The 12 Month Sleep Regression: The Ultimate Survival Guide

Author Image By Paula McLaren BA (Hons) Early Years Development & Learning •  Updated: 05/16/22 •  Baby » Baby Sleep

If you answered YES to at least 1 of those questions above, then you’re definitely in the right place.

In today’s article, I am going to explain exactly what a 12-month sleep regression is, why it happens, what you can do about it and most importantly, I am going to share my best advice and give you the support you need to get through this challenging time.

What Is A 12 Month Sleep Regression?

Naturally, if you have been working towards getting your little one into a healthy sleep routine, a 12 month sleep regression can be very frustrating and alarming.

So, first things first…

What are the signs we need to look out for if we suspect our baby is going through a 12 month sleep regression?

Signs Your Baby Is Going Through The 12 Month Sleep Regression

If your little one has been settling and sleeping well until now, the signs that your baby is experiencing a sleep regression are:

  1. Resisting bedtime 
  2. Restlessness and more frequent night waking
  3. Struggling to get back to sleep after nighttime waking
  4. Sleeping for longer in the day

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, sleep regressions can be caused by a variety of reasons, the main one being developmental leaps…

However, there are other reasons why a 12 month sleep regression can occur and it’s important to know what they are to reduce the chances of a sleep regression from occurring.

Here’s a quick video to go over why babies fight sleep, however, I have gone more into detail about exactly how to manage the 12-month sleep regression in the post below.

Causes Of The 12 Month Sleep Regression

Determining why your baby is going through a 12 month sleep regression can seem daunting as there may be several causes (some of which are more obvious than others)

But if you know what’s going on in your baby’s life, you can understand how to resolve it to reduce any regressions!

7 Causes Of The 12 Month Sleep Regression

1. Separation Anxiety

Many babies experience separation anxiety as they become more emotionally developed.

This can happen at any point from about 8 months up and is perfectly normal!

Separation anxiety will result in your baby being less able to settle at nap times and bedtime and when they wake up, they will find it difficult to go back to sleep without you with them.

12-month-olds are very prone to going through this separation anxiety phase, but here are things that you can do to help them through this stage without falling into bad habits:

  1. Help your baby to practice being separated from you for short periods of time during the day. Putting them in a playpen or crib to play alone for a little while or leaving them with another trusted adult are both great ways to safely do this.
  2. Keep nighttime interaction to a minimum. Try not to pick your baby up when they cry, rather pat them on their tummy and resettle them in the crib. 
  3. Stick to consistent sleep routines when you are putting them down for a nap so that they know what to expect. Use familiar words, use the same blanket and do things in the same order each time.
  4. Try a night light, musical toy or white noise machine for comfort. This will also become a ‘sleep trigger’ which your baby will identify with nighttime sleep only.
  5. Give them a favourite soft toy to keep them company.
  6. Keep to a regular bedtime routine. I cannot emphasise enough how much this will help with your baby’s separation anxiety.

As with all sleep regressions, you need to be consistent.

Maintain as much structure as you can to your nighttime routines, implement the above suggestions and be patient…

Things will settle back down soon!

2. Developmental Milestone Leaps

Again, at 12 months, your baby is having a very busy time developmentally.

As their physical, cognitive and emotional development is advancing, their little brains are very busy learning new words and figuring out how to walk.

This can result in them finding it difficult to settle to sleep due to overtiredness.

Watching out for sleep cues and ensuring your baby is getting enough nap time can help when dealing with this developmentally busy phase.

3. Growth Spurts

When a baby experiences a growth spurt, it may temporarily upset their sleep patterns due to the fact they are hungrier during this time.

Therefore, your baby may require more solid food during the day to sustain them through the night.

If you do not do this, your baby will wake at night hungry and agitated.

I would not advise feeding your baby any more at night than what they would normally get when they wake, but rather aim to feed them more during the day to reduce the impact of wanting more nighttime feeds.

After all, you’ve worked so hard to begin weaning them off nighttime feeds…

You don’t want them getting used to it again!

4. Changes In Sleep Needs

Some 12-month-olds will start to fight sleep during the day as they need to drop from 2 naps to 1.

Others will become more tired as they get used to being more physically active and need MORE sleep during the day so they won’t drop the second nap until they are 14 months old or older. 

Both of these factors can disrupt your baby’s sleep and getting the balance right during this transition can be tricky as your baby may become overtired and this can lead to difficulty in falling asleep and subsequently to more night-time waking.

I’ve written an in-depth article about nap transitions so be sure to check that out to learn more.

5. Changes In Their Normal Routine

Just like many of us, having a major change in routine or location may disrupt your little one’s established sleeping habits.

This could be from moving house, going on holiday or having a family member move in to name a few.

6. Illness

A 12 month sleep regression can also be triggered by illness.

So if your baby has been unwell and you have had to attend to them more at night, once they’re better they may wish for the nighttime contact with you to continue.

Of course, love and support your baby through this bout of illness but once they’re feeling well again, it is REALLY important to get back into your usual sleep routine as soon as possible.

7. 12 Month Sleep Regression Or Teething?

If your little one is teething, then this will also disrupt their sleep patterns for a few days but it is NOT technically a sleep regression. 

Teething sleep issues arise from your baby being uncomfortable and wanting some love.

However, once the offending tooth has emerged, your little one should go back into their regular sleep routine very quickly.

So, for now, choose some soothing teething toys and offer teething foods to help your baby distract and massage their gums until this painful time is over.

What Helps The 1 Year Sleep Regression?

If your little one does start to experience sleep troubles around their first birthday, then there are some things you can do to help both your and your baby get through the 1 year sleep regression:

1. Stick To Established Sleep Routines 

If your baby is experiencing a 12 month sleep regression, it is very important that you continue to follow your established bedtime routines and nap time sleep schedule.

