Baby Sleep Diaries: Exploring the 12-Month Sleep Regression and How to Conquer It
22. 8. 2023
18. 8. 2023
Twelve months marks an important stage of infant development.
Around this time, children begin to gain more mobility, weight, and strength.
With all this activity, it’s expected for the child to lose sleep, both in the daytime and at night.
Not to worry:
You can cope with this regression, and I’ll show you how. In this article, we’ll explore the causes and effects of 12-month sleep regression in children and how to manage them.
What Causes Sleep Regression at 12 Months?
Around an infant’s first birthday, they reach developmental milestones that affect their behavioral patterns, feeding, and sleep.
The 12-month sleep regression in children has multiple causes that mostly pivot around developmental processes.
Let’s discuss these causes and how they could lead to sleep regression in your 12-month-old:
1. Increased Movement
In children, growth comes with mobility.
This means that with each new milestone they achieve, they learn to use their body more.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that at 12 months, babies start to stand and use their hands more. You might even watch your baby bust a move while playing.
These developmental milestones bring joy to parenthood.
This newfound energy in your infant might keep them from getting adequate sleep. So instead of resting during the day or at night, they’d be interested in using up all that energy in bed.
Repeating this routine could lead to an onset of the 12-month sleep regression in infants.
2. Increased Sleep Independence
According to the Pediatric Sleep Council, 12-month-olds only sleep around 11-14 hours. That’s notably less than the amount of time younger children spend asleep.
This reduced sleeping period occurs because as babies grow, they don’t need as much sleep.
When babies are born, they sleep more because they take in a lot of information. Additionally, they don’t have a good sense of day or nighttime. So they spend most of their time taking naps.
It’s normal for children to grow relatively independent of naps. This happens because they develop a good grasp of how the world works as they grow.
At 12 months, your baby doesn’t have to spend as much time processing information. Rather they develop more energy and become more active during the day.
Hunger is a key factor affecting how well your 12-month-old sleeps.
If your baby is hungry, they might find it difficult to sleep. Or, they might wake up at irregular intervals at night.
Consistent hunger eventually leads to a noticeable regression in infant sleep.
This is one factor you can control. All you have to do is listen to your baby’s hunger cues and develop a comfortable feeding routine.
This ensures they don’t go to bed hungry or wake up mid-sleep due to hunger.
4. Discomfort or Pain
Babies hate discomfort, and it tells on their sleep.
They use signs like crying or staying awake to show parents they are uncomfortable or in pain.
Some major causes of distress in infants are teething, an undersized bed, or inconducive sleep conditions.
At 12 months, your baby has probably outgrown their bassinet. So, laying them in the bassinet wouldn’t be comfortable, especially since they don’t have space to move around.
In this scenario:
It might be time to move your baby from the bassinet to the crib so they can sleep comfortably.
Since your baby can’t directly tell you what’s wrong, you must watch out for their clues. This way, you can easily tell when they’re in pain or discomfort or if they need more sleeping space.
5. Separation Anxiety
When your baby is 12 months old, it might show signs of separation anxiety, which is perfectly normal. It just means your baby isn’t too comfortable without you around.
Separation anxiety is more common with 12-month-olds who sleep separated from their parents. The second they lose sight of the parent, all tiredness vanishes, and they become more concerned with identifying a familiar face.
Although normal, separation anxiety can lead to 12-month sleep regression. If your baby constantly needs you around to feel safe enough to rest, it could affect their sleep routine.
In the end:
They could develop a routine of sleeping too late at night or waking too often in the middle of their sleep.
How Does the Sleep Regression at 12 Months Affect Sleep?
As a parent, you’ve probably looked forward to the day when your infant can sleep comfortably all night. Not just because you need the rest but for their benefit as well.
Your baby hits the big 12-month mark, and you expect the balanced sleep routine that comes with it. However, you’re shocked that your baby’s sleep doesn’t balance out. In fact, it’s gotten increasingly difficult to put them to sleep.
