Everything you need to know about receiving blankets

7 min read

Infant being held in recieving blanket by adult

Receiving Blankets

Hospitals and birthing centers will check, clean, and wrap newborn babies in a soft breathable receiving blanket before they present the tiny newborn to a happy mother. 

This helps to maintain the baby’s body temperature and also serves to mimic a sense of being secure, much like being in a mom’s womb.

What is a receiving blanket?

A receiving blanket is a well-thought-out blanket used to wrap a newborn in before being presented to an exhausted but happy mother.

“Well thought out” because of the size, weight, and fabric choice which facilitates a baby’s transition from womb to world.

Receiving blanket sizes

Of all the different baby blanket types and sizes, the receiving blanket is the smallest yet it tends to be a multi-functional blanket as well. The standard receiving blanket measures 28” X 34” (70 cm X 86 cm). Alternatively, a standard square receiving blanket is 30” square (76 cm square).

There are smaller receiving blankets for premature babies that measure 18” X 20” (45 cm X 50 cm) and there is a slightly larger square preemie blanket that measures 24” square (60 cm square). 

Receiving blankets in comparison is smaller than standard-sized baby blankets which typically measure 34” X 46” (86 cm X 116 cm). There are also square baby blankets and the sizes vary so selecting the right size for your baby is not a difficult decision but rather a personal one.

Because babies grow so fast in their first year, they will quickly outgrow their receiving blankets and other specialized blankets like swaddling blankets; however, the standard size baby blanket is designed to be adequate for the first year or two at least.

Young child under receiving blanket African blanket

As you can see from the standard sizes, there is no “one size fits all”; however, regardless of the size, receiving blankets are always a mom’s go-to item that is used to tend to baby’s needs, like using it as an oversized burp cloth or as a means to create shade while your little is in a stroller, or perhaps even using it to layout over a public infant changing area before changing your baby’s diaper. 

Receiving blanket material

Receiving blankets are mostly made from soft, lightweight, and durable fabrics and should be an ideal match for a baby’s still sensitive skin. The fabric must be able to assist in regulating your baby’s temperature as they are still unable to do this themselves. Listed below are the more popular fabric choices for baby receiving blankets:

  • Cotton: Organic cotton is grown without the use of pesticides and fertilizers and is the best fabric choice not only for newborns but also for anyone with sensitive skin who is prone to allergic reactions. Cotton is lightweight and breathable making it the most popular choice for receiving blankets and children’s clothing, mostly because its softness, being highly absorbent, is affordable, and the fact that it’s widely available. Soft flannel cotton is the fabric choice for receiving blankets in most maternity facilities.  
  • Cotton Jersey Knit: This is an extension of cotton and has the same cotton qualities. It is not prone to pilling but is stretchable making it a good choice for swaddle blankets. The edges tend to curl up after washing but hemming reduces this trait.
  • Flannel: Also made from cotton, this fabric is soft and durable. The more flannel is washed, the softer it becomes. Early flannel was made from wool and was later made from cotton and a silk blend. The softest flannel is made from 100% cotton and its breathability and other qualities make it perfect for receiving blankets in cooler climates.
  • Bamboo rayon: rayon is super soft and breathable but it's also stretchable which makes it the perfect fabric for swaddle blankets which are often used as receiving blankets. However, rayon is manufactured using the viscous process which uses chemicals toxic to humans and may affect infants, older children, and adults with sensitive skin. The viscous process changes the natural structure of bamboo fiber and many of its rewarding properties like being antibacterial are lost. Still, it remains a popular bedding and clothing fabric choice. Being breathable means it can thermoregulate, keeping your baby’s temperature at a normal level. But rayon is classified more as a synthetic fabric than a natural one and synthetic fabrics generally do not have great thermoregulatory properties with increased thread counts.
  • Minky: This is a synthetic polyester knit fabric that is ultra-soft. It can be compared to bamboo rayon as both fabrics are soft and super comfortable to use. What mom wouldn’t want the softest receiving or swaddle blanket for their bundle of love? Well, Minky is not very breathable so overheating your baby becomes a reality that should rather be avoided.
  • Fleece: Fleece has great warming qualities that should make it ideal for babies. It is very soft, resists stains, is easy to wash, and dries fairly quickly. In colder climates fleece is renowned for its warmth and as a receiving blanket, it will work well when leaving the hospital especially if it's cold where you are. However, fleece is made from polyester and is a synthetic fabric that cannot stand up to natural fabrics like cotton as far as baby care is concerned.
  • Gauze: Now this is the perfect all-around baby fabric. It is made from cotton and is available in single and double gauze. It is typically called muslin and is a common fabric for receiving blankets due to its breathability and being lightweight. Double gauze is super soft but does try and avoid heavily dyed or printed gauze as it may not be best for your baby’s skin.
  • Wool: Although not very popular in warmer climates, wool has the best thermoregulating properties of all fabric types. Its moisture-wicking properties help to maintain a consistently comfortable sleep temperature. The one disadvantage is that some people tend to find wool scratchy especially if the wool fibers are thick. Thin wool fibers produce a very soft fabric that is packed with benefits.

Basotho heritage blanket made from wool

From the above list, you can see why natural fabrics like cotton and wool are the best fabrics for your little one. Softness is great but breathability or temperature control should be your top priority when selecting and purchasing receiving blankets. 

Soft fabrics with poor breathability have their place but should only really be used by people with the ability to regulate their temperature. They are questionable as blankets because of sleep interruptions from getting too hot under the covers. 

New-borns cannot kick off their receiving blanket, nor can they tell you when they are getting too hot and beginning to overheat. Light, breathable, and soft receiving blankets are essential for newborns who have not yet found their voice or mastered their motor skills.

Swaddle blankets versus receiving blankets

All receiving blankets can be used to swaddle a baby but not all swaddle blankets can be used as receiving blankets because of some of their unique features.

A receiving blanket is typically rectangular or square whereas swaddle blankets come in different shapes and designs. Some have wings, Velcro, snaps, or zippers for easy use. Another theme is stretchable fabric like bamboo rayon because the general belief is that babies should be wrapped tightly when swaddled. 

Parents are taught to wrap their little ones tightly for effective swaddling but too tight can be problematic both in the short and long run. Tight in swaddling terms means secure but still offering enough space to breathe and move a little.

The immediate danger is putting too much pressure on your baby’s chest that can restrict breathing. In the long run, hip dysplasia can occur if babies are swaddled too tightly around their legs for long periods over consecutive days, weeks, and months.

The size of receiving and swaddle blankets differ as well with receiving blankets being the smaller of the two. It is not the size of your baby that determines what size blanket is correct but rather their age in weeks and months, and their weight.

FAQ’s

How many receiving blankets should I have?

There is no set amount but to be on the safe side you can look at a minimum of at least five receiving blankets to start with. Include at least three swaddle blankets and you will have enough to deal with on the toughest of days. Double the amount may spoil you for choice but it also means you’ll be well prepared.

What else can a receiving blanket be used for?

As mentioned earlier in this article a receiving blanket can be used as a burp cloth, to provide shade while outdoor or used to create a safe changing space at home or in public spaces.

They can also be used for picnics or play areas on the floor where your baby can have some tummy time and practice their motor skills by pulling on the blanket to bring things closer.

Why are receiving blankets so small?

A receiving blank is in effect a swaddle blanket and babies are swaddled from birth until they begin rolling or resist being swaddled. The receiving blanket is big enough to wrap comfortably around a baby without wrapping over itself again. This is primarily to avoid overheating and over restricting small movements.

While newborns sleep there is very little movement and the blanket provides that sense of security without really restricting any small movements. It resembles the time in mom’s womb that always had place enough for movement. 

You will notice in this article that preemie receiving blankets are smaller than the standard size receiving blank. This is to avoid the blanket from wrapping over itself when a very small or premature baby is swaddled.

A few final words

Baby receiving blankets are an essential part of a baby’s early life but because they are multi-functional, they will remain handy way past the difficult toddler years. 

When deciding on receiving blankets you can’t go wrong with cotton as it’s the most popular fabric for receiving blanks as well as baby outfits and other bedding essentials like fitted sheets. Breathability trumps all else and as far as thermoregulation is concerned cotton is right up there with wool and other natural fabrics.

Choosing designs, colors or patterns is a personal matter and the wide range of baby blankets available on the market will surely create some new and fascinating creative ideas in your mind. Breathe in – breathe out – decide.

Steve Watts
Steve Watts


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