Every person, and especially every parent, knows that sleep is vital, both for you and your little one. So how can you make sure that your little one gets as much sleep as they need? To help combat the confusion and simplify some of the gargantuan amount of information out there, we’ve compiled a sleep guide that will help you understand your little one’s sleep and sleeping needs in their first year of life. Whilst there’s no one size fits all approach to children’s sleep patterns and challenges, we’re here to help with some of the most common issues that parents can run into, and potential solutions.
We’ve broken our guide down by age brackets:
From there we’ve addressed things in 6 sections, going from ‘How much sleep do they need?’ all the way to ‘Common mistakes and how to fix them’. As children grow they are likely to experience growth spurts and psychological developments which hinder their sleep temporarily. Scary though it may be, this normally shouldn’t worry you, it’s all part of them growing.
Without further ado, let’s get to it, because you’re probably already tired, you’re a parent after all.
9 – 12 months
How much sleep do they need?
Typically, 9 to 12 month-olds sleep for about 14 hours a day, including two naps which are usually one to two hours long at a time. A good bedtime is usually between 7pm and 8.30pm. If your baby goes to bed later than this, she may become overtired, making falling asleep more difficult. Try bringing the bedtime forwards a little each night. You may be surprised to find that she’s much more likely to settle to sleep if you put her to bed earlier.
Where should they sleep?
At this age you can usually move a baby into their own bedroom as they start to require fewer, or even no night time feeds at all. Just remember that every baby is different and that you should take things at a pace which is right for your family.
How to get a good night’s sleep
If your baby now sleeps for nine or ten hours at night, it means she’s figured out how to settle back to sleep – a sign that you’re raising a good sleeper! Your baby’s probably ready for night weaning, though this is completely up to you. Babies this age don’t usually wake up at night because they’re hungry. Even as adults we wake up several times every night for brief periods of time. And as adults, we put ourselves back to sleep each time – so quickly we don’t even remember it in the morning. If your baby hasn’t mastered this skill, they’ll wake up and cry during the night even if they don’t actually need feeding. To help both you and them get a good night’s sleep stick to your routines and try to roll with the developmental changes coming your little one’s way. Stay calm, disruptions to sleep are usually temporary and you will overcome them in time.
Recognising sleepy signs
By this stage you’re likely to recognise the unique and familiar signs that your little one is tired, even though they won’t. Look out for:
- grizzling or crying
- demands for constant attention
- boredom with their toys
- exceptional fussiness with food
As their motor skills develop further you’ll be more attuned to how clumsy or dynamic your little one typically is. The biggest sign you’ll usually see is a combination of grizzling, boredom with toys and clumsiness, when all of these come together it’s the perfect time to put your little one down for a nap or for a longer night’s sleep.
At this age, your baby may start to experience sleeping issues, even if they never presented any before this! This could be caused by everything from separation anxiety to teething. As always, it’s important to remain calm, remember that this is most likely a phase that will pass and approach bedtimes with a consistent routine.
Try putting your baby to bed when they’re still awake, but sleepy, this will help them to learn how to settle themself without you there. If they then wake in the night, your baby may be more able to soothe themselves back to sleep without calling out for you.
At this age, your baby is busy reaching milestones in their physical and mental development. They may be learning to sit up, roll over, crawl, and even pull themselves up to a standing position. This presents new challenges in that your once easy to keep in the proper sleeping position baby is ever liable to wriggle out of the position you lay them in. If your baby is waking in the night to practise her exciting new skill of sitting up, you’ll need to teach them how to lie down again.
You could try making this into a fun daytime activity instead of a night-time challenge for everyone concerned. Practise makes perfect, then stick to your chosen routine for getting your little one back to sleep.
If your baby is unable to settle without you, it may be a good time to start sleep training. As mentioned before, sleep training describes any approach you take to help your baby learn to settle by themself to sleep. Once they can do this, they’re more likely to sleep through the night.
