Updated: May 9
Congratulations! You have survived the first year. You have made it through the newborn months, battled through the 4 month and 9-10 month sleep regression. Surely that’s it, right?!?!
Unfortunately, your little one’s first birthday may also bring with it the 12 month sleep regression.
Sleep seems to take another major hit and you are now facing shortened naps or total nap refusal and maybe even some frequent night wakes.
What is the 12 month sleep regression?
Your baby is growing up. They are now a toddler. They are a lot more mobile and eager to explore. They are becoming more aware of their surroundings and are taking in the world around them. They may be taking their first steps, or learning new ways to communicate with you. They are so busy playing and learning that they simply don’t want to miss out on anything and go have a nap, and they’re certainly not shy about letting you know how they feel. By refusing their naps they won’t be getting the sleep they need, therefore, they may be slowly building sleep debt. This over tiredness can then disrupt their night sleep and they start waking more frequently.
There are TWO main things to remember to survive this regression...
1. Stay Consistent
As with any sudden changes in your child’s sleep, the best thing to do is try to stick to your routine as much as possible before making any major changes.
Sleep regressions typically last 2-6 weeks. If your child was a poor sleeper previously, you may feel the effects more strongly and for longer. If you already had good sleeper with a solid routine, some patience and persistence will see you through a little faster.
As hard as it may be, try not to introduce any new sleep association out of desperation to get them to sleep. Now is not the time to re-introduce night feeds if they were previously going without, or starting to rock, bounce or co-sleep when struggling to get them down for a nap or to resettle them at 3am.
Toddlers are smart, and they will learn to expect this new association every time they need to go to sleep. If they were previously self-settling but are now needing more help, try to just sit with them a little longer to reassure them. The less you do to actually help them to fall asleep, the less work you will need to do to get them back to self-settling.
2. Stick with two Naps
This is so important!
It is easy to think that the nap refusal is a sign that they are ready to drop down to one nap. However, at this stage, they need two naps more than ever. All this exploring and learning is hard work, and with being so much more active, they need as much rest as possible in the day to prevent them from becoming over tired.
Most babies will still need two naps up until about 14-18 months old, so by dropping down to one nap now, your little one is looking at another few months of not getting the sleep they need during the day which can potentially lead to more trouble sleeping overall.
If needed, you can shorten the morning nap to help preserve the long nap in the middle of the day. Keep providing them with the opportunity to take their naps, even if they refuse, they will start to settle again, give it time.
On the days where their naps totally go out the window, make sure they are in bed nice and early to make sure they can catch up on some of that sleep debt and protect their night sleep.
Remember that sleep regressions are normal, and most babies feel the effects of most, if not all the regressions to a certain extent. Patience and consistency are key to surviving them all. They will pass in time and will soon become a distant memory… until the next one hits!