Around your baby’s first birthday they may experience the 12-month sleep regression. Learn why the one-year sleep regression happens and how to handle it with your new toddler!
Parenting is a humbling experience on so many levels. Just when you start to feel like you’ve got the hang of your baby’s sleep routine, something changes and bam! It can feel like you’re back to square one.
It’s funny how so often the thing that we’re trying to foster in our kids—growth—is exactly what throws off our parenting groove.
As you approach the first full year of your baby’s life, you might notice that the sleep methods you usually rely on are starting to miss the mark.
Let’s talk about sleep challenges you might encounter at the one-year milestone.
Is there a Sleep Regression at 12 Months?
It’s not likely that your little one will experience every single one of the common sleep regressions. However, there’s a chance that you could get an unwelcome gift around their first birthday. Say hello to the 12-month sleep regression.
By that first birthday celebration, chances are you’ve made it through at least one or two 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 can be frustrating to know that even after all the hard work you’ve put in—helping your baby develop a predictable sleep schedule and good sleep habits—there’s no stopping a regression.
This new toddler regression is often referred to as the 12 month sleep 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 into a toddler!
Why Does my 12 Month Old Fight Sleep?
Similar to the 6 and 9-month sleep regressions, the 12-month sleep regression is due to developmental milestones. This regression happens because of all of the exciting new physical and cognitive developments in your baby’s life.
At around 12 months old, your little one’s days are filled with challenging and rewarding pursuits. They may be learning new words, taking first steps, and honing fine motor skills.
All of these things make for a very stimulating awake environment. That means winding down might be harder for your new toddler.
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.
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?
Signs of the 12 Month Sleep Regression
Some signs that your baby may be experiencing the 12-month sleep regression include:
- Taking short naps or fighting naps altogether (especially their second nap)
- Suddenly fighting bedtime
- Waking more during the night
- Waking up early in the morning
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.
So what makes the 12-month sleep regression different from the others? How long will it last? And will the same tricks and adjustments you made with earlier regressions work with this one, too? Let’s find out!
How Long is the 12-Month Sleep Regression?
It never feels like it in the moment, but try to remember that sleep regressions are temporary. All of the hard work you put in to having an expert sleeper has not gone out the window. You’ll get back there again!
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 1-2 weeks.
In the meantime, let’s address a couple other factors that might contribute to your one-yea old’s sleep disruption during this time. These factors might occur at the same time as the regression, and can make it last longer.
“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.
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 sleep times.
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?
Getting Through the 12-Month Sleep Regression
Don’t change the sleep schedule. 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 12-month old’s sleep schedule.
Most one-year olds are physically capable of sleeping 10-12 hours each night without waking. They also still need 2-3 napping hours each day.
Don’t attempt to transition to one nap just yet or introduce dependent sleep practices (like rocking back to sleep).
While these things might seem like logical responses to nap-fighting and frequent night-wakings, big changes like this can actually be more disruptive in the long-term.
Consistency is comforting to your toddler. Try not to deviate from normal bedtime 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 baby might grow to rely on any changes you make during this regression. Don’t start anything 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.
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, keep encouraging that behavior.
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.
Stay active during the day. If your little one is waking frequently during the night, 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 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.
If going down for a second nap is a major battle, consider shortening the first nap or pushing the second nap back an hour. This allows more time for activity between 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.
If you need more help getting your baby to sleep (and don’t we all), I can help! As a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, my goal is to walk you through the process of getting your baby to sleep step-by-step so you have the confidence and sleep you need as well! Your whole family can thrive when everyone is well-rested!