I don't pretend to have all the answers, or that I would repeat everything I've done, but to date---I do have 4 children who sleep 11/12 hours through the night now and did as infants. Now...toddlers and naps [that's a whole other post!]
If you want to know "how I do it" continue reading...
EAT PLAY SLEEP
They all have different personalities, and levels of difficulty, but somehow they all sleep from about 8 pm till 7 or 8 am most days. It isn't normal for them to get in bed with us, or wake up super early, although the early wake ups do happen on occasion. Either way, we do try to enforce a pretty tight routine so that a) Charles and I can have personal quiet time together and b) we can slept 7-8 hours a night so that we can properly [and patiently] attend to them every day. Especially me.
Right after I had Nation [my oldest], someone handed me Baby Wise. I was too exhausted to read it all the way through [and still haven't], but I skimmed over it and feel like I gleaned the main points. Eat Play Sleep. Which, I do agree, is the way most babies [and children] function.
EAT-As far as I understand it, if you want to schedule [strictly or loosely] your child it starts with feeding times. For example, my 3 month old eats about every 3-4 hours. So If I nurse her at 7:30am, she will eat for a half hour, then "play" for a half hour, going down at 8:30am then sleep for 2-3 hours, waking up to eat around 11:30am. More or less. I did nurse to sleep [few minutes] some of my kids, but some, like Heaven can just be happily laid down and fall asleep on their own within a few minutes. Feedings were more frequent when she was younger and I'm willing to feed slightly more often, but not every few minutes.
PLAY-I am purposeful in my "play" part to properly wear them out both mentally and physically. As infants I will try to make a lot of eye contact, talk to them a lot, provide toys for them to play with, and carry them around. I don't know if baby wearing [or holding] has anything to do with it, but I do attempt to hold my infants as much as possible since their season for needing [and wanting] to be held is really short in the scheme of things. I do put them down if I have to attend to something, but I do try to wear [or hold] them as much as I can.When they start to fuss or whine I know "it's time".
SLEEP-I use a box fan for noise, shades for darkness, a sleep sack for safety, and a light up toy in bed for noise and entertainment while they fall asleep. Usually I just lay them down and they will fall asleep on their own within a few minutes. Obviously a child who sucks their fingers or thumb [Heaven] is easier than a child [Nation & Moses] who used a passey and they can't keep it in or it keeps falling out until they are older.
CRYING IT OUT
The big question right? When Nation was born, we let him sleep with us and next to us in the bassinet. When he outgrew it [started rolling over!], we moved him over to his crib [around a month]. So, you go lay them down and what do they do? They cry. Someone told us to just let them "cry it out". So, we did. I sat, also crying, by the baby monitor for a longer period of time than I care to share, and then he fell asleep. He was clean, full and only wanted me to hold him while he slept. I think he did this two or three nights and then rarely ever again, especially for any real length of time. He seemed to have quickly "trained" himself to realize he wasn't getting picked up. My other three children we did the same thing with, but all of them trained even quicker and with a shorter cry time. I chalk this up to personality and stamina.
I suppose I should clarify, that I do allow breast feedings through the night when they wake for them [as long as they are spread out and not every few minutes]. For example, if my baby [teething/sick/healthy] wanted to nurse at 12, 3, 6, and 9 am. I would. Honestly, it didn't bother me. I would nurse laying down and then go put them back in their bed and hardly miss a wink of sleep. I didn't feel comfortable letting them "cry it out" if I thought they were actually hungry. If it was just to be held I didn't feel as guilty. Obviously the younger they are the more likely they were to wake up more often, the older they got the less likely they "needed" another feeding. And when they did I figured it was because they were sick, teething or growing.
The first two kids probably would have slept all night, but I used the nightly nursings also to help me from ovulating for 12 months. The last two kids I didn't wake them up at night to nurse them, and they slept all night most nights and some nights they woke for one, or several feedings. Even now, Heaven at 3 months, will sleep 12 hours straight some nights [ouch breasts!] and others nurse a time or two. For me it works. As long as they will nurse laying down while I sleep and I can go put them back in their bed afterwards and they go right back to sleep it's a win-win for both of us. Changing diapers, fussing, or rustling next to me in bed don't work for our family middle of the night [unless they are newborns].
Here's where I might be changing what I think. I'm currently reading a book How We Love and although it's on marriage, it talks in depth about the comfort [or lack there of] we received as a child and how that ends up affecting the rest of our adulthood relationships. I haven't really made up my mind yet, but I'm beginning to lean towards maybe feeling slightly more guilty for letting them "cry it out" so much. I don't think the concept is entirely bad, but maybe in need of a more balanced approach. Maybe we are putting an unnatural pressure on the babies [and ourselves] to have them sleep a certain cookie-cutter-way. Maybe.
I believe "fetuses", infants and children are all 100% persons. I don't think they start feeling the spiritual, emotional and physical affects of this world at some point in adolescents, I believe it starts earlier than we want to believe. Thus, I believe the way we treat those in our womb, or in our arms, can make great impressions upon them later in life.
So, I'm questioning... did those, although, few times, of letting them "cry it out" hurt them in any way? I'd like to think it didn't much, but I wonder.
For me, I want to leave you with one word at the end of this post, it's...balance. Like I said before, I never followed Baby Wise to a T and if I felt like I needed to go in and pick them up mid "crying it out" and comfort them, then I did. So my advice to you is...
1-Hear from the Lord because every child, parent and family is different. What worked for one family, or child may or may not work for you.
2-Comfort them when you hear the Holy Spirit telling you to. Just now even, I laid Heaven down and she would normally go right to sleep watching her sea horse light up and sing to her, but she didn't. I waited a few minutes, and then went up held her spoke to her, and reassured her for just a few minutes and I can now hear that she's asleep. Tell them [even if they don't understand it] "You are safe" "You are loved" You are not abandoned" Etc
3-Pray for them when you lay them down. Pray things like "Peace" "Security" "Angels all around you" Etc
4-I suggest finding something that helps you sleep. I know that I will probably never chose to "comfort" [stay awake with all night] one child for months at the expense of not sleeping at night. Regardless, my other 3 will be up at 7 am, so if my infant and I hang out all night for months and months and never get on any schedule or common compromise no one is winning. Mommy will be nice to one child, while being mean to all the rest of them, and ruining her marriage.
5-Don't be afraid to do something for the greater good. If it's a few minutes of crying it out, or a few mintues of singing, or a few minutes of nursing, or a few hours of co-sleeping. Be willing to do whatever it takes. Because not sleeping has a domino affect on my marriage and relationships and responsibilities to the other children. Don't ignore this truth.
SLEEP IS IMPORTANT FOR THE MOMMY!
I don't know about you, but I feel crazy, impatient and hate the world when I don't sleep [for long periods of time]. So read, ask, pray, try, but most importantly find something that helps you sleep and makes your child healthy. Children need sleep. If your child thinks they don't, ask God for wisdom to show you how to help them do so. He will answer you. Specifically for your child.