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12-Month Sleep Regression-Here's what to expect!

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Yes, you heard right, another sleep regression happens about the same time as your little one's first birthday. How exciting, I mean the birthday, not the regression!! In all seriousness though, a baby may experience a few sleep regressions as they grow and develop, so here is my guide as to how you can keep your mind and soul intact through yet another regression.

What causes this regression?

The 12-month sleep regression can happen at any time between 9-12 months. Sleep regressions occur due to cognitive and developmental leaps that disrupt your little one’s sleep. Sleep regressions may disrupt your baby's sleep for a short period before returning to "normal".

So much is happening in your baby's little brains and bodies, for example, they learn to take their first steps, they are able to say a few words more clearly and follow simple commands from caregivers, while their fine motor skills advance. The reason we know when sleep regressions are likely to hit is that it always in line with the time when your baby is due to meet certain developmental milestones for their age. While your little adjust to developing it is only normal for other areas such as their sleep to regress a little bit.

Not all babies go through all the developmental sleep regressions, some only experience regressions mildly while others are noticeably affected, some may only experience one regression while others experience a few. Fortunately, it is very uncommon that a baby will be affected by every sleep regression during every developmental stage of their life.

Signs to look out for:

  • Night-time sleep becomes worse as your baby might wake excessively

  • Naps may be difficult to achieve as your little one starts to resist sleep, especially when you have a catnapping baby

  • The good sleeper you had may begin to cry when being put to bed

  • Your baby may be fussier or clingier than usual

  • And may be a little hungrier than they usual

How can you help your little one?

When our little babies’ transition to toddlerhood they often seek more attention from their caregivers and your reassurance will help your little while they go through some big changes.

Between 9-12 months is the time where your little one’s separation anxiety starts to emerge, during separation anxiety, your baby begins to become aware of the fact that they are independent little humans and separate beings from their parents. This is all very scary for our little ones, add a sleep regression into the mix and we have a bit of a hot mess on our hands, try a game of peek-a-boo in their cot during their awake times, this will help your little one learn that although you disappear, you do return.

Separation anxiety is all normal for your little one and the best thing you can do is give your baby some undivided attention as much as possible. Cuddle, kiss and enjoy those moments with your little one and just reassure them that you are there for them and you love them. Start introducing a lovey/comfort item that your baby can have with them when they sleep at night.

Ensure you keep breastfeeding through this regression, this is not the time to start weaning your baby, they are already going through some big changes, once the regression has passed then you can work on weaning your baby.

How do we overcome this regression?

During this regression your little one may be fighting their morning nap, this is very normal but many parents think that it may be an indication that their baby is ready for one nap a day, this is rarely the case and I would advise against doing this until your baby is closer to that 15-18 month mark. The reason I recommend not dropping the nap at 12 months is that's when your baby is going through this regression their sleep is affected, which means, they have built up some sleep debt, now we try to drop the morning nap as well and we have even more sleep debt! This can create a very overtired baby, so best to wait until this regression has passed and then work on transitioning to one nap a day.

When going through any regression it is important to ensure that you are doing a good long wind-down routine with your baby, so if previously you did a 5-minute wind-down routine then bump that up to 15 or even 20 minutes so your baby has the chance to really relax and get ready for sleep.

Consistency, consistency, consistency, this will be your best friend during any regression, the more consistent you are the faster a regression passes, and things return as they were. If your child already has the skills to self-settle and resettle then this is not the time to bring in any sleep associations that you don’t want hanging around after the regression has passed.

Don’t begin to co-sleep with your little one, this will only affect their sleep long term and create a new sleep association for your baby. Rather opt for a campout in your babies’ room while they go through the sleep regression and then reduce your presence in their room over the coming days. Don’t start bringing in feeds at night, your 12-month-old does not need a feed overnight especially if they haven't needed one in a long time, ensure they are getting all their calories during the day.

Keep offering the naps at your baby’s usual times, this can be difficult but if they are happy to just play in their cot for their nap time then let them be, this is just their brain keeping them up to practice some newfound skills. Look at your babies awake windows; are they age-appropriate? If your baby is going to bed under-tired/overtired, you will want to address this issue first before assuming a sleep regression.

If your baby was never a good sleeper then you will want to start working on this to ensure that their “bad” sleep does not get any worse but rather improves after the regression, if you are struggling, I would love to help you with this.

Allow your baby the time to practice their skills, at this age, babies are very active and love to move around so give them all the opportunity to be busy bees while they are awake. Giving them the time to burn off that energy helps to make them tired enough to want to nap. The best thing you can do is to get your baby outdoors, fresh air, sunshine and playtime in the park will all help your little one to grow and develop. This will be so beneficial for your babies sleep especially at night because when they nice and active during the day they are less likely to be up all hours of the night practising their skills.

Lastly, take some time for yourself, self-care for parents is always important but it is even more important during a sleep regression because, not only is your little one's sleep being affected but you are being tested; physically, emotionally and mentally, now throw in some sleep deprivation and we have a lethal cocktail on our hands. Take some time for yourself, get out without your baby. Take turns during settling and ensure you are eating and drinking enough water throughout the day.

Remember as with any regression, this too shall pass, remain consistent, stick to your routines, provide extra cuddles and look after yourself and before your know it, you will be on the other side and everything is back to “normal” again.

Love and Sleepy Hugs



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