Going through the 12 month old sleep regression in toddlers is a challenge. Learn the best ways to get through this challenging phase as quickly as possible!
Hitting that one-year mark is often a celebration not just for the baby, but for us parents who somehow survived a year of raising a baby. And for the lucky ones, sleep-deprivation is a distant memory reserved for the newborn stages. I have a good sleeper, we can finally say at this stage.
But sometimes, the celebration is short-lived when you’re hit with sleep issues you never anticipated.
Your 12 month old, who normally sleeps at least 11 hours straight, is now waking three times a night (with the first one starting barely an hour after bed). He now wakes up at 5am, growing sleepy as the morning wears on, or simply refuses to take a nap, crying through both of them.
Putting him down at bedtime has grown difficult, from full meltdowns to taking forever before he finally falls asleep.
As a last resort, you’ve taken to co-sleeping or even holding him to sleep. But of course, you’re torn with getting him to sleep and not wanting to create new habits you can’t sustain.
No wonder you feel like a zombie, frustrated with this sudden turn and wondering if it’ll ever stop. Is there a sleep regression at 12 months? you wonder. It doesn’t help when things seem to be only getting worse.
How to cope with the 12 month old sleep regression
Sleep regressions seem to happen at nearly every stage of a baby or toddler’s life, don’t you think? The good news is that you know your toddler can sleep well—he’s slept well up to now, and can do so again moving forward.
The even better news is that course-correcting him back to his previous habits is possible. A few tweaks can be all it takes to get him sleeping well once again, both for naps and at night.
Take a look at these simple ways to quickly get past the 12 month old sleep regression:
1. Keep check-ins brief and infrequent
Do you feel like you walk into your child’s room a zillion times a night? Does nap time hardly happen because you check in each time he cries?
We all want to comfort our kids when we hear them fuss or cry. Unfortunately, if done too often and for every little thing, they learn that there is something wrong. That maybe they actually can’t fall asleep on their own, much less alone in the room.
The solution? Don’t check in on your child every time.
First, learn to decipher his cries. Is he whining and complaining, or is he genuinely crying and upset? Reserve your check-ins for when he truly needs your help.
Then, keep those check-ins brief—no more than 30 seconds each time. You’re making sure that there’s nothing wrong (like a soiled diaper or vomit), and reassuring him that you’re still here.
And finally, start timing your check-ins, going in every 10-15 minutes if he’s still crying. He’ll have more chances to actually fall asleep during lengthier intervals than if you enter the room each time he cries.
Free chapter: Interested in learning about teaching him to self soothe? Join my newsletter and 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 him put himself to sleep (it works for toddlers, too!):
2. Be consistent with your strategy
Changing habits happen with consistent repetition. Flip flopping between, say, having your child stay in bed and relenting to bringing him to your bed only sends mixed messages.
Instead, plan ahead and hold your ground. You might even give yourself a “pep talk,” reminding yourself that, while it’ll be rough, reassuring him that his room is safe to sleep in is your plan of action. This will help you resist the temptation of perhaps bringing him to your bed or sleeping in his room.
The more you follow through with your word and remain consistent, the more he’ll realize that this is simply the way things are. Give him the benefit of the doubt that he truly can get through this 12 month old sleep regression.
3. Schedule the first nap 3 hours after waking up
Whether your 12 month old woke up several times at night or really early in the morning, it’s tempting to push that first nap sooner than usual. After all, you’re both exhausted from the lack of sleep, and she’s likely more than ready for that next snooze.
Instead, see what happens if you schedule that first nap no sooner than three hours after she wakes up in the morning. If she woke up at 6am, put her down at 9am—this will hopefully get her back onto her usual schedule and avoid creating a new one based on an early wake up time.
4. Have a (really) early bedtime
When most parents hear the advice to have an early bedtime, they might think of bumping the time by 15-30 minutes at most. But considering that you’re course-correcting your child’s sleep, experiment with drastic changes.
In short, put him down for the night much earlier than you usually do.
If he normally sleeps at 7:30pm, put him down at 6:30pm. The end of the day is the most tiresome for all of us—the early bedtime could be the welcomed rest he truly needs. And good, quality sleep will only reap even more of the same.
5. Offer the last feeding earlier in the evening
Does your 12 month old still rely on nursing or feeding to fall asleep at bedtime? Doing so might be denying him the chance to learn how to fall asleep on his own, instead of needing milk to do so.
One trick is to nurse or feed earlier in the evening. For instance, offer milk directly after dinner (or even with dinner). Or the last feeding can happen at the start of the bedtime routine, like right before bath.
In fact, the one-year mark was when I not only introduced cow’s milk but also transitioned from a bottle to a sippy cup. Gradually, I phased out the nursing sessions and bottles in favor of drinking more independently and, down the line, with meals.
6. Give your child a lovey
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Separation anxiety at night can strike when young toddlers hit new developmental milestones. They might now question whether we’ll return in the morning, or wonder what lurks behind the darkness.
One of the simplest ways to make sleeping a more pleasant experience is to give your child a lovey. Each of my kids have one (even until now!) that they sleep with for every nap and through the night. It’s the constant comfort they have, a reassurance that they’re not truly alone.
Sleep problems improve, but they don’t always go away entirely. Even when things have been humming along just fine, we still hit the 12 month old sleep regression, leaving us trying to remember what to do.
Thankfully, you have options. Check in on your child briefly and at set intervals—doing the opposite might only confirm his suspicions that something is worrisome. Stay consistent with your plan so you avoid sending mixed messages.
Experiment with the time he sleeps, from trying an early bedtime to keeping him awake at least three hours before the first nap. Offer the last feeding earlier in the evening to avoid relying on feeding or nursing to fall asleep. And give him a special lovey to make the time apart from you more comforting.
You can get through the 12 month old sleep regression — and go back to celebrating the other milestones of hitting that one-year mark.
Get more tips:
- Why Your Toddler Is Going Through the 1 Year Old Sleep Regression
- 5 Tips to Help Your Overtired Toddler Finally Go to Sleep
- What to Do When Your Toddler Suddenly Won’t Sleep
- Top 6 Tips to Get Through the Toddler Sleep Regression
- 1 Year Old Sleep Schedule: Examples that Actually Work
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