What is a Receiving Blanket? And Should You Get One?

A baby in a receiving blanket.

As a first-time parent, you might be shocked at the amount of products there are for your new baby. Even when it comes to blankets, there’s a number of things to look for.

The first baby-centric blanket you might’ve been introduced to already is the receiving blanket.

The iconic pink-and-blue cotton receiving blanket is the one that’s first used to dry and warm newborn babies in the hospital. But while they’re standard items in the maternity ward, their uses extend much further than the first day of life.

Useful for a wide variety of applications—including swaddling and burping—receiving blankets are workhorses in the nursery. But even when your child’s grown and doesn’t need it anymore, you’ll still be able to utilize them.

Not to mention that they make a terrific keepsake and reminder for when your little ones were little.

What is a Receiving Blanket?

As we mentioned, receiving blankets are the ones first used to swaddle, dry, and warms newborns (hence the name).

While hospitals usually have the iconic pink-and-blue cotton blankets, they came in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Usually coming in packs of 3 or 4 when bought in a store, they’re most often either squares or rectangles. The most common size is 30 inches by 30 inches, but some may be larger at 30 by 40 inches.

The fabric they’re made of is usually flannel, cotton, muslin, and sometimes even bamboo. What’s most important is that it’s soft.

It’s a good idea to start with at least 3 or 4 of these receiving blankets since they’re very functional and practical items to have. For example, you can have one in your diaper bag and another one around the house when the other gets too dirty to use.

But why exactly would you want one?

A receiving blanket can be a great addition to your baby accessories.

The Benefits of Having a Receiving Blanket

First and foremost, a receiving blanket is useful in swaddling a baby, effectively keeping them warm and dry.

Although it’s first used right after birth, the benefits of swaddling your baby in a receiving blanket extend much further than. The material not only provides some insulation and heat for the baby, but it should also be thin enough to be breathable and allow airflow to prevent overheating.

A baby blanket is also useful after a bath. This is an especially fragile time since the baby comes out of a warm bath into a cooler air temperature which can be bad for catching colds. With a receiving blanket, however, the baby can get dry and retain some of that heat after a bath.

A baby receiving blanket is also a fantastic way to block out any sun or rain, especially in a stroller. It’s recommended that you keep one close by, or even in your stroller, if there’s ever a surprise rain shower or if the sun is shining particularly hot on a day.

Furthermore, swaddling and snuggly wrapping a newborn is a simple and effective way to keep them calm and feeling secure. Cuddling and swaddling is a fantastic method for calming down a baby.

But not only are they useful when covering up from the sun, they can also be used when breastfeeding for some extra added privacy as a nursing cover. Their small size means that it’s easy to take them with you wherever you go and can help out in a pinch. Furthermore, they’re also very useful when it comes to cleaning up any spit or dribble afterward.

They’re also extremely useful as changing mats. If you ever need to establish a clean changing space to change your baby’s diaper, a receiving blanket is an excellent tool to have. This can mean placing it on not very sanitary areas such as the changing tables in public restrooms. Or, you can put it somewhere that you want to prevent a diaper mess from happening, like a bed.

But that’s not the only messes they can prevent. While there are specific burp cloths sold as well, a receiving blanket is an excellent alternative—especially for those very messy eaters. Even if your baby isn’t particularly messy, a receiving cloth still provides amazing coverage because of its larger size. Babies spit up a lot, and a receiving blanket will keep your baby clean and neat—even against all odds.

If you opt for a slightly larger receiving blanket, it can be easily utilized as a playmat. Although you probably have some space at home for your baby to play in, a receiving blanket can be useful when visiting a friend’s place or even going to the park. Once again, their compactness helps when it comes to bringing one around wherever you go.

And finally, a receiving blanket is awesome as a security item. There might be no better option for a security item than a blanket. But not just any blanket—a blanket the baby has had since birth.

But, as with most things, all receiving blankets are not built equal.

The Types of Receiving Blankets

One of the more common receiving blankets is the flannel variety. Soft and usually patterned, they’re very useful when it comes to burping, swaddling, and even as a stroller cover.

Muslin blankets are often larger and softer than the flannel variety—and the more you wash them, the softer they’ll become. But not only are they soft, but the cotton they’re made out of is also breathable, effectively preventing any overheating. Paired with their ability to keep babies warm during the winter months, this is a perfect addition to your baby item collection.

There are also polyester varieties that come with the benefit of being cheaper in price, and they often have beautiful patterns on them.

Lastly, we have organic receiving blankets. They have the benefit of being hypoallergenic in some cases, while also being extra soft and cozy. They tend to not stretch or wrinkle, and they’re breathable and warm enough for all seasons.

How to (Safely) Use a Receiving Blanket

A blanket might seem like a harmless object that doesn’t come with any intrinsic dangers, but there are some safety guidelines one should follow to avoid putting babies at risk. These are necessary things to keep in mind when taking care of your own child, and having other caretakers also be on the same page as yourself in terms of safety.

If your child is under the age of 12 months, all blankets should stay out of the crib—not just the receiving blanket. This stays true whether your child is playing inside of the crib or napping.

Blankets, at a young age, increase the chances of smothering and suffocation, and also sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But blankets aren’t the only things that should stay out of the crib in order to make the crib a risk-free environment.

The keep-things-out-of-the-crib rule also applies to items such as bumper pads, soft toys (and other soft objects), pillows, comforters, and sheepskins. When it comes down to it, the only thing in your crib should be your child to ensure that your baby sleeps soundly.

What About Keeping Them Warm?

More than anything as a new parent, you want your child (and yourself) to get enough sleep. So, it’s valid to worry about your child’s comfort when they’re trying to sleep—you wouldn’t them to be too cold to fall asleep.

However, babies can get the level of warmth they need without anything else being in the crib.

