I've said it time and time again, and I'll say it once more if need be: I am team "Whatever Works For Your Family". That means I'm not going to judge you if you use Cry It Out, or if you nurse your baby to sleep until they are five. From my own experience, I can guarantee that you know what your child needs better than I do. Of course, one thing that all children crave is consistency in their schedule and routine. Not sure if this is all toddlers or just mine, but moving away from his typical schedule causes complete chaos for Shep. Luckily Stephen picked up on that early on in Shep's life. SInce then, we've tried to keep him to a general routine. It's worked well for us so far!
My kids aren't the same person, by far. While Shep needed to cry it out to get to sleep, Rory is much better at self-soothing. Because they are so different in their preferences, we had to try different things with each of them to regulate their sleep schedule. Newborns, as you know, are a bit backwards on their sleep cycles when they're born. Most of their daytime hours are spent asleep, and nighttime is their most alert. Think about it - when they're so little, overstimulation happens quickly and easily. At night, a baby has to process fewer colors, sounds, sights, and even smells! Of course, over time you want your baby to match up to a typical sleep schedule. That is, whatever's typical for your family!
With Shep, we tried several different methods before settling (begrudgingly) on Cry-It-Out (CIO). Shep is like me in that being around people is a stimulant. So, our attempts to comfort him with our presence simply excited him and made it harder for him to fall asleep. Within a week of starting CIO, Shep was falling asleep within five minutes. After a few months, he stopped crying altogether once we switched off the light.
Someone once explained CIO this way; Kids have two different responses to crying themselves to sleep. They either use the crying to wear themselves out and wind down from the energy of the day. Or, they become more and more anxious and increasingly unsettled. It only takes about ten or fifteen minutes to figure out which of these responses your baby has to CIO. If they get wound up by crying, then I don't think CIO is advisable. Of course, there are loads of other methods.
Until my babies are about six months old, I roomshare or bedshare frequently. Usually my baby starts the night in their own bed - and when they wake in the night, I get them up and bring them into bed with me to nurse. They fall back asleep, and so do I. Proceed with caution: bed-sharing is controversial because it might not be the safest way to sleep.
Other parents have recommended a gentle sleep training. Instead of closing the door and letting the baby cry until they give in, gentle sleep training encourages parents to respond to their child's cries. Rather than picking up the baby, nursing them, or feeding them - simply soothe them with a soft touch and voice.
You might have heard of a "no tears" method that emphasizes "fading" - basically a gradual reduction of your part in the baby's nighttime routine. This one is especially great for people who don't want to rock the boat by introducing a new routine or expectation.
Every mom is exhausted at a 3 AM feeding, but some are even doing a little dance called the Sleep Lady Shuffle. Essentially, this method involves placing a chair next to the baby's crib and sitting with them until they fall asleep. Over time, the chair gradually moves away from the crib, out of the room, into the hallway, and then into your own room. As the distance increases, the baby learns to self-soothe with the added comfort of knowing you're there.
In truth, this is just a smattering of the most tried-and-true sleep methods. I've tried a bit of all of them - some families end up finding a happy medium between methods. Regardless, most babies will sleep through the night, and sleep well, by the time they hit preschool. Hopefully that's some consolation to you tired mamas.