What Are Receiving Blankets And How Many Do You Need?

Receiving blankets are an oft heard term among people in the United States.

This is primarily because the receiving blanket actually comes from the idea that it is the blanket you are most likely to receive your baby in: in the United States, this blanket is emblazoned with blue and red stripes and is made of a soft, breathable and washable cotton for your baby.

The name, however, has come to apply to more than just this initial blanket you may receive your baby in, but any such blanket you may have for your little one over the coming months.

Consequently, many parents-to-be may receive gifts of receiving blankets at their shower or once the baby is born, and much is said about how many are actually needed in the rearing of your newborn child.

But what are they actually for beyond the receiving of your baby in the hospital, and how many do you need? Read on to understand more.

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What are receiving blankets?

As mentioned, they are the iconic blanket your baby is received in, often of a particular design in the United States. But with a washable, breathable material that is still warm and snuggly for your baby, as well as appropriately sized for swaddling, receiving blankets generally refer to any blanket that fits this denomination.

They generally measure at least 30 by 40 inches, making them a decent size for swaddling a baby, but not so big and chunky in the material that they are difficult to wash. The cotton is good for baby’s sensitive skin, and is easily washable and even bleachable should the occasion come you need to disinfect the blanket.

They are also amenable to being washed at a high temperature, making them perfect for raising a newborn.

Receiving blankets are often cheap, sold in large multipacks for ease, and can be relied upon to have a simple and easy-to-clean material. You may return from the hospital with the one or two that are gifted to you after you give birth to a child, but many parents opt to purchase more of a similar style because they can have some utility as a parent.

Why use a receiving blanket?

Receiving blankets do have some useful uses that make them advantageous over just any old blanket you might find.

As mentioned, they come in cotton, meaning they are more likely to be somewhat naturally hypoallergenic for newborns. Babies are often born with conditions like eczema, or these can arise in the next year or so.

Although eczema mostly fades away in childhood, sometimes being cured in the toddler stage, it is important to not irritate the skin of your baby. It will not cause eczema, but eczema is an itchy skin condition that can be aggravated by both skin dryness, itching, and itchy materials that may stimulate your baby to begin itching at their skin.

When the skin is itched, this opens up cracks in it to infection, which can complicate your baby’s early life. Softer and more baby-friendly materials are hence a great choice.

What is the difference between a receiving blanket and a swaddling blanket?

Although you may use a receiving blanket to swaddle a baby, there are some minute technical differences that people may not make when talking about these two different blankets.

Receiving blankets are made of cotton and dyes safe for hot laundering and frequent use, as they are expected to withstand fluids and constant washing for the safety and cleanliness of your newborn. They are also a little smaller than swaddling blankets, which are designed for babies of many different sizes as they are used for babies of all ages up until the point they no longer need to be swaddled so much.

Swaddling blankets are also often purpose made, with a design specific to wrap a baby up safely and securely in a comforting fashion that helps them sleep.

Swaddling a newborn helps them fall asleep. Being held securely and tightly is comforting for a newborn although it may seem unusual that the light snug restraint of the blanket soothes them, and additionally, babies often move their arms in such a way that may surprise a baby as they are just getting used to their motor functions.

Having their arms snugly secured helps them stop surprising themselves and promotes sleep in the baby.

Swaddling a baby involves a specific wrap, and you should have it demonstrated for you and feel it for yourself to understand the exact tension you need. Wrapping a baby too tight could be dangerous, but the swaddle does need to be tight enough to keep the baby snug and secure.

Thankfully, some swaddling blankets come with specific fastenings and shapes that are conducive to a safe and comfortable wrap. Receiving blankets won’t have these, so if you are concerned about swaddling your baby correctly, buying specific blankets can definitely help.

Receiving blankets, contrastingly, are more multi-use in their making. They can still swaddle a baby if you understand the fold you need to do, and there are plenty of guides online.

Other parents may be able to help you, and doctors, nurses, and midwives may be able to help you understand what that should look like.

Additionally, receiving blankets are often lighter, so they can be used in hot or cold conditions.

What are receiving blankets for?

Receiving blankets are, as mentioned, utilitarian in their making. They are designed to be simple and easy to use, and are often for those early days of the newborn in their size and design.

They can be used for a variety of things when you are getting started, which makes them very useful to understand what you might want specialty items for as your baby grows.

