12 month sleep regression: Why it happens

Sleep regressions can occur at many points of a child’s life, but it usually strikes kids just as they hit the 12-month mark. They do not last long. Still, it is helpful to know what precisely provokes this condition. In this guide, we touch on all the important points on what causes 12-month sleep regression and how you can deal with this situation to restore your child’s sleeping routine. 

About The 12-Month Sleep Regression

The one-year sleep regression is a specific change in a child’s sleeping pattern that usually tends to occur around the period when a baby turns one. When a baby is anywhere around 12 months of age, sleep regression can appear out of the blue. 

Even if you have consistently given your baby sleep training over the past few months and your child has been sleeping just fine, they can form negative sleeping habits all of a sudden. These adverse sleeping habits can result in excessive fussiness, mood swings, crankiness, and your child is likely to be deprived of sleep. 

Sleep regressions pave the way for possible disturbance in the sleeping habits of babies or toddlers who previously used to sleep well. It is a condition in which babies become restless, resist falling asleep, combat naps for no rhyme or reason, and wake up frequently from their sleep during the night. 

Sleep regressions occur during the most predictable times, primarily because they are connected with a child’s developmental objectives. Just when you start observing your baby’s progress in one specific area, such as talking, crawling, or walking, it becomes normal for another development aspect to regress for a while. In this case, the area which is affected the most is sleep. 

When Do Sleep Regressions Usually Occur?

Since sleep regressions correspond with the developmental achievements, you can most likely observe them occurring around:

  • 6 weeks
  • 4 months
  • 6th or 7th month
  • 8-10 months
  • 1 year
  • 18 months
  • 2 years old

The 1-year-old sleep regression is widespread in babies. Still, most children can experience a couple of sleep regression in the first two years of their growth. It is quite rare for one child to experience them all. On the positive side, sleep regressions are temporary and do not last long. Before you know it, your one-year-old baby will be back to his/her sleeping routine in under 2 weeks.

Suppose your child used to sleep great, but you have started noticing them waking up at night, trying to fight naps or bedtime, and unusually fussy and cranky. In that case, it is a possible sign that your child is experiencing the 12-month sleep regression. 

a baby sleeping comfortably
Going through the 12 month sleep regression is common among babies. Credit: Pixabay.com

What Causes 12-Month Sleep Regression?

Typically, the majority of children experience an entirely new round of difficulties associated with sleeping. This baby’s sleep regression at 12 months happens despite what their sleeping pattern was like before. Unfortunately, it is hard to find a single cause of sleep regression amongst babies since this condition is usually affected or triggered by several factors. 

Given the numerous changes children go through during the initial 12 months, it is relatively complicated to pick one sole reason why they are experiencing sleeping difficulties. The most common contributors to a one-year sleep regression include:

  • The anxiety of separation builds up with a child’s social and emotional development.
  • Overstimulation and agitation that is associated with a child’s physical growth and enhanced activities.
  • Adjusting to new schedules, sleeping patterns, or sleep training.
  • Teething causes excessive discomfort and pain.
  • Exposure to frequently occurring nightmares, although it is not very common during this age.
  • Walking is one of the most significant milestones during the first 12-month that might result in babies wanting to experiment with it more during the night. 
  • Usually, the first 12 months is when babies start to babble their first few words. This achievement can affect their sleep as they can use it to summon you during the night. 
  • Children are open to more significant emotional, physical, and spatial awareness. 
  • When they land across newfound independence and tend to defy the nighttime rituals (sleeping), which previously used to be comforting. 
  • A shift in daytime sleep patterns can also affect a child’s ability to sleep properly during the night, causing sleep regression. 

How Long Does 12-Month Sleep Regression Last?

Luckily for parents, the 1-year old sleep regression is relatively short-lived and will barely last for a week or two, at max, or a few extra weeks. The duration of sleep regressions varies from one child to another. It primarily depends on different factors that provoked it in the first place. This includes the 12-month old’s sleeping habits, overall development, and the environment.

This particular obstacle that occurs in your baby’s sleeping routine any time before, at, or after 12 months will be over smoothly before you realize it. Once the uniqueness of their newfound independence and the fascination of new tricks up their sleeves wears off, these babies will understand that there is no need to rush through it. 

The best way to get rid of sleep regression is to continue reinforcing the sleep training you have been giving your baby in the past and stick to their usual bedtime schedule. Toddlers and babies live on the same level of consistency, particularly to nighttime routines. Hence, they will undoubtedly remember their sleep routine and come out of the sleep regression. 

mother holding the hand of a baby
A mother comforts a baby by holding their hand. Credit: Pixabay.com

How to Deal With 12-Month Sleep Regression

Even if the 12-month baby sleep regression does stop, it clearly does not mean that all sleeping problems have come to an end. Like adults, children can equally experience good or bad cycles in their sleeping patterns. 

Hence, it is recommended for parents to encourage healthy sleeping habits consistently from a very young age. This helps mitigate the chances of sleep regressions and other sleeping issues once a child grows in age.

The best way to deal with sleep regressions is to remain patient and believe that your child will pass through this challenging period. Even though it sounds easy, it is not. We understand that parents can become emotionally and physically exhausted seeing their children like this. 

Nonetheless, here are some things you should keep in mind and follow to ease this difficult period for yourself and your baby. 

Stick to a proper schedule and bedtime routine

Babies thrive on consistency and uniformity. Anything that deviates from the norm makes transitioning into everyday routines more difficult and possibly makes sleep regressions last longer. A consistent way to develop proper sleeping habits is to put your child to sleep at the same time daily. This includes morning and afternoon naps and nighttime slumber. 

Find alternatives to comfort your baby without another session of feeding

There are many alternative ways to soothe your baby besides feeding them. You can hold your baby and cradle them in your arms till they eventually fall asleep, rub their backs, or give verbal cues that can comfort them, such as “hush little baby, Mommy’s here.”

Try the cry-it-out method

The cry-it-out process involves letting babies cry themselves out so they can eventually learn to fall asleep. However, sometimes it can be challenging for children to self-soothe themselves during sleep regressions. As a parent, you need their baby additional support. 

Do proactive planning for exhaustion

The primary reason for a baby’s crankiness results from lack of sleep. As a parent, you must take proactive measures to make sure your infant gets ample sleep, whether it involves incorporating a short nap or setting an early bedtime to their routine. 

Observe signs of separation anxiety 

If you notice your baby craving for your presence most of the time, you can cuddle them during their naptime or rock them in your arms if they cry in the hours of the night. 

Ensure your baby is highly active

Babies naturally have a lot of energy. They need physical activity and mental stimulation during the daytime. This will tire them out and encourage them to sleep through the night and maintain a healthy sleeping habit. 

Look out for any signs of teething pain

If your baby is going through a teething phase, you can comfort them by giving them a teething ring, a soft toy, or a cold washcloth. Anything tooth-related can be painful; as adults, we often struggle with proper sleep when our wisdom teeth are pulled. Think how painful having their teeth break the gums must be.

Establish positive associations with sleep

You can develop certain behaviors as part of your child’s nighttime routine and make it a habit, such as giving them a warm bottle of milk, reading a bedtime story, playing familiar nursery songs, and giving cuddles. This will soothe their mind and mentally encourage and prepare them for a peaceful slumber. 

If needed, turn to specialized medical advice

If you are deeply concerned about your child’s sleep regression, you can turn to a pediatrician and seek medical advice.  

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