Newborn babies sleep much of the day, waking only to eat. As your baby gets older, however, she'll start staying awake for longer periods and take less frequent, but longer, naps. If your little one doesn't naturally adjust to this new nap schedule, it can interfere with the quality of her awake periods, which are necessary for development. It can also make it more difficult for you to get anything done around the house. Fortunately, you can increase the length of your baby's naps to ensure you're both getting what you want and need from the day's schedule.
Follow your baby's cues. When your baby is tired, she may lose interest in her toys, rub her eyes or start to become cranky. Putting her down for a nap at the first sign of tiredness and before she becomes overtired can make her less resistant to falling asleep and can help her sleep longer.
Lay her down while she's still awake. In order to prolong her naps, she must learn to self-soothe and go back to sleep if she awakes prematurely. If she's always asleep when placed for a nap, she might not learn this necessary skill.
Adjust your little one's environment so that it is conducive to sleep. Make sure she's not sleeping in a highly trafficked area, keep the lights dim, use a white noise machine if it helps and make sure the room temperature is comfortable.
Change your baby's diaper before putting her down to sleep. A wet diaper is a common cause of early waking that is easily prevented.
Pay attention to her feeding schedule. A hungry baby will not stay asleep, but you also don't want to use a feeding to put your baby down for a nap. Ideally, a nap should follow a short awake period that follows a meal.
Swaddle your baby if she's startling herself awake at naptime. This can be a problem with some babies, especially newborns, due to an immature immune system. Experiment with different swaddling techniques to determine what works best for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing your baby down on her back, checking her frequently for overheating and keeping the swaddling blanket away from her face.
Lengthen your baby's naps by removing one. If your little one is taking four 45-minute naps, delay one of them until it is almost time for the following nap. After a few days, your baby should start sleeping longer at this later nap. If this is successful, combine two other naps so that your baby is now taking two 90-minute naps every day.
Adjust her bedtime, when necessary, or move her naps to an earlier or later time during the day. Every baby is different, and some can go longer between naps than others, even from a young age. If your baby does well with longer naps, but then has trouble going to sleep at night, either move her naps to a slightly earlier time, or postpone her bedtime a little. Just make sure the total amount of time she sleeps every day is appropriate for her age.
Don't stress out. If naptime turns into a struggle, your baby will sense your tension and refuse sleep. Napping tends to sort itself out over time. If you have serious concerns about your baby's sleep schedule or overall development, consult her pediatrician.