Although your baby has been developing in so many ways, it’s not uncommon for him to experience sleep problems as he nears his first birthday. Stranger anxiety and separation anxiety are two normal stages of development that occur during this time that and can rob you both of much needed sleep time. Tears and tantrums when you leave him in his crib at night and sleep interruption when he wakes up looking for you are both signs that he is experiencing separation anxiety.
Although it can be difficult to respond to his needs with the right balance of concern and consistency, it’s important that you ensure restful nights for your family by making sure his association with night time sleep remains positive and that your response to him at night is predictable.
The average number of hours your baby will sleep per day is approximately 13 to 14, but ranges outside of this are considered normal.
You’ll probably find he is napping twice a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon with an average length of one hour, although some babies will nap for 20 minutes and others a couple of hours. An adequate amount of sleep prevents your baby from becoming cranky and encourages a good time night time sleep pattern, so it’s important to establish a regular schedule and be as consistent as possible with nap times.
By this age, your baby is probably rolling over and picking a comfortable nighttime sleep position and dressing your child in a sleep sack with an appropriate seasonal weight will greatly reduce sleep disturbances from him becoming too hot or cold.
When he wakes up in the night and cries for you, remember not to reward him, or it may continue for a long time. Reassure him quietly that you are there, and a quick exit. If you are firm and consistent about requiring him to resettle back to sleep, this stage should pass pretty quickly.
If he wakes up during the night crying, do not to reward the behavior as it may him establish bad habits and expectations. Instead, quietly reassure him you are there and then quickly move out of the room. A firm and consistent approach is required and will soon settle him back to sleep.
Remember to rule out illness or soiled diapers during these visits, and if you do need to change him, keep the lighting low and keep interaction to a minimum, avoiding eye contact. Ensure that your baby’s crib meets national safety standards and remove items that pose suffocation or strangulation risks such as large stuffed animals, ties, ribbons and sharp objects.
Once he is able to pull himself up using the sides of the crib, it's time to remove the mobiles and any other objects he may be able to touch whilst standing up. Wall hangings, pictures, draperies, and window blind cords are all potentially harmful and should be out of baby's reach.
Your baby doesn’t like to be away from you, but try to handle nighttime detachment the same way you would manage separation anxiety during the day, for example with a babysitter or daycare drop off. Follow your usual nighttime routine with an extra hug and kiss, letting him know you will see him soon before making a quick exit.
A favorite toy inside the crib may help to soothe him and provide a sense of comfort but remember to make sure it’s safe and doesn’t pose any suffocation or strangulation risk. Transitional objects can help baby to become more independent and less reliant on his parents for comfort. Leaving his door open so he can hear activity in the next room can help him feel less alone, and if he cries and calls for you, a few words of reassurance from the bedroom door and a quick exit will usually help. If frequent visits to his room and reassurance are required, try to lengthen the time between these periods until he falls asleep.
Teething pain can be a common reason for sleep problems at this age and your doctor may be able to suggest ways to relieve your baby's discomfort.
Consult your pediatrician if he becomes inconsolable, irritable over a number of days because of interrupted sleep, has a temperature or breathing difficulties.