I often have new moms ask what sort of advice an old sage like me (three years at this gig and going strong!) would have to give. I usually tell them the best piece of advice someone once gave me "You are your child's mother. You will know what is best even when everyone else has a thousands things to say about what you are doing". If they don't like that, I launch into a 20 minute lecture on the importance of sleep and scheduling for moms and kids.
I am a BIG believer in sleep. I like it a lot. I like sleep for me, I like it for my kids, I just like it. When I don't get sleep things don't go right in my life. I'm cranky, I'm slow, I make stupid mistakes. When my kids don't get enough sleep they tend to take after their mom. In the Garfield house we've sort of established a system that sleep (for the kids at least) is the most important part of our day.
We have them on a very tight schedule. Every night both boys are in bed by 7:30. Every day they are both down for naps at generally the same time. We have a bedtime and nap-time routine that work pretty well for us. There haven't been many nights where we have had to go back in and put someone to bed again.
There is a lot of controversy over "crying it out". I think its a little silly, to be honest. We love our kids, we want what's best for them, and part of that involves a good night sleep for everyone. Around 4-6 months with both our boys we've let them cry a little at night to get back to sleep. Anything longer than 20 minutes or so and we go in check up. It just seems practical to me. Both our boys have slept 12 hours + a night by about 8 months. I'm not saying we're amazing parents, or that we're better than people who don't let their kids cry a little at night. We've just found a system that works really well for our bunch. Also, our kids are NOT allowed in bed with Mom and Dad passed about 4 months. This works very well for us as well. Eli has never asked to sleep in our bed and I don't think he will ever even consider it an option.
With that said...hearing your kids cry NEVER gets easy. NEVER ever. Right now I'm dealing with an Eli who won't take a nap. He is exhausted. He's so tired that he WON'T go to sleep. He needs sleep so so bad, but he just won't go down. Even now, after 3 years of doing this, I'm on the couch silently weeping while my son screams for me upstairs. If I go in there it only lets him know that crying gets a visit from Mom. That just prolongs the nap even more. So I have to sit here and listen to Clair de Lune for the 4th time through and hope that he doesn't remember this when he gets big and resents me (he'll have plenty of other things for that list I'm sure...).