My son is 15 months old at this current time. The week before he turned 12 months he hit his sleep regression phase which was characterized by more separation anxiety than normal. I thought that I had nipped this sleep problem in the bud with my guy but apparently not. I went online and did a search for “What is 12 month Sleep Regression” and came up with random results. I had to do some real digging and actually call my pediatrician to find out more about this problem.
Following the 8-month sleep regression, you should prepare for the 12-month sleep regression in your child although it seems to be less common compared to the previous sleep regression. 12-month sleep regression is primarily characterized by appetite changes in your baby, shorter or fewer naps, numerous night wakings, and more fussiness.
Sleep disruptions, as we know, come about with any big changes in your little one’s life be it their first big day at the playground, moving to another home, a cold, teething, or traveling. All these factors can play a role in disrupting your baby’s capacity to fall asleep and stay asleep all through the night.
When your baby is 12 months old, there are major developmental changes occurring in your baby’s brain and body. Their internal environment is expanding their view of the external world as well as their interaction with everything else. These changes can be somewhat overwhelming for them but also exciting nonetheless. At 12 months, your little one is probably getting ready to do the following if they are not already doing so:
You may have thought you were out of the woods with your baby now on a consistent sleep schedule but boom! 12-month sleep regression pops up again and disrupts everything in your home. At this juncture, you probably there is a chance you have dealt with one or two sleep regressions with your baby who had been sleeping well and out of the blue starts waking up crying in the middle of the night, or skipping naps. 12-month sleep regression often has a lot to do with your baby’s naps.
Most parents will find their babies suddenly fighting them over a second nap and they will try to get by with one daily nap only. However, most toddlers are not ready to move to one nap until they get to around 15 months so even though your 1 year old might seem ready for a single nap in a day, you are better off waiting out the regression and sticking to the 2 naps per day that he or she is used to. Parents are usually warned not to rush to drop their baby’s naps too quickly. The sleep regression will pass with time; it certainly did with my son at this stage as well.
After 12-month sleep regression, your baby at that phase will still require 11 to 14 hours of sleep on a daily basis. 12-month sleep regression and the hours of sleep your baby needs are both attributed to the ‘pre-toddler period’. Your little one is now realizing that there is a specific sequence to how things are done and he or she may be very interested in stacking blocks and cups. Walking is another huge milestone to watch out for at this age as mentioned earlier. As with any other sleep regression you have experienced with your child, it is possibly going to last for two to six weeks. It should be noted that some babies could have problems with sleep for longer than this period but most of them average to roughly four weeks of sleep difficulties.
When my son went through 12-month sleep regression I had to re-sleep train him. Even though he was not drinking a bottle as he was at 8 months, his separation anxiety began setting in and he would wake up several times in the middle of the night crying for me. I would often give in and let him co-sleep with me because it was either this option or giving him a bottle. Seeing as I had already weaned him off the bottle during the night, I did not want to go backwards with our progress by soothing him with a bottle again. I had a feeling this time around was attributed to his going through the separation anxiety.
Usually when 12-month sleep regression occurs anywhere from 11 months, it manifests in your baby as nap refusal, more so refusing the second nap of the day. Most parents take this as a sign that they should consider dropping another nap from the baby’s schedule but you should not do it. When I would put my son in his bed for nap, unsure if he was going to actually fall asleep or not, I made sure to leave a few books in his bed with him so he would be able to “chill” instead of sleep if needed. But before I put him in bed I made sure to tell him, “Okay my love, its quiet time right now. Both you and mommy need to rest.” and then I left the room for an hour and twenty minutes. Sometimes he fell asleep and sometimes he didn’t, but he laid there and read his books and rested.
Your baby might seem alert and not ready for a nap. Most babies at this age are not ready to eliminate this second nap from their schedules until they get to 15-18 months of age. Push through this stage of nap refusal from your baby by continuing to put him or her down every day at the same time for the same period. It will be great if the baby rests and an added bonus if the baby goes to sleep.
When the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, you can respond and offer him or her reassurance that you are around. You should not develop any bad new habits like bringing the child into bed or offering a bottle to soothe, this is where I went wrong with my son and the repercussion was having to re-sleep train him from scratch. Bringing him to bed also didn’t stop him from still waking up throughout the night. The best way to go about it is to enter the baby’s room and give him or her cuddles and then sit next to the crib offering verbal reassurance until the baby can go back to sleep. You will need to make sure bedtime is adjusted to an earlier time as your little one will possibly be more tired on days with frequent night waking.
