New parents quickly learn to look forward to nap time. Depending on your baby’s temperament, it might seem like the only quiet time you have all day. Even if you have a generally calm baby, chances are you are ready for a break by the time baby nods off to catch a light snooze.

Of course, naps are very important for babies, largely because they aren’t yet able to sleep for eight hour stretches like adults can. They need to eat every 2-3 hours, to be changed as needed, and can easily get too cold or too hot. You baby is dependent on you to meet all of her needs for the first few months of her life, and most of them for years to come.

Recent studies have shown that babies actually learn while they are sleeping. It is likely that baby’s brain development is dependent on sleeping most of the day, making naps that much more important.

So, what are the best ways to go about helping your baby to nap? There’s no shortage on good advice on this subject, but here are some of the best tips we’ve found:

  1. Help you baby to nap by laying her down when she first shows signs of being tired. Sometimes when we wait, baby catches a second wind and could miss a nap.
  2. Different babies will nap differently. But, whether your baby naps two or three times per day, try to be consistent about nap times and procedures. Whether you lay him down and allow him to self soothe, nurse him to sleep, rock him to sleep, or whatever, it’s best if you can do it the same way every day. This helps establish routine.
  3. For younger babies, let them wake up from the naps when they are ready. As baby gets older, you can put naps on a schedule, but in general, younger babies should be allowed to nap as long as they will sleep.
  4. Place baby in a dark place during nap times. Not only will this help her get to sleep, but it may also help her to differentiate between day and night, moving her towards sleeping better at night.
  5. Swaddle your baby for nap time. Newborns and infants love the feeling of being swaddled snuggly in a blanket, as this replicates the secure feeling of the womb.