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One of the most common questions we get here at The Baby Sleep Site® is “How do I get my 11 or 12 month old baby to sleep?” and that’s the question we are answering today!
While some babies can be challenging sleepers from birth, many will go through periods where they sleep well, only to regress. What’s a sleep deprived parent to do!? Let’s take a look at the 6 steps to help your 11 or 12 month old baby sleep.
As soon as you get your 9 or 10 month old through the nap transition, growth spurts, separation anxiety phase, and they were sleeping soundly in longer stretches during the night, your 11 or 12 month old may start resisting sleep, waking frequently at night, taking short naps, or refusing one of their naps altogether. You are probably asking yourself what is going on?! 11 and 12 month olds are going through a rapid period of development and their brain and bodies are fundamentally changing and growing. Your 11 to 12 month old will likely be staying awake longer periods during the day, and exploring their environment like never before – your little cuddle bug has now turned into an insatiable little explorer who is always busy! As if all this wasn’t enough, your 11 to 12 old may be cruising, standing, or even beginning to walk all. day. long. This can make for some challenging bedtimes and naps, and your little one may also wake up more frequently at night, as a result.
How To Get My 11 or 12 Month Old To Sleep At-a-Glance
- Develop a consistent sleep routine
- Review your baby’s schedule
- Consider gentle sleep coaching/training
- Create a sleep plan for your family
- Gather support from your village
- Prepare for the next sleep speedbump
And, now for a few details…
1. Develop or strengthen the sleep routine for your 11 or 12 month old
Setting the environment for sleep is crucial, and part of not just letting your baby know that sleep is coming, but in continuing to set their expectations when it comes to sleep. This means to have a consistent set of steps you do before each sleep period, at night and at nap times. For parents who may not be keen on strict routines, have no fear! It does NOT have to be a long “event.” For instance, you can shut the curtains or blinds, change your baby’s diaper, read a short book (your baby may be picking their favorites right now!), feed the baby (if appropriate), cuddle the baby or sing a lullaby for a few minutes, and then lay your baby down for sleep while saying a key phrase (e.g. “Sleepy time for baby. I love you. Night night.”). At this age, it becomes extremely important to have a very distinctive end to your routine, too. The key to your “distinctive end” is that it should NOT be something you (the parent) does for your baby such as sing, rub your baby’s back, or hold your baby’s hand. Turning on a crib aquarium or a musical toy that plays for a few minutes, for example, can be very helpful as they start showing the first signs of independence and try to “delay” going to sleep.
2. Review your 11 or 12 month old’s schedule
For some 11 or 12 month old babies, their sleep schedule is fundamental to helping them sleep well. Some babies are more adaptable or less sensitive and may not need a very regimented schedule, though knowing when you’ll be able to have “me” time is a must for a lot of parents! Babies this age continue to increase their awake time, and sleepy cues become a lot less reliable. Remember your little busy explorer who never quits? They might not even seem tired until they’re in the crib! For this reason, a lot of babies may even do better with a “by the clock” schedule. If you are experiencing sleep issues, I strongly recommend developing or adjusting your baby’s schedule to see what type of impact it may or may not have on your baby’s sleep. That may even be all you have to do! Some families, depending on their situation, may not be able to stick with a precise schedule as well as others, but just do your best. What type of schedule should your 11 or 12 month have? Check out our sample schedules here or make your own custom schedule!
3. Consider sleep training (or coaching) for your 11 or 12 month old
If the previous steps haven’t significantly improved your 11 or 12 month old’s sleep and you’ve downloaded our free e-Book, 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep through the Night, it’s likely your baby has sleep associations that need to be resolved with sleep training. Ideally, you’d get a professional assessment of your baby’s sleep challenges, but if you feel certain a dependence on parental help is part of the issue, then you may want to consider sleep coaching your 11 or 12 month old. This essentially involves helping your baby learn (or even re-learn) to fall asleep on their own, without as much help from you. If you would like to improve your baby’s sleep habits, or get “back on track,” but are not sure how to go about it. Or, if your baby WAS sleeping well before, but the methods you used are no longer working, you might need to revamp your strategy.
Not sure which sleep coaching method may be best for you and your baby? Be sure to listen to my tele-seminar about sleep training strategies.
4. Create a plan for your 11 or 12 month old
If you’re considering sleep training, it’s important to figure out what to do next. Some of us are planners and others are more go with the flow. If you’re not a planner, it might be OK for you to skip this step, but if you’ve been trying to help your 11 or 12 month old sleep for some time, you’ve developed and strengthened your routine, reviewed their schedule carefully and “going with the flow” without a set strategy isn’t getting you the results you want, maybe a plan is just what you’re missing. After all, it can be hard to reach your destination without a travel plan! Make the plan as detailed as you want it, but having a step-by-step plan helps you stay on track, committed, and consistent. Not sure where to begin or need help creating your baby’s sleep plan? Consider making your own sleep plan or letting us create a Personalized Sleep Plan® for you and your baby.
5. Get support for your 11 or 12 month old’s parents (you!)
Everyone says that “it takes a village” to raise a child, but gone seem to be the days where we have a lot of help nurturing our babies. I don’t know about you, but half of my family lives more than a short drive away, and most close by relatives are busy with their family and work schedules. My husband and I were largely on our own while raising our boys. No Aunts or Grandmas to regularly feed or play with the baby while I rested, caught up with a friend or enjoyed a (hopefully hot) cup of coffee. So, getting through these sleep issues can be tough without support. We sometimes have to recruit our own village. Consider hiring a sleep consultant or asking your partner, friends, or family members to help you implement your sleep plan. Having a support system in place can make all the difference in the world in reaching your sleep goals!
6. Prepare for your 11 or 12 month old’s next speedbump
Now that you learned how to get your 11 or 12 month old to sleep, what happens next? Do you ride off into the sunset with a perfect sleeper, happily ever after? We certainly hope so! For some of you, it’s possible, but many of you will get your baby sleeping well now, only to hit another speedbump in a few weeks or months. Babies grow and change a lot in the first few years, so be prepared, and have a game plan in place, before the next sleep regression or speedbump emerges. Babies continue to go through teething, start walking, talking!, having play dates, and that can often affect sleep. In a few weeks or months, your 11 or 12 month old may take their first steps, say their first words, throw their first tantrum, and it might affect their sleep. What will you do when your baby starts waking at night, again, starts refusing naps or both? The #1 rule is NOT revert back to old habits as if you had never made progress in the first place. As easy as it is for babies to fall back to old habits, it’s often way too easy for us parents to do so as well. So, don’t let that happen! 🙂