Radical change in behavior...not in a good way


Camille Ho

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Right. We're on Day 7 of our first ever whole30. We've kept our 16-month old son following the guidelines as best we could (he had yogurt at his grandparents house a few days ago...it's a losing battle). I know that people have said that this program has really made a change in their child's behavior for the better, but we're really experiencing the opposite of that.

Over the past week he has morphed from a happy, relaxed kid, to one that throws a tantrum at EVERYTHING (even if he gets his way, he lays down on the floor and screams). For the last three nights, he's spent at least 2-3 hours screaming bloody murder and will not be pacified by anything but nursing (we had him nightweaned before we started). My husband slept on the couch last night, it got so bad with him (which is something I swore we'd never do when we started co-sleeping). He's started eating more food, but this doesn't seem to be helping his behavior at all.

My husband is stressed out about it all and is ready to throw in the towel on restricting foods for our son, while I'm trying to convince him that it can't be the diet because all of the science says otherwise (but I'm starting to wonder myself). I know that eating grains/dairy/processed foods cannot be beneficial to his system, but I don't understand this huge shift in his behavior. He's violent, angry, and absolutely cannot be pacified by anything (except breastfeeding and that only for a little while).

I'm just coming to the end of my rope with this. It's hard enough to regulate my own food and fight all of my twisted emotional ties without worrying about my son and everything going on here.

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It has been a while since I had a baby around, but he sounds just plain hungry and is not able to communicate that to you.

Can you still follow the plan yet offer more starchy vegetables and fruits?

If that doesn't work, it might be worth an experiment to reintroduce some foods for him, like grains, to see if that helps. Just an opinion!

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I'm a firm believer that with kids you do what you need to do in order to survive. When he's that cranky it makes the whole family totally stressed and miserable, you doubly so, 'cos you'll be feeling bad yourself and also bad for the way your son and husband are feeling. 16 months is the age where they usually start to discover they've got a mind and will of their own and unfortunately it very rarely seems to coincide with ours.

You've completely changed his diet and he probably feels miffed that he wasn't consulted about this. He wants to assert his own independence but is limited how he can do that, food and sleeping are two of the very few ways he's got.

I totally wish I'd introduced this way of eating to my kids when they were little, it's far too late now, so I can understand your desire to get him on board with this. However, if I were you, I'd take a look at his previous diet and divide it up into categories, things you really don't want him eating, things you feel would be OK occasionally and foods you feel, while maybe not W30 compliant, are still wholesome and you're happy to have him eat. Then I'd let him eat those while continually offering tastes of new things. Just because he doesn't jump on board now, doesn't mean he never will. He may just need more time to transition gradually.

Above all be gentle on yourself, you're a great mother and doing the best you can. good luck however you decide to tackle it.

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hmm, I have a question: how often are you offering food? Every time you think "giving him some fishy crackers would solve this" (if that's what your thinking) hand over some cut up apples, steamed broccoli, chunks of roast turkey, whatever. If you keep offering it, and keep not offering the stuff you don't want him to have, I have to think eventually he would eat it.

I don't have kids, but I volunteer with them, and I find most kids will eat the following (plain and not mixed with other foods): roasted sweet potato (cubed or fry-shaped), steamed broccoli, cut up apples, pineapple, bananas, strawberries, turkey lunch meat (cubed or rolled up), plain roast chicken chunks, slider-sized hamburgers or turkey burgers (no bun needed). Many kids will also eat peeled sliced cucumbers, peaches, blueberries, scrambled eggs (for the youngest babies, offer yolks only), pea pods, orange slices/mandarines. If your kid is acting up because he's hungry, keep offering the foods you want him to eat (over and over, even if it isn't "meal time"). If he's going through a growth spurt or is mad about changes you've been making, those issues will resolve themselves in time.

good luck!

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I think I posted this in another section to someone else, but perhaps (like suggested above) you could do it on a sliding scale so its not so much gone all at once. For my kids (4 and 21 months) We got rid of gluten, dairy and soy first. Got used to that. Still allow the kids to have gf items occasionally (pasta, cookies, crackers, etc). We make all of our meals grain free for the most part, but will occasionally have corn with supper. Got the grammas on board with gf so they serve gf and dairy free things for the kids at their houses (pancakes etc) They still eat gf cereal w coconut milk.

In the transition, and one of the things we still struggle with, we realized we don't give them enough fat. So we're working on that, to he'll keep them full.

His moods could be stemming from less sugar, it enough food or just simply not liking the change.

What is missing that you think he misses the most?

There are some excellent muffin recipes (made with coconut flour and maple syrup) in Practical Paleo. We make mini ones for the kids, or put them in the cake pop maker so they are like little donut-holes.

It may be hard now but it will be so worth it later. My son was 18 months when we started this. It was easier for him then for my daughter because she was more aware of what we were taking away.

Good luck to you!

