The newborn's sleep pattern is very variable. Some will sleep up to 20 or 22 hours per day. Others may only sleep 10 or 12 hours. The important thing to remember is that both patterns are perfectly normal.
Since sleep, or more often lack of sleep, are of major concern to new parents, here are some helpful hints.
An infant is usually ready for sleep after feeding. After burping and a quick diaper check, lay the baby down to sleep. This is not the time for play or stimulation. Try to put the baby down while he or she is still awake. It is important for the newborn to become accustomed to falling asleep in his own crib. Videotaped studies of infants who "sleep through the night" reveal that no baby really sleeps through the night. Each infant is up two to three times, gurgles, coos and goes back to sleep. However, if an infant becomes accustomed to falling asleep in the parents' arms, then upon awakening he or she will expect those arms to be there, and will cry until they arrive. Putting the infant down still awake will insure the development of good sleeping habits at an early age.
Recent studies have shown that the infant's sleeping position may also be critical and reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (S.I.D.S.) or "crib death" which strikes 1 in 2000 newborns. Contrary to popular belief, placing a newborn to sleep on his back may actually reduce the risk of S.I.D.S. by 50%. We therefore recommend that all infants sleep on their back and not on their stomachs or sides. The fear over infants choking on "spit up" during sleep has been shown not to be a significant concern since it may occur in only 1 of 20,000 newborns (one tenth the risk of SIDS).