6

My 14 months old daughter has stopped eating recently and drinking also. Before, she used to eat many different kinds of food.

About 3 weeks ago we took her to the doctor for her MMR vaccination and since then we noticed that she gradually lost her appetite and refused to eat. We took her to our local GP doctor and he said she looks fine, so nothing to worry about.

Today we took her to the emergency as she completely stopped eating or drinking and they said also that she is ok.

We are not sure what to do. To be honest, we are worried about her health, here in Norway they don't help so much, they want babies to grow naturally, but sometimes we need some kind of help. What should we do?

  • 1
    Did you notice any change in her behaviour? – Stephie Jul 18 '15 at 14:22
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    Has she been not drinking and eating for the whole three weeks, or did this happen a couple days ago? – Acire Jul 19 '15 at 13:14
  • Hi Any, may I ask you for an update on your situation? It's a particular situation, and I think some feedback from you would be very useful for present and future readers – Ciacciu Aug 24 '15 at 10:35
  • yes an update would be great. – Patoshi パトシ Jul 19 '16 at 17:53
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    My middle child received his first MMR at 24 months, and he stopped eating as well. He survived mostly on almond milk until the doctor prescribed Pediasure. He just turned 4 years old and is barely now beginning to eat a few things here and there. I kind of hoped for a follow up on your story...has your daughter began eating again? Did they ever find a medical reason for her loss of appetite and disinterest in food? – Lulu Jan 25 '17 at 6:00
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About 3 weeks ago we took her to the doctor for her MMR vaccination and since then we noticed that she gradually lost her appetite and refused to eat.

The timing of this change in appetite is obviously somewhat alarming to you. Parents often have a pretty good sense of if their children are truly ill (or different.)

You've seen two doctors now who have tried to reassure you, but you are still concerned. It's time to start collecting evidence, for your sake (and ultimately for the baby's sake.)

Stephanie gave good advice about dehydration. When it's that obvious to you, it will also be obvious to the doctor, so how do you judge less eating and drinking that doesn't produce such clear clinical signs?

Weigh her diapers.

Get a scale that measures grams. Weigh the diaper before you put it on; then weigh the diaper within a couple of minutes of coming off (or curl it into a ball so it can't dry out, and weigh as soon as possible.) That's called urinary output. Write it down every time. Record the poop and it's consistency, too. If she's only mildly dehydrated, her poop will be drier/harder, because the colon reabsorbs water from fecal matter. The less hydrated she is, the more water is reabsorbed, and the drier the poop will be.

Try to record her fluid intake, too.

This will be harder, because of spillage, guestimating, etc. Together, this is called I&Os - intake and output. If you're breastfeeding, this will obviously be impossible.

Don't bother recording her food intake.

If she is truly eating less over a sustained period of time, she will fall off her growth chart. At 14 months, she won't take long to do this. This is a girl's growth chart. It's used pretty much all over the world. You can get her previous readings from an office nurse (get the dates, too) and plot them out yourself.

Take videos of her playing and interacting.

Compare them to videos taken before. Are they really different? How? Make notations of loss of skills.

Doctors are human. If you're worried that this is vaccine-related, they will try to reassure you that it's not (and with good reason), because vaccine related illness is very rare. But not even doctors can argue with well-documented facts.

Do I think she's suffering from a vaccine-related illness? No, I don't. However, though rare, it's not impossible. Also, as stated by others, this could be any number of things, most of which are not serious.

I believe that in the presence of food and water in plenty, a normal child will not starve or dehydrate. You've seen two doctors who found nothing remarkable. Give it some time. It's not as if an anti-vaccine shot exists that must be given as soon as possible to make a non-specific cluster of symptoms disappear.

If she's becoming more constipated (stools are drier/harder), falling off her growth chart, or is, in a way that can be documented, different from before, take her back to the doctor with facts in hand. Facts are harder to ignore, and a reasonable doctor will look at them objectively. If the facts document that something has changed and the doctor still doesn't pay attention, ask for a second opinion.