When your little angel begins waking up at 5 a.m., it can seem like the middle of the night for you and this can be tough especially if you are just now resuming work and adjusting to a busier work-life schedule. The last thing you need on your plate is to wake up 2 hours earlier in the morning with a tired and cranky baby. This is more challenging than night waking because it is harder for the baby to go back to sleep past 5 a.m. after he or she has woken up. Mornings offer lighter sleep cycles for your baby. You will apply the same principles that you did for the night waking. Give lots of cuddles and hugs without trying to create new expectations and bad habits by trying to co-sleep with the baby if you are not doing so currently. Go to the baby’s room and sit next to the crib for some time while verbally soothing baby back to sleep. Alternatively, you can wake the baby up and get him or her down for another morning nap before leaving the house for daycare but this will be harder.
If the baby has made it a habit of waking up at 5 a.m. for more than three days consistently then you can try a method known as “wake to sleep”. You will have to set your alarm an hour prior whenever your baby usually wakes up in the middle of the night. Then you go and rouse them gently. Make sure you do not actually wake them up however, you want to stir them into a lighter sleep cycle, you know what I mean? You can try either touching the top of their head or stroking their face ever so gently. If you have a really light sleeper, then opening their bedroom door may be just enough to do the trick. It sounds weird but the concept involves manipulating when his or her sleep cycles are happening so they can sleep longer without waking up between cycles. If you can get them to “set back” a little, go back to sleep and see if your baby actually wakes up at the usual time or not. Keep your fingers crossed because this usually works.
I made the mistake of bringing my son to bed with me a couple of times. A couple nights I didn’t want to even deal with the trouble of having to get out of bed in the middle of the night, because I KNEW he would wake up and call for me. So when it was his bedtime I brought him to my bed and I laid facing him and closed my eyes, I was nowhere near sleepy or ready to go to sleep but my son was wid awake and I wanted to coax him to sleep. You can pretend to sleep to also discourage a baby who wants to nurse but does not want to put any energy into actually doing it. You can also use it to encourage a longer nap too.
Move up your child’s bedtime because he or she will be overtired from all the extra waking up and getting used to longer wake periods with the 2 to 1 nap transitions. Soon you will be able to push bedtime back to around 6-7 p.m. Your baby will sleep better if he or she gets more sleep. You may be tempted to want to delay bedtime thinking that keeping baby up for longer will make him/her want to sleep in longer in the morning. This will be a disaster for you. Stick to the opposite, which is earlier bedtimes for a later wake up and more sleep for the baby.
Teething is notorious for messing up babies’ sleep times so check the gums to see if there is a new set of teeth coming up. Give the baby some pain medication and teething toys to soothe the gum pain. Wait for several days and the baby will eventually get back on track with his/her sleep schedule.
Whatever you do do not give your baby the teething get for babies gums called “Orajel” because my pediatrician says it was linked to several cases of heart failure in babies!
I know sometimes as a parent you might need a moment to use the bathroom or make a phone call and you need baby to be entertained but for the most part, try not to let your baby watch too much television and media. I know its very hard in this day & age. I admit I am also guilty of letting my son watch television on rainy days ( mostly sesame street because its the most educational ) but if you use television as a baby sitter and your baby spaces out on it then it is really bad for your child’s attention span in the long run.
12-month sleep regression usually happens because the baby is becoming a toddler and as the speaking and walking abilities begin showing in your baby, it will take more effort to get him to sleep. Your baby knows there is so much more to exploring and do and he/she wants to do it all. Put all this new extra energy to use by giving the baby interactive toys and plenty of time to play in the course of the day. Take the baby out to the park and let her play and crawl around so she will not feel the need to move too much at night.
It is hard watching your baby struggle with sleep considering you will also be losing sleep. Remember that this stage is temporary and that your baby will need extra support as he or she goes through the excitement and frustration of getting to know their new skills. Feed the baby more frequently if he or she seems hungrier than usual. With good sleep coaching and consistency, you will be out of the woods soon enough… but not for long, because 18 month sleep regression sometimes happens as well! Read more about 18 month sleep regression here.
I hope this answered your question “What is 12 month sleep regression?” please let me know how your little one’s sleep has been going? If you believe he/she is going through a regression phase, what are some of the symptoms you are seeing your child experience? Comment below!