Throughout your child’s life, there will inevitably be some ups and downs with their sleep patterns, especially when they’re young. Sleep regressions are natural, and the 12-month sleep regression is a common developmental leap that many parents dread. By the time your little one is a year old, you’ve probably already established a regular sleep schedule with them, to the point where your household sleeps fairly soundly. (If you haven’t done this or feel your baby’s sleep still needs some tweaking, don’t hesitate to reach out!

But that solid sleep routine can go south rather suddenly when they hit this developmental leap. Why does a regression like this happen? A variety of underlying reasons could be to blame. 

Why Is My Baby Resisting Sleep at 12 Months?

Babies develop at an astonishing rate. All of their mental and physical systems are growing at once—but not always at consistent rates. The 12-month mark is a point where most babies reach multiple developmental milestones in multiple areas, and it can lead to them feeling uncomfortable and unsettled!

  • Physically, babies and young children experience growth spurts, causing restlessness, hunger, and achy joints, all of which interfere with their ability to sleep well; teething is another culprit. 
  • Emotionally, separation anxiety turns into a bigger obstacle, since kids become more aware of object permanence as they grow and begin missing their parents when left alone; displays of parental preference further complicate things. 
  • Mentally, babies are super curious at this age as they learn to walk, talk, and explore their surroundings, meaning that sleep habits may change alongside their increasingly active minds.

Regardless of the “why,” there are ways to be proactive rather than reactive in your daily sleep routines with your one-year-old so that you, your partner, and your baby (and your other children too!) can all get the good night’s sleep you need. Here are five practical tips for navigating your way through the 12-month sleep regression.

#1: Keep Your Routines Consistent

It’s important to maintain consistent bedtime and naptime routines when your baby is going through a sleep regression. While that feels harder than ever right now, consistency around sleep is the best course of action if you want to continue building on your child’s sleep foundation. There should be predictability in their routine so that your baby knows what to expect before sleep times. This signals to them that it’s time to relax and wind down. It also creates connection during your pre-sleep routine together; this connection sends our babies off to sleep feeling at peace rather than needing more time with you.

Creating a routine that’s comfortable and easy to execute each evening sets your little one up for success. Every baby is different, but depending on their age, they generally require a specific amount of sleep and will benefit from a reliable routine. Their daytime nap schedule is also directly tied to their overnight sleep—if their napping is unbalanced, everything else will be too, so consider all factors when looking at your one-year-old’s daily routine.

#2: Optimize the Sleep Environment

No one sleeps well in a room that isn’t optimized for quality rest. Babies need a darkened sleep space that’s comfortable, familiar, and temperature-controlled (unless your baby can drift off in a party house atmosphere, in which case you have a unicorn on your hands!). They’ll have their own unique preferences as they age. Perhaps they depend on a white noise machine as opposed to a totally silent nursery, or vice-versa. I personally love white noise for babies and toddlers and think it’s one of the best tools when you travel! 

Whatever your baby’s specific sleep preferences might be, ensure that their bedroom is designed to be cozy and optimal for sleep. If your child has a favorite blankie, stuffed animal, or other comfort item—“lovies” are a great way to offer your baby another way to soothe themselves as they go to sleep—these attachment objects will be helpful in the sleep training (or re-training) process. You could also try incorporating essential oils to calm your little one prior to bedtime, since using essential oils for a massage before bed or in a diffuser can create a space that induces sleep.

#3: Address Your Baby’s Needs 

These 12-month milestones, while exciting and reassuring, can really throw parents for a loop because the bouncing baby they’ve come to know seems to be growing up so much faster than they realized. Unfortunately, age-related changes can sometimes make for a grumpy or demanding baby. Maybe recent weaning from breastfeeding or pacifier use has been frustrating for everyone and it’s impacting their sleep. It’s understandable for sleep to be affected if they’re distracted by another change to their routine. Babies at this age are also notorious for testing boundaries and figuring out where the line in the sand is drawn. It’s a normal part of development and one that requires parents to be strong while maintaining age-appropriate boundaries. 

