When our Shira joined us, I was fully prepared for at least six months, and maybe more, of disrupted sleep. I planned to nurse on demand and didn't intend to do anything (such as introduce a pacifier) to push early night weaning. I was pleasantly surprised when our daughter started sleeping through the night when she was only two months. She also takes at least one long nap, or two shorter ones, during the day - we can certainly consider ourselves lucky.
I used to think that daytime naps "take away" from the time she will sleep at night, but discovered it not to be so at all. On the contrary, if she doesn't sleep at all during the day, she's exhausted and grumpy in the evening and has a more difficult time to fall asleep. Of course, I suppose that if she slept through long stretches of time (3-4 hours) during the day, we might end up with day/night confusion, but it never happened so far.
Dream feeding has been wonderful to help us get more sleep during the night, too. Before I started it, I always felt like I'm missing out on hours of sleep whenever I stayed up after Shira was in bed. Then, after I read up on dream feeding, I realized what a simple and wonderful solution it is: a couple of hours after her evening meal, I can quietly pick her up and nurse her without really waking her. It will fill her little tummy enough to last her until morning.
Dream feeding works for us because Shira nurses effectively and gets a full meal even without being awake, and doesn't just "nibble". She's so calm throughout the feeding that she doesn't even need to burp after it.
Shira can go to bed early in the evening (say, at 7 or 8), and I will gently give her a night-time meal right before I go to bed myself (around 11). Then I get her back to bed, and she keeps on sleeping. I don't talk to her, and make sure the room is quiet and dark. This way, she won't wake up as early as 5 or 6 in the morning to nurse, and we don't feel we need to rush and go to sleep the moment she does, and can have some quiet "adult time" in the evening, which is so refreshing for any couple.
However, we are still at a loss when it comes to finding a good system of going to sleep. We have an evening routine which includes a bath, cuddling and nursing, but even when Shira is obviously tired, it's difficult to get her to sleep or take a nap. Ideally, I would like her to be able to fall asleep on her own when she is tired, in a quiet, dark room with no distractions. But it rarely seems to happen. Sometimes she will fall asleep on my breast while nursing. Other times, she falls asleep in my arms while I'm rocking her. Often, she takes a nap in the car. Even when she goes to sleep in her bed, I must remain by her side, and the process involves lots of fussing and even crying.
She has always slept in her own bed and doesn't have a "bed aversion". I just wish I could do something to help our little one develop an ability to calm down and fall asleep on her own. Am I being unrealistic?