Receiving Blanket vs Swaddle: Which Are The Best For New Parents?

Oh the early days of eagerly scanning my must haves for my minimalist baby registry... I remember feeling so overwhelmed at points though… Receiving blankets vs swaddles? What's the difference? Which are best? How many do I even need to bring to the hospital? Oh the questions were endless, but don't stress, we'll look at all of that in this post, including my personal experience as a mom and the best receiving blankets and swaddles for your baby!

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What is a receiving blanket?

A receiving blanket is a thin, soft blanket usually made from muslin, flannel, or cotton that is typically used during the first year of your baby's life, though you'll likely hold onto them well beyond the first year. Later in this post, I'll share some ways to use your receiving blanket after the newborn stage! Receiving blankets typically come in packs of 2-4, but you can buy some nicer ones that come as a single blanket too!

Why is it called a receiving blanket?

Receiving blankets seem to have gotten their name way back in the day as a descriptor for for their use: receiving the baby after birth.

It's typically what people wrap the baby in right after delivery to dry and keep the new little soul warm! It's become the iconic look you see baby wearing the first time he/she is placed in a mother's arms.

What is a swaddle blanket?

What most people refer to as a swaddle blanket, is actually a receiving blanket.

Swaddle blankets are designed specifically for wrapping your baby snuggly to provide a sense of security and safety. Their goal is basically to create an environment more similar to the cozy warm womb they've grown accustomed to occupying!

Swaddle blankets come in all sorts of styles to help parents secure their baby with ease like velcro wings, zippers, and snaps. Though you can use receiving blankets to swaddle your baby too!

Receiving blanket vs swaddle:

Think about it like this: all receiving blankets can be swaddles, but not all swaddles are receiving blankets.

The biggest difference I'd say between a receiving blanket and swaddle blanket is the fact that receiving blankets are always square or rectangular, whereas swaddles can have zippers, velcro, wings, and different features.

What size is a receiving blanket?

Receiving blankets are typically square or rectangle and around 30 inches by 30 inches. They're typically smaller than a swaddle blanket, which makes them more versatile for other purposes that we'll look at in this post!

What styles do receiving blankets come in?

As far as receiving blanket styles go, all are square or rectangle however they come in a ton of different prints and textures.

Receiving blankets can come in a lightweight muslin, think super thin almost see through. Some are a nice and thick flannel like the kind you get at the hospital. Some are more plush, or have a few layers of muslin, making them a more traditional type of blanket (and harder to swaddle with, but you can do it!). Others are thin cotton or jersey knit like the one in the photo above.

What size is a swaddle blanket?

There's a lot of debate here (since so many people refer to receiving blankets as swaddle blankets). Some swaddle blankets can be as small as receiving blankets at 30 inches by 30 inches, and some can go as large as 47 inches by 47 inches.

Others don't really go off dimensions since they are more taco shaped and can have wings… for those, just get the size appropriate for your baby's age in months or weight.

What styles do swaddle blankets come in?

There are SO many styles of swaddle blankets!

Again, you can use a receiving blanket, so a basic square or rectangle.

Or you can opt for a full body zip up suit (my favorite) and others have winged edges for velcroing.

If you're opting for a swaddle blanket that has zippers or velcro, don't worry about the dimensions, as they are often “sized” by months or weight so go off that!

Do you need a receiving blanket?

YES! Receiving blankets are items you'll have well beyond the hospital, and even your baby's first year! They can be repurposed into so many things too! We'll cover some ways to use receiving blankets after the newborn days in just a minute…

How many receiving blankets do I need for the hospital?

This is a personal choice.

You may want to pack one or two receiving blankets for the hospital to get some cute photos or for going home in.

If you do not want to use the hospital receiving blankets, you may want to pack 6 or 7 receiving blankets for a 3 day hospital stay. Figure about 2 a day in case baby spits up, has a blowout, or you drop some food on it (trust me, it happens!)

Personally: I packed one that I never ended up using for our hospital.

Instead, I used the receiving blankets the hospital provided (I even took a handful home I loved them so much!).

Why I love hospital receiving blankets:

Unlike the receiving blankets I had at home, the hospital receiving blankets are thin, but thick at the same time. They are some of the sturdiest blankets you'll come across IMO… which made them the perfect protective cover for my mattress and bedding while nursing at home.

I was relieved to have a few when baby had her first blowout in our bed or spit up or a sprung a milk leak in the middle of the night.

I never worried about them getting stained and they were always thick enough that no bodily fluids soaked through onto our bed. Most of the receiving blankets I had at the time were very thin muslin or thin lightweight organic cotton.

How to use a receiving blanket:

You'll use receiving blankets in the hospital, whether you bring them or they're provided, to keep your baby warm, for swaddling, and even for lining the bassinet they'll sleep in during your hospital stay.

