• Many one year olds experience sleep issues around their first birthday.
  • This regression can happen between 11 and 13 months old.
  • It’s typically caused by brain growth, your baby learning new developmental milestones like walking and talking, and separation anxiety.
  • Signs that your baby is going through a regression include skipping or fighting naps, protesting bedtime, and waking up in the middle of the night.

Keep reading to see four ways to help with the 12 month old sleep regression.

dad and son during 12-month sleep regression

Is there a Sleep Regression at 12 Months?

It’s not likely that your little one will experience every single baby sleep regression, including the 4-month sleep regression or 6-month sleep regression. However, there’s a chance that you could get an unwelcome gift around their first birthday.

Say hello to the 1 year sleep regression.

By the 12-month mark, chances are you’ve made it through at least one or two of your baby’s sleep regressions already. It might even feel like you just wrapped up the 9-month sleep regression.

So how can this be happening again, and so soon?

It’s frustrating that even after all the hard work you’ve put in to develop healthy sleep habits—like helping your baby develop a predictable sleep schedule—there’s no stopping a regression.

This new toddler sleep regression is often referred to as the 12-month regression, but you might notice the signs a little later or earlier.

It mostly depends on how rapidly your little one is growing and developing.

Whether you notice signs of a sleep regression around their first birthday, or whether it is more like an 11 or 13-month regression, it’s likely due to the same reason: your baby is growing!

one year old doesn't want to sleep because sleep regression

What is the 12 Month Sleep Regression?

The 12 month sleep regression (or one year sleep regression) is a period of tougher than usual sleep that often happens around a baby’s first birthday.

It’s the first of the toddler sleep regressions that young children might go through, and it can be rough on the whole family.

Babies this age are busy, both physically and mentally.

They are often working on cruising or walking, and learning their first word or maybe even first several words. It is also common for there to be an increase in separation anxiety right around the first birthday. 

When you add all that together, you have a recipe for some challenging naps and bedtimes. It can create sleep troubles that impact sleep cycles, throw off awake times, and get in the way of a good night’s sleep.

This is commonly called the 12 month old sleep regression. 

Signs My Baby Has Hit the 12 Month Sleep Regression

The 12 month regression can pop up in different ways. These are the most common signs that your baby may be going through this sleep regression:

  • Taking short naps or fighting naps altogether (especially their afternoon nap).
  • Your baby starts fighting bedtime.
  • Your baby starts to have frequent night wakings, or waking up more than they usually do in the middle of the night.
  • Your baby starts having early wake ups.

Seeing some (or all) of these signs for 3+ days in a row means you’re probably seeing the 12-month sleep regression in action.

Is your baby struggling with short naps? To help you better, grab my free guide to solving short naps to get practical tips of how to get your baby to take longer naps every single day. Click here to grab it, it’ll be super helpful.

12 month old sleep schedule

Why Does my 12 Month Old Fight Sleep?

Similar to the other sleep regressions, the one-year sleep regression is due to developmental milestones. Your baby is going through a growth spurt!

This regression happens because of all of the major developmental changes and exciting new cognitive developments in your baby’s life.

Your 12 month olds days are filled with challenging and rewarding pursuits. They may have said their first words, are learning new words, taking first steps, and honing fine motor skills. 

Your baby’s brain is going through incredible physical development and growth.

All of these things make for a very stimulating awake environment. That means your toddler might have a hard time winding down.

Along with growing bodies and brains, your baby is also growing an opinion. They’re beginning to realize that they prefer not to miss out on the day’s action—or time with you! 

They start to fight naps and bedtime because they know there’s a more fun alternative with all the new things they can do.

When it comes to sleeping versus spending time with mom or dad testing out all their newly learned skills, chances are they would prefer the latter. And can you really blame them?

The good news is this regression can leave just as suddenly as it started—as long as you remain consistent and avoid introducing new habits.

Here are other reasons why your baby may be fighting sleep.

Teething

“She must be teething!” became a catchall phrase around my house when my daughter was around 6 months old. We threw it around pretty much whenever she was fussy.

If it had been true every time we said it, she’d have more teeth than a shark!

While it’s true that erupting teeth can be uncomfortable for your baby, studies have shown that an incoming tooth will typically only cause sleep-disrupting discomfort for 1-2 days before breaking through the gums.

If you notice sleep disruptions for more than a few days and there’s no evidence of a new tooth coming up, teething is probably not the issue. Sleep regression is the more likely culprit. See how to spot the difference between teething vs sleep regressions here.

See how to help your teething baby sleep if that’s the culprit!

Separation Anxiety

Your 12-month old is learning so much about the world, and with that new awareness often comes new caution.

It’s common for your little one to become more anxious about being away from you. This separation anxiety often peaks around one year. 

Combined with a new awareness that you’re leaving them alone in their room to sleep, you can see why your toddler may start to put up a fight during nighttime sleep.

With things like separation anxiety making the 12 month sleep regression even more difficult, you may be wondering: what are some things that I can do to help make this easier on everyone?

Baby D.R.E.A.M Mockup image

Get Better Sleep with The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System

If you want someone to walk you through the process of sleep training, let me help. The Baby D.R.E.A.M. System is for babies 4 months through 2.5 years old. I’ll walk you through how to establish daily routines, sleep schedules, and sleep training techniques to help you break the sleep associations you no longer find beneficial! Check it out here.

4 Tips to Help Your Baby Through the 12-Month Sleep Regression

1. Don’t Drop A Nap…Yet

It may be tempting to switch up the sleep routine in response to a sleep regression, but resist the urge. Now is not the time to make big changes to your 1-year old’s schedule.

Instead, we want to try to stick to your baby’s normal sleep patterns as best as possible.

