For months and months and months (approximately 26 of them), someone had to stay with Annabel while she fell asleep.
As an infant I often nursed her down. She usually at least needed a shoulder to snuggle on, sometimes a little rocking or swinging, too. We had to kind of sneak her into her crib. We did the same with Otto and he was a GREAT sleeper as he got older, happy to fall asleep on his own. Of course, he never slept through the night the way she did, so there's that. But he was always easy to put down for naps or at night.
As Annabel got a little older we got more rigid about the bedtime routine, insisting that she do the bath/jammies/book/crib thing. We'd stay with her while she fell asleep in her crib -- if she let us put her down -- and sneak out after she was sound asleep. Jon would actually crawl out of the room on his hands and knees. I could usually slip out standing upright, but I had to be fast (yet silent!) about opening and closing the door. She's a light sleeper, and if she heard you move, you were toast -- it'd be another half hour before you could try sneaking out again.
I went through the whole long process of slowly easing her into going to sleep on her own - week one, rocking her until she was almost asleep, putting her in the crib, patting her while she cried because I wasn't rocking her until she finally crashed. Week two, rock her a little less, pat her a little less, etc. I made progress with that until the first night I worked late and couldn't be home for bedtime. In Annabel-land, there are completely different rules for moms and dads at bedtime, and what mom could get away with, dad caught hell for. Meaning we were back to square one.
And yes - yes, we tried crying it out. It didn't work. Or it would work for a few days, something would cause a glitch in the bedtime schedule (me working late, a weekend trip), and it would mean starting all over. I'm not tough enough to make a 1 yr old cry it out every week or two. Plus she would get so very worked up by it all that she would be clingy for days afterward. Ferber wasn't for us.
Early this summer I decided she was panicking about being stuck in her crib with no means of escape, so we put on the toddler rail. I'm sure you're thinking that was a recipe for disaster, but it wasn't -- she was much calmer about being left in her bed when she knew she could get out. She's a great sleeper once she's down - usually the earliest she gets up is 6 - so there was no midnight roaming to worry about. We settled into a variation of the pat-to-sleep thing where we'd tuck her in, say goodnight, then settle into the chair in her room and keep her company while she fell asleep.
Sometime in the past month she's evidently decided that's no longer necessary. These days she's all about falling asleep on her own. She seems to relish having a few minutes of solitude in her bed -- snuggled under her quilt, nightlight on, music playing -- to look at a book or play with a toy before crashing.
I'm glad, and it's been a long time coming, but it's still sort of weird in a way. We almost get booted out of her room at night now. I get to read her two books - maybe three - then tuck her in, make sure she has her stuffed monkey, turn off the light, do the "love you, good night" routine (which she repeats back to me), and we're done. She almost shoos me out the door so she can "read" to herself or arrange her Little People for bed.
And Daddy is finally allowed to leave her, too, on those nights when I can't be home in time.
Believe me, we do sometimes wonder who's really in charge here... the 5 yr old or the 2 yr old? I have a feeling the shortest member of the family is steering the bus most of the time while her older brother works the gas and the brakes at random intervals.