Looking back, I can think of several things I should have done but at the time, I was just trying to get by. I was too tired to really think and too afraid of things getting worse.
First, I should have begun not to put my baby on a schedule, but to have some kind of predictable rhythm to our days - from the very beginning.
I should have always done the same things before naps and bedtimes as soon as my daughter started to show some signs of what HER good day looked like.
I should have waited to see if she was really AWAKE before I started shush, rocking, patting, feeding, etc to get her back to sleep. Often, she wasn't even awake, she was just complaining, getting to a lighter part of her sleep cycle, and trying to settle herself back down. I, in my sleep deprived panic, would think - I better grab her now before she's fully awake or I'll never get her back to sleep.
She was a cruddy sleeper and that was probably just GOING to happen, no matter what, but looking back there are things I could have done to make our lives easier.
It also took me forever to REALLY get that a good night follows a good day - FOR MY CHILD (I know some kids can go with the flow and everyone can do their own thing and the kid just goes along with it, but not mine), she really would have done well with a much more predictable day with bedtime and nap routines (not long ones, but clear signals that said...next up, sleep, so get ready) and that kind of thing.
DD actually loved her crib and was so happy when we moved her in there, I don't think she liked her co-sleeper thing. She was an easy peaceful baby and I know we were lucky in that. She did wake up through the night, but it was always pretty bearable and since she was a tiny baby I always just got up and nursed her if she was hungry. But I also did feel like I could tell the difference between a hungry cry and a restless cry and a gassy cry...so I was never a boob-first soother. (I also only BF 6 months before I lost my milk--so a lot less long than most people on these boards) And she was always easy to soothe in a few minutes, either with a backrub or cuddle or nursing. But she did wake several times a night when she was an infant (again, just normal) and then once or twice a night as a toddler. I did/do usually go in her room to make sure everything is ok, give her a hug, adjust her covers, etc. That works.
I tried to just follow her cues for the most part. She's 4 now, she still wakes up sometimes--I think all kids do, but over all I would say everyone here is getting enough sleep and other than when she was teething, it's never been an issue.
Teething was rough because it was the only time she was truly difficult to soothe. But that passed.
I totally understand your wanting to do things slightly differently this time around. Chalk it up to your mama experience and now that you have more confidence try to figure out what works best for your family and your new baby. Congratulations!