In case you needed the reminder, sleep is not a luxury. It is a biological necessity. And while you may have made it this far in your adult life by routinely sacrificing sleep for more interesting endeavors, it doesn’t work that way for babies. Critical development is underway while babies sleep, from tissue repair to the formation of new brain synapses.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to get your baby to fall asleep, or to stay asleep, even when your baby needs it most. As babies constantly change, sleep habits shift and evolve. So what are reasonable sleep expectations as babies reach their first birthday? Hannah Peterson a pediatric nurse and the owner and operator of Dream Baby Sleep Consulting breaks down what kind of sleep to expect from your baby at one year.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Sleep
How Long Should 1-Year-Olds Sleep?
Congratulations, you’ve made it. This is the age when baby can theoretically sleep for 11-12 hours a night. Of course, every baby is different, and remember that there are some adults who can’t make it 10 hours without eating.
But napping may also factor into how long your baby sleeps at night. Almost all one-year-olds still need a nap during the day, though napping tends to be more regular by this age. They tend to have broken the constant back-and-forth cycle of falling asleep every time they eat, and will have dropped down to just two naps, for a total of two to two and a half hours of napping per day.
What Causes 1-Year-Old Sleep Regression?
Peterson prefers the word progressions, since all babies experience them, but whatever you want to call them, at around one year, your baby will suddenly start waking up at night for no apparent reason. Stay consistent with your sleep training techniques. Peterson says sometimes baby “is just checking in.” Make sure all is well, then get them back down to sleep.
Babies are still learning all kinds of fun new motor skills, like pulling themselves up in the crib, and walking. At this stage, some babies become less interested in sleep and more interested in trying out their new skills. Peterson advises parents to make sure their little ones get plenty of active time during the day so that they’re less inclined to wake up in the middle of the night to practice.
As an additional incentive to establish the practice during the day, Peterson says that proper sleep enables the transfer of muscle memory into the baby’s long-term memory, so they’ll master new skills faster.
How To Help A 1-Year-Old Fall Asleep
This is a great time to introduce a stuffy or a blanky, or another soft, breathable object that baby can use to self-soothe at bedtime. Peterson recommends wearing the “lovey” so it smells like you and creating a positive association by having the object on hand during story time, feeding or other bonding moments between you and baby.
But remember to temper your expectations for sleep success. In any given month, you wouldn’t expect to have 30 nights of perfect rest (not even in those blissful pre-parent days). Don’t expect that for your baby either.
Even the best sleeper will have regressions, illnesses, discomfort, or just a plain old ordinary bad night. Yes, you’ve put in the time, and yes, you deserve every last minute of sweet slumber that baby now affords, just don’t forget to leave some space for life’s little imperfections.
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