A baby’s first birthday comes with joy, celebrations, and on a less positive note, changes in sleeping patterns and behavior, also known as the 12-month sleep regression. This period includes lots of tantrums and sleepless nights, so you and your partner should prepare well to pass it as smoothly as possible, and that’s why I’m here!
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the 12-month sleep regression and how to manage it, so keep on reading!
What Is a 12-Month Sleep Regression?
The 12-month sleep regression is a period where your one-year-old baby changes his sleep patterns. It’s typically triggered by the developmental milestones that your baby achieves, such as crawling.
I know what you’re thinking right now, that these changes call for a visit to the doctor, but the answer is no. Sleep regression is a normal developmental period. So there’s nothing to worry about.
You’ll often notice that your baby struggles to sleep at night or doesn’t want to take naps. So, prepare yourself and your partner for this period because it’ll be mentally demanding. You should also keep in mind that your baby might go a couple of steps back with sleep training.
On a positive note, you probably know what to expect because your baby might’ve gone through a sleep regression at ages three, six, or eight months old. And lucky for you, once this regression is over, you only have one or two more regressions to manage.
12-Month Sleep Regression Length
The length of a 12-month sleep regression can vary. For instance, it can go on for a few days or an entire month.
You should note that signs of sleep regression can differ from one baby to another. For instance, some of them might have extreme sleeping issues while others might have negligible ones. It entirely depends on your baby’s unique behavior, environment, sleeping habits, etc.
12-Month Sleep Regression Signs
The 12-month sleep regression doesn’t necessarily happen at the one-year mark. It could start a month earlier or later.
Here are some signs that indicate your baby started this period:
- Frequent night awakenings
- Skipping daytime naps
- Disrupted sleep schedule
- Crankiness after waking up
- Crying and resisting sleep
What Causes a 12-Month Sleep Regression?
Your baby will go through many amazing milestones during his first year, which will inevitably trigger a sleep regression. Below, I’ve delved into the most common ones.
Teething will probably be the primary suspect for your baby’s sleeping issues. This is because, at the 12-month mark, his four front teeth will start to erupt. And even though that’s an exciting milestone for you to celebrate, it can be painful and stressful for him.
Besides the sleepless nights and tantrums, some kids also get ear infections while teething. This is because excess saliva secretion is a suitable breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, fever, and vomiting.
Another cause of poor sleep is growth spurts. They often indicate significant mental and physical improvement for your one-year-old baby.
So your baby might grow taller, become physically stronger, or start to develop emotional awareness. These are exciting news, but they might negatively impact his sleeping patterns.
Your baby will start to cling more to you during a sleep regression. So, he might cry a lot whenever you’re not around, especially in the evening. But this separation anxiety will lessen once he learns that you won’t “leave” him, even if you aren’t in sight.
Changes in Your Baby’s Environment
Changes in the environment can also trigger sleep regression because your baby will become more aware of them. So he might struggle to sleep when there’s lots of noise, intense lighting, new people, etc. Also, his sleep regression might worsen if you go on a holiday or move out to a new place.
Ideally, you should try to delay any monumental changes in your living arrangements until your baby’s sleeping pattern is back to normal.
Tips to Manage 12-Month Sleep Regression
Going through a sleep regression isn’t a fun experience, but you can make your life easier by implementing a couple of tips. Here are some of them.
Learn About Your Baby’s New Sleeping Patterns
Before you try any tips, you should know the number of sleeping hours your one-year-old baby needs. I’ve quickly summarized them below.
- Bedtime: Babies need to sleep at around 6:30 or 7:30 pm.
- Sleep times: Babies need to sleep for 12-14 hours, naps included.
- Awake times: Babies should be awake for around three to four hours throughout the entire day.
- Naps: At this age, babies need two to three hours in total, divided between two or three naps.
Change Your Baby’s Environment
Your baby’s surroundings can make him sleep like a log or struggle to doze off. So you should try to maintain a comfortable environment around him. You can do the following:
- Put him to sleep in a dark room.
- Use dim, warm lights instead of bright ones if he fears the dark.
- Play calming music or white noise to ease his worries.
- Avoid any playtime or loud noises in the evening.
Don’t Give up on Established Sleep Routine
One of the best tips for overcoming sleep regression in one-year-olds is to not give up on established sleeping habits. Babies like routine because it gives them a sense of stability in life. And any change can create additional stress, especially during this period.
So don’t change your baby’s bedtime schedule, even if his sleep patterns change. This also applies to his pre-sleep routine. For example, if you bathe or nurse your baby right before going to bed, keep on doing that.
Maintaining these habits might seem futile because your baby refuses to sleep, but doing this will make the tantrums pass smoother and can help him fall asleep faster.
Improve Your Baby’s Skills
You can help your baby sleep better by keeping him active during the daytime. One of the best ways to do that is by helping him improve his skills. And besides improving his sleep quality, this will help him develop faster than his peers.
For example, if he recently started to stand up without support, encourage him to practice doing that. And if he likes to drink from a cup, try to teach him how to pour water into it without spilling it.
Treat Your Baby’s Teething Pain
Teething is an essential developmental part of your baby’s first years of life. However, this discomfort is especially emphasized during the 12-month sleep regression. And if you can ease off your baby’s pain, you can improve his sleep quality.
Here are some suggestions to relieve teething symptoms:
- Get quality gels that’ll cool your little one’s gums.
- Give your baby cold juices.
- Avoid solid food that might irritate the gums even further.
- Consult your doctor to give your baby a mild analgesic if his gums are too sore.
- Give your baby a teething ring for chewing.
- Play with your baby to distract him from the pain.
If the sleep regression period lasts longer than a month and none of these tips improve your baby’s pain, you should check up on his health and pay attention to his diet. As a rule of thumb, when in doubt, visit a pediatrician.
Be Patient and Give Love (Lots of It!)
Separation anxiety is pretty common in babies who pass the one-year mark, and this can impact their sleep quality. But you can reduce excessive crying by giving your baby lots of love and attention.
And during the day, try to devote a lot of time to him. For example, play with him or teach him a new skill. You can also give your baby a plushie before bed to comfort him.
You should keep in mind that it’s of utmost importance to stay calm during this period because your baby can sense your nervousness, which can further worsen his sleeping problems.
Feed Your Baby Often
Your baby will go through a big growth spurt when he turns one year old, and consequently, he’ll need more nutrition. So he might abruptly wake up in the middle of the night due to feeling hungry. You can tackle this issue by making sure that your baby is well-fed before bedtime.
Ideally, you should feed him every two hours throughout the day. And if you do this, but he still wakes up from hunger, you should increase his overall food intake.
Do All Infants Go Through a 12-Month Sleep Regression?
Sleep regression is an unavoidable part of babies’ development during the first two years. But some babies might go through this period without any noticeable signs.
Should I Try Sleep Training During a 12-Month Sleep Regression?
No, you shouldn’t start sleep training when your one-year-old is going through a sleep regression. This stage is already stressful, and any new changes can make it worse for you and your little one.
When Do Sleep Regressions Stop?
Sleep regressions become rarer, and they might even stop after your baby turns two years old. But some older children might change their sleeping patterns because of new events such as starting school, traveling, divorce, etc.
By the end of this article, you should know what the 12-month sleep regression is, its signs, and how to manage it. But to quickly recap, you can tell that your baby is going through a sleep regression if his sleeping patterns change and he starts to cry more often.
You can manage this period by being patient, maintaining a strict sleeping schedule, managing your baby’s teething pain, and feeding him enough to prevent nighttime hunger.
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