Is your 11 month old waking up at night or suddenly refusing to sleep? Discover tips to cope with the 11 month sleep regression and end your sleep problems!
There can’t seriously be an 11 month sleep regression, I thought. But lo and behold, a quick internet search showed that I wasn’t the only one with a little one suddenly not sleeping well.
The new sleep patterns—if you could call them that—felt like our family was back on the newborn schedule.
Because for months, my son would go down at bedtime easily and happily. If he happened to fuss in the middle of the night, he’d only do so for a minute before falling right back to sleep.
But right around the 11-month mark, he resisted and fussed during the whole bedtime routine. This, only to cry once it was time to actually sleep. He’d wake up throughout the night—screaming, of course—and refusing to lie down.
Even though he’d never been an “easy” sleeper, he also had never slept this fitfully, either. Is this a developmental thing? I wondered.
How to cope with the 11 month sleep regression
If your sleep situation has gone down the drain around this time, rest assured you’re not alone. The 11-month mark coincides with so much development in your baby’s life.
Maybe he’s teething and coping with the pain and discomfort. He might be going through a growth spurt, or hitting new milestones like standing and being more mobile. Perhaps he’s able to formulate ideas in his mind he can’t quite communicate as clearly as he wants. He might already be throwing tantrums.
And sometimes sleep regressions happen because of circumstances. Coming down with a cold, going on vacation, or enjoying the holidays can often disrupt sleep.
Thankfully, many moms—myself included—have found that this truly is a stage that won’t last forever. The key is to nip these habits now so you don’t have to continue weeks and months of the same thing. Take a look at these steps to take to manage the 11 month sleep regression:
1. Be consistent with what has worked
Whether the 11 month sleep regression has come on predictably (a new school, getting sick) or suddenly, keep your response consistent.
You see, before the regression, you practiced a predictable routine that led to easy sleep. But perhaps as a way to get through the night, you’ve allowed your baby to sleep in your bed, nursed him to sleep, or stayed in his room.
The problem? However effective these methods may be in the short-term, they’re also training your baby to develop new habits. Rather than, say, going to sleep when he’s supposed to, he now demands to play with his toys a little longer.
Yes, experiment and be flexible, especially when you see a new method starting to work. But at the end of the day, you’re the one making the final decision on whether to co-sleep or stay in his room.
Instead, go back to what has worked, and stick to it. Don’t give in and create the very habits you don’t want. The consistency in how you respond will send a clear message on how he should fall asleep.
2. Teach your baby to self soothe
Has your baby started to rely on the pacifier to fall asleep (only to wake up when it falls out of his mouth)? Or do you now need to nurse him to sleep throughout the night?
More than likely, he’s grown used to certain sleep aids to fall and stay asleep, which can be problematic come nighttime. You see, everyone wakes up between sleep cycles, but while you and I know how to fall back to sleep, many babies struggle to do so on their own. Especially when they rely on sleep aids.
After all, if he can’t find the pacifier, or has gotten used to nursing to sleep, no wonder he wakes up crying for either one.
Instead, teach him how to self soothe so that he can simply put himself back to sleep on his own—no sleep aids needed. The result? A solid 11-12 hours of sleep without a single peep from him.
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3. Address your baby’s fears and anxieties
One of the stages many babies-turning-toddlers face is the awareness of new fears and anxieties.
For instance, they develop a fear of the dark, especially once they realize that things they can’t see are still there. They might also feel anxious being apart from you, even for as short as a quick nap. And when it all feels so much better with you around, no wonder he fusses when you’re not.
First, take practical steps like adding a nightlight in his room or checking in on him every few minutes to remind him you’re still here. Give him a new stuffed animal to hold only during sleep, and keep play time low-key before sleep.
Then, talk to him about his feelings. Yes, even at 11 months old! The best way is to gather children’s books about going to bed, being apart, or nighttime fears. You’ll help him build a new vocabulary and understanding that what he feels is normal and, more important, nothing to worry about.
4. Support your baby’s developmental milestones
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One of the biggest challenges with the 11 month sleep regression has to do with how many developmental milestones your baby is experiencing. From newfound mobility like standing up and walking to painful stages like teething, these many changes can affect his sleep.
Help him get through these milestones, both exciting and not-so-fun. For instance, ease discomfort with teething rings like these and talk to his doctor to eliminate potential ear infections. Give him plenty of time to practice crawling or walking.
And if he wakes up standing in the crib crying because he doesn’t know how to get back down, don’t worry—this stage won’t last long. Simply go in and lay him back down. Eventually, he’ll learn the all-important skill of getting himself down and won’t wake up miserable every night.
5. Wean from night feedings
By 11 months, most babies don’t need to feed in the middle of the night. We forget that at this stage, they’re moving further away from the babies who need frequent feedings… and into becoming toddlers who can take in their calories during the day.
In fact, many parents have a hunch that their babies cry for feedings not from hunger, but from habit. They might not even swallow milk, but rather rely on the sucking motion to fall asleep.
And even if they are hungry and need those ounces, babies at this stage can usually take their calories in during the day, just like you and I do. In other words, you can increase his ounces during the day, so that he can sleep through the night.
Reducing night feedings will help him sleep in longer stretches and rest in deep sleep. No more waking up throughout the night for either one of you!
6. Adjust your baby’s routine
Sometimes the 11 month sleep regression can be solved with nothing more than a change in your baby’s routine.
For one thing, make sure you have a routine, and one that’s consistent every day. Kids thrive on predictability, and even at this age, it helps them know what to expect next, including sleep.
Then, experiment with different schedule changes to see if doing so helps your baby sleep better. For instance, you might cap his naps so that he’s not wired at night, or perhaps move them earlier in the day so he has more time to be awake.
Conversely, you could also try putting him to sleep earlier, in case you suspect he’s overtired by bedtime. Falling asleep can be difficult when he’s too exhausted to do so (ironic, I know!).
No doubt, hitting that 11 month sleep regression is tough for even the most patient mom. You’re annoyed—even getting depressed about the whole situation—and don’t know what to do.
Rest assured, you’re not alone, and now have several strategies to try. Start by being consistent with what has worked, even if it means putting your foot down and dealing with tantrums. At the same time, address your baby’s fears and anxieties, many of which can crop up at this stage.
That also means supporting his developmental milestones, from keeping him comfortable while he’s teething to giving him plenty of opportunities to practice mobile skills. You might also consider sleep training and weaning him off night feedings so he can finally put himself to sleep through the night.
And finally, adjust his schedule and experiment with different times to put him to sleep. Sometimes a simple change in when and how long he naps can make all the difference.
Unfortunately for many of us, the 11 month sleep regression is a thing—a quick online search will tell you that much. But thankfully, it’s also one you can get through, one night at a time.
Get more tips:
- “At What Age…?” Baby Development Milestones You Don’t Always Hear About
- How to Get a Teething Baby to Sleep
- Top Questions About Transitioning from Breastmilk to Whole Milk
- What Having a “Spoiled Baby” Really Means
- What to Do When Your Baby Wakes Up Crying from Naps
Interested in learning about teaching your baby to self soothe? Get a preview of my guide, How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe. This chapter is all about the mindset needed for successful self-soothing and helping your baby put himself to sleep: