Your baby is now 12 months old—an official, full-fledged toddler! There is a lot that happens at this age, and we're not just talking about the cake. (Although really, is there ever a bad time to talk about cake?)
Turning 12 months old means a lot of change for your baby, and that can definitely affect their sleep. You might even notice some sleep disturbances at this age, but fear not—Rachel Mitchell, a certified pediatric and maternal sleep consultant and founder of My Sweet Sleeper, explains that there is no reason to panic. Your baby is just going through some major developmental milestones and sleep help is on the horizon.
Here's more about what you can expect from your newly-minted one-year-old and sleep.
How much sleep does a 12-month-old baby need?
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, your baby's sleep needs shift from 12-16 hours of sleep to 11-14 hours of sleep around the age of 12 months.
Of course, there is no magical sleep fairy that waves a wand over your baby and makes that change happen, so the shift could happen a little before 12 months old, or a little after. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your baby's sleep will most likely be shifting a bit as they grow and adjust into toddlerhood.
"The 12-month mark is such an exciting milestone for both of you," notes Mitchell. "A major progression can happen at this stage, which is related to specific leaps as well as generally increased independence and physical growth."
Related: Baby Feeding Guides & Schedules
She explains that because your baby is making some major developmental strides this month, such as walking and talking, their sleep habits may start to shift with all the increased activity.
"While not all babies are negatively affected by this progression, I do often see that babies may suddenly start waking up at night or start to take short naps—but if this is happening, try not to panic," Mitchell adds. "It typically lasts only a week or so and as long as you remain consistent in your approach, then you should see that your baby moves through this just fine."
Phew. A week only of distributed sleep is definitely good news. But because staying consistent is key to getting a toddler back on track, here's what Mitchell recommends for a sleep schedule for a 12-month-old.
12-month-old baby sleep schedule
As you probably noticed, by 12 months old, your baby should be pretty well set in a two-a-day nap schedule. If they're not there yet, Mitchell recommends that you transition your baby there—and keep them there.
"I recommend remaining on a two-nap schedule as long as possible, and at minimum until 14 months (ideally closer to 18 months)," she says.
Wake windows for a 12 month old
Your baby is getting older, which means they can stay awake a lot longer during the day than they used to. Mitchell explains that by 12 months old, your baby's wake window can stretch as long as 4 hours. Just think of all the things you can do together in that 4-hour window!
Of course, not all babies will be ready to party hard for 4 straight hours and some babies may still be stuck in the 2.5 hour wake window. The important thing to remember is that all babies are different, and you should follow what suits your baby the best. At minimum, however, Mitchell stresses that your baby needs 3 hours of day sleep and 10 to 12 hours of sleep at night.
Related: 12-month-old baby milestones
Sleep tips for babies
You've been through a lot this first year together, but Mitchell notes that if getting consistent sleep is something that you and your baby are both still struggling with, there is no shame in asking for help. By 12 months old, most babies should be pretty established in a regular sleep routine that includes two daily naps and a solid stretch at night--and that's a stage that they will stay in for several months. If your baby isn't there, it might be time to talk to your pediatrician and consult a sleep coach who can help assess your baby's needs and suggest some strategies that can help.
Because while 12 months may mark the end of the infant stage, that doesn't mean your baby will automatically be ready to leave sleep troubles behind.
"If you notice your baby is struggling to move through this progression, I would suggest you reach out for additional one-on-one assistance," Mitchel says.
A version of this story was published September 3, 2021. It has been updated.