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Is There a 12 Month Sleep Regression?

Baby pushing pink carriage

If your baby is 11-12 months old and boycotting one or both of their naps or taking short naps, you may be thinking they are ready to drop to one nap. Slow your roll and read on! As a child sleep consultant, I get a lot of questions about transitioning to one nap. Your little one isn’t ready for one nap yet! This is actually the 12-month sleep regression!

What Is A Sleep Regression?

When a healthy child has been sleeping well and then BAM, they begin to fight naps, refuse them or they begin fighting bedtime or waking at night for longer than a few days, your child has likely hit a sleep regression. Sleep regressions typically occur around 4 months, 8 months, 18 months, 2 years and for good measure, nap strikes around 12 months and 2.5 years. Never a dull moment in parenthood, right?!

The good part? During these timeframes, our kiddos are working on major skills that can play into the regression. This means that our little ones are growing and progressing!

The tough part? Sleep regressions can last as long as a few weeks or as short as a week.

Your little one may go back to their healthier sleep habits once the regression is over. Or if you established new habits during the regression, like feeding, rocking or bouncing to sleep, these new habits can stick and will get in the way of returning to quality, independent sleep. Also, when our kids are going through the sleep regression, they are falling short on sleep, which can quickly result in a cranky and overtired little one. Once a sleep debt begins to build, the overtired downward spiral begins. This looks like difficulty falling asleep, night wakings, early morning wake up and more difficulty with naps.

What Causes The 12 Month Sleep Regression?

PHYSICAL

Cruising or walking: many babies are beginning to walk in between 11 to 14 months. Whenever babies are practicing a new skill, they often spend the time that they should be sleeping practicing instead. Cue your little on walking or cruising all over their crib! Also, the increased activity can make your little one tired more quickly.

MENTAL / EMOTIONAL

Increased independence: as your little one becomes more mobile, they also become a lot more independent and are constantly exploring their new environment. Babies at this age become increasingly aware of their surroundings: they are learning and absorbing many new things in their world. This is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming for them as well. Separation anxiety: at 12 months, you may notice that your little one is clingier. Solo trips to the bathroom can result in a total meltdown. How dare you! 😂This is the result of a separation anxiety peak. Your baby may also protest loudly when you leave them at nap time or at night.

Top 9 Tips To Survive The 12 Month Sleep Regression

  1. Practice new skills during awake periods – ensure your baby has plenty of time for walking, cruising and exploring during their awake times. This will help to ensure they don’t use their nap time to practice. Lots of playtimes will help them to be tired enough to settle into sleep.
  2. Stick with 2 naps – most little ones transition to 1 nap in between 15-18 months. Even if your little one is protesting nap, stick with offering naps at the same time. Once the regression is over, they should begin napping again. We don’t want to transition our babies too early because it can cause them to continually grow a sleep debt, that can affect all areas of sleep.
  3. Stay calm and provide extra comfort – your calm energy will provide reassurance to your little one as they are going through these transitions. If they are experiencing separation anxiety, slow down your routine and provide extra connection time before sleep periods.
  4. Consider a transitional object or a lovey for sleep periods – a small animal head blankie or a small stuffed animal can bring great comfort to your little one when you aren’t there. It helps with self-soothing and separation anxiety. At the one year mark, loveys are considered safe (according to the AAP). If you are concerned about safe sleep, confirm with your pediatrician.
  5. Optimized sleep routine – a consistent, comforting sleep routine is incredibly important for children as it helps them to transition from play mode to sleep time. The key is that it includes the same steps each day/nap and it is consistent. A nap routine should be in between 5-10 minutes and a bedtime routine in between 15-30 minutes. Children really love routine and consistency.
  6. Move bedtime earlier – if your little one is boycotting naps, don’t keep a later bedtime on days when they’ve fallen short of their daytime sleep needs of at least 2-3 hours. An early bedtime will help to offset the sleep debt and hopefully stave off the overtired downward spiral.
  7. Remain consistent and patient – Offer naps at the same time and for the same duration and the nap will come back. Stay consistent in how you respond when your baby is protesting a sleep period. We don’t want to reinforce the new behavior with different responses. This will cause babies to become confused and to push harder for what they want. Don’t bring back old habits or start new ones. Now is not the time to rock your baby to sleep or begin offering night feeds again. This may seem easier in the moment, but you don’t want to have to undo these habits once the regression is over. Remember, we don’t want to add any activities that we don’t want to keep in the long term.
  8. Sleep training – if this sleep regression has been going on for more than a few weeks and you’ve brought in some habits that you want to break; it may be time for sleep training. If you sleep trained in the past, go back to the same method to help your baby get back on track.
  9. Bring in the experts – if your little one has never been a good sleeper and this regression has made it even worse, it may be time to ask for help from one of our child sleep consultants. Or if your baby isn’t bouncing back within a few weeks and you feel like you need help, we can help answer all of your questions, develop a sleep plan with you and coach you through the process of healthy sleep. There is no shame in asking for help! Babies don’t come with an instruction manual!

We hope this insight and tips are helpful for you in navigating this challenging time! If you need more help, please book a free 15-minute intro call with one of our certified sleep coaches so we can learn more and discuss working together. Join our mailing list to receive our monthly Scoop newsletter!

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