Though your baby is beginning to develop in so many positive
ways, certain sleep problems may start to crop up near the first
birthday. These are often due to your baby's increased
awareness of "separateness" from you. Stranger anxiety
are two normal stages of development that can occur during this
time, and they can interfere with much-needed nighttime sleep
for you and your baby.
This may mean tears and tantrums when you try to leave your
child in the crib at night - and more sleep interruption when your
baby wakes up and looks around for some sign that you're near.
This is also the age when
can appear. These can be more "terrifying" for the
parent than the baby if you're not sure what is happening.
It can be difficult to respond to your 8- to 12-month-old's
nighttime needs with the right balance of concern and consistency,
but remember: This is the time to set the stage for future restful
nights for the whole family. The important thing now is to try to
keep the sleep experience a positive one for your baby and to be
consistent with your response to wakefulness at night.
How Long Will My Baby Sleep?
While the average amount of sleep per day at this age is 13 to
14 hours, the range of normal is still quite wide at this
Your baby is probably still taking two naps a day - one in the
morning and another sometime after lunch. The average length of a
nap now is about 1 hour. Some babies will nap 20 minutes, others a
few hours. Naps help prevent your baby from becoming too cranky to
sleep well at night, so it is important that they be long
This is the age when your baby may start resisting taking naps
because he or she doesn't want to be away from you, but naps
will help your little one (and you) enjoy the waking hours more.
The key is to be as consistent as possible with nap times and your
approach to putting your child in the crib.
Where and How Should My Baby Sleep?
By this age, most babies are rolling over and picking a
comfortable position for sleep. Your baby will move around a lot
during the course of a night's rest!
Night terrors can begin at this age, so don't be surprised
if your baby starts screaming and crying in the middle of the night
and nothing you do seems to help. Night terrors are different from
nightmares. Night terrors occur during the deep part of sleep and
although they may seem worrisome to you, your baby is actually
still asleep - even if your baby's eyes are open - and has no
idea that he or she is crying. Make sure that your baby is safe and
he or she will eventually quiet down. Nightmares usually start
around 3 to 4 years of age and children wake up from them feeling
When your baby wakes up in the night and cries for you, remember
not to reward this behavior or it may continue for a long time.
Reassure your baby quietly that you're there, but then send the
message that he or she needs to go back to sleep. The best bet may
be a soothing pat on the back, a repositioning of the blanket, and
a quick exit. If you are firm and consistent about requiring your
baby to put herself or himself back to sleep, this stage should
pass pretty quickly.
Of course, during these middle-of-the-night "visits"
with your baby you'll want to rule out illness or a very soiled
diaper. If you do need to change your baby, remember not to turn on
too many lights and to keep interaction to a minimum.
Always keep safety in mind. Make sure your crib meets current
safety standards. Don't put anything in the crib that can
interfere with your baby's breathing - stuffed animals,
blankets, or soft pillows can fall on a baby's face and block
breathing. Although bumper pads are widely used, their
safety has been questioned. One study from the U.S.
Consumer Product Safety Commission found a number of accidental
deaths appeared to be related to the use of bumper pads in cribs
and bassinets. The Canadian Pediatric Society has recommended
against the use of bumper pads since 2004. If you do use bumpers,
it's best to use the kind that secure at the top and
bottom. Also, avoid items with ties or ribbons that can wrap
around a baby's neck, and objects with any kind of sharp edge
If you use bumpers, remove them once your baby is pulling up
using the sides of the crib. Bumpers can give your baby a dangerous
"leg up" for climbing out of the crib and falling. Babies
can also get tangled in hanging mobiles, so remove them as well.
Don't forget to look around for the things that your baby can
touch from a standing position in the crib. Wall hangings,
pictures, draperies, and window blind cords are potentially harmful
if left within your baby's reach.
Your child is attached to you and doesn't like to be away
from you, but try to handle nighttime "detachment" the
same way you manage separation anxiety during the day (for example,
when you leave your child with a babysitter). Follow your usual
bedtime routine with an extra hug and kiss, let your baby know that
you will see him or her soon, and make a quick exit.
If your baby has a favorite toy or blanket that you feel is safe
to have in the crib, it can be left for comfort. This is when
"transitional" objects become important to babies. They
help your baby transition from being with you most of the time to
having some time away from you and becoming more independent.
Try leaving your baby's door open so he or she can hear your
activity in the next room. This may help your little one feel less
alone. If your child keeps on crying and calling for you, a few
words of reassurance from the bedroom door ("Mommy's right
here but it's time for you to go to sleep now") and
another quick exit may do the trick. Try to lengthen the time
between these personal appearances until - at long last - your baby
When to Call the Doctor
Teething pain is a common reason for sleep problems at this age,
and your doctor may be able to suggest some ways to relieve your
Call the doctor if your baby can't be consoled or seems to
be irritable day after day because of interrupted sleep. Perhaps
there is an illness involving no other symptoms besides
sleeplessness, or maybe your doctor can help you find ways to
enhance your nighttime routine with your child.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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