I thought my following comment on Sew Liberated deserves mentioning here:
We've had the bedtime routine since we brought our son home from the hospital. With no early planning, on his very first night at home, we took him to the room after his bath, and stayed there until he fall asleep. It has been like this since then. Thus both things were fulfilled - his need for routine (one child or not, I don't need to emphasize the importance of the routine and order for children, even for the very small ones:), and our need to follow him and let him fall asleep whenever he felt like going to sleep. The times have changed according to his age and needs (we started with the bath at around 7:00 PM then, now it is at 9:00 PM, more or less).
From the moment we entered his room after the bed, we stayed there. At the very beginning, he would fall slip right away. Then as he grew up, he needed more time to stay awake. We read, sang songs, or just sat with him letting him do whatever he wanted to. If it was during the nap time, I have always put a quiet meditation music in the background (it stayed on during the nap too as a white noise. The rule has been always to stay in the room with the door closed. It has been my interpretation of the freedom within limits.
One needs to remember that sleep routine changes with the little one pretty often. Almost everything in their life affects their sleep. For instance, when our son started scooting, and than crawling, the quiet time before sleep turned out to be one of the busiest during the day. And it was understandable - the sensitive period for movement caused him to be full of energy, the urge that was sometimes stronger than the ability. It was contrary to his development stage and nature to confine him to the quiet activity. I decided to follow him on that - I felt I had to give him the freedom to move. It was actually quite a remarkable scene - he was nearly drunk from the tiredness, but he scooted and scooted across the room, until he almost fainted. Then he would climb to his bed (on the floor, of course), ready to go asleep. Sometimes he needed a help in deciding when the moment for that was right. We just sat there in the room, waiting for him, while I was singing or we were talking. Sometimes this thing lasted for an hour. After a few months, when he was quite comfortable with his crawling (when I felt it would be fair enough to put a tighter limit on his urge to go exploring) and was able to control his desire, I introduced a new limit. He could crawl as long as he wanted, while he stayed in bed. We had a difficult evening or two, but then he excepted this new limit. I think it was due to this limit, that he never crawled out of his bed when sleeping - a common problem with the bed on the floor. His father always stayed with us in the room, until our son was indeed ready to go to sleep. Today, at 22 months, when he wants to go to bed, he goes to his dad, kisses him, and ask him to leave the room. After he helps him to turn off the lights (we rent this house, so we couldn't change the height of the switches - one of the first things I decided to change in our new house we just bought), of course...:)
As to nursing him to sleep - I had a strong feeling then that I shouldn't nurse our son to sleep. I was quite worried of the negative circumstances for our son if I did. Well, being a first time mom happens only once...:) What I did since our son was about 3 months old, was nursing him (when he got really tired and it was time for him to go to bed), and then laying him down on his bed. He felt asleep, while laying on his tummy, completely on his own. I was trully amazed then on how easy it happened. However, from the moment he started to roll over, it became quite a challenge. We were dancing the waltz of nursing, laying down on the bed, nursing, laying down again for a long periods of time. Sometimes even too long - 1,5 hour! Even on the tough days or nights, the thought of letting him cry to sleep never crossed my mind. This thing simply is not for me.
However, I was determined not to allow him to fall asleep when he was nursing. Well, I laugh loudly at myself now. When our son's molar teeth erupted, at 15 months, he didn't eat anything for a few days. Just nursed almost all day long. He was so much in pain. Two major things happened then - he weaned himself from the pacifier and... started falling asleep while nursing. The only thing I can add to this is that we have been very happy since then. It usually takes him 20 minutes at the most to fall asleep now. I've learned my lessons. Our children are so smart! We'd better listen to them. With our future children I will just nurse them to sleep, if they won't fall asleep on their own easily.
Another thing I will change with our future children is to include my husband in putting our son to bed. What happens now is that our son doesn't identify his dad with the sleep itself, only with the routine we have previous to sleep. If I need to be somewhere, I should return home when our son needs to nap or sleep at night. He won't fall asleep as long as dad is in the room. Our "mistake" was that we thought that because I nursed him until he was almost asleep, if I went out the room, it would awake him. Now we know better.
PS http://ashley-lotusflower.blogspot.com/search?q=sleep - you can find here lots of useful information from a co-sleeping, nursing, Montessori trained, very talented writer.