Is your baby waking up at night or suddenly refusing to sleep? Discover tips to cope with the 11 month sleep regression.
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 baby 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 prior, 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 refuse 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.
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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 she’s teething and can’t sleep unless she’s held. She might be going through a growth spurt or hitting new milestones like standing and being more mobile. Perhaps she’s able to formulate ideas that she can’t communicate as clearly as she wants. She 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 parents—myself included—have found that this truly is a stage that won’t last forever. The key is to nip these sleep habits now so you don’t have to continue weeks and months of the same thing. Take a look at these steps to manage the 11 month sleep regression:
1. Teach your baby to self soothe
Has your 11-month-old 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 needs to fall and stay asleep, which can be problematic during nighttime sleep.
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 unsustainable sleep associations.
After all, if he can’t find the pacifier, or is 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 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.
Tip: Use a white noise machine to muffle sleep disruptions that sudden sounds can make.
Free resource: Interested in teaching him to self soothe? Get a preview of How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe. Learn all about the mindset needed for successful self-soothing and helping him put himself to sleep. You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:
“Your post was exactly what I needed to read. What I love about your sleep advice is that you include practical tips for the external factors we can control, but that you also cover meaningful tips for the internal—what we can control within our own mindsets and attitudes. I found that equally helpful to get me through this tough sleepless period. Thanks for the work you do!” -Kathleen F.
2. Be consistent with what has worked
Whether the 11 month sleep regression has come on predictably or suddenly, keep your response consistent.
You see, before the regression, you practiced a predictable routine that led to easy sleep. You followed sleep cues, didn’t rock him to sleep, and followed healthy sleep habits.
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 him 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 sends a clear message on how he should fall asleep.
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 time. And when it all feels so much better with you around, no wonder he fusses when you’re not.
As shared on Healthy Children:
“At about the same time, she’ll become much more ‘clutchy’ about leaving you. This is the start of separation anxiety. Just as she’s starting to realize that each object is unique and permanent, she’ll also discover that there’s only one of you. When you’re out of her sight, she’ll know you’re somewhere, but not with her, and this will cause her great distress.”
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 lovey to hold only during sleep, and keep playtime 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 can help him learn that what he feels is normal and, more importantly, nothing to worry about.
And play object permanence games like peek-a-boo to reassure him that you’ll always come back, even if he doesn’t see you all the time.
4. Support your baby’s developmental milestones
One challenge with the 11 month sleep regression has to do with the developmental milestones your baby is experiencing. From newfound mobility like standing up and walking to painful stages like teething, these many changes can affect her sleep.
Help her get through these milestones, both exciting and not-so-fun. For instance, ease discomfort with teething rings and talk to her doctor to eliminate potential ear infections. Give her plenty of time to practice crawling, cruising, or walking.
And if she wakes up standing in the crib crying because she doesn’t know how to get back down, don’t worry—this stage won’t last long. Simply go in and lay her back down. Eventually, she learns the all-important skill of getting herself 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 they’re moving away from frequent feedings and into taking in their calories during the daytime.
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 helps 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 your baby’s sleep patterns to see if doing so helps her sleep better. For instance, you might cap her afternoon nap so that her energy levels are lower near bedtime, or move them earlier in the day so she has longer wake windows.
You could also try putting her to sleep earlier, in case you suspect she’s overtired by bedtime. Falling asleep can be difficult when she’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 her developmental milestones. Keep her comfortable while she’s teething, and give her plenty of opportunities to practice mobile skills. You might also consider sleep training and weaning her off night feedings so she can sleep 10-12 hours straight.
And finally, adjust her schedule and experiment with different times to put her to sleep. Sometimes a simple change in when and how long she naps can make all the difference.
Unfortunately for many of us, the 11 month sleep regression is a thing—a quick online search tells you that much. But thankfully, it’s also one you can get through, one night at a time.
Get more tips:
- How to Solve 11 Month Old Sleep Problems
- How to Get a Teething Baby to Sleep
- Common 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
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