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Babies can be a handful no matter where they’re at in their life span, and regardless of whether or not you’re prepared (and really, you can only prepare so much).
It’s a feat in any household to master the magic of a routine, letting alone tricking a toddler into going to bed without tears.
Unfortunately, right when we think we have it down, a sleep regression can hit. These often become apparent when recognizing your child’s developmental milestones, like walking or talking.
However, that doesn’t make the 12-month sleep regression any easier, and in this article, we’ll dive into how to handle these setbacks.
Sleep Regression Definition
Regressions in sleep hit about the same time that your kiddo reaches a big developmental burst. When they learn to do new things like talk, walk, grasp onto things, or balance themselves, they’ll typically regress in other areas, albeit temporarily.
You may notice setbacks in ways seemingly unrelated to developmental milestones. They may suddenly begin to resist naps or fight bedtime. This sudden burst in attitude change or energy is often related to sleep regression.
As our tykes grow, they go through massive developments within a relatively small amount of time. As a result, sleep regressions can be taxing on their tiny bodies, yielding challenging behavioral periods.
While your little one undoubtedly needs a lot of sleep, especially as they’re going through a growth spurt, their body is still utilizing a lot of their nutrients and energy towards fueling this massive burst in development. Due to this remarkable push in growth, they may exhibit signs of irritability, tantrums, and fussy behavior around bedtime.
Ages in a Child's Life When Sleep Disruptions May Occur
It’s not uncommon for a child to hit a growth spurt and have a regression in rest multiple times throughout their young life. They often hit at 4 months, 6 months, and about 10 to 12 months.
While this may be true for some kids, others may see them a month or so later, and some may find they don’t experience them at all.
Main Symptoms of 1-Year Sleep Regression
Setbacks in sleep can appear in multiple ways. As each munchkin offers their own individual characteristics and personalities, they could be exhibited differently. Signals can range from fussiness at bedtime to more energy at night to more frequent wakings during the night. Either way, they’re not very much fun, and while they typically only last two to six weeks, they can feel as though they last for ages.
Frequent Wakings at Night
If your tyke was sleeping through the night and suddenly is having frequent wakings during the night, this can be a reliable indicator of a setback in rest. While our tots do need rest, the energy they’re exerting can come at a cost in their newfound abilities, like sleeping for longer periods.
A sharp increase in hunger can be attributed to their mere need for fuel. As they’re enduring this developmental burst, this has to be nourished somehow to be sustained. When this happens, nutrients will be funneled into the brain and body to power this growth, leaving them hungry for more.
Baby Fights Sleep
It’s extraordinarily common for toddlers to fight sleep. At about 12 months of age, they are developing rapidly. Your tyke may start saying the first words, take their first steps, or maybe hold onto a table to steady themselves before they walk. They’ll probably be getting into everything and babbling away.
With these newly acquired skills, babies are suddenly curious and desperate for more, making sleep sound a lot less fun.
With a sharp increase in mobility and communication skills, they likely won’t be as interested in naps when sleep regressions come around. Not only will they be more curious in exploring this new accessible world but their behavior may change as a result of the regression, leading to fussier babies and irritable attitudes.
Main Causes of Restless Sleep Among One-Year-Olds
There’s a variety of reasons why your toddler may not be sleeping. Below we’ll discuss the reasons and how you can work to combat these issues.
As your tiny talker grows up, you may notice their increasing ability to express themselves verbally. Whether that’s through babbling or yelling or even small words, they will likely be enormously excited about this newfound skill. As their development aids in their growth, they’ll want to test out what they can do.
Before you know it, you may have a chatterbox on your hands who wants to have a stimulating conversation all night long. While nighttime is for sleeping, they may not be as ready for bed as you are.
With the increase in their abilities, your tyke may suddenly start to notice things they may not have before. It may be more difficult to put them down in their crib for a nap because they now realize that when that happens, you’ll be leaving them alone to fend for themselves.
While, at this point in their lives, they’ll surely have developed a sense of independence, they may also develop a sense of awareness. Most children would cuddle and talk and be attended to all night long if they could, so when they’re laid down to sleep and you leave the room, this may incite a sudden discontent that wasn’t present before.
