Sleep is a very tricky thing. We need desperately yet the harder we try to make it happen, the less likely it will. It is something we never really think about as a valuable commodity until we don’t have any.
And we know so well that happy, healthy babies need sleep, but most often it seems like they can’t possibly be getting enough.
Sleep is very hard to understand. You might just be thinking that you’ve pinned down your baby’s sleep pattern, and some semblance of normality has come back into your life when suddenly, the myth that is the 12 month sleep regression hits.
So is there such a thing? And what can you do about it?
What Is a Sleep Regression?
Basically, it’s when whatever sleep pattern you had established suddenly gets thrown out the window, changing to something you were completely unprepared for.
Where a baby had established a good sleeping and waking pattern, they will suddenly regress to waking more often as they did when they were smaller.
A baby who was sleeping through the night may suddenly wake up every twenty minutes. Babies who sleep for two-hour naps during the day suddenly decide they will only be down for forty minutes, and then wide awake again and ready to party.
Sometimes naps will stop altogether. And you will go back to having no idea who that bleary-eyed zombie is staring back at you in the mirror. And yes, it is real, unfortunately.
6 Facts About Sleep Regression
1. They can happen at a number of different times in a little one’s development; generally around 4 months of age, 8-10 months of age, 12 months of age, 18 months of age, and 2 years. Sorry to be the one to tell you this.
2. They are normal. There is nothing wrong with your baby, or with anything that you were doing or not doing to put your baby to sleep. Your child is healthy and developing as they should be.
It’s also commonly called a growth spurt, which is baby talk for any sudden change that can’t be explained by anything else.
3. They don’t last. A sleep regression is usually 1-6 weeks long (also known as six years in lack-of-sleep land) and will pass.
4. They don’t happen to everyone. Like absolutely everything with babies, what may happen for you and your little one may be an entirely different experience for your friend with a baby the same age.
So try not to hate her because she looks more rested than you; trust me she’s having troubles in some other way. Your baby does not know what’s best for her.
When this sleep regression happens, this does not mean that your baby has established a new long-term pattern for sleep.
You need to persevere through the regression period and still be encouraging your baby to get the right amount of sleep that is recommended for her age.
With a twelve-month-old, this is commonly between 11 and 15 hours of sleep, usually one big block at night and a couple of shorter naps during the day.
5. They are not a myth. Because they don’t happen to every baby, and because mothers of infants are not considered to be the sanest people on earth, if you think your baby is going through sudden regression, not everyone will agree with you.
But when it comes to parent you’d better get used to not having everyone agree with you.
6. They are early signs. The 12 month sleep regression is thought to be most commonly associated with your baby getting ready to walk.
She will be practicing her skills whenever she can, and may move around a lot in the crib, waking herself up and keeping herself (any everyone else) awake.
What Should You Do?
Mostly, the best advice is to persevere with trying to put your baby down at the recommended times for her age, and ride out the regression period while she fights against you at every opportunity. You could treat it as practice for when she’s a teenager
- Offer your baby extra feedings if this seems to help; having a full warm belly can be an extra good trick at putting a baby to sleep. And because this is a growth spurt, she might be more hungry than you are used to her being.
- Tire your infant out as naturally as you can. If she is crawling everywhere, and pulling herself up or coasting, or even walking, encourage this.
- Get her a jumper suitable for in the house, or put her in a play center or bouncer to strengthen her little legs and work all her energy out.
- Try not to add any new comforting habits that might be difficult to reverse later. For example try not to rock or nurse your baby to sleep, put baby in bed with you, introduce a pacifier, etc. if these were not part of your parenting pattern already. Although you may be exhausted, it’s not the time to go backward yourself.
- For your own peace of mind, you may find yourself checking on your baby more than you were a month ago. Keep this short and sweet if you can.
- Make sure that your baby is not sick or distressed, and perhaps let her know that you are nearby if she needs, but leave her to try and settle again as best you can while maintaining your own sanity.
- Enlist help wherever you can; get your partner or friends or family to sit with the baby for a few hours while you go somewhere you cannot hear her and sleep. Trade off with another mother with a baby at the same age; you take them both for a few hours, then swap.
- Let things go that aren’t priorities, like ironing or dusting or scrubbing the shower. Treat this time like you did when your baby was first born; look after the baby first, yourself next, and then everything else.
- Put your little one to bed earlier rather than later. She is likely to be crabby and tired and not know what she wants; at this time more sleep is always better than less. Also, you can prepare chamomile tea to help her sleep faster.
- You may find that your child has become horrible to be around at the witching hour of 5-6pm. It would be a great idea to consider moving dinner, bath and bed an hour earlier if it seems your little one would benefit from that.
This phase has not been caused by anything you were doing or not doing for your baby. It is a normal phase that doesn’t happen to everyone, is the sign of a healthy growing baby, and the best thing you can do is ride it out.
I know you hate it when that’s the best advice you get, but in this case, it’s the truth. Just because your baby is having a regression doesn’t mean that you have to. Try to remain strong with the sleeping patterns you have already instigated and remember that you know what is best for your baby.
Be compassionate and forgiving to yourself if other things have to take a back seat until you are fully functioning again. And trust that this too shall pass.
If you want share your experience about your child’s sleep regression, feel free to comment below and I would be very happy to reply.