Baby Behavior: 12 Months to 24 Months

Your infant will be entering toddlerhood by his second birthday, his progress seen on charts at the pediatrician’s office. But he’ll grow behaviorally as well. Here are some highlights of baby behavior to expect in months 12 through 24!

Baby’s Second Year: Sleep

“In the second year of life, children should be sleeping a total of 12 to 14 hours per day,” says Dr. Doris Aguilar, a pediatrician from Miami, Fla. “This includes a nap of 1.5 to 3.5 hours.”

Transitioning to sleep routines can help. “Patrick [now 3] was always a pretty regular sleeper,” says Katie Demirjian, a mom from Madison, Ala. “At 12 months [we] began the ‘putting to bed without a bottle’ routine – which was hard at first. Instead of a bottle and a lullaby – we had to make a bigger deal about the bath time, lullaby- and story-time routine.”

Kids may begin experiencing sleep problems also. “Nighttime fears are normal and can often be helped by a transitional comfort object such as a doll, blanket or nightlight,” Dr. Demirjian says. “Sleep onset association disorder involves being able to only fall asleep by a ritual even during a night wakening. Rituals may include rocking to sleep or feeding.”

Baby’s Second Year: Crying

Children now begin to learn to communicate without crying. “Between 12 to 15 months, you can encourage your child to point to the things they want or need and they can learn to call out to you for your attention,” says Dr. Aguilar. “After 15 months, and as their language quickly develops, encourage the child to use their words in place of crying.”

Jennifer Ormond of Quincy, Mass., noticed this with her 20-month-old son. “Max only cries when he is hurt or when his sister or brothers take something away from him,” Ormond says. “He is able to communicate to us when he is hungry or needs a diaper change.”

Tantrums or meltdowns happen when a child is overwhelmed with her feelings, according to Jen Meyers, coauthor of Raising Your Child: The Complete Illustrated Guide (Fair Winds Press, 2009). “It is a highly emotional state and can actually feel really scary to the child because she’s out of control. (She doesn’t like that feeling any more than you do.) If your child does have tantrums, what she needs from you is loving support while she’s going through it and comfort afterward.” Try figuring out what triggers tantrums to minimize or avoid them altogether.

Speech Development

“One-year-olds often have only a couple of words, but they can understand a great deal,” says Dr. Cara Natterson, a pediatrician from Los Angeles, Calif., and the author of Your Toddler: Head-to-Toe (Little, Brown, 2006). “In fact, until the vocabulary really blossoms (sometime between 15 to 24 months, depending upon the child), most parents underestimate how much their child can comprehend.”

Lorrell Walter, a mom from Chittenango, N.Y., says she and her husband try to talk to their 19-month-old daughter in a “regular” manner. “We explain things simply, but completely,” she says. “Since we’re not real sure how much she is taking in (though we know it’s considerable), we err on the side of giving her too much information.”

By explaining things using complete sentences, you are encouraging the use of words, developing comprehension, says Dr. Natterson. “And, most importantly, you are setting the example for how you expect your child to communicate back when he is older,” she says.

Parent Preference

“Every child goes through this at some point, and I promise, if you are on the receiving end of rejection, your turn for favoritism will come,” says Dr. Natterson.

Elizabeth Lyons, a mother of five from Buckeye, Ariz., has experienced this. “I’ve found that in raising all of our kids, between the ages of 1 and 2, they alter their [parent] preference based on nothing in particular,” she says. “One month, they’re all about mom and the next it’s all about dad. It’s not personal, and parents shouldn’t see it as such. Trust me, the tides will turn again.”

Lori Harasem of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, finds her daughter’s preference changes with mood. “This makes it hard when she is having a tantrum and wants dad, and dad is at work, but it’s better in that she doesn’t get so upset when mom is away because all she wants is mom,” she says. “The preference seems to be most noticeable when she is upset with whichever parent is around.”

Dr. Natterson says some parents like the off periods. “The mom who is rejected at every turn when dad is around can sometimes enjoy the downtime,” she says.

Eating Habits

“At 12 months, Patrick was a great eater!” says Demirjian. “I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden at about 18 months, he went from eating everything to eating fruit and green beans and that’s it. It took us almost a full year to get him to eat any meat.”

“Each child has her own food preferences, just like each adult does, so there are going to be foods that she doesn’t like,” says Meyers. Don’t give up though. “Keep introducing new foods and provide a healthy variety,” she says. “Kids will eat what you offer them. If all you give your child is junk food, she’s just going to eat junk food. If all you give her is healthy food, then she’s just going to eat healthy food.”

Meyers also suggests letting them decide when they are done eating. “That will help them to eat healthy amounts of food as they get older and not overeat their way into a weight problem,” she says.

Social Development

“Most 1-year-olds are learning to walk and learning to talk,” says Dr. Natterson. “These two developmental leaps make them much more socially interesting to the people around them – especially older siblings. Because they can move towards people and they can start to communicate, 1-year-olds generate a good amount of chatter back.”

Lyons feels her twins’ social development increased tremendously their second year. “They started to cognitively understand that they were actually interacting with people,” she says. “They responded to friends, family and strangers alike, giggling at them and asking them questions. It’s as though during the 1- to 2-year period kids realize, ‘Hey, if I engage this person, they’ll say something back to me!’ and they have great fun with that.”

Stranger Anxiety

“Stranger anxiety can come and go anytime between the first and second birthday (and sometimes starts even earlier),” says Dr. Natterson.

“Strangers” may even be a grandparent seen infrequently. “It helps to remember that your 1-year-old can comprehend a whole lot more than he can say,” says Dr. Natterson. “Therefore, you can explain who the ‘stranger’ is and it may alleviate some of the fear.”

Ormond’s son’s stranger anxiety has improved. “He is still a bit shy at first but warms up much quicker now than he did back at 12 to 16 months,” she says. “He would cling to my husband or me for dear life and not really ever let go at group gatherings. Now he just needs a minute and can’t wait to get into the mix of playing or exploring.”


Playtime for a 1-year-old will probably be parallel rather than interactive. “That means she’ll be playing alongside other children, but not with them,” says Meyers. “She may occasionally share a toy, but for the most part she’s just too young to understand the concept of sharing.”

“[My daughter] didn’t really seem to care to play when she was 1, but as she gets closer to 2, she has favorite games (catch), and she gets so excited about new things and new toys that it’s fun to watch her figure them out,” says Harasem. “She also now has the patience to try to learn what I’m doing with puzzles or games that require some matching. She likes games and things that involve other people now, more so, too.”