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What is the 12-Month Sleep Regression?

toddler troubleshooting Jul 29, 2021

I know...ANOTHER REGRESSION!  But don’t worry, this means your child is growing even more, and a regression is a sign of PROGRESSION!

Whatever your sleep might look like at 12 months, there may be some slight disturbances; however, if your child is not yet sleeping through the night, know that infant sleep is highly variable and is impacted by their ability to self-soothe.  Because of the variability of sleep routines, many children all have varying skills to sleep through the night. For example, one study found that only 72% of 12-month-olds slept for six or more hours consecutively at night

Additionally, during this time, your child is going through another flurry of cognitive, physical, and sleep changes.  I remember finding myself excited when my daughter turned 12-months old but terrified of her sudden skill to make it to very far areas of the room.   Though the name is 12-month sleep regression, this can happen between 11-13 months of age and is driven by developmental milestones.  If your child is ahead or behind this, this is not something to worry about.

Here are the significant happenings in your child’s life that might be disrupting sleep:

  • This might be the time where your child starts to learn the art of walking!  It is so exciting and so disrupting to sleep as they will be thinking of all the places they can get to now.
  • Increased ability to communicate and verbalize new words
  • Separation anxiety is at its height during this time
  • As they turn one, toddlers need less total sleep each day; the recommendation for children 1-2 years old is 11-14 total hours daily.
  • Teething can also continue, though it isn’t as significant a factor as the above.

 

Separation anxiety can be seen most at bedtime, especially if your child is not independently sleeping yet.  In addition, this explosion of new skills can end up showing themselves in the following...

  • Fighting naps
  • Catnapping
  • Fighting bedtime
  • Waking at night
  • Increasing in feeding
  • Restless, clingy, fussy
  • Overstimulated and overtired

 

Here’s the good news.  This is one of the shorter regressions, lasting only 1-2 weeks. So while it can be a slight bump in your sleep journey, there are some things you can do to navigate.   Here are our top tips:

  1. Continue to be consistent with your healthy sleep habits.  Having an excellent bedtime routine that supports independent sleeping skills makes it easier for children to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  2. While it can be a little crazy during this time, with a flurry of activity, keep consistent with your schedule.  This might also be when you as a parent start feeling a little more freedom and flexibility to go out and do things, which can impact naps.  Do your best to protect those naps while you get through this regression to avoid nighttime impacts.
  3. At the same time, make those activities happen during the day around naps!  Allow them to practice all those new skill sets.  Let them chase balls or take walks with them at the park.  Providing your child with daylight and activity will help support their circadian rhythm.  
  4. Many one-year-olds struggle with separation anxiety, and it can creep up at bedtime.  Practice healthy separation during the day by playing peek-a-boo or leaving them with another caregiver for an hour and returning.  Check out our video on how you can help your child navigate through separation anxiety.
  5. Avoid rocking or feeding to sleep at this time to respond to separation anxiety or fighting at bedtime.  This will only reinforce the need to look for these same tools for comfort between sleep cycles every 1-2 hours.  


These tips, while helpful, the best action during this time to help keep healthy sleep in place is enforcing independent sleep. It can take time for a child to settle into a healthy sleep pattern, so try to have patience and stick to these best practices. If your child is already sleeping independently, the great news is that they are unlikely to feel significantly affected by this regression. However, if they are not, and you want to prepare or manage through this time, talk to me!  Let’s get a plan together to help you get more sleep. 

 

Rested Mama, Happy Baby Founder

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