Your tot is growing at a rapid pace, and this includes their physical functioning as well. You’ll start to recognize their ability to grab onto things, rollover, prop up, or even stand up and walk. As this grows, their curiosity surrounding their newfound abilities may peak and create a sense of excitement that’s not easily curbed come nightfall.
Less Need for Sleep
Your snooze machine may not be as willing to snooze the night away anymore, and it’s possible they simply don’t need as much sleep. Growing up, their body will begin to change, and they may need less time to recharge.
While this is ultimately a positive, indicative of their healthy growing pace, it can mean more sleepless nights for you if they begin to have more frequent wakings throughout the nights.
Increased awareness can often incite feelings of separation anxiety in your tot. This can be attributed to the fact that their brains are suddenly more cognizant of the fact that you’re leaving them when you put them down for bed.
Naturally, most babies would cling onto you all night long, cuddle for hours, and be tended to continuously. However, that, unfortunately, will not prepare them for independence when they get older, nor allow parents to tend to the countless other chores that come along with having a child.
12-Month Sleep Regression Tips
You will likely face a few challenges as a result of a sleep regression in your child; however, there are ways you can mitigate these struggles to make life easier.
Avoid Changing the Routine
Keeping a schedule may be the single most important trick to a steady and predictable lifestyle with children. Naturally, it can be frustrating missing out on nights with friends or feeling like your children control your life.
However, keeping a routine can make your household and your child feel a lot easier. This could even involve having a family member or friend come to babysit and keep the routine going so you can enjoy a night out to recharge.
Kids may not seem like they enjoy routine when they resist bedtime daily; however, they relish in their ability to predict what will happen in the future. Having this comfort can help when self-soothing and allow for quicker recoveries during tantrums. If they feel like they have a sense of control or can find comfort in predictability amidst the chaos of learning how to be a human in a new world, their behavior will likely be a lot more amenable.
When your kiddo knows what will happen ahead of time, this eases a tremendous amount of stress. Not having much control in life can be frustrating for little ones; however, feeling like they have control in that they know what’s expected of them and they know what’s going to happen each night allows them to relax and find comfort in their home.
If you can keep a routine, this will likely help enormously in keeping your munchkin in line when it comes to bedtime.
Keep Your Kid Busy During the Day
Kids need a lot of stimulation to exhaust their ever-growing curiosity, and keeping them busy during the day will help wear them out so they’re happy to close their eyes come nighttime. It can be exhausting for any parent to keep an energetic child busy with their endless supply of turbo power. However, doing so will be best in the long run for both of you.
Peaking their stimulation will not only utilize their body’s energy but it will also stimulate their brain and teach them critical skills, like coordination and mobility. Having an excess of energy upon being put to bed could result in significant frustration and fussiness around bedtime, leading to a more difficult daily routine.
As kids go through sleep regressions and these developmental bursts, they’ll likely need a bit more attention than normal. They need to express their feelings, their energy, and be properly exhausted by the time they go to bed. Due to these growth spurts, they may have a larger amount of energy to be expunged, so it’s important they’re getting the proper amount of stimulation to feel truly tired come nightfall.
Support Growth Spurt With Extra Feedings
If your tot is waking in the middle of the night needing to be fed when previously they’ve been able to sleep until morning, they may need a bit more fuel to make it through. These spurts in growth require a significant amount of nutrients, and your tyke may be digesting them faster as a result.
If they’re hungry during the night or quicker than normal, this may be why. Try and sneak in some extra feedings during the day, more snacks, or longer nursing sessions to squeeze in more nutrients. Doing this will allow them to sleep a bit longer during the night and hopefully allow you to get some quality zzz’s as well.
Postpone Weaning from Breastfeeding For Now
As previously discussed, spurts in growth need tremendous support, and one of the main ways is through nutrients. Breastmilk is extraordinarily rich in nutrients, so if you’ve made the decision to breastfeed, it may be best to hold off weaning your babe off, for now, to help them through this developmental push.
Offer Comfort and Support
Oftentimes, when any of us are feeling exhausted, we need a bit more comfort. This is true for babies as well. When our munchkins are tired, they may need more cuddles, and going through a burst in development may feel similar for them, leading to an excessive need for attention and support.
