Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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The 12 Month Sleep Regression: Signs, Causes and What can you do

The 12 Month Sleep Regression : Fact or Fiction? Lets Find out

You thought you had it made!  After working so hard on sleep during your baby’s first year of life, you had finally reached a point where your baby was sleeping 11 – 12 hours a night of uninterrupted sleep.

Feeling rested yourself, the prospect of going back to work seemed manageable.  You thought, “yes, I can do this!”… and then it hit, the 12-month sleep regression and your baby started waking up either more at night or very early in the morning.

12 month sleep regression: Fact or Fiction?

The most common causes of a 12-month sleep regression are:

  1. Developmental change, ie walking  
  2. Adjustments to Daycare (more so for Canadians)  
  3. Teething – 1st molars at 14 mo, lateral incisors should be coming in around 10 mo – 16 mo  
  4. 2 – 1 nap transition occurs around 12 – 14 months  

What can you do about night waking?

When your child wakes in the night, respond to your child and provide reassurance that you are there.

Try not to create any new bad habits such as bringing your child into bed with you, if you are not co-sleep, or providing a bottle of milk to soothe.

Your best plan of action is to enter the room and provide hugs and cuddles, and then sit beside the crib providing verbal reassurance until your baby can fall back asleep.

You’ll have to watch that bedtime is adjusted earlier as your child will probably be more tired on days following a night with more night wakings.

What can you do about early morning wake ups?

When your baby starts waking up at 5:00 am, it can feel like it is the middle of the night.

This is really rough, especially if you are just going back to work and getting used to a busier schedule, drop offs, pick ups, getting home to get dinner and dealing with more life stress in general.  The last thing you need is to be up an hour or two earlier in the morning, with a baby who is still tired and hence cranky.

These are harder than the night waking because it is more difficult for a child to resume sleeping past 5:00 am once they have woken.  This part of the morning has more “light” sleep cycles.

The same principles of the night wakings apply.  Lots of hugs and cuddles, but try not to create any new bad habits and expectations by bringing your baby into bed with you if you don’t sleep together currently.

You can go in the room and sit by the crib for a bit and verbally soothe your child to back to sleep.

The other option is to get them up, and then get them back down for a morning nap before you leave the house for daycare.  This is hard.

One helpful tactic is to focus on the quantity of sleep over 24 hours.  

Your 12-month-old needs:

–          13 – 14 hours of total 24 hour sleep per day

–          11 – 12 hours of uninterrupted night sleep

–          1.5 – 3 hours of naps

Earlier Bedtime

With night waking, early wake ups and if you are going through the 2 – 1 nap transition, remember to bump bedtime up earlier as your child will be overtired from the extra waking and not used to longer wake periods with the 2 -1 nap transition.

Slowly you’ll be able to push bedtime back to between 6 and 7 pm again.

Sleep begets sleep, the more sleep your baby gets, the better she will sleep.

It is tempting for parents to want to delay bedtime, theorizing that keeping baby up later will make them sleep in later in the morning.  This just doesn’t work.  The opposite is true – earlier bedtime equals more sleep and a later wake up.

Habitual Waking

If you are finding that the 5 am wake up has now become a habit, ie. more than 3 days in a row.  Then you may try a technique called “wake to sleep”.

In this technique,  you enter your baby’s room 1 hour before the habitual wake-up time and gently rouse them.

The idea here is to manipulate when the sleep cycles are occurring, so they are not “surfacing” between cycles at 5 am, and sleep longer.  You can read more about this on my page titled “wake to sleep.”

Lastly, remember that this won’t last forever.

This is a response to something changing in their lives.

Child’s sleep is just like life….just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, something changes. For additional help and support, make sure to check out my online baby sleep course.

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