The boy who refuses to eat

By Cara Sulieman

A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD boy who refuses to eat has been living his whole life on a drip.

Tyler Mill has been fed a solution of high-calorie milk through a tube during the night – because he won’t eat.

Although there is nothing physically wrong with him, Tyler vomits every time food is placed inside his mouth.

Tyler and his mum Arlene
Tyler and his mum Arlene

And now his mother, 41-year-old Arlene Mill, is reaching out in the hope that someone might come forward who has been in a similar situation.

Through the years the family have tried various methods of persuading stubborn Tyler to eat, visiting a long line of doctors and psychologists along the way.

Arlene explained: “There isn’t really anything we haven’t tried. We’ve been to see many doctors and psychologists, tried forcing him to eat, breaking things up – I always thought he would just snap out of it and eat, but he never has.

“I just hope for the day he’ll decide to eat and get on with it, but it hasn’t happened yet. There’s no problem with the swallowing mechanism, it’s all in his head.”

The amount of milk that Tyler gets at night was gradually reduced to induce hunger and hopefully force him to eat.

But, already small for his age, he would just dramatically loose weight.

It has now been decided that the best thing to do is wait and see if he eats of his own accord.

Arlene explained: “We’ve now been told the best thing to do is sit food in front of him and if he fancies it he can have an attempt. Pressurising him has never worked and has an adverse effect, he just runs away from the table.

“He does try though, but when he gets things into his mouth he just vomits.

“We used to try and make a big thing of it when he tried things. He seems to go for food with rich smells, like he often takes the inside of garlic bread into his mouth. He also once took a tiny corner of a Milky Bar.”

For many years Tyler, who lives in Edinburgh, was fed through a tube in his nose but has now swapped to a night-feed machine.

It means that he doesn’t have to eat through the day but is fed a high-fibre, high-calorie milk during the night.

The problem means Arlene has faced years of staying up for most of the night worrying about the health of her youngest child.

She said: “The machine goes on as he’s going to bed at night and you can set how much he gets. An alarm goes off it anything goes wrong.

“Even if there’s a kink I the tube or it comes loose or if he rolls over it, you go in and there’s milk all over the quilts. It’s hard but we’re both completely used to it and just get on with it.”

Apart from his dislike for food, Tyler is a perfectly healthy, normal little boy.

His mum said: “Sometimes I look at him and think it’s okay, he’s surviving just now, but it would be so good to know that others have been in this situation and come out of it.

“I will keep trying because you have to, don’t you, and one day it’ll hopefully change.”


  1. My son will be seven in April and he is also tube fed, he also like tyler has only ever has never eaten. I understand how Arlene must feel, as we too have been told that the problem is nort mechanical but our little boy did not feed from being a baby and had an NG tube until he was 3 years old as he was born at just 26 weeks gestation, and was unable to breathe without the support of a ventulator until he was 7 months old and was on oxygen until he was 2 years old. If Arlene would like to contact us we would be very happy to speak to her.

  2. my son has never drank or eaten since he was 6 months old.our situation sounds very much like yours. My son is coming up to his 3rd birthday.we are now in the hands of great ormond street hospital,london.would like to ask you some questions.

  3. my son is nearly 11 years old. He is ‘better’ at eating than others mentioned here but he will not eat vegetables, salads, meat or cheese, puddings etc. He hates food with ‘bits’ in it. What he does eat, he eats sparingly complaining that he is full. He does try some new foods but retches as soon as it’s in his mouth. He managed to eat 2 spoonfuls of peas and carrots the other day but a minute later threw it all back up. We were told to let him progress at his own pace and that he’d grow out of it having had a reflux problem for about 2 years and then a hernia, but there are no signs of improvement. He’s very underweight.

    We are shortly going to our GP with the hope of a referral to Great Ormond Street which we have read about. Does anyone know whether this can be turned around?

  4. I am 15 years old, and am also suffering from an eating problem that may go along with this. I am NOT anorexic or bulimic or a binge eater or anything that may be an “eating disorder” but since the beginning of time, for my entire life practically I just cannot eat vegetables, most meats or most fruits. Also some desserts. I’ve tried to eat lettuce or corn or anything simple, and I have improved. After all, at least I can eat mashed potatoes. But I think it’s something we’re born with, not that, at least I’m not, just being stubborn. Seven therapists and many doctor trips, but it’s something I’ll just hopefully grow out of. 🙂

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