12-month sleep regression

Erica Hargaden
September 20, 2021
7 min read

Another sleep regression may not have been something you thought you’d have to go through again. Just when you thought your little one had got used to their bedtime routine & had started to sleep well, they become restless again and want to practice walking and talking at 3 am each night!

This step-back in routine may seem to appear out of the blue, but it’s connected to all the new skills your little one is learning throughout the day. Your baby is learning how to walk, talk and is continually absorbing the world around them. It’s only natural that their excitement from all these new discoveries is leaving them feeling a little restless (even at silly o’clock in the morning).

The good news is that these sleep regressions are just a temporary phase, and before you know it your one-year-old will be sleeping through the night again.

Here at Baboque, our aim is to help families establish healthy sleep habits, so that both babies and parents stay well-rested (and sane!), resulting in a healthier and happier lifestyle. In this article, we give you all the tricks and tips to surviving the 12-month sleep regression so that your family can get their bedtime routines back!

What is the 12-month sleep regression?

The 12-month sleep regression is a setback in your baby's sleep patterns - and can happen to anyone, even if your baby is a notoriously good sleeper. These night wakings may seem to appear out of nowhere, but it's connected to all the developmental milestones your little one is going through. Although referred to as the 12-month sleep regression, this disruption to your child's sleep pattern can take place at any time between 12-15 months.

Sleep regressions are common around 4, 6, and 8 months of age, so it's likely you have already experienced a few weeks where your little one's sleep became disrupted and much more stressful!

How is the 12-month sleep regression caused?

Nothing environmental causes sleep regressions in children, they are developmental phases that all babies go through. However, unlike your baby's previous regressions, the 12-month regression is primarily caused by the change in development that in turn creates a change in sleeping patterns which will mostly impact their napping routine.

There are also other factors that happen alongside the regression that can affect your little one's sleep such as developmental progression including walking, growth spurts, teething and separation anxiety.

Around 12-months old, you may find that your baby will start to experience separation anxiety. As your baby gets older, you may find that they become clingier, and more likely to cry when they are left with someone other than you. This can affect both your baby's sleep and nap routine as they may struggle to fall asleep when you are not around.

Separation anxiety is perfectly normal and isn't usually a cause for concern, but it can cause issues with sleep in young children.

How long is the 12-month sleep regression?

Each baby is different, but many babies usually progress out of the 12-month sleep regression within a few weeks. The disruption of your baby’s routine should ease off once the novelty of their new tricks wears off and they want to spend less time practising them at 3 am!

If you find that your one-year-old is really struggling to fall and stay asleep, if they spend more time awake than asleep, or are extremely emotional every night, it could be a sign of another problem so it’s best to contact your GP who can provide medical advice.

If the disruption only lasts a couple of weeks, then these sleep problems are perfectly normal and are just part and parcel of child sleep regressions.

How to manage the 12-month sleep regression

Watching your little one struggle with sleep is hard. Remember, just like the other sleep regressions, this is temporary and will soon be over.

There are a variety of ways you can try to help your baby sleep if they are facing difficulties around their first birthday. Even though your baby's sleep pattern is disrupted, it's important to maintain a routine so that your baby can quickly return their previous pattern. Below, we cover some of our top tips to help you, and your baby through this tough time.

Stick to a routine

Although it can be hard, sticking to your baby’s usual routine will make it easier for you and your baby when the regression ends. Even if your baby is napping more than usual throughout the day, it’s important to aim for the same bedtime routine each evening – no matter how much they’re not settling.

If you end up disrupting their routine and falling into additional habits while trying to get your baby back to sleep, this may cause a permanent change in their routine and sleep expectations.

Avoid overtiredness

Sticking to your baby's nap schedule is important as it means your baby will be more rested when it comes to putting them down to sleep at night. An overtired baby will be more restless and will struggle to fall asleep more than a baby that is well-rested.

A one-year-old typically need around 11-14 hours of total sleep a day, including one or two daytime naps. If your baby is being extra fussy, or seems extra tired in the evening and hasn't napped much, consider an earlier bedtime.

Make the daytime active

Ensuring your child is kept busy throughout the day with lots of fun activities, especially in natural light, can help to make your child understand the importance of sleep and awake times. This helps to reset their internal body clocks and can help them to sleep easier at night.

Curb separation anxiety

All those developmental changes happening to your baby means they are going to need more assurance and attentiveness from you - extra cuddles, playtime, and more love and attention from their parents during the day can go a long way in tackling the anxiety your baby feels when separated from you.

The more your child knows you're there and that they can fall back on you, the easier it will be for them to grow confident when they're alone.

If your baby has been independently falling asleep in their cot up to this point, keep encouraging this behaviour. If they are wary of you leaving, consider introducing a comforter such as a stuffed animal or blanket as you may find it helps your little one to self-soothe and focus less on you not being there at bedtime.

Read more on sleep regression:

What Age Do Babies Have Sleep Regression?

8 Month Sleep Regression

What is the 4-Month Sleep Regression?

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Erica Hargaden
Sleep Consultant, Babogue

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