I follow a few basic rules and so far so good with both little bundles
1 - Understanding how long your baby needs to sleep during the day. There is a maximum amount of time each child should sleep during the day to ensure that they are able to make it through the night. It should be divide between 2 shorter naps morning and afternoon and then one longer lunch time nap. A baby under 5wks needs around 5hrs sleep a day; between 4 to 8wks it should be around 4hrs; from 8 to 12 wks about 3hrs 30mins. By 3mths it should be no longer than 3hrs. By 6mths if your baby is giving you all the right signs you can drop the afternoon nap altogether and the total daytime sleep will be no more than 2hrs 30mins to 3hrs. After their 1st birthday they will probably sleep no more than 2hrs 30 mins and some time between 15 and 18 mths your toddler will also drop his morning nap sleeping no more than 2hrs at lunch time. These are all guidelines and if you have a very active toddler they will sleep a lot less. Isabelle never slept as long as the guidelines and from around 16mths onwards was sleeping anything between 45mins to 2hrs at lunch time (with an average of 1hr 30mins for most days)
2 - Waking up a baby that is sleeping too long during the day. This is related to the first point but not always obvious. It's really hard waking up a sleeping baby specially if it's the only down time you get but TRUST me, it's a lot better to have him awake during the day than during the night. I don't mean startle a baby to wake. As long as you gently unwrap him from his swaddle or unzip him from his sleeping bag, pull back any sheets and open any blinds he should start to wake up on his own...if not then gently stroke his tummy and speak to him softly.
3 - Eliminating Sleep associations. There are lots of these from rocking and cuddling, to dummies and tap tapping a baby to sleep. My view is that in the first 2 to 3 months babies need as much love, cuddles and attention as they can get, and yes perhaps they will develop sleep associations, but as long as you stop them well before the end of their third month you can wean them off any sleep associations in a few days. With a dummy (if you choose to use one) the trick is to pull it out your baby's mouth JUST before he falls asleep. That way they don't learn to 'need' it to fall asleep and they won't be startled when it falls out of their little mouths. I think if you HAVE to do something then some 'sshh-ing and some tapping' is fine but try not to pick the baby up and rock him to sleep. Then you will end up in a never ending cycle of the baby bursting into tears the minute you try to put him down. I used CONTROLED CRYING with both my bundles. Done CORRECTLY it can really work...more on that later
4 - The premise that if your baby has had the right amount of milk for his weight, is gaining the right amount of weight each week, is sleeping only the maximum amount of hours allowed for his age then he SHOULD be able to get through the bulk fo the night - sometimes referred to as the 'core night'.