Well, I have news:
The scenario above depicts how the 12-month sleep regression affects your baby’s sleep routine. And frankly, it can be daunting to handle.
You should know that the 12-month sleep regression is a normal developmental phase in infants. This regression can present in multiple ways, including:
- Infant waking up frequently at night
- Infant sleeping later than bedtime
- Infant having trouble settling into sleep
- Infant waking too early in the morning
The effects of this regression on your baby’s sleep can be frustrating, but they usually resolve on their own within a few weeks.
How Can Parents Manage the 12-Month Sleep Regression?
You can manage the 12-month sleep regression! All you have to do is ensure your baby is comfortable enough to fall asleep.
To successfully manage this regression, you must be consistent and support your baby during this time.
Here are some techniques for coping with the 12-month sleep regression:
1. Maintain a Consistent Bedtime Routine
One of the key facts about babies is that they thrive with patterns.
Developing and maintaining a consistent bedtime routine provides a pattern for your baby to adapt to. With this technique, your baby would know when it’s time for bed and to wake up.
And since babies easily pick up new habits, they’ll adjust to the routine even without any extra help.
For this to be effective, you must maintain consistency. This helps avoid disrupting the pattern you’re trying to create for your baby.
2. Limit Stimulation Before Bed
As we’ve established:
12-month olds are generally very active. Around this period, their body is undergoing drastic developmental stages, and they are packed with resident energy even at rest.
The last thing you want for your already energetic baby is more stimulation before bed.
External stimulation could include playing, tickling, or screen time, which could excite your baby and prevent sleep.
3. Monitor Separation Anxiety
If your child constantly craves your presence, you should give it to them.
You can offer cuddles, hugs, and tender care around naptime or bedtime. And while doing so, watch for how attached your baby is to you.
Over time, your baby might not need as much attention. However, it is always best to surround them with care so they get comfortable enough to sleep.
4. Build an Efficient Feeding Plan
Just think about it:
If your baby constantly wakes up at night due to hunger, the most effective solution would be eradicating that hunger. And the only way to do so is by building a great feeding plan for your baby.
We can all agree that:
12-month-olds expel a lot of energy. And the only way to get this energy back is through food.
To this effect:
Since they expel a considerable amount of energy, increasing the quantity of food they get is only befitting. And possibly feed them closer to their bedtime.
By placing your baby on an efficient feeding schedule, you help them stay fuller for longer.
When Should Parents Seek Help for Sleep Regression at 12 Months?
The 12-month sleep regression only lasts for a few weeks. So, if you notice an abnormality in your baby’s sleep pattern lasting more than 3-4 weeks, it’s advisable to seek professional help.
Alongside the irregular sleep pattern, your baby could show other symptoms such as frequent night waking or restlessness.
If you’re having difficulties managing sleep regression, then it is best to see a pediatrician or sleep specialist for guidance.
The 12-month sleep regression is normal, but it can be a hassle for both the baby and the parent.
Knowing how to manage the regression saves you a considerable amount of stress.
This sleep regression is caused by increased movement due to development, increased sleep independence, and hunger. Discomfort and separation anxiety are also primary causes of the regression.
Now, here are four ways to manage the 12-month sleep regression and ensure your baby sleeps safely:
- Maintain a consistent bedtime routine
- Limit stimulation before bed
- Monitor separation anxiety
- Build an effective feeding plan
The sleep regression shouldn’t last more than a few weeks. If it does, it is best to seek the help of a professional.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you did, let me know in the comments. Feel free to also leave your suggestions, questions, and concerns in the comment section, and I’ll respond to them.
FAQ: 12-Month Sleep Regression
The 12-month sleep regression occurs due to the developmental process in infant life. These processes include increased mobility, teething, and sleep independence.
You can help your baby navigate the 12-month sleep regression by maintaining a constant bedtime routine. You can also limit their stimulation before bed, monitor their separation anxiety, and build a good feeding plan.
To minimize the impact of the 12-month sleep regression, you can help your baby develop a stable sleeping pattern. You can also feed them closer to bedtime so they don’t get hungry and wake frequently at night.