Receiving blankets can be used for swaddling, as mentioned. This helps wrap up newborns which are surprising themselves, and promotes sleep; it also helps them be a nice small package that is easy to cuddle and hold!

The way that receiving blankets suppress surprise in your baby is due to something called the Moro or startle reflex.

When there is noise or movement, babies naturally throw back their heads, open their arms forward and begin crying; but if you swaddle your baby, you can prevent initial movements that frighten them, as well as prevent them from stretching their arms out, which can suppress their startle reflexes safely and help them sleep and rest.

Receiving blankets can also be placed on the ground or floor for your baby to play on, or be laid on if they are still very small. This can be useful when you are worried about exposing your baby to allergens or unclean surfaces, or just for piece of mind.

In particular, this can be a great choice when visiting friends or even grassy outdoor spaces.

You can also use them to cover up your baby when you have washed them and gotten them from the bath. The soft material is less coarse than wrapping your baby in a towel, and less likely to irritate or bother their sensitive skin.

It is also great for keeping them warm, which is important as your baby’s body adjusts to its homeostatic rhythm – they can be particularly susceptible to cold as they grow.

You might consider using them as diaper changing mats as well. Although not ideal, these can be a great choice. There are purpose-made mess-proof diaper changing mats that are sold, and are generally made to be somewhat portable.

However, they are still sizeable and can be difficult to stowaway if you should need them. When you are changing your baby in public places, restrooms and baby-changing stations do tend to offer a small plastic surface to change your baby on, but there is no guarantee of the safe level of hygiene you may be concerned about.

Using a receiving blanket is a perfectly good idea, as it offers a level of material you can be sure is clean and protects your baby from any unclean surfaces. They are designed to be heavily laundered, so there is no issue using them this way either.

They can also be used in this way just to protect any surfaces you have about, or the home of your extended family or friend when changing your baby’s diaper.

Receiving blankets also work well for covering up your chest when feeding your child. They are also breathable and lightweight, so you shouldn’t worry about restricting airflow by covering yourself as you feed.

You can use these blankets also to cover your stroller, car seat or more for your baby. This might help if it’s a sunny day out, you are trying to help your baby sleep, or there are weather conditions bothering your baby.

Although burp cloths do tend to be a bit more appropriately sized for your baby, newborns are prone to projectile spitting up – which although distressing, is often a natural part of your baby growing up. Babies should be burped often when eating to help prevent this, but even so your baby may well spit up over your shoulder.

These cloths can be used to help mitigate the damage, and can be even draped over the space baby is eating in or over your shoulder as you burp them. 

Lastly, when your baby is a good and safe size to do so, providing a receiving blanket can actually help them as a security blanket to help them feel safe. However, you should not place the blanket in the crib with your baby when they sleep.

When using them as a security elsewhere, such as in the car, out and about, or when holding your baby, you can do so safely with caution and supervision. If you are unsure, consult a healthcare professional about this, as there are some discussions to be have about safety of toys and blankets.

Do remember they are never safe in the crib during sleep for your baby.

As your baby ages, you may transfer to using these blankets for crafts or just around the house as dish rags and cloths, table cloths when painting, or even sewing them into toys, crafts and pillows. They can make for great multi-use material, and they are designed to be easy to clean too!

How many receiving blankets will I need?

Many parents worry about how many they will need exactly.

Parenting circles will say, and with some acuity perhaps, that there is likely no such thing as too many – in such a case, you can simply rotate blankets to ensure washing is a less urgent task and you have many on hand if you need them at any time. However, fewer can still be dealt with most likely.

Some people using up to 20 or even 30 blankets; at the very least, parents advise carrying 1 for use (which will have to be washed), 1 clean blanket which you can use while the first one is being washed, and 1 for emergencies.

People often carry more so that they can be used in car seats, held in a stroller for use when out and about, breastfeeding, as well as just clean reserves at home. These are also considered in addition to specialized swaddling blankets, but if you are using these to swaddle as well, anywhere from 6-8 blankets total may be useful for you.

Having more will not hurt, but it is more important to just prioritize having what you need when you need it. Receiving blankets are thankfully cheap and available in multipacks, and you can ask friends or family to buy these for you as you prepare for your baby.

In all likelihood, you may end up with a surplus; in which case, no harm, no foul.

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