Just when you thought you had your baby’s sleep routine down, the little one is suddenly waking up in the middle of the night like clockwork, and Oh No, here we go again! It’s the dreaded 12-Month Sleep Regression.
But fear not, because most babies experience sleep regressions like these, and while they’re challenging, they are completely normal and also temporary! However, even though it is temporary, I know that this can be a very difficult time for the baby AND their parents.
After all, sleep is necessary for a toddler’s development and sleep deprivation can impact brain function and mood regulation. Not to mention, your own! Read on to learn what sleep regression actually is, why it can occur at 12 months, and what you can do in order to survive the 12-month regression.
If your little one is suddenly having trouble sleeping after consistently sleeping well, it’s likely they are experiencing a sleep regression. Don’t panic! Sleep regression doesn’t last forever. A sleep regression is a phase, usually lasting more than 3 days and it can be recognized by a variety of symptoms.
If your baby is experiencing more frequent night wakings and shorter nap intervals, skipping naps altogether, or struggling with sleep routines for what seems to be no reason, then this could be a sign that they are going through the 12 month sleep regression.
Your baby, as hard as it is to admit, is growing up and becoming a toddler! So the good news is that this 12 month regression is associated with a big period of developmental PROGRESSION rather than REGRESSION! At 12 months, major developmental changes are happening in your baby’s body and brain. Their internal world is expanding their awareness and how they see and interact with their external world. This is really exciting because it means that they are learning and absorbing so many new things in their world.
Going from cruising to walking is piquing their interest in more physically demanding activities. These changes are exciting and sometimes be a little overwhelming for them [the sleep lady]. They might be having trouble sleeping at night because there is so much to see and do which is much more interesting to them than sleep!
A greater awareness of the world can make it especially difficult for your 12-month-old to wind down and fall asleep for naps. She’ll fight falling asleep because she would rather be playing! One-year-olds are so eager to practice new skills, like walking or talking. If they’re unable to do so during the day, they’re more likely to fight sleep because they have pent up energy. Be sure to provide lots of time during the day for your child to move, interact with you and play with toys [Tuck.com]. Being active during the day will prevent your 12-month-old baby from being restless when naptime comes around, and from waking in the night wanting to practice these new skills!
Sleep regression is difficult for parents, but it’s also hard on your child! Overtired children tend to be more emotional and clingy than usual, so a nap or bedtime routine that includes lots of cuddles and quiet together time can also help ease your child from playtime as well as separation anxiety so they can settle down for sleep.
It’s a very real fear for them to be left alone without you, so be patient and compassionate. If your toddler is dealing with separation anxiety, you can help comfort them, without making your presence a necessity, by offering them a comfort object for them to sleep with. These comfort objects (AKA transitional objects) are called “sleep associations”. Examples of transitional objects are stuffed animals or a lovey. [Over 12 months of age, the AAP SIDS recommendations allow adding items to the crib]. Soothing activities can also help relax your baby to sleep include a warm bath, followed by a bedtime story.
The best way to manage this is to make sure they are getting extra rest in the day (as being overtired is sleeps worst enemy!) Stick to your nap routine and consider establishing an earlier bedtime if your baby seems extra tired or extra fussy in the evening.
The most common problem parents see at the 12 month sleep regression is a complete disruption of babies’ naps. Thanks to all of the excitement of their developmental progress, it might seem like your baby doesn’t need a nap anymore. However, don’t let the naptime blocking fight fool you, as you shouldn’t be dropping the naps just yet! This can lead to overtiredness, crankiness, and worsened sleep because your baby hasn’t had enough sleep.
At 12-18 months old, babies generally sleep 13-14 hours over a 24-hour period. Most babies have naps twice a day until around 15 – 18 months. Around this time babies often go from having two naps to having one longer daytime nap. Daycare centers often move to 1 nap at 12 months of age. So, try to catch up on sleep on the weekends.
Consistency, consistency, consistency. Repeatedly and consistently show your little one what you want and expect from them in terms of sleep. Young children thrive when they know what to expect, especially as they start to enter their toddler years. Even though your little one is fighting bedtime or napping and it’s making you ready to throw out your entire routine, hang in there, mama! I can’t stress enough how important it is to try and stick to the same bed and nap times every day. The more you can stick to your baby’s typical sleep routine, the better they will bounce back after this regression passes. And the more consistent you are, the faster it will pass.
Watching your baby struggle with sleep is so hard, and losing sleep yourself is hard too! Sleep regressions can last for a while and occur semi-frequently throughout your baby’s first few years. Because of this, you’re bound to get tired, trying to manage your baby’s sleep while trying desperately to get enough of your own. This is why it’s so important to ask for and accept help, whether it’s asking your partner to help tackle the regression battle or getting some expert advice to relieve some of the burdens. And if you know that the time has come to accept some help to get you through this, well then that’s when it’s time to call Parent Heroes. We can change our clients’ entire lives — once their whole family is sleeping better!
When a 12-month-old wakes up at night, it is easy to assume that a new tooth is to blame. If you ask a dentist about teething, they will assure you that the wake ups are caused by the need to teach your baby some new sleep skills. The dental research shows that it is only painful for the 1-2 days that the tooth is cutting through the gums.
Many parents assume that the night wake-ups are caused by an extreme case of teething when in fact, that isn’t the reason. The likely explanation is a sleep regression. Sleep regression are a sign that your toddler’s brain has advanced. CONGRATULATIONS!
Now what do you do about the night wake ups and short naps?? Great question!
When a sleep regression hits, it is important that you change your parenting mindset and approach to sleep. The “help” you were offering to get your toddler off to sleep is no longer working. Repeat after me: “What I used to do to help my child go sleep doesn’t work anymore. It’s time I teach them how to fall asleep without my help”.
If you are ready to end the 12 month sleep regression, then take action. If your toddler’s sleep is out of whack for 3 days in a row, enlist the help of an expert Sleep Coach at Parent Heroes. We will show your baby the ropes of how to handle their newfound toddler sleep changes. Together, we can create a customized Sleep Plan to teach your toddler how to sleep like a baby again!
The term Sleep Regression will make any parent anxious! But when you read the words “sleep regression,” I want you to hear “my child’s brain advanced” and “what I used to do to help my child sleep no longer works.” Remember, this is PROGRESSION, rather than REGRESSION.
It’s important to stick with established routines and try to avoid instilling new sleep associations like rocking or holding during the 12 month sleep regression. At the same time, do what you need to do to ensure everyone gets some sleep. After all, a good night’s sleep is vital for a child’s development and is just as important for the wellbeing of parents. Utilize some of the tips outlined above and also remember that just like most parenting milestones, sleep regressions are only temporary with the right approach.
Reach out to Parent Heroes when you feel your child’s sleep habits have changed and you need help getting them well-rested again!
Have you ever been through a sleep regression with your baby? Do you have any tried ways to get through it? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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