If you read my post about 8-month sleep regression here, then I’m sorry to tell you that you need to eventually prepare for it to happen again at 12 months. One good aspect about this is that 12-month sleep regression isn’t as common as 8-month-old sleep regression. Not only is it not as common, but it differs in quite a few different ways as well. These include: changes in your baby’s hunger/appetite, less naps, increased night time awakenings, and increased irritability.
Sleep interruptions are a fairly common part of your baby’s life when they experience any major changes. This can be a variety of things such as: developmental changes, physical changes, environmental changes, health changes, and much more. Each of these things can affect your little one’s ability to sleep.
Once your baby reaches 12 months old, they experience several different huge developmental changes throughout their entire body. They are growing older each and every day, and learning more and more about the world and their ever-growing surrounding environment. All these different and noticeable changes can be a lot for your baby to handle. This is why at 12 months; they experience sleep regression. They might begin to do things such as:
Maybe you got through 8-month sleep regression pretty easily. Maybe you didn’t. Regardless if you thought you were in the clear or not, sadly I’m here to lay it on the line and tell you that 12-month sleep regression will affect your baby and once again disrupt the cycle you’ve worked tirelessly to achieve. Maybe you’ve had difficulty getting your little one to sleep recently, or maybe they keep waking up in distress and crying throughout the dead of night.
12-month sleep regression is typically associated with your baby and their naps. You might’ve noticed that your baby all of a sudden does not want to take their second nap and will rather try to only nap once a day. One reason why this is not okay is that typically, toddlers aren’t prepared yet to move up to only one nap a day until they are around 15 months old. Regardless of how confident your little one seems to be, you should be trying to stick to two naps each day during this time. Children always think they know better right? Now is the perfect example of that. It’s important to slowly drop naps over time, and to not try to do so suddenly. Another important thing to know is that sleep regression eventually does end. Despite all of the headaches that my daughter gave me, her sleep regression also eventually passed, thankfully.
Once your baby passes through this sleep regression, they will still need about 11 to 14 hours of sleep each day. The whole reason your little one experiences sleep regression in the first place is that they are still going through their “pre-toddler” phase. Like mentioned above, they are still learning and developing so much. Any type of major milestone are things you should be keeping an eye out for at this time as it often signals that sleep regression is coming. Just like other sleep regressions, they can last from 2-6 weeks. Although, it’s certainly possible that your unique little one experiences this for slightly more or even less than that timeframe. The average is usually around four weeks for most babies.
When my daughter experienced 12-month sleep regression, it was very frustrating and tiresome for our whole family. We finally had a good system and rhythm going, and everyone was sleeping pretty well. Then sleep regression popped up and showed its ugly head. When this happens, you basically have to sleep train them all over again. She began to experience separation anxiety and would wake up throughout the night and would be crying for mommy or daddy. Me and my husband would often be both exhausted from the busy week already, and we’d let her stay in our bed because it was the easier way out. Taking the easy way out is not always the best option, considering that you can undo any progress that you previously made by taking shortcuts.
Typically, sleep regression at this time will usually involve your baby’s naps. Most of the time, they’ll typically not want to take their 2nd nap. You might think to yourself: maybe I should only let them have one nap a day from now on. While this might make logical sense in your head, it’s actually a bad idea. Whenever I put my daughter down for a nap, I wasn’t really positive if she would be able to sleep or not. What I did do was leave her security objects a.k.a. her favorite little toys with her. This gave her the option to play with them, or sleep if need be. So, in the event that she didn’t want to sleep, she could still occupy herself. At that point, I let her know that quiet time is beginning, and that both of us should try to get some sleep for a little bit. After that I decided to leave the room for about 1.5 hours. I would say that around 60% of the time, my daughter was able to fall sleep, and 40% of the time she just stayed in one spot and occupied herself.
If your baby seems like they don’t want to nap and are lively at the moment, it’s important that they still try to get their second nap until they are at least 15 to 18 months old. Despite how much they don’t want to nap, try to be consistent with whatever schedule you are using prior to their sleep regression. Aim for putting them down at the same time each and every day. Just think of it as bonus if they actually do end up falling asleep!
When your little one wakes up in the dead of night, let them know that you’re nearby them if anything happens or if they need you. Try not to move them from their room into yours for something such as soothing them or giving them a bottle. I had a bad habit of doing this for my daughter and ended up having to restart sleep training several times. It was very stressful and I hope none of you have to go through that. Not only is it a bad idea, but it doesn’t guarantee that it will help soothe them at all or prevent them from waking up further in the night. Your best option is to always simply go into their room and be nearby and offer some quick reassurance in a gentle and soft voice until they can get to sleep. This is when you should consider trying to change your bedtime to an earlier time, as they will most likely be much drowsier on days where they keep waking up during the night.