Between the ages of 6 months and 12 months old, most babies give up their night-time feeds. Rather than depending on a feed to fall back to sleep, your baby may be able to settle without this. However, all babies are different and some may need feeds during the night for longer.
Most babies start cutting their first teeth between six months and 10 months, so your little one’s sleep may be disturbed by teething pain. If they don’t seem to be in pain, stick to your regular sleep routine. But if their gums are hurting, red and/or swollen, massage them gently. You could use the round side of a teaspoon that has been chilled in the fridge, or even just your clean finger. If teething is making your baby very uncomfortable or upset, you may want to give her infant paracetamol or apply teething gel (this must be baby-specific, using adult gels can be dangerous). But check the dosage information on the packet or ask your health visitor or pharmacist if you’re unsure how much to give your baby. This longer article from Baby Center should help with any other teething related worries you may have.
Additionally, if your baby is having a growth spurt, they may need more or less sleep than usual. Some research suggests that babies become more clingy and fussy during a growth spurt, which can disrupt sleep patterns, whilst another small study found that babies actually sleep more during a growth spurt. So your baby could fall into either camp! If they’re waking up more, be consistent in encouraging them to settle themself back to sleep.
Mistakes and fixes
The potential mistakes you can make here are very similar to ones which might be made with younger children. As always:
- Don’t let your baby stay up too late, as this won’t ensure that they sleep longer throughout the night. More likely you will just disrupt their sleeping pattern and have to work very hard to move it back to the original time you had established. Instead, commit to a sensible bedtime, and even if your little one doesn’t seem tired at this bedtime, go through your usual bedtime routine with them and see if they settle.
- Don’t rely on motion. At this age you should consider moving away from rocking your baby to sleep or driving around with them to help them sleep. The longer this goes on the harder your own life will be. Instead, help your little one learn to fall asleep by going through a set routine each bedtime. This might be as simple as giving them a bath and then getting them straight into their pyjamas and putting them to bed, or it might include stories and lullabies.
- Introducing distractions at bedtime. Familiarity is your friend when trying to get a baby to sleep, so minimise the new stimulus which your baby is likely to experience at this time of day. Keep your baby’s room dark and quiet and they’ll come to learn that dark and quiet are signs that it’s time to sleep.
- Not having a bedtime routine. It doesn’t matter what it is, but your baby needs routine, they thrive off of it. When you decide what your routine will be, establish one which is easily replicable so that others can sometimes help you out.
- Picking your baby up as soon as they start crying. Not every cry is a sign that they need food or changing. Your little one is just waking up in the night the way many adults do, and they may quickly drop back off to sleep. If you’re able to, during the night let your baby cry for a minute or so before checking on them, they may be able to put themselves back to sleep, and encouraging this skill benefits everyone in your household.
- Putting your baby to bed with a bottle in the cot. Beyond being a potential choking risk there are other, lesser known issues that may arise from putting your baby to sleep with a bottle in the crib. They include:
- higher risk of ear infections
- increased risk of tooth decay
- risk of reliance on the bottle (this may become unsustainable as they progress onto using a cup when they’re older)
How are you sleeping now?
We hope this guide has helped abate any worries you’re having, and given you some useful tips! Remember that every child is different and many issues will sort themselves out with time and patience. But, if you’re concerned about any particular details your health visitor and doctors are the very best source of information.
As they grow, you might choose to put your kids into nursery, and deciding who you’re going to trust them with is a big step. For some guidance on this subject, take a look at our comprehensive checklist and go from there! Or if you’re interested in learning about exactly what your children will be taught in nursery we’ve outlined that in another post. When you’ve finally chosen a care provider for your little one, here are some tips for helping shy children adjust to this change of environment.
If you have any other childcare related queries, we’ll always try and answer them for you! Being a parent is an incredible adventure, we’re just here to help navigate through a small part of it!
Read the Other Parts of This Guide: