Here at Baby Sleep Trainer we tend to shy away from using the term “regression.” That’s because I find families will look for any reason to explain why their child isn’t sleeping through the night. (For example, I often hear teething, ongoing and repeated sleep regressions, nightmares, etc.) Yet, the most obvious reason is that their child has not yet learned to fall asleep wholly unassisted for naps and bedtime. (And so they are unable to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up throughout the night.) However, there are two main “regression” periods I’ve noticed in most babies. First, the four month sleep regression. And second, this regression occurring around 10 to 12 months of age. The former affects most babies, and the latter seems to occur often, but not always, with babies in this age group. So let’s talk about the 10-12 month sleep regression (and why it’s not time to transition to 1 nap!)
What Is This Regression Like?
I am writing this blog post under the assumption your baby is already sleep trained, and able to fall asleep independently. If you have not yet tackled sleep training and your 10-12 month-old seems to be having a regression, sleep training them will almost certainly remedy the issue.
The 10-12 month sleep regression almost always presents with a baby refusing one of their two naps. (And it’s almost always the second nap.) Children will suddenly protest taking their second nap by crying and protesting vociferously when they had previously been sleeping well before. Parents will then often deal with protesting in a few ways. One, by cutting the nap attempt short after some period of time (assuming their child isn’t tired). Two, by moving the nap time around. And sometimes families will decide to assist their child to sleep for a nap in order to get them to sleep.
Occasionally, this regression will also present with sudden early morning waking as well. It will likely also feel to parents that no matter what they do, nothing seems to remedy the issue. Baby just continues to struggle with sleep, and parents understandably panic.
Why Does it Happen?
I believe this regression occurs because around this age, babies tend to realize that they’re simply not interested in sleeping. They’d rather be awake with their caretaker. Because they are still taking a morning nap, they typically have enough stamina to fight the second nap. As babies grow older, they start to realize their preferences more and more. They are beginning to understand their ability to protest what is happening, and express these feelings and emotions.
How to Deal With It? And Why it’s Not Time for One Nap
Want the good news, or the bad news first? Well, I’ll give you both at the same time. Because the good news about how to deal with this regression is the same as the bad news. You can’t do anything to address the issue except allowing the regression to run its course. The silver lining? You aren’t doing anything to cause it! But you also can’t do anything to fix it. You can try to move baby’s nap about 30 minutes later. But in reality, your child will fight their nap if they want to.
Despite the fact that it may seem like they are ready for one nap, they are not. Children in this age group most certainly need to sleep twice a day. (Even if they are unwilling to do so.) My recommendation to clients in this situation is always the same… Put baby down for an hour, and if they don’t sleep, get them up and move on with the day. You’ll want to be extremely careful they do not fall asleep, or even become drowsy, anytime before bedtime. I would caution against moving bedtime any more than 30 minutes earlier as that will then trigger early morning waking. Within a few weeks, nearly all babies will realize they are tired, that you are not returning for quite some time, and that they’d rather sleep.
It’s very important to remain consistent even during periods of regressions. If you are certain your child is 100% healthy and safe, and that you cannot identify any reason they are not sleeping well, typically the best course of action is to simply give your child the time and space to work through what they are feeling. Within a few weeks’ time, baby will return to napping twice each day.
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