You Cannot Force Kids to Sleep

You can set the stage for your child to sleep but you cannot force sleep to happen. Accepting this will help you be more relaxed!

As much as we would all love to have the power to force our child (or even ourselves!) to sleep when it is time, it just isn’t possible.

“You, and your child, can force wakefulness upon sleep, but you cannot force sleep upon wakefulness” (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, page 30).

“Parents have the opportunity to permit the maximum amount of sleep to occur…”.

(page 30)

It can be very frustrating if your child will not sleep when you want him to. I think these two quotes are excellent to keep in mind–you can put a baby in bed at the right time, but you can’t make him sleep.

What You Do Have Control Over

While you can’t force sleep, there are some things you do have power over.

As a parent, you can do your best.

You can do what you need to so that your child is in bed when he should be for naps and bedtime.

You can do your part to make sure your child isn’t understimulated or overstimulated.

You can figure out optimal waketime lengths for your child.

You can provide a good environment for sleeping.

>>>Read: Essential Elements to Any Babywise Bedroom

There are plenty of things that are in your control.

Even With Your Best, Things Might Not Go Well

But in the end, sometimes that child will not sleep like he is “supposed” to.

When you have done what  you can, the best thing you can do for your own happiness and ability to enjoy the moment is to step back and say to yourself, “I have done what I can do.”

This is a lot easier to swallow if you are talking a couple of bad naps here and there or even just a bad run for a couple of weeks. It gets more difficult when you go on months.

I know–believe me I know.

Brayden didn’t nap well consistently until he was 6.5 months old.

Where most babies sleep well most of the time and have bad naps here and there, he had bad most of the time with the good nap here and there.

I am not actually a stressing type person, though, so it didn’t stress me out. I just accepted it and we went about our lives.

I think it would be much harder to take the shorter napper if it was not your first–if the short napper followed the amazing napper, it would be hard. You would know exactly what you are missing and what your child is missing.

If you have a chronic short napper, it might interest you to know that Weissbluth claims 5-18 percent of babies are short nappers, and that it is just a natural thing for the baby.

He also says this lasts until 18-24 months old essentially.

I don’t know how true or untrue it is, but there is the information for you. I have absolutely worked with moms who have done everything they can and the baby still takes a short nap. So I do believe some just will take short naps no matter what. You can check out his book (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) on page 30 for more.


What I hope this post does for you encourage you that sometimes, you will do everything right but you can’t lead a baby to sleep.

The saying goes “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” I showed horses as a teenager and grew with horses my entire life, and that statement is certainly true.

There are many things in life you can’t force. Sleep is one of them.

You can set the stage. You can set your child up for success, and sometimes it won’t happen.

Think of yourself. Have you ever had a night you had a hard time sleeping–even when you really wanted to sleep? It happens.

So hang in there. Do your best and then just learn to roll with what comes next.


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