Don’t be tempted to pick your baby up more or go back to rocking them to sleep if you have not been doing this before.

Otherwise, you run the risk of establishing bad habits that will be hard to undo.

2. Know How Much Sleep Your 12-Month-Old Needs

In order to help your baby through a 12 month sleep regression, it is helpful to know how much sleep they should be having.

The average 12-month-old needs 13-15 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period with 2-3 hours of that taken in daytime naps (depending on how long they sleep at night).

3. Make Sure Your Baby Has Age-Appropriate Naps

Most babies of this age usually still need a morning nap and an afternoon nap, but some will be showing signs of transitioning from two naps down to one nap and this can be quite tricky to judge.

The transitioning period itself may be the cause of the 12 month sleep regression, so getting daytime naps right is a bit of a balancing act to avoid your little one from becoming overtired.

Especially when they are becoming more active and developing rapidly!

4. Watch For Sleep Cues

When it comes to dealing with nap transition, spotting your little one’s sleep cues is KEY to helping get through a 12 month sleep regression.

Sleep cues include:

5. Have A Consistent Bedtime Routine

Toddlers of this age should be going to bed between 6.30pm and 7.30pm.

Having a well-established bedtime routine before a 12 month sleep regression hits will make it easier to deal with.

6. Create A Healthy Sleep Environment

Ensuring your baby’s bedroom is conducive to sleep is also VITAL.

Make sure there is not too much light, that the room is at the right temperature and it might help to use a white noise machine to keep a consistent gentle background noise.

Some babies may like some light in their room, in which case I would definitely use a soft nightlight like this one from LICKLIP.

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7. Let Your Baby Sleep With A Favourite Toy

Putting a favourite soft toy in bed with your baby may help with separation problems as it may smell of you and be very comforting to them. 

8. Keep Day Times Active

This is a time in your baby’s life when they become increasingly active.

Make sure they get plenty of opportunities to use all that energy by cruising around furniture, getting outdoors every day and maybe even walking.

Making your home child-proof, where they can explore safely, will make your life a lot easier too!

9. Make Sure Your Little One Is Getting Enough To Eat During The Day

At twelve months of age, your baby is capable of going all night without needing a feed so do not be tempted to feed your baby when they wake up in order to resettle them.

Rather, make sure they are having enough calories during the day to fuel any growth spurt and extra activities they might be doing.

Ideally, they will need between 800 and 1000 calories per day from a mixture of milk and food (if you’ve started weaning).

10. Help Your Baby Get Used To Spending Short Periods Of Time On Their Own Or Away From You

As I mentioned earlier, encourage your baby to spend short periods of time alone in a playpen or their crib whilst they are awake.

Keep popping back to check on them so that they know that you will return.

This will teach them that they’re safe and ok to be alone and that you will return in time!

This will make going to sleep alone at night much easier for your baby to understand and be comfortable with.

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11. Don’t Try To Wean Your Baby Off The Breast Or Bottle 

As your baby is dealing with a lot of changes developmentally, I would not recommend trying to wean them off the breast or bottle when they are going through a 12 month sleep regression.

Instead, wait for the regression to pass before beginning weaning.

12. Give Your Baby Lots Of Love, Affection And 1-on-1 Time During The Day

Finally, give your baby lots of love and affection and one-on-one time during the day.

This is a wonderful age when so much is going on in your little one’s life so explore it with them and spend lots of time cuddling and playing together.

This will help your baby to expel their extra energy, help you bond even more, and ensures your baby does not feel like they have been alone all day which could make them crave your attention at night!

How Can You Care For Yourself During A Sleep Regression Phase?

Sleep regressions are tough for your baby and EQUALLY as tough on you as the parent.

But keep in mind that this is just a transitory phase so don’t be too hard on yourself if you are finding it tough to be consistent with sleep routines and nap times.

Just remember to try and take a break if you can, by letting a close family member or friend look after your baby…

And if you are feeling very tired, then put your toddler somewhere safe such as a playpen or crib and make yourself a warm beverage to compose yourself for 5 minutes.

Another piece of advice is to try to get out for a walk with your baby in a stroller every day.

As hard as it may feel to do, it will give you a break whilst keeping your little one entertained all while giving them the fresh air they need to help them sleep better.

Trust me, even a short walk to the end of the road and back will help you feel so better and much more human.

Frequently Asked Questions About The 12 Month Sleep Regression

Looking for more help with managing the 12 month sleep regression? Find answers to the most common questions here.

Will Sleep Regressions Ruin Your Sleep Training Plans?

The answer to this question is: no it will not.

Having a well-established bedtime routine will actually help when dealing with a 12 month sleep regression.

So stick to your bedtime routines and do not fall into bad habits when dealing with nighttime waking. 

Do All Children Have A 12 Month Sleep Regression?

The 12-month sleep regression is one of the rarest regressions to occur and it is usually due to daytime nap transitions and or multiple developmental milestones being reached at once.

When To Seek Help From A Doctor About A Sleep Regression

There are some occasions when you may feel the need to seek medical advice in connection with your toddler experiencing a change in their normal sleep patterns; especially if the sleep disruption is associated with any of the following:

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren - The founder of Teething to Tantrums has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny and Childcare Expert since 1982. Her qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) plus the highly prestigious Norland Diploma, recognized as the best early years practitioner qualification in the world. During her 40+ years of experience, she has worked as a night nanny (specializing in solving sleep issues), run a very successful daycare center in London, and raised almost 100 children, including her son, to be kind, healthy, and happy individuals with her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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