Addressing your baby’s bedtime requirements can help mitigate the disruption of the 12-month sleep regression. They could be grappling with a manageable issue like teething or something more complicated like sleep apnea. As a parent, you’re already very concerned about your little one’s health and wellness, but expert support from your pediatrician or a qualified sleep consultant can assuage a lot of worries related to your baby’s sleep. 

#4: Encourage Healthy Sleep Behaviors

“Sleep hygiene” describes the lead-up to bedtime and how conducive that behavior is (or isn’t) to healthy sleep. Since you want to boost your child’s rest and not detract from it, it’s good to know what hygienic sleep looks like for a baby their age. Sleep for a one-year-old should be supportive of their current physiology: they’re growing fast and will likely keep you on your toes as their sleep patterns wax and wane, but wake windows of 3 to 4 hours at a time are typical.

Don’t forget that these wake windows may be lengthening as well. This transition can be tricky as you try to figure out your baby’s new sweet spot for going to sleep. As your baby gets older, the amount of time they can stay awake will lengthen. Allow enough waking hours between naps to enhance the quality of your baby’s next nap or nighttime sleep. The average wake window for a 12-month-old is roughly 2.5/3 hours for the first wake window of the day then 3/3.5 hours for the second wake window and 4/4.5 hours before bed. Remember these are guidelines and always take into consideration how long your baby napped for the prior nap. A 45-minute nap and a two-hour nap won’t result in the same wake windows. 

Certain foods or activities are a bad idea before putting the baby down for the evening due to the effect they may have on your little one’s overnight sleep. Sugary baby foods (even too much fruit!) or stimulating play too close to bedtime can energize your child at the worst possible hour. Having said that, roughhousing before bed can actually be helpful in winding down for sleep because it gives your baby an outlet to expend that last bit of energy for the day. 

And while this may go without saying, don’t allow your baby or toddler to look at screens before bed. The blue light disrupts melatonin production and will rewire your baby’s brain to wake them up. Screens are not beneficial to our kiddos’ brains and while they make for an easy babysitter at times, they are highly addictive and don’t allow for easy sleep at any age. 

#5: Tend to Your Own Needs, Too

Finally, it’s vital to tend to your own needs in order to prevent burnout and stay healthy. Adults benefit from a sleep routine just like kids do, so giving yourself time to unwind and prepare for bed every night improves your sleep, both in duration and depth. This also means limiting your screen usage before bed and following steps to transition from a nonstop day of parenting to a blissful state of rest. Self-care matters!

Sleep deprivation as a young parent is extremely difficult. Ideally, it needs to be managed to avoid long-term problems. It’s crucial for you and your partner to balance the load as a team so that you each get the good sleep you deserve. Your marriage will be significantly better if you and your spouse are both rested! Set aside time to actively connect with your partner as much as you can to remind one another that you’re in this together as a team.

Your Best Tip: Your Sleeping Baby!

For exhausted parents, the 12-month sleep regression might feel overwhelming, but I promise that you can get through it as a family. Many times, it’s just about staying consistent with your boundaries (remember, kids want boundaries, as they create so much security!) and getting your timing right for sleep times. If you’re still feeling like you want more tools and some extra support to ease the burden, Your Sleeping Baby is here for you and your family! 

If you’re dreaming of getting enough quality ZZZs, a sleep consult can be the difference between regression and progression. I specialize in giving families the tools to achieve great sleep for the short and long term. I’m proud to have worked with hundreds of families to navigate dozens of sleep issues in an effort to restore families to peaceful nights and happy mornings. 

Even if you don’t think your little one needs a sleep consultant, trust me when I say that an objective second set of eyes can elevate anyone’s ability to rest well. There may be hidden disturbances to your child’s sleep patterns you don’t even know exist. I’m here to help you build a strong foundation for healthy sleep going forward—not just for your baby, but for your entire family.So let’s revamp your household’s sleep for the better! Schedule your consultation today or reach out to schedule a discovery call so we can chat about which service is the right fit for you.

10 Simple Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep Better Tonight

These tips are simple, easy to implement, and created to help your baby slowly step into a healthy, secure relationship with sleep!

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