An early bedtime due to a lack of long naps is fine, but it’s likely not time to drop to one nap, so don’t make that nap transition just yet.

Most one-year olds are physically capable of sleeping 10-12 hours without night wakings, and no longer require night feeds. They also still need 2-3 hours of sleep during daytime naps, which means they get between 12-15 hours of total sleep in a day.

If going down for a second nap is a major battle, consider shortening the first morning nap or pushing the second nap back an hour. This allows longer periods of awake time for activities between baby’s sleep times and gives your baby more time to tire themselves out. 

See my recommendations for baby wake windows to make sure your baby has enough time in between naps.

2. Consistency is Comforting to your Toddler

Try not to deviate from your consistent bedtime routine and nap time routines. The regression is temporary—consistent routines will help things get back on track quickly when the regression is over.

Keep encouraging your little one’s independent sleep habits as much as possible. Try not to make any major adjustments to their sleep environment (like their room or their crib). 

Your sweet baby might grow to rely on any changes you make during this regression. Don’t start any bad habits you don’t want to keep doing long-term.

You can choose a sleep training method and be consistent with it to help your child get back on track with their sleep. You may also need to do sleep training for naps if your baby is struggling with daytime sleep.

Try not to introduce dependent sleep practices (like rocking back to sleep or letting your child sleep in your bed). 

While these things might seem like logical responses to nap refusal and frequent night-wakings, big changes like this can actually be more disruptive in the long-term.

3. Give Some Extra Love

All of these new milestones mean your baby is going to need more reassurance and attention from you.

Extra playtime, more snuggles, and more attention from their favorite grown-ups during the day can go a long way to helping curb separation anxiety. 

The more your little one knows you’re there and they can depend on you, the easier it will be for them to grow confident in their new-found independence.

If your baby has been consistently able to fall asleep independently in their crib up to this point, and without any sleep associations, keep encouraging that behavior. 

Independent sleep and good sleep habits are the best way to avoid sleep regressions altogether.

This might also be a good time to introduce a new comfort item, like a stuffy or lovey. You may find this helps your little one self-soothe easier and focus less on your absence at bed times.

4. Stay Active During the Day

If your little one is waking frequently during night sleep, it might mean they need more physical activity during the day.

Try to give them plenty of opportunities to test out their new skills and encourage physical activity to tire out their growing bodies and minds.

They’ll need lots of practice with their new physical skills like walking, talking, and doing all their other fun new tricks during the day to ensure they don’t want to test them all out at night.

Get them outside in some natural light and let them move their bodies. That will help them practice their new tricks during their awake period, so they sleep better at nap or night time.

Should I Let My Baby Cry it Out During the 12 Month Sleep Regression?

If your baby is waking at night during the 12 month sleep regression, or having trouble falling asleep at bedtime, it is okay to offer additional soothing if needed. 

Sometimes separation anxiety can be one of the reasons for sleep troubles, in which case crying it out may not be helpful.

You may find your baby responds better to more frequent check-ins or a more hands-on method of soothing. 

What you don’t want to do is to create a new habit you aren’t okay keeping around for the long haul. 

How Long Does the 12-Month Sleep Regression Last?

It never feels like it in the moment, but try to remember that sleep regressions are a temporary phase. All of the hard work you put in to having a good sleeper has not gone out the window.

If you notice signs of the 12-month sleep regression consistently for a few days in a row, you can probably expect them to persist for 2-6 weeks.

FAQs About the 12 Month Sleep Regression

Why Is My 12 Month Old Suddenly Not Sleeping At Night? 

It’s quite possible the culprit is simply brain development. Growth and development are both wonderful! But a temporary side effect can be less sleep. 

Is the 12 Month Sleep Regression A Myth?

Yes and no. Yes, it is a myth in that your baby’s brain isn’t actually regressing in terms of how it sleeps. No, it is not a myth in that it is very normal for sleep to feel like it is going backwards because babies often experience trouble sleeping at this age.  

Do All Babies Go Through A 12 Month Sleep Regression?

Not every baby experiences each sleep regression. You may not notice the 12 month sleep regression at all! You may also notice it before or after 12 months of age, since babies grow and develop at different rates. 

Should I adjust my child’s sleep schedule during the regression?

Generally speaking, no. Keep your child’s sleep schedule the same unless you realize it has been the same for a few months. If that is the case, it could be that your baby may need more space between first nap and second, or between nap time and bedtime. 

Can the 12-month sleep regression be prevented?

Not really. Helping your baby develop independent sleep skills will help you and your little one move through sleep regressions as quickly as possible. Experiencing a sleep regression at one time or another (or multiple times) is an unavoidable part of normal development. 

Will the 12-month sleep regression affect my child’s daytime naps as well?

It can. Most commonly, babies struggle with their afternoon nap. This can look like trouble falling asleep, a shorter nap than usual, or both. Make sure you stick to a consistent nap routine, because our little ones crave consistency during difficult times.

Are there any sleep training methods that can be used during the 12-month sleep regression?

Yes! You can use any method that you would use outside of a sleep regression. You don’t need to use a special method during sleep regressions.

How can I handle bedtime battles or resistance during the regression?

Bedtime can be challenging! Do your best to stick to your bedtime routine, and maybe throw in a warm bath for some extra relaxation. Your little one may need some extra soothing or reassurance. Do your best not to develop a new habit, like rocking to sleep, unless it is a habit you want to continue for a couple of weeks (or even a couple of months!).

Is it okay to comfort or soothe my child during night wakings or should I encourage self-soothing?

It is always okay to comfort or soothe your child if that is what you think they need. Encourage self-soothing when you can though, so your baby maintains the independent sleep skills that they already have. 

Amy Motroni

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