My guess is that she will be fine, and this is the best anyone can do over the internet: guess. You, however, can do better. You can gather facts.

I hope this helps you to feel less powerless in this situation.

8

Worry is a normal part of parenting. Internet advice from another parent may help, but do try and take comfort in the current diagnosis from your local doctors.

Babies, children, and even adults go through phases of liking and disliking foods, phases of wanting to eat lots and wanting to eat little. Last week, my daughter would barely pick at her food. This week, she can't get enough.

As a parent, the best we can do is provide the opportunity. Keep on your routine. Feed her what you eat, when you eat. If she refuses, encourage. Don't force. And try not to worry. If she doesn't want a meal, encourage snacking. You might even make a game of it. Pour some cool water into a small cup, and let her practice sipping out of it. The new experience may invigorate her sprits.

I can tell you this: if you worry, your daughter will pick up on it. And it may change her mood. If you force her, she will likely refuse. Just keep encouraging her!

4

From experience, if a child refuses to eat, it may be because she's coming down with a cold, gastro-enteritis or someting. It could also be a mild virus infection that shows no "real" symptoms - there are like a billion of viruses out there and a clear diagnosis is sometimes almost impossible. Usually nothing to worry about. Another very simple reason to refuse food and drink is pain, so check for a sore throat or something as simple as teething. Another possible cause of pain is hand-foot-mouth disease, but I suppose that would have been diagnosed already.

If there is no apparent reason for her refusal, let her be. Children have very varying appetites and usually a good instinct of what they need and when. Offer her food and drink regularly and try to tempt her by putting out both her favourite and new choices. But honestly, this is for your benefit more than hers, as it would probably calm you to see her eating at least something. Make the food and drink available, but don't try to force or coax her into eating.

As for the consequences of her refusing to eat and drink:
A day or two of fasting isn't a problem, but monitor her well as far as fluids are concerned. Dehydration can be extremely dangerous for babies - and happen real fast, especially if she looses liquids (vomiting or diarrhea). Refusing to drink may be fine if is she still nursing or drinking formula, but not if she refuses all sources of liquids.

Do some research how to recognize dehydration in children and if she shows any symptoms, go back to the ER.


First symptoms are:

  • darker, smellier urine, fewer diapers
  • dry skin and mouth, parched lips
  • tearless crying
  • lethargy

Get your child to the ER at once if you (additionally) notice:

  • sunken eyes
  • in babies, a sunken fontanelle
  • discoloration / splotchiness on hands or feet
  • excessive sleepiness
  • dizzyness or disorientation (hard to spot at that age)
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Loss of appetite is a side effect that sometimes occurs after a measles vaccine.

In your situation, if a doctor determines that this is a simple reaction to the vaccine, and not a dangerous situation, it would be reasonable to expect him or her to - provide information about known possible reactions, including a list of symptoms that have been reported (one of which can be loss of appetite) - describe what to watch for -- under what circumstances should one bring the baby back in to the office, and under what circumstances one should take the baby to the ER - offer practical advice about how to keep the baby comfortable and hydrated.

If this particular GP is not a good match for you, you may want to consult a different one. You could ask around to find someone who might be a good fit -- the phrase I usually use to describe what sort of doctor I'm looking for is "allows me to partner with him or her in my (or my child's) health care." Or I ask, What do you like about your doctor?

ER doctors are a special breed. You can expect them to save your life, or stitch up a wound, but for more everyday concerns, they are not always as helpful as a GP.

You might want to get an appointment with a pediatrician if there is one in your area.

If you are nursing, and you are concerned about the effect the loss of appetite may have on your milk supply, you may want to contact a nursing mothers organization or a visiting nurse. (I lived in Denmark when my son was born, and there was a visiting nurse who came to my house to support breastfeeding and answer other questions -- I wonder if you have that in Norway.)

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