Background This longitudinal community study investigated the role of individual risk factors in early childhood (before age five) for the development of eating problems in adolescence. Nine hundred twenty-one mothers completed the first questionnaire when their child was 1.5 years old, and again when their child was 2.5 (n = 784) and 4.5 (n = 737) years old. Three hundred seventy-three of these children completed the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT) when they were 16 years old. Results Mother-rated early childhood sleep problems (assessed before the age of five) predicted self-rated eating problems in adolescents, with gender, birth weight, and a number of early childhood internal and environmental factors controlled. Unexpectedly, early childhood eating problems were not associated with later eating problems. Conclusions The possible role of sleep in the development of eating problems needs further investigation. In particular, mediating mechanisms should be studied more closely.