You may notice your little one being a bit more needy than usual, crying out more upon being put down for bed or watching you leave a room. This isn’t unusual, so hang in there.
Letting our little ones know they’ve got our support and care can provide an enormous amount of stress relief. When we as adults know that we’ve got emotional love and support behind us, we’re able to rest better, thrive more, behave better, and generally take on life equipped in the best way possible.
Shorten or Reschedule Naps With Care
It may be wise to reschedule naps during a sleep regression due to your child’s internal clock. If you notice they’re not tired earlier in the night, it might be better to push their naps up or back depending on the situation.
However, be careful to do this gradually, as a sudden shift can incite feelings of insecurity in your munchkin. It’s important that they know what to expect and routine is still enforced with a reasonable amount of flexibility.
If your tyke is waking up earlier from their nap regularly, it’s okay to push it back and shorten it as you see fit. It’s important that their schedule suits their bedtime in a way that promotes positive behavior as much as possible.
Adhere to Sleep Habits
It’s critical to remember to stick with a routine when encouraging a stable schedule. Regularity is something that not only allows your child to predict their days with assurance but allows them to know what’s expected of them as well.
When we know what’s expected of us, and it’s reasonable, it’s much easier to perform in a way that’s conducive to those expectations. Knowing ahead of time what to expect allows your munchkin to mentally prepare in a way that’s comfortable and enforces stability.
It may seem some days that they don’t love their schedule, they may kick and scream on occasion when fighting bedtime; however, having the security around knowing what’s expected will provide them with an invaluable sense of security.
Having a stable routine isn’t only about security but about support as well. When you’re small and vulnerable, it’s crucial to know you’re supported and looked after by your parents. Having that regularity and knowing what to expect lets them see and experience structure in a way that’s recognizable to their brain.
Refresh Yourself With Short Breaks
Taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean having to pay someone to look after your kids or admit defeat. Everyone gets exhausted, and it’s entirely reasonable when looking after a small human. It’s a big responsibility! There are a few ways to do this, and it might not be as difficult or as financially draining as you think.
Try contacting another caregiver and see if you could take turns looking after both children for a few hours. Even one hour alone can provide a much-needed dose of alone time to recharge.
Additionally, check if your YMCA has free day-care. Oftentimes, the gyms offer low-cost child services, and even if you’re not looking for a hard workout, it could allow you to relax in the sauna or even nap in the car.
You and your partner could also take shifts. This may not be possible each day; however, for an hour or two each weekend, one of you could take over, allowing the other to have some time to themselves to go for a walk, peruse a bookstore, or simply get caught up on life tasks.
It may sound complicated, but putting in a bit of an effort in order to take care of yourself can go a long way. Tired parents are more snappy, irritable, and aren’t able to look after their children as well as they may be otherwise. Everyone needs a break now and then, and looking after yourself is strong and responsible.
Potential Problems Related to Sleep Regression at This Age
Naturally, your child’s sleep may suffer during a regression; however, it’s still necessary, as is yours. Try to sneak in naps or rest whenever you can, as frequent night wakings can result in a sleep debt. While this is nothing new, it’s still an issue that needs attention and care in order to not develop more serious problems.
What Should a 12-Month-Old’s Sleep Schedule Look Like?
At 12 months old, we'll continue to aim for at least 13.5 hours of total sleep per day (11 to 12 hours at night and 2 to 3 hours of day sleep over 2 naps). Most children need 3 to 4 hours of awake time in between sleep periods at this age.
Find out more about kids sleep:
Could teething be the cause of disrupted sleep?
Teething has been extensively researched, and although there is a misconception that it is enormously painful and disrupts sleep, that isn’t often the case. It can cause irritability and slight pain, but it shouldn’t hurt enough to cause major disruptions in sleep. If it seems more severe, talk with your doctor about possible pain medications.
Regressions in sleep aren’t easy; however, they are ultimately for the best. While tricky and challenging to manage at times, they are positive indicators of your tot’s progression. If you’re tired and worn out, take a break and look after yourself.
If you’re still feeling unprepared, we have countless resources to help you cope. We realize parenthood isn’t always easy, and we’re here to help you get through it and feel supported. Check out our resources for more tips and tricks as you go down this journey.