First and foremost, it’s important to keep the room’s temperature at a comfortable level, around 70 to 72 degrees. When dressing your little one for bed, make sure they’re cozy, but don’t put on more than one extra layer than they’d normally wear.

Fabrics like cotton are not only soft enough for your baby, but they also breathe well which allows your baby to better moderate their temperature. Popular choices include things like sleep sacks, footie pajamas, and swaddles—but whatever you opt for, you still want to be checking in on your child every now and then to make sure they’re not overheating or too cold.

A good way to check is by placing your hand on their chest. If it feels too warm, they might be overheating. Obvious signs of this are a red face, sweat, and a quicker rate of breathing. On the other hand, if the baby’s chest feels too cold, then that’s probably a sign they’re chilly.

Swaddling should also be stopped once the baby begins rolling over on their own.

When is it Okay to Place a Blanket in the Crib?

Over the age of 12 months is usually when babies are able to have blankets in their crib. This is because by that age they usually have the necessary dexterity and strength to move blankets away from their face if it becomes necessary. This dramatically reduces the risk of SIDS.

But even when your baby is over their first year in age, make sure they’re not too heavy and thick. They should never be swaddled in thick, heavy blankets since this increases the chances of overheating, which in turn increases the risk of SIDS occurring.

How to Choose the Right Receiving Blanket for Your Baby

So, you’ve been convinced of the practicality and usefulness of always having a receiving blanket nearby—but how do you pick the right one for your child?

Chances are you’ll probably have received at least a couple at your baby shower, but it’s always a good idea to stock up before your baby arrives. Not to mention that the wear-and-tear of daily use will inevitably make short work of the thin fabric.

Other than a soft, thin, and breathable fabric, the choice of receiving blanket comes down to personal preference. Size is also something that you might consider looking into, but most receiving blankets come in 30-inch by 30-inch sizes, give or take a few inches. Otherwise, there’s a plethora of available designs, colors, and patterns to choose from.

But before you go out shopping for the perfect receiving blanket, you should also keep in mind the swaddle blanket!

The Difference Between a Receiving Blanket and a Swaddle Blanket

While “receiving blanket” and “swaddle blanket” are often used interchangeably, there is an important difference, as the names suggest.

First of all, swaddling your baby refers to the act of wrapping your baby in a thin blanket for the purpose of making them feel calm, safe, and secure. As with most things, however, it’s important to utilize common-sense by not leaving swaddled babies unattended, and not over-swaddling. A swaddle blanket is made specifically with this purpose in mind.

Receiving blankets tend to be smaller than swaddle blankets. Furthermore, swaddle blankets are normally made from muslin, and they’re shaped in a way with which to make swaddling easier. They usually also come with some kind of clasps or Velcro to make it easier to swaddle a baby with.

However, as we looked at above, receiving blankets can be used to swaddle as well.

Whether you’re thinking of getting one or the other, or both, comes down to what you’ll be using your receiving blanket for most of the time. If your aim is to swaddle, and convenience is important to you, we recommend that you invest in a swaddle blanket. Receiving blankets on the other hand are beneficial due to their versatility. Not only do they swaddle, but they do a whole lot of other things as well.

It would probably be beneficial to first get a few receiving blankets and see where things go—do you normally find yourself swaddling with them and do you have trouble with swaddling? If so, a swaddle blanket is a good investment to make that’ll help make things more convenient and save you time and energy.

Re-Purposing a Receiving Blanket

There will come a time, alas, where babies will no longer be babies, and therefore, will have no more need of a receiving blanket.

Although a hard pill to swallow on its own, the bad news stops there!

A receiving blanket can be repurposed into a laundry list of different functions, almost as long as the number of functions it has as a receiving blanket. Here are just some of the things you can do with your old receiving blankets, even if you’re not the DIY type:

Make them into banners and garlands:  Decorate a room by cutting these blankets into strips and tying them together—made super easy by their thinness.

Furniture covers: Along with putting them on car seats, a receiving blanket will go along way in preventing potential stains and damage, whatever the source might be.

Cleaning rags: Speaking of preventing stains, receiving blankets are also a fantastic choice for cleaning up day-to-day spills and messes around the house. You can even use them as aprons or bibs for your little ones when doing crafts or art projects, making clean-up that much easier.

Car rags: Adding to the point above, you can also keep them in the car for any emergencies or messes.

Mementoes: A receiving blanket on its own is a fantastic memento for you and your children to have as they age. It’s something that doesn’t take up much space, and you can keep it somewhere safe through the years easily. Or, if you’re the craftier type or want them in a more prominent location, you can also make quilts out of them. Additionally, you can also try your luck at making some stuffed toys or pillows for your growing children.

Not only is a receiving blanket versatile in its own right, but it can also be utilized in so many different ways they’re almost always worth the money. And even when your child is done with them, it’s easy to find a second life for these blankets somewhere around the house.

The Verdict on Receiving Blankets

These blankets can be used to dry, warm, swaddle, and can even prevent a child from overheating. They’re essential when it comes to cleaning up messes or when trying to make a soft, clean environment to either change a diaper, or to play in.

While they come in various styles, the most important aspects to look at are the size, fabric, and thickness. While most come in 30-inch by 30-inch squares, they can also be found in slightly varying sizes. Above all, make sure the fabric is breathable, thin, and soft, to be confident that your child is as comfortable as they can be.

While a swaddling blanket might make your swaddling needs easier to accomplish and with more effectiveness, nothing can quite match up to a receiving blanket when it comes to versatility. And not only is that versatility apparent in its own lifespan, but it also extends much further into the future.

Much like Douglas Adams claimed that a towel is the most useful item for an interstellar hitchhiker to have, you’ll probably find that the same can be said for a receiving blanket and a parent taking care of their newborn.

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