Feeding FAQ: 9-12 months – Formula Feeding

At nearly 11 months my son refuses his milk before bedtime

Tom is one of twins born at 31 weeks gestation. They both had quite severe reflux in the early days, hence a slow weight gain. (Current weight: 6.3kg) They now receive medication and are much improved, but they have never really enjoyed milk.
Tom absolutely refuses to take his 6.30pm bottle. He now screams and turns his head away just at the sight of it. He has three meals a day and is taking solids well. He drinks water well with meals. In the morning he takes his milk happily (6oz). Since bringing tea forward to 5pm about two months ago, he has become upset and starts crying as soon as he is out of the bath. He goes down screaming every night, which is no fun for any of us. He then generally sleeps through to 7am.
He naps well for 15mins at 9.30am and usually sleeps for 2 hours at lunchtime. I have tried dropping his 2.30pm milk but this made no difference to the evenings. I make sure he begins tea at 5pm and has nothing too indigestible at this time.
I feel his problem is more to do with the anticipation of bedtime, rather than hating his milk. His twin, who is the same weight and in the same routine accepts his milk. As bedtime is pretty unpleasant at present, do you have any ideas?

It can be difficult to see exactly what the problem is, when babies of this age suddenly start to refuse to drink their bedtime milk. Are they not hungry? Or are they too tired? As Tom’s refusal coincided with his tea being moved to 5pm it would be worth considering that he is not really hungry for it. He also is probably beginning to use much more energy at this time by crawling and pulling himself up, so he is very tired by the time he has had a bath.
In order to increase his small milk intake, move tea to 4.45pm and offer Tom a small drink of milk from a beaker halfway through the meal. If he accepts this, he will have already increased his intake by 3-4 ozs. If he is able to tolerate cheese dishes, include plenty of cheesy pasta bakes, pieces of quiche and jacket potatoes with cheese. Give him some yoghurt or a small fromage frais with his fruit. All this will add into his daily total.
To stop Tom getting too tired, make bath time 15 minutes earlier as well and see if Tom still reacts in the same way afterwards. Offer him a smaller bottle if he has taken some milk at teatime. Keeping a watchful eye on his milk intake will help him to continue to gain weight, even though he has taken to solids well.
Begin winding down for bedtime straight after tea, and keep everything as calm and quiet as you can. Prepare their room by pulling the blinds and curtains before you start bath time and keep the lights on low settings. Try to discourage noisy, splashing games in the bath (not always easy with two), instead practise some songs they both know and quietly chat about their day. If you have access to a CD/tape player in their room, find a recording of calming, sleep inducing music. There are many available which incorporate soothing sounds such as waves and natural sounds. Use the same recording every day and start it playing as he gets ready for his bath. This should help Tom to associate going to bed with a sense of calm and quiet.
Some babies of this age do protest about going to bed. It is as though they are reluctant to let go of the day. Providing him with a special teddy or toy to be with him in his cot could help if he does not already have a comfort object. Make sure Teddy is waiting for him when he goes into his cot. Creating a bedtime ritual can be soothing to babies who become overwrought at this time. As long as Tom settles to sleep and sleeps well, once over his tears and he is not affecting his brother, this stage will pass in time.