6 must knows about sleep after 12 months of age

6 must knows about sleep after 12 months of age

What should you expect with sleep AFTER the first year? I’ve previously written about the nap changes that happen in baby’s first year, but then what? Here are 6 must knows about sleep after 12 months of age.

The milestone first birthday

If you’ve made it to the significant first year birthday – congratulations! That’s a milestone moment for a parent after a significant year of tremendous growth and development. After baby turns one, physical growth still happens at a great rate, but the developmental windows are much wider. You may even have time to catch your breath before the next age and stage. Whew.

It’s not a secret that the first few years of life mark the most rapid periods of growth and development for the human brain. It doesn’t just stop when baby turns one. And all this development means good sleep is a need, not a luxury. But, yes, sleep can be impacted by the changes after 12 months of age.

I love working on sleep at these younger ages because all children are primed for learning. Neural pathways are building connections at a much greater rate in the first 3 years compared with the older years. Making babies and toddlers primed for learning.  Indeed 85-90% percent of a person’s brain is developed before they are five years old! 

So, your baby is now 12 months old, what happens next? Here are your 6 must knows about sleep after 12 months of age.

1. The drop to one nap 

The drop to one nap occurs on average around 14 months of age. But the scope is still pretty broad (anywhere from 11- to 18- months), so you want to make sure it’s the right time for YOUR child. The best way to do this (like with any nap transition) is to make the decision and stick to it, so your child’s body clock can get in line too. It doesn’t do anyone any favours to jump to and from 2 to one nap. As that can feel like jet-lag. You can read more tips on making the transition to one nap here

2. The testing toddler years

Toddler-like behaviour can start anywhere from 12-15 months, but I consider 18 months the start of the true toddler years. By 18 months, most toddlers can follow 1-step directions without hand gestures accompanying the request. And this means bedtime can take on a whole new dimension as they can be included in more activities.

They can also start saying ‘no’ to requests, including bedtime. The toddler years are when even the most delightful sleeper can start mucking around at bedtime. Simply because they can. They are learning they are their own person, and that can include standing their ground and testing you.

You may notice your child’s emotions are developing around now too. They’ll start to become more conscious of being happy, sad or frustrated. And they’ll often be busting to let you know how they’re feeling, using all kinds of expressions, actions and screams (especially if they’re not happy).

It can be a great time to change up your bedtime routine after the age of 18 months. Especially if you’re getting push back (or “no”) in the routine make sure the routine is predictable (the same steps in the same order), and start offering your toddler limited choices, ie “this” or “that” options. And now that comprehension is there, you can make bedtime much more fun. It should be a pleasant time after all (for everyone).

3. Regressions could happen

Most regressions occur due to developmental progressions, when children start using sleep time as a time to practice their new skills. This can mean a delay in sleep until they’ve mastered whatever it is they’re working on, yes even after 12 months.

There can be a number of motor milestones after the age of one. There’s walking, running, climbing, dancing, throwing a ball (or their toys), taking their clothes, and their sleep sack, off. And more. However, there are two common regressions that are likely to occur.

One is the 18-month regression, where you’re in for a few tests and often screaming, as your toddler sees how far they can push it (and you) around bedtime. You’re not alone if you’ve hit this mark. More on the 18-month regression here.

The second is the two-year sleep regression, which corresponds with the acquisition of language. This is when your child will happily chat to themselves in their cot (instead of sleeping). And while it can seem like they’re ready to give up their nap, keep offering it, because when they’ve mastered language, sleep gets back on track. You’ll also notice an increase in the number of words your child starts saying, along with an increase in sentence length as they start stringing them together.

I’ve previously written about handling sleep regressions too. The real trick to managing regressions if your child already has great sleep skills is not to do too much differently. Then it simply blows over. However, if you’ve landed in a bit of strife, chances are we can remedy it with a few tweaks.

4. Imagination kicks in

If you’ve always kept baby’s room dark for sleep, good on you! I want you to continue to block natural light well into the future, because we all sleep better in a room with no blue-frequency light (natural or simulated). Yes, even as adults! However, it’s around 2.5 – 3 years that imagination kicks in and it’s then that fears can creep in. Including fear of the dark. That’s when a night light can be helpful to let your child see around the room. But make sure it’s the right coloured nightlight (i.e. red, orange or yellow). Note that I also sell red night lights. And be careful how you treat those fears, as we don’t inadvertently want them to grow. More on managing bedtime fears here.

5. No more nap!

Again, all children are different (and some children still nap at 5 years of age), but you may find it’s around 2.5 to 3 years when you have the choice to either cap or drop the nap. Or you could keep the nap in some form and move to a later bedtime. There really is no one-sized fits all solution. It’s about what works best for you, while allowing for the extra wake time your child needs at these older ages. More on if your child is ready to drop the nap here. And if you ARE going to drop the nap, I encourage you to instigate quiet time instead to conserve energy so you don’t meet the toddleranasaurus by dinner time.

6. Moving to a big kid bed

If you’re thinking about making the move from cot to bed; consider these four things first. The best time to move from the cot to a bed is after 2.5 years (ideally closer to three) as before that point your child won’t have much impulse control (if any) – and if you’re having sleep issues, moving to a big bed can make it worse, as now they can come out to you too. If it is time to make the move, make sure you’ve checked out these tips for moving to a big kid bed.

The next big thing at 5 years of age, is starting school. Typically, your child will have dropped their nap long before they start school. BUT don’t be surprised if you need to bring bedtime forward again at age 5. All that new learning, the stimulation and the new environment takes a lot of brain power (not to mention all the running around with friends at break times), and that means your child will get tired much quicker than usual until they get used to it all. If you see sleep go astray during the school years. I can help there too.

That’s a quick overview on the main developmental changes that may impact sleep after 12 months of age.  But don’t panic, if you’ve already set your child up with healthy sleep habits, these can last them a lifetime, and all you may need are a few tweaks (and yes, I can help with that).

If you are still having sleep issues, or your toddler, pre-schooler or school-age child hasn’t quite dropped their baby habits and slept through yet. I can help there too. And we can even try and make the learning FUN at these older ages, as they understand more. If your family is experiencing sleep issues, and you’d like some help, book a free initial call to learn more. 

I’m here for you. That’s what I do!