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I think you guys are so right.

My husband is a lot more comfortable with this, so I think we'll start dairy and GF and then move on from there. I was already eating GF before we started whole30, and he was used to oatmeal and GF pasta, so maybe we can slip those things back in occasionally...he did pretty well yesterday actually, ate a whole bunch of fruit and some good meat. I think his grandma can handle dairy and GF a lot better than our whole30 rules, and that will make it a bit easier for us too...

A few friends of mine reassured me that this is a common stage to go through at this age as well, so I know we have that to combat too. Just having it all coupled together is making it rough going!

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I say it's the detox phase as well, think of how bad most people feel when quitting all the junk, I know Whole9 has a post on it somewhere, the stages you go thru in the first couple weeks. I know I felt like hell the first two weeks when I started eating right, and he may be getting some detox stuff through your breastmilk, personally I'd keep it up for another week before I'd give in. At one week you should be through the worst of it, or at least I'd hope so :)

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I am pleased to announce that our happy guy is back (for the most part--we still have occasional meltdowns, but that's the age for you) and doing really well with the food now.

We've decided to just go dairy and gluten free with him for a start, and really the only thing he's eating that we're not is some oatmeal in the morning and a bit of gluten free pasta. But it's so great, because all of a sudden he's chowing down on veggies he never used to like (or even try) and is eating plenty of food. I'm so glad we stuck it out!

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  • 6 months later...

My kids were slowly weened off wheat, dairy, legumes, sugar during my husband and I's first w30 last month. Previously we had moved away from nearly all processed foods. One would think this transition would be easy enough for my kids (ages 3, 5, 7). Oh.My.Gosh!! My 3yo (nearly4), had the most epic temper tantrum EVER today. It lasted through most of a two hour stretch. Screaming at the top of her lungs, kicking, throwing her body, punching things, more screaming, hyperventilating, tears, tears and more tears. It was horrible!!! She has never acted this bad. Nothing more than like 10 minutes. 2 hours! She has been having a really, really rough week. Lots of screaming, demanding and lashing outs. I have to assume it is the tweak in diet. But man. I don't know what to do with her.

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It was also possible that something entirely not food related was going on at the same time. At 16 months old, it is really hard to figure out what the heck they are crying about sometimes. My daughter has gone from being happy-go-lucky to having a horrible out of the blue week or two, and when I can reflect and actually figure out what happened, it turns out there was some weird thing going on with her sleeping pattern (who knows why?) or maybe I was having a crappy week (kids really pick up on this, so if you two were going through a detox at the same time, that could be all it was).

I think 7 days is not long enough to be able to blame it on a dietary change, and the fact that it eased up when you made another dietary change doesn't necessarily prove it had anything to do with that in the first place. Too bad they can't just tell us what the heck is going on!

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First, I wish my kids had never seem a box of bunny crackers or a chicken nugget (we get the Applegate kind, but still--it was the only thing my son would eat for about two years). So bravo on starting early.

That said, I think transitioning a baby would be hard. As PP said, they can't communicate. It might feel scary to suddenly lose familiar items. A 16 month old is developing complex feelings but lacks communication skills = frustration. (I also am not sure how you'd even distinguish "behavior" problems from being a baby at 16mo, unless we are talking about something intense and ongoing or major developmental issues. What you described could have been hunger, as kb suggested, or teething, an oncoming developmental growth spurt, getting sick or just an unexplained crappy baby day.)

I get the appeal of the rip-off-the-bandaid approach, but I'm having more luck gently transitioning my kids (5, almost 2). First I got rid of the cereal and bunny crackers. Now we are doing gluten in general. I still make them grass-fed yogurt, but cut down other dairy. And we, most importantly, are eating a lot more high Q meat.

I think you can reason with a 9yo but a 16mo has no idea what's going on--just that they can't get the foods that usually soothe. It's great to start young, but be patient, and patient with yourself! And yeah--a 16mo has a lot going on. Keep offering, keep trying.

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My kids were slowly weened off wheat, dairy, legumes, sugar during my husband and I's first w30 last month. Previously we had moved away from nearly all processed foods. One would think this transition would be easy enough for my kids (ages 3, 5, 7). Oh.My.Gosh!! My 3yo (nearly4), had the most epic temper tantrum EVER today. It lasted through most of a two hour stretch. Screaming at the top of her lungs, kicking, throwing her body, punching things, more screaming, hyperventilating, tears, tears and more tears. It was horrible!!! She has never acted this bad. Nothing more than like 10 minutes. 2 hours! She has been having a really, really rough week. Lots of screaming, demanding and lashing outs. I have to assume it is the tweak in diet. But man. I don't know what to do with her.

My nearly 4 YO is doing this very thing right now. I can guarantee that it's not diet related (for her) as our diet hasn't really changed in more than 2 years :) It could just be a kid-phase deal.

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