Top 19 Uses for baby receiving blankets after the hospital:

  • Burp cloth. Use smaller receiving blankets over your shoulder as a burp cloth or to catch any spit up. Much better than your clothes!
  • Impromptu changing mat. For super thin receiving blankets, fold them into quarters to protect your mattress or whatever surface you're changing your baby on. For sturdier receiving blankets, just lay flat and change away!
  • Nursing cover. I would always keep on in my diaper bag for nursing on the go. In fact, I never got a traditional nursing cover! I just used these lightweight receiving blankets!
  • For warmth. Receiving blankets are great for swaddling and keeping baby warm in the early days, and beyond that, we use the same one in our diaper bag for unexpected beach trips as an impromptu towel or if our daughter gets wet while out to warm her up.
  • Photo backdrop or protective barrier from the floor. Receiving blankets are great little play areas. If you're trying to save money, skip the play gym and just lay one out instead!
  • Car seat or stroller cover. Obviously you don't want to leave your infant unattended with a blanket, however you can use these blankets as a car seat or stroller cover for some privacy or to shield from the weather. You can either hold it in place or use a hair or chip clip to hold it in place.
  • Full body bib. Ohhh boy did our receiving blankets come in handy during the early solid days! We LOVED having these to wrap around her neck and tuck under her bum as a full body bib with just her little arms and head out! HA!
  • Wiping cloth. Receiving blankets make great face wipe cloths, rags for the future, and even are perfect for muddy puppy paws or cleaning shoes after the rain!
  • Picnic. We always keep a receiving blanket in the car for unexpected beach trips. We'll use it as a picnic blanket, and if anyone goes in the water, as quick makeshift towel!
  • Peek-a-boo. Receiving blankets make a great toy for your infant, especially around 9 or 10 months.
  • Practice balance. You can put your baby on the blanket and then slowly pull hem for a magic carpet ride. This is a great exercise in balance for them!
  • Motor skills. Put a few toys on top of the blanket and model for your baby how you can pull things closer using it. Let them work on this skill is great for their motor development.
  • Swaddle for dolls. Toddlers and young children love to model parents, so give them a receiving blanket to practice swaddling or diapering their dolls.
  • A doll. You could even take a blanket and sew it into a doll or have your young child do this! I actually did this with my baby blanket in second grade and turned it into a teddy bear.
  • Tea party table cover. Create an elegant tablescape for tea parties with your child.
  • Create a quilt. Save some of your favorites as keepsakes and turn them into a quilt.
  • Pillow covers. Similar to making a doll, you could also make pillow covers using your beloved receiving blankets.

Best receiving blankets

Receiving blankets from buybuybaby

I adoreeee the receiving blankets from buybuybaby! You can shop all of their receiving blankets here!

Below I included a mix of: lightweight more “swaddle” style, lightweight thermal (you could always pair these two types together too!), some nice flannel options, and a nice lightweight 4 layered muslin receiving blanket that's super cozy!

Receiving blankets from Etsy:

Etsy has some fabulous and unique finds for just about every taste! My style is a bit more earthy and organic. However if you prefer more vibrants colors and Disney characters for a receiving blanket, shop all of Etsy's receiving blankets here!

Best receiving blankets from Amazon

Amazon has a ton of options when it comes to baby products, however I don't love their selection of receiving blankets. I'd go with buybuybaby or Etsy.

With that said, I know there are diehard Amazon fans out there, so if you are looking for a receiving blanket from Amazon, here are a few of my favorites:

Favorite receiving blankets from Target

Here are some of my favorite receiving blankets from Target. Just swipe through to see them all! I included a mix of flannel (to give you that hospital receiving blanket feel) and some lighter weight silky soft ones! Plus swaddles with zippers and velcro for compression if you don't want the whole traditional “swaddle” or receiving blanket feel!

Final Thoughts on Receiving Blankets vs Swaddle

Which are best for new parents?

I'd say 2-3 really good swaddles (we have the SNOO, so we used the swaddle fitted specifically for it – this one is the exact same though, minus the wings for the SNOO attachment).

I love this one because you can zip up one handed in the middle of the night with closed eyes). One for baby to wear, one for laundry days, and one as a backup if baby has a blowout and the second swaddle is already in the wash.

As far as receiving blankets, I'd say a good 4-5 would be a good starting point. Again, we used these for EVERYTHING. From a mattress cover when nursing in bed, to a nursing cover when out in public, to swaddling.

I think 4-5 receiving blankets and 2-3 swaddle blankets are a good starting point for new parents.

If you have any questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram!


Discover all the differences between a receiving blanket vs. swaddle for the baby. As a pregnant first time mom, I had know idea what sizes receiving blankets or shapes swaddles came in so this will help! Plus over 19 ways to use your receiving blanket and how to repurpose them after your baby no longer needs swaddling! They'll last way past the hospital and newborn days!


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