Once you start realizing at your little bundle of joy is waking up even earlier than you do, then you know is a problem and needs to be addressed ASAP. That one hour of sleep that they wake you up earlier for can make all the difference in your day and your ability to get through it. Some of you might even have night shifts and if they wake up this early in the morning, it will severely impact sleep. Nobody wants to deal with a cranky baby before it’s even light outside. Dealing with early morning wake ups is often much trickier than night time awakenings simply due to the fact that since it’s close to that baby’s own typical awakening time; it’ll be harder for them to get back to sleep and stay asleep. Despite all this, you should still be treating this like a night time awakening. Give them plenty of attention and affection by going into their room and being near them, and letting them know they you’re close by if they need anything at all. Definitely talk to them so that you can help soothe them back to sleep. If you’re up for a challenge and feel like trying something new, you can try to give them an additional/earlier morning nap before you start your day, but depending on your schedule, this will be very difficult to pull off for most parents.
If you notice that your baby keeps waking up at the same time such as 5 in the morning for several days straight, then there is something you can do to try to address this. A method known as “wake” to sleep, involves setting your alarm one hour earlier than your baby typically wakes up at. Once you get up, go near them and be extra quiet and maybe give them some very soft pats or gentle rubs on their face. If your baby is an extra sensitive sleeper who wakes up from just about anything, something as odd and as simple as making a sound might be just enough to help them feel more at ease. This can involve even just opening the door and taking a quick peek and then leaving again. I know this doesn’t seem to make the most sense, but your main goal is to help them be extra comfortable during this time, so that they can head back to sleep and potentially stay asleep during this difficult time.
When I was still taking the easy way out and bringing my daughter back into my bed, I’d love doing this method because it’s easy to pull off and it works. Because I knew that my daughter would be calling for me in the middle of the night if I left her in her room, I decided to bring her in my room and pretend to be asleep near her. Believe it or not, this actually worked a good amount of time. Sometimes they won’t even be remotely tired, yet I would pretend to be sleeping just to get my daughter some sleep. This also works for trying to achieve longer naps too!
Try to adjust their bedtime and bump it up so that they aren’t overtired the next day from them waking up too early from the day before. It makes sense to take into account the change in hours sleeping. Because this is only temporary, you should be able to get bedtime back to somewhere around 6-7 PM once regression is over. Try to let them get as much sleep as they can. It’s very important that you don’t let them get to sleep too late, as they’ll be overtired and will create even more problems for you and your family. Definitely try to aim to get them to sleep at an earlier time, rather than a later time.
Since we’re trying to address your baby’s sleep regression, you can’t leave out not considering teething as a potential reason why they are waking up. Teething cause all sorts of problems for babies and their sleep. Try to check their gums closely to see if you could see any new teeth potentially coming in. Try to give your baby pain medication (once you get approval from the doctor) or toys that can decrease the pain. Wait for a few days and see if you notice any improvements or not. You can read my article here about dealing with teething and how you can help get through the whole teething phase.
As your baby is growing up and learning about the world around them, they’ll slowly start to get more and more energy. They’ll reach new milestones and new abilities, and you’ll be so proud of them. However, with this comes much more effort needed to get them asleep. Your baby is so excited about this new world and wants to explore every inch of it, despite ignoring the fact that they still need to go to sleep. Try to use their new energy to your advantage by making sure that they are sufficiently tired out throughout the entire day. Take time and play with them, talk to them, and ensure that you are interacting with them throughout the day. Maybe you can take your little one to the park and let them explore the area so that they get all of their energy out at the right time.
Dealing with a baby who’s losing sleep is never any fun. The fact of the matter is, if they are losing sleep, then so are you. Despite this struggle, it’s always important to keep in the back of your mind that this will only be temporary and your baby will eventually get back on track. Try to be extra attentive and try to take note of things you think could be interfering with their sleep. Maybe you notice that they’re hungrier lately. Maybe you notice that they are more energetic in the morning. Whichever it is, try to be as attentive as possible. As long as you stay consistent with your sleep schedule and routines, you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel soon enough. However, this is unlikely to last because 18-month sleep regression is right around the corner for your baby. If you’re looking to find out what to expect for 18-month sleep regression, then check out my post and get a head start on how to handle it.
I’m sure everyone who’s reading this has already experienced 8-month sleep regression, and again as a reminder, you can also read my guide about that here as well.
I hope I addressed any questions or concerns you had about 12-month sleep regression in your baby. How did you deal with the last regression? Are your methods that you used the last time working this time? Are there any specific little quirks or signs that you notice when sleep regression begins? Do any parents have any helpful tips regarding sleep regression in general? I’d love to hear your answers below!