is also understandable why you would give in and just hand them their bottle and have a peaceful meal for the family, but having too much milk is also not good, it can lead to iron-deficiency anemia or other nutritional deficiencies.

Toddlers are picky in general, they are especially particular with what they eat at this stage. They are playing between “I don’t like this because I don’t know what it is.” and “I only want to eat what I already know is delicious and is easy to make me full.”

Well, who could blame them, right? Milk is good, it’s great!

But as your little one continue to develop rapidly, they will need more nutrients, which is why they need to start eating solid foods.

Reasons why your toddler refuses to eat

When your child doesn’t eat, it’s not always because they don’t like the food in front of them.

A full meal requires your toddler to focus and chew their food, not to mention the sensory experience happening inside their mouth when tasting and feeling a new food for the first time.

It could be a lot to take in, that is why some kids choose to go back to their comfort food which by this age is their milk.

Here are more possible reasons that you might find helpful.

1. Growth has slowed down

By age 2 and 3 your toddler’s growth will slow down and so as their appetite, it will be right at this stage when picky eating will most likely start.

They can go 3 to 4 months without gaining much weight, they are not growing as fast which is why they need fewer calories, so they seem to have a poor appetite.

2. Picky eater

As mentioned above, this is just the same time when your toddler will start to be picky with what they eat, the appearance, smell, or overall sensory experience of unfamiliar food might be some of the factors why your child will reject the food that you offer.

There are also extreme cases of picky eaters that could lead to a more complicated eating disorder, you might want to keep an eye on that.

3. Pressure eating at mealtime

I would not do it nor recommend it to any parent. You have to trust your toddler and know that if they are truly hungry, you will not have to force or pressure them to feed.

It’s also important to consider the bigger impact these actions would do on your child.

If your child eats as you command and does what he’s asked may eat more than his internal body cues are telling him to.

Doing this over and over can negatively teach children to overeat.

4. Highly sensitive taste buds

Some children have more taste buds on the tongue, and they may be more sensitive to the chemical components of food, especially those of bitter and sour flavors.

If this is the case with your child, it can result in selective eating, especially with vegetables.

5. Texture aversion

If your child is hesitant to eat foods that are mushy, wet, or slippery, she may be exhibiting signs of sensory sensitivity.

Being sensitive to certain food characteristics can limit the diet, leading to poor eating and nutrition.

6. Stuck with a few favorites

You might think your toddler is not eating enough when in fact she is, just not the variety of foods that you wanted her to eat.

Do you cook a separate meal for your child or do you keep a precooked dish (usually your child’s favorite) that is ready to be heated if they refuse what you are serving for dinner tonight?

We all know that it is the easiest way for a peaceful meal but if you always give in to that trick and just give them the food they already know, your toddler may not find it in her to try it and possibly like it.

7. Over snacking

A toddler is happily snacking on some yogurt, too close to his next meal time, meaning he most likely won't eat much.

Toddlers are active and they will need snacks in between mealtime, you want to make sure these meals are within reasonable intervals because the possibility of your child not eating at dinner might be higher if they are still full from their previous snack which by the way includes their milk intake.

Side effects of too much milk for toddlers

Drinking too much milk can cause an imbalance in your toddlers’ diet, for children that are more than the age of 12 months, it is recommended that solid foods should be their main source of nutrition.

This allows them to get used to a healthy and varied diet, like what the rest of the family eats.

1. No space for solid foods

Giving your toddler too much milk can fill them up because of the high-fat content, giving them no more room for solid foods.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends toddlers 12 to 24 months consume 2–3 cups (16–24 ounces) of whole milk per day and children ages 2 to 5 years drink 2–2.5 cups (16–20 ounces) of low fat or skim milk per day.

This would give you plenty of chances to introduce new food that would expose them to new tastes and textures, which will not only give them the nutrients that they need but would also teach them something new, something a very curious toddler would love.

2. Milk Anemia

Also known as iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is a type of anemia where the body’s blood cannot supply tissues and organs with enough oxygen.

Milk affects our iron absorption, symptoms of IDA might include pale skin, poor appetite, fatigue, rapid breathing, frequent infections, slowed development, behavioral problems, and cravings for dirt, paint, or ice.

There is such thing as too much milk, after all, moderation is key to a balanced diet not only for children but for adults too.

3. Constipation

If your child is getting too much milk, it is most probably replacing foods that contain more fiber, which is helpful with their digestion.

Now that your toddler is eating solid foods, they will need more fiber to help them break down the food that they eat throughout the day, to help battle constipation (and a fussy toddler).

Ways to help your toddler eat more food

A toddler boy is having some soup, one of his favorite meals.

Parents and caregivers want the best for their babies and a big part of that is their diet, which is why it could get frustrating if they keep on refusing the food that we give them.

Most of the time they would choose what they know and is familiar with, they could be stuck in eating a specific set of foods or they could be over drinking their milk.

Here are some helpful tips that you can try with your toddler to encourage them with solid foods and to explore new tastes and textures.

Plan ahead

This could take an hour or two of your time but this will also ensure that your baby will get the complete set of vitamins and nutrients that they need in this growing stage.

I do a weekly plan to avoid shortage in supply because some meals if you serve 3 different kinds of vegetables, your baby will just eat the carrots and ask for more but refuse to eat the rest.

You need to constantly be ready to offer a different option or more of what they decide to eat for that meal.

Moderation is key

Everything should be in moderation by this age, this is particularly helpful for your child for them to learn and regulate their food intake as well as their hunger.

There is a suggested amount of food consumption depending on your child’s age and activities, some foods included on the list are dairy, grains, vegetables, fruits, and protein.

These are foods that contain the nutrients and vitamins that your growing child needs in order to meet their rapid development.

Space out meals

Make sure that meals and snacks (yes, milk is considered snack) are 3 hours apart to naturally let their true hunger build.

This will also help your child recognize their “hungry” state and would then let you know that they want food.

Avoid serving your kids an overwhelming amount of food so that they know it’s not such a hard task to eat, let them enjoy their food, and remove the pressure on mealtime.

Stick with routine

Once your child gets his system used to the routine of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between it will be easier for them to understand the concept of mealtime and what it would do for them.

Remove all distractions on the table like toys or a television that is playing in the background so that you and your toddler could focus on the food that they are trying to eat.

Constant communication

Your child may or may not be fluent in using their words just yet but they could still let you know what they want and don’t want to eat as well as the reason why they don’t like eating it.

This will help your child understand what they are eating more and not just that it makes the hunger go away.

FAQs

Can a toddler survive with just milk?

Milk still provides a great number of nutrients for a growing toddler but for their increasingly changing body, they would need more than what milk could provide which is iron and other vitamins which are important for their brain development.

What to do if your toddler refuses to eat/drink anything but milk?

It is a crucial stage for your child and the best advice that your could get is from someone who knows and understands and child’s needs and wants, talk to your baby’s pediatrician so you know what other options you have if you feel like you have tried everything that you can to help your child eat more.

Conclusion

It is such a struggle to feed a toddler sometimes and it could get very frustrating, the important thing to remember is that you are consistently trying your best to give them what they need and if what you are doing just won’t work then it’s better to ask help from professionals who know what to do and what other options you might haven’t tried yet.

Health is wealth, it has always been and will always be.

I hope that this article helped you in figuring out what next step to take in giving your child the help that they need, feel free to ask questions in the comment section or share your personal experience that might help us understand this topic better, stay healthy and happy!

Currently located in the Philippines. Mother of an active curly boy whose energy rarely runs out. When I am not busy keeping up with my son, you'll find me reading, cooking, or most of the time keeping the house clean.

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