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The 12-month sleep regression

The 12-month sleep regression

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What a milestone to celebrate! Your little one is one year old.

Maybe your little one started sleeping better, feeding less at night, going through a lot of new developments and learning new words, maybe almost or even already walking those first few steps – so much is happening at this particular age. Therefore, we may come across another dreaded sleep regression, the so-called 12-month sleep regression.

Congratulations, mama, you made it – you kept this little person alive and you have survived the first year of being a parent. That is something to be proud of. High five … cake smash time!

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Your babies’ sleep patterns may be changing and you could be wondering if they need to drop one of those naps. The little ones’ awake windows are longer and boy, do they have the stamina to refuse a nap, because of course they want to play rather than sleep and miss out on anything. Children this age need 2 hours 30 minutes total day sleep and 10-12 hours nighttime sleep.

If your baby had been sleeping well for a while now and suddenly starts to wake up unexpectedly in the early hours, the situation may leave you in dismay as to why this could be happening. Is my little one ill? What has changed? This regression can happen as early as 11 months, very similar to the nine-months sleep regression you have just survived. (Check out the regressions here: 4 months; 9 month ; 18 month regressions)

Let’s put your heart at ease and give you some why, how and what to do about yet another sleep regression and tear-filled nights.

Why does this 12-month sleep regression happen?

Your child’s development is one of the culprits, yet also the growth we should be celebrating. However, it could leave your little ones very excited and eager to practice these newly-acquired skills overnight.

Their brains tell them they have just learnt something new, and they keep on trying it out.

They may need to practice new words, taking those first steps, and the development they undergo cognitively could leave you with a newfound protest before bedtime, .

The million-dollar question at this stage is: How long is this regression going to last?

Most other regressions can last between three to six weeks, and this one, too, is usually short lived … happy dance … it can be a period of more or less only two weeks!

You can try and smoothen the ride by sticking closely to our suggested age-appropriate routines. This will keep reminding them of what is to come next, because our little ones love the consistency and predictability it offers. Just be mindful that your little one may start sporting a new activity at bedtime. If you have been reading to her for this whole year before bedtime, maybe see if she won’t rather like to build blocks instead. It is important to keep this activity specially for your bedtime and winding-down routines so that your little one can be excited about it.

If you have implemented sleep training before, this may be a time where you just need to go back to a few of the steps and try to shorten the regression time. Keep working on staying consistent and both of you will be back to sleeping well in no time.
What are the main causes of the 12-month sleep regression and what signs can I look out for?
  • Physical development: They learn to crawl, stand, walk.
  • Cognitive development: Learning more words and communication improves.
  • Emotional development: Separation anxiety – your little ones know that you will leave the room when they are taking naps and that they will be missing out on things, so they rather want to play and be with you.
  • They are more resistant and have more stamina to stay awake.
  • Day-time nap schedules may need adjustment.
What are the signs that my baby is going through this regression?
  • The little ones are finding it harder to fall asleep for naps and at bedtime, and they will probably be putting up a fuss and taking longer to settle. They have a fear of missing out.
  • They are waking up more frequently, and there may be a one or two-hour awake period in the middle of the night.
  • Your little ones are more irritable and fussy during the day.
  • They still look tired after having a nap; the reason probably being the broken sleep overnight.
  • They wake up early in the morning, wanting to start the day.

What can I do to help my little one through this sleep bump?

  • Be consistent and predictable with your winding-down and bedtime routine. This will have the advantage of minimal crying at bedtime and help them not to become overtired.
  • Ideal sleep environment: Dark room, white noise, sleepy sack.
  • Stick to an appropriate routine and awake window – follow us on Instagram to get samples of what could work for your little one. 
  • Dropping to one nap: Most children are not ready yet to drop to one nap. It’s only through this regression that they may show signs, but most children drop to one nap between 15-18 months and if they stick to two naps a day, it will fall into place again.
  • Make bedtime early. Even 18:00 will do the trick.
  • Use a beloved soft toy or blanket for comfort.
  • Spend lots of time outside with physical activities.
  • Make sure your little one eats a balanced diet and gets three to four good milk feeds during the day.
  • Be clear with your message that it is not time to play but sleeping time; allow a bit of fussiness.
If you are scared of forming any new sleep associations:
  • Sit with your little one till she falls asleep, but keep your interactions as low as possible.
  • Try not to do too many different things to get baby to sleep, this may start something new and make it harder once baby is over this regression.
When should I see a doctor?

Seek advice from a doctor if you have any concerns. A few difficult nights are usually no cause for concern. Touch base with the paediatrician about night wakings in the following cases:

  • Your little one is eating less than normal during the day.
  • He is not growing well or picking up weight.
  • The little one is breathing abnormally, e.g. snoring while sleeping.
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