With my first child, I used gentle sleep training, and it worked like a charm. She was in bed with us for the first week, but when I realized she seldom woke to nurse throughout the night, I moved her to a crib. I would nurse her for as long as she wanted before bed, swaddle her, and put her in her crib. If she woke, which was seldom, I used shushing and soothing, a gentle hand placed on the back, and would then tip-toe out of the room. I was never sleep-deprived and counted myself lucky.
My son seemed to be following much the same pattern for his first few months. A cheerful baby, he only cried when hungry, tired or in pain, and was easily soothed. By six months, he was sleeping 10 or more hours at night, and napping at least once during the day. At night, I would nurse him as I laid on the couch & watched TV or read a book, but unlike his sister, he would seldom actually fall into deep slumber before I would rise to put him into his crib. He was bright eyed when I would lay him down into his crib. I'd give him a kiss and tuck him in, "Good night my love, see you in the morning."
Then sometime after he turned one... once he had learned to walk and get around at whim, things changed. We tried everything. When he tried to let him cry it out, his cries got very loud and he would cry for 2 hours or more. It was awful! When that didn't seem to bring us in to him, he taught himself to climb out of his crib. For safety reasons, we switched to a toddler bed. A big mistake! When he awakes now, he simply gets up and comes into our bed, usually within 3-4 hours of sleeping in his own bed.
Generally, he still goes to bed easily (after we tuck him in and give him a kiss)... other times, I need to nurse him to sleep. I just can't seem to get him to stay there. I don't mind the occasional night visits (when he needs comfort from a bad dream or such - like his sister does once in a while), but every night?!
This brings up another issue. How does one wean a child from nursing??? He'll be 2 at the end of next month. I've got him down to nighttime (although 2-3x throughout the night) and morning, but it is a fight during the day. He desperately wants boobie. I keep having to tell him. "No. Wait for bedtime. My boobies are empty. All gone." He once even brought me the milk from the refridgerator apparantly thinking I could refill myself. :)
His sister was weaned nearly over night. She too, was down to just 2 feeding a day (before bed and morning) and even then, they were short stints. So, Memorial Weekend of 2004 when she was 20 months, I just stopped. She didn't fuss too much at all. I was surprised... but perhaps the presence of Grandma and Papa who were visiting for the weekend was a great distraction. :)
My little guy will be 2 at the end of February. While I love the initimacy we share while nursing... I am ready to stop. I swear he'll be potty trained before he gives up the boobie (he occasionally removes his diaper to use the toilet, although he's been successful only twice).