The 12 Month Nap Strike
The 12 month nap regression often takes parents by surprise. By this point, a good portion of babies are sleeping through the night and many are napping well. But at 12 months, that can all change. And it’s not pretty.
The 12 month regression most commonly shows up as a nap strike. This can happen for the morning nap or the afternoon nap, or both.
The worst part of this regression is, in my view, the fact that it leads parents to think that their baby is ready for one nap. When she’s really, truly not.
Babies are usually ready to drop down to one nap at 15 months old, earliest. (For more on that, see this post.)
The reason your 12 month old is fighting naps or waking up at unbearable hours is because she’s going through a temporary phase, not because she’s ready for one nap.
Why Does It Happen?
Sleep regressions happen at the same time as a developmental burst or leap in your baby. And when you think about how much your baby is developing at this stage, it’s no wonder it comes along with a sleep regression!
Your baby is learning to walk, talk, follow commands and develop fine motor skills. That’s a lot of activity going on! Separation anxiety also peaks at this age, and that can play a role in your baby’s unhappiness when you leave her room at naptime. And of course, there’ no age more playful than one year old- who’d rather sleep when you can play?
Nap patterns begin to slowly shift around 12 months old, in eventual preparation for the drop down to 1 nap in a few months. But remember – your baby is not ready for one nap yet. Nope, not even yours. She may, however, be ready for a shorter nap. Babies under 12 months need between 12-16 hours of sleep each day, and that number drops to 11-14 hours per day at one year old. So if your baby’s naps dropped from 2 hours to one, that’s ok. Anything less than 45 minutes is not a restorative nap and needs work.
Another thing that can contribute to this regression is growth spurt! Babies experience a growth spurt at around 12 months old- and your baby can be HUNGRY during nap time. If you suspect this, give her a nice big meal before her naps.
Signs of the 12 Month Nap Regression
- Fighting naps
- Shorter naps
- Early morning wakeups
- Fussiness or restlessness during the day
What You Can Do to Get Through It
- Stay strong- Do NOT drop a nap! I can guarantee that your baby is not ready for this. Stick to your routine, even it means two 30 minute naps or playtime in the crib. Don’t cut out that second nap. If you stick it out for a few weeks, things will get back to normal.
- Encourage lots of physical activity during the day – crawling, walking, roughhousing. Moving around will tire your baby out- staying in the house on the playmat all day will give you a restless, wired baby. Wear him out! Go to the park, walk around the block without the stroller, play in the grass or snow if it’s winter! Less stroller time, more moving.
- Don’t help your baby nap. Refrain from any activity that will help her fall asleep, as that can turn into a sleep dependency in just a few days. Don’t rock, feed, or hold your baby to sleep. Let her do the work on her own, regardless of what the results are.
- Hold space for fussiness. What does this mean? Well, a baby that’s going through a sleep regression is almost always overtired. Overtired babies are fussy, clingy and needy. And they have a right to be! During your baby’s waking hours, give her lots of warmth and love and let her be fussy – it’s not her fault, she doesn’t want to be this way.
- Don’t move bedtime earlier, even if your baby is exhausted. (ok, if she’s really crazed, you can move it a bit earlier- but not more than 30 minutes.) Otherwise, she will move onto a new schedule that her body is not ready for – earlier bedtime, earlier wakeup, and poor naps! It’s your job to hold her schedule steady for her. Within a week or two she will realize that it’s not going anywhere and she’ll start to nap again.
- If you’re struggling with short naps, it’s vital that you give your baby time to go back to sleep. If he wakes up after only 20 or 30 minutes of sleep, give him at least 30 minutes to fall back asleep. If he doesn’t, take him out and try again at the next nap. Always take your baby out of the crib when he’s quiet- taking him out in response to crying will encourage more crying at the next nap.
This regression, like all regressions, will pass- and what happens after that is largely in your hands. If you stay strong and hold your baby’s schedule for her while she works through this, things will settle back into a routine soon